Article Comment 

Scott Colom: The re-emergence of political activism


Scott Colom





The birth of the modern tea party movement has been a noteworthy and controversial political development. Much of the discussion thus far has focused on the movement in the abstract, from a national perspective. However, the tea party is made up of local networks of people, with specific motivations and beliefs. Indeed, the story of Scott Berry, a native and long time resident of Columbus, is a great illustration of how these beliefs motivated local people to start tea parties.  


Political activism has been an important part of our democracy since its founding. The strength of local politics was one of the unique characteristics Alexis de Tocqueville noted about America''s democracy in his 1835 seminal book, "Democracy in America." Tocqueville was fascinated with the town hall meetings he attended in New England and the seriousness with which Americans took political affairs and self-governance.  


In the centuries since Tocqueville''s famous visit to America, the level of political activism has decreased significantly. At times of national crisis, such as the civil war or civil rights movement, citizens are engaged on issues, but, for the most part, political activity has become much more limited and apathetic. Hosting political rallies or attending town hall meetings or, for some, even voting are no longer considered important or necessary.  


The presidential campaign of Obama started the shift back towards greater political participation. People, especially young folks, volunteered and knocked on doors and gave donations for a political candidate as never before. Then, in response to the bailouts (started by President George W. Bush) and the increased federal deficit (again started by President George W. Bush), people in large and small cities across the country suddenly begin to associate and rally with each other under the banner of the tea party.  


In Columbus, a local tea party started when Scott Berry went to a website to learn more about the movement and decided to put his name and contact information to help organize a April 15 rally. While Mr. Berry grew up with a keen interest in politics - as a teenager he was adamantly against the Vietnam War and considered himself a strong environmentalist - his political activity mostly consisted of voting and talking politics with friends and family.  


Over the years, Mr. Berry has been increasingly frustrated with the government. During his years in the furniture manufacturing business, he thinks numerous payroll and business taxes hurt his production and ability to expand employment. He has also had experiences with the Environmental Protection Agency that he felt were driven by bureaucratic control and personal feelings rather than stopping pollution. In addition, he believes both the Democratic and Republican party have rigged the economic system in favor of big business.  


Mr. Berry''s frustrations reached a boiling point after the bank bailouts and passage of President Obama''s Reinvestment and Recovery Act; commonly referred to as the stimulus package. Since then, he''s been motivated to express and advocate his views. He''s attended national rallies in Washington D.C., helped organize rallies in Columbus, actively supported congressional candidates in the 2010 midterm elections, and even volunteered to poll watch on election day. Mr. Berry''s sudden activism has been bolstered by the feeling of support from millions of Americans across the country with similar views.  


To decrease the size and spending of government, Mr. Berry believes the age for eligibility should be gradually increased for social security and Medicare. He also thinks people should have the ability to invest a portion of Social Security taxes into private accounts. Additionally, while Mr. Berry doesn''t think anyone should do drugs, he doesn''t think the war on drugs, despite the billions spent on it, has significantly reduced drug use. He thinks we should therefore legalize drugs but require drug testing for anyone receiving government benefits.  


Whatever your political views, the rise of the tea party should be recognized as a reemergence of political activism. It should not be viewed as a singular moment in history but a part of a larger American tradition recognized by Tocqueville at our country''s inception. Civic and political engagement have been healthy for our democracy. Effective self-government takes effort and conviction. We should therefore hope the reemergence of political activism continues.


Scott Colom is a local attorney.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment tbutler commented at 3/30/2011 6:59:00 PM:

I liked Mr. Barry until this statement. "He thinks we should therefore legalize drugs but require drug testing for anyone receiving government benefits."

I agree with legalizing drugs part.

Once upon a time when there were no government benefits, churches and neighbors took care of people in need. People would give directly to others in need instead of allowing their neighbors to get so desperate that they would steal and rob to feed their families. We have a system now where almost no matter how poor the worker is they must still contribute to bureaucrats that then decide who gets a share of the money our government has demanded that we donate to the poor.

Let's be real clear! Our government does not give people aid so they do not have to work. It gives people aid so they do not have to steal or worse to feed their families and yes, some times their habits.

Society needs to understand that it is cheaper in both the short and long term to send a person to collage than it is to jail. We should not care what a person puts in their body. Only that they minimize any negative impact they have on society. Society needs to acknowledge that there are people that want to do nothing but drink or drug their life away. We are not going to change that. All we can do is minimize the negative impact they have on the rest of us. We can give them a pittance or have them take it.

Society should not create a system that fosters making babies, but one that makes sure that a child does not need to suffer because of they are the product of a mistake by other children, their parents. Nor should families be split apart because a partner in the house disqualifies a family for aid, children need both parents.

In short, anyone receiving aid from our government and not otherwise engaged in some productive activity, caring for others, should be in school for something. Damn near anything. If they fail to show up for that job, school, pull the plug on their aid. School is the road to employment at what ever level.

But please do not force drug addicts to steal from me instead of surviving on the meager handouts most of them get from our government.

Instead move to end all of this aid and let people keep their own money so that they can get back to helping the people they know are in need around them, there by cutting out the middle man between the donors and the needy. Getting the federal and state government out of the aid business would be far better than forcing drug users on government assistance to have to take what they need from the rest of us.


Article Comment observer2 commented at 3/31/2011 9:21:00 AM:

I've never met Mr Berry but I can imagine about how he feels after this personal attack from the "judge". I've never met the judge either but after reading some of his negative and racial letters I have no desire to ever get aquainted with him. To look at his picture you'd think he was just a sweet little power puff. Looks can be tricky.

I think this tbutler fellow needs a drug test after the mixed up post on this thread. Egads, he went from joining in on the attack of someone he liked, Mr Berry, for being too Senator Shumer extreme, to making his own extreme comments.

