One of the amazing aspects of the Tea Party movement is how much it is driven by women, and not just any women: many of the local organizers are typically stay-at-home moms with younger children. Ana Puig and Anastasia Przybylski of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, are two such women who concluded they'd had enough with the way things were going in this country-and decided to do something about it.
Anastasia, married to her high school sweetheart and the mother of three younger children, is a lifelong resident of the county, and was at one point a cellist in the Bucks County Symphony. Her real political involvement, she says, began in 2008. "Throughout the election cycle of 2008, I was growing increasingly distressed over Barack Obama and his policies," she told me. "You could say I was a little obsessed and upset that everyone I was talking to seemed to think he was great."
But what really set Anastasia in motion was the passage of the stimulus package, and after she heard Rick Santelli's "rant heard 'round the world" she e-mailed a friend and said a "porkulus" Tea Party demonstration was needed. Anastasia and her friend were originally going to do a reading of all the pork in the bill at the Doylestown public square, but plans changed as the Tea Party movement began to explode from the grassroots. "We saw tea parties springing up all over and we decided to have a bigger and better tea party at Washington Crossing Park because of its historical significance," Anastasia recalls. "Afterwards, the newspaper dubbed us the Kitchen Table Patriots because we'd planned the event around our kitchen tables." It was at that first Tea Party event that Anastasia met Ana Puig.
Ana's journey to Bucks County was far different. Born in Brazil, she came to America at age 14 to live with her uncle, a general in the Brazilian army who was serving as an exchange professor at West Point (where her future husband was a cadet at the time). Two years later, she joined her family in California. "Our family came here legally to be part of the American dream," Ana told me. "We came to enjoy life, liberty, opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness. We did not come here to take ‘advantage' of or change the system, but to be part of this great system."
As with Anastasia, it was the 2008 presidential election that truly awakened Ana, who by then had moved to Minnesota and was married with four young children. "During the 2008 presidential campaign I decided I'd had enough. I decided to stop sipping my latte while screaming at the TV and do something," she recounts. "But the one moment I can point to where I really woke up was the exchange on TV between Obama and Joe the Plumber where Obama said that it was OK to redistribute the wealth around. At that point, I looked at my husband and told him that because we had seen this before and had felt this in our own skin, it was time to get up and actually do something in order to help keep the American dream alive for future generations."
Ana began writing op-eds, and on the day Obama was elected, called in to the Jason Lewis radio show in Minneapolis. "He gave me 20 minutes of air time, which was unheard of, and for days afterwards he continued to speak about ‘Ana, the Brazilian,'" Ana recalls. "What I discussed on the show that day was what I saw as correlations between what was taking place in the U.S. with the new Obama administration coming onboard and what had happened throughout Latin America under ‘democratically' elected dictators. It was a huge hit, and it encouraged me to continue on."
A few months later, Ana moved to Bucks County, and through the grapevine heard about the tea party that was being organized at Washington Crossing Park. She turned her op-eds into a speech on the same topic she'd spoken about on the radio with Jason Lewis and submitted it to Anastasia, who was the main organizer of that tea party.
COMING OUT of that event, Ana and Anastasia became an effective team, working together on everything from infiltrating the left's pro-health care forums in 2009 to putting on their own health care forums. In 2010, they redoubled their efforts. Working in tandem with American Majority Action, Kitchen Table Patriots opened a Liberty Headquarters in Doylestown, with the goal of doing direct advocacy work on the issue of health care, and then advocating for leadership that would overturn Obamacare. Running a tightly focused campaign on targeted doors and phones, Ana and Anastasia turned their local Tea Party movement into a potent political force. "The coolest thing I have worked on was opening and running the Liberty HQ last fall and seeing the effect that we had in an entire region of Pennsylvania by simply working hard, being principled, and believing in our work," Ana says.
They haven't stopped there. "Right now we are working on getting SB1 [an education reform bill in Pennsylvania] passed, and we are supporting local candidates for school board and TWP supervisor," Anastasia says. "I am most proud of organizing a candidates' forum and calling for an open primary and getting the GOP to not endorse a candidate. This was the first time in 40 years that there was no endorsement." Meaning, no more RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) receiving backing ahead of principled conservatives.
The ladies have big plans for the future but realize there are great challenges, not only within the movement, but with the country as well. However, they do realize that national change begins at the local level. "The greatest challenge for the movement right now is maintaining cohesiveness and stamina and finding common conservative ground to keep people engaged until we really kick into 2012 election cycle mode," Ana says. "I also believe it is important for folks to understand that we need to take over our school boards, our towns and really bring change from the ground up on a local level. Concentrating in our own states and our own ‘backyard' will have a trickle-up effect into the national level and effect the proper kind of change throughout the entire nation."