Frustrated with the 2009 bailouts and the direction in which the country was headed, Charlotte native Matthew Ridenhour decided it was time to get involved. Despite frequently writing letters and making calls to representatives, he felt there was much more to be done.
“It seemed I was just one small voice,” Ridenhour said.
It was CNBC host Rick Santelli’s explosive on-air speech assailing massive government bailouts and lack of personal responsibility that prompted Ridenhour to organize an April 15, 2009 Tea Party rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. In what he calls “one of the most exciting days of my life,” over 2,500 people converged on City Hall in downtown Charlotte to protest the bailouts, high taxes, and big government policies. The group remains active and has held rallies to draw attention to the importance of free market principles and fiscally conservative economic policies.
Having served the last 10 years in the US Marine Corps Reserve and completed two tours in Iraq, Ridenhour is no stranger to public service and hard work. He has appeared on numerous local talk radio and television stations to share the Tea Party’s perspective on various topics. And though not visible on the political scene until two years ago, he grew up in a politically aware family which he credits for his passion and enthusiasm in the Tea Party movement today.
“We would watch the Nightly News with Dan Rather, 60 Minutes and Crossfire, so politics was always a topic of discussion. My mother often listened to Rush Limbaugh, so during the summers I would catch a good number of his shows,” said Ridenhour. “I think the Tea Party movement was a wake-up call for me saying, ‘If I don’t get involved now, there may not be much left for me to fight for later.’”
It is this concern that motivates him to keep people engaged and informed. Moving into 2012, Ridenhour says educating citizens will become a primary goal for the Tea Party in Charlotte. Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Ridenhour hopes to foster open dialogue and information sharing with Tea Party members, particularly to impact the upcoming local elections. The group will focus on finding candidates to run for local offices, mobilize members to help with campaigns, and share the Tea Party platform in the Charlotