As the Tea Party continues to gather attention on the national political stage, the originators of Frederick County’s Tea Party movement say they are more comfortable identifying with the “liberty movement” these days and feel more at home exchanging ideas with like-minded academics than wannabe politicians.
“People tried to label us early on,” said Joshua Lyons, who co-hosts “The Forgotten Men” on 930 WFMD with Mark Kreslins. “... I’m not a fan of labels, or boxing someone in by terminology.”
While local and national Republican candidates and officials have adopted the Tea Party platform out of principle or political gain, Kreslins and Lyons say they continue to push a philosophy of “principles over people.”
At the outset of their show in 2009, the pair were clear that they would not promote candidates, irking some who wanted their backing.
“Some candidates were frustrated with us, but our message is about principles over people,” Kreslins said. “We’ve gotten burned throwing our hat behind a candidate who said they were going to do something, but didn’t do it.”
As time went on and Tea Party’s principles and ideology became subsumed by the Republican Party, Kreslins and Lyons stopped hosting their annual Tax Day and Independence Day rallies. The rallies became popular with local Republicans who saw an opportunity to speak to their base.
But if you have a political agenda, Lyons does not want to be part of it.
“We are moving forward. We’re not interested in putting on an event that the underlying motivation is to get ‘our guy’ into office,” he said.
“The Forgotten Men” show, whose co-hosts say is “for the average citizen, by the average citizen,” has been on the air weekly since March 2009.
As a small business owner of a Maryland health care company and a former congressional aide, Kreslins said he was “made intimately aware of the overreaching nature of government.” Kreslins changed his party affiliation from Republican to “unaffiliated” in 2009, he said.
Lyons, who works for Fortrex Technologies Inc. in Frederick, said he got together with Kreslins over urgent concerns about the future of the country, following the economic fallout of 2008.
Tea Party at work
Del. Michael Hough (R-Dist 3B) of Brunswick is one of about a dozen Republicans in Annapolis who is part of a Tea Party Caucus.
Hough said that although some candidates could use Tea Party popularity to get elected, he hopes followers will track officials once they are in office.
For example, Republicans and Tea Party Caucus members split this year in Annapolis over pursuing bond bills, or earmarks designated for specific local projects. Tea Party members stood firm in opposing bond bills, according to Hough, while other Republicans backed down.
“The Tea Party message is a populist message and should be the Republican Party message: reduce government and the things we hate about politics, which is crony capitalism, backroom deals, spending and high taxes,” Hough said.
Fueling their arguments for a restoration of the founding fathers’ view of a union of states, not a nation of one, is the economic setbacks that have plagued the U.S. for the past four years, according to Kreslins and Lyons.
Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) shares the airwaves with Kreslins and Lyons, hosting a talk show five days a week on WFMD. When running for commissioner in 2010, Young said he was not interested in joining the Tea Party but wanted to change the GOP from within.
Looking back, Young said the Tea Party was successful in 2010, with 45 Tea Party-backed candidates elected to Congress, and “nothing’s really changed on the national scene since the election.”
But Young has brought the predominantly Tea Party message of smaller government and less regulation into governing Frederick County, and his emerging campaign for governor echoes that philosophy.
Refining the movement
But for Kreslins and Lyons, the answer is more far-reaching: restore adherence to the U.S. Constitution and let states rule themselves accordingly.
“The one-size-fits-all solution pits us against each other,” Kreslins said.
For radical change to occur, a revolution of sorts must take place, they said.
The pair emphasized that despite their passion and talk of revolution, they do not advocate violence, Kreslins said. They prefer the word “restoration” to revolution and encourage people to get to know their state legislators to work for change.
“We are the ones that are trying to stop that [violence] from happening ... It is the idiots in [Washington,] D.C., that are going to get us shooting at each other because they keep ratcheting up the rhetoric,” Kreslins said.
Without giving way to on-air rants or huffing and puffing hyperbole, Kreslins and Lyons have slowly and steadily built a following outside of the county and the state.
Web streaming the show has led to fans across the country and relationships with like-minded historians and academics, Kreslins said. The Forgotten Man was recently rated No. 2 in the local radio market on Saturday mornings, behind WFRE’s country music lineup.
Kreslins has appeared on CNN and Fox News, and he and Lyons have been asked to speak at events around the nation.
The attention has also drawn them to academics and historians, some left leaning, Kreslins said. He said he became friendly with Larry Lessing of Harvard University, a progressive who espouses a similar ideology.
They share a common goal, states’ rights, and a common enemy, Kreslins said: Washington, D.C., and what it represents — dysfunction and polarization.