Scott failed to say what TEA means--Taxed too damn much!! So he is a member of the "tea" party himself and by not understanding something before condeming it shows he is not a good prospect to set in judgement of others. Liberals are so easy to see through.


Article Comment kj commented at 3/31/2011 12:49:00 PM:

Joining in on an attack? Did you actually read the article? There is no attack in it. He's not condemning anything. He's just objectively telling a story.


Article Comment melody commented at 3/31/2011 2:38:00 PM:

A hardy amen on being taxed enough already and my best Sunday hat's off to Mr. Berry for leading the charge. I surely agree with his protest of the LBJ war in viet nam. It's one of the biggest mistakes the dems have ever got us into. But now Obama is determined to make even bigger ones than that with his diving deeper and deeper into the mid east. What is he thinking? Lord, send us a great leader, this one is worse than LBJ, Clinton, Nixon and Carter. Just for starters, look his borrowing and spending , bailing out his rich supporters and plainly too much vacation time in South America while giving our tax money to Brazil's oil drilling efforts didn't cause his decision making to be any better. And that "have to pass it or we go down the drain" Stimulus Bill was another failure in his list of losses. Enough of that.

We need a leader who will bring all our military people home from overseas to protect our own borders , stop borrowing and wasteful spending and bail outs, stop all the foreign welfare aid, start drilling for oil now in Alaska, round up all the illegals and send them back and pass the Fair Tax bill which will stop all the free loading corporations who don't pay any taxes on billions of profit by keeping it in foreign countries. The democrat party will cease to exist when the Fair Tax is passed and the sooner the better just for that reason alone. The age for ss and medicare can be left as is and "no more IRS" is probably the greatest reasons to make the change to Fair Tax.


Article Comment hope commented at 3/31/2011 4:54:00 PM:

It seems mostly the rich are frustrated with the government, which goes along way into moulding public opinion. If all government money was taken out of Lowndes county tonight, the county could not function tomorrow.
I don't know why Mr. Berry should be frustrated with the government, since Cleda gave him $600,000 for his business. And I would imagine that most of his employees over the years were covered by Medicade.


Article Comment gogetum commented at 3/31/2011 5:35:00 PM:

Put your name in the hat, melody, I think you would be a better leader than what we have now. President melody, sound good?
I think I remember you being pro life so add defunding the planned parenthood abortion on demand program to your campaign. Might as well close down the dept of education while you're at it.

Maybe Mr. Berry needs to run for Mayor or Supervisor in Lowndes Co? I think I'd vote for him .. Thanks for the info about him, Scott.


Article Comment observer2 commented at 4/1/2011 9:24:00 AM:

kj, you have a very good sense of perception and was right on with your comments. Thanks for your comments. You're right , I took Scott's letter completely wrong and after slowly reading it I saw how I was blinded by my own prejudice and racial mistrust. I see now that I was wrong and I apologize to you Scott for hasty words and admit that I'm the one that isn't worthy to sit in judgement of others. I compliment you on your letter and ask your forgiveness.
Also, I think now I would like to meet you and will read your future letters with a new appreciation of a gifted writer. Thanks again kj for an obvious God sent constructive post.
After reading the opinion page yesterday I got a better understanding of the tbutler blog so I might as well apologize to tbutler too and ask the dispatch to remove all my previous post on this thread.
Thank you.


Article Comment hope commented at 4/1/2011 10:15:00 AM:

@observer2:You are in such a rage over President Obama and the Democrats, it's effecting your mind. You need to disconnect your veins from Fox and listen to other news channels that present the truth and is not distorted like Fox.


Article Comment melody commented at 4/1/2011 11:07:00 AM:

This is an ad for Obama in 2012, hope will just love this if she can take time out from her msnbc transfusion. She's probably in denial though since her one and only was let go by them and Chris is starting to yell "show us the birth certificate"!!

You have to copy and paste, hope , if you are able to figure that out.


Article Comment frank commented at 4/1/2011 11:31:00 AM:

That's a good link Melody!

I agree KJ, no attack here. Actually I thought it was a well written column this week.
Dispatch do we really need the complicated CAPTCHA gadget in order to post a comment? Is it really necessary since you went to the registration model? It is a pain. And can you update the page header on the Obit page? The menu is from 3 versions ago.


Article Comment hope commented at 4/2/2011 9:34:00 AM:

@melody:The stock market has its' biggest gains this past quarter since 1999.
It's the economy, stupid!


Article Comment melody commented at 4/2/2011 10:01:00 AM:

There you go again, showing your ignorance. Have you noticed the price of gas has doubled since Obama moved into the white house? How about the unemployement lines? Open your eyes hope and do a disconnect from msnbc. I bet you're still in withdrawal because they fired the Oberman guy? Go make a sign and join in on the next tea party meeting--that'll cheer you up!


Article Comment hope commented at 4/2/2011 7:43:00 PM:

@melody:The price of a barrel of oil under Bush hit $147+ and under Obama $108+ has been the highest. The only way the oil companies can get motivated is at the gas pump.


Article Comment walter commented at 4/3/2011 11:50:00 PM:

Those of us fortunate enough to subscribe to or simply read The Dispatch are blessed! Ignoring the posts of those determined to convince the rest of us that their particular political party or candidate has all the wisdoms and holds all the answers to the increasingly more complex problems we face as nation, comments appearing at this site would easily rival those being posted anywhere, including the Times (NY or London) and The Wadshington Post. As I have said many times before, The Dispatch makes me proud to say that I'm a native of The Friendly City. And, make no mistake about it, as good as the staff of The D was before, the addition of Mr. Colom has definitely kicked it up a notch or two.

Great article Scott. I await your every submission.


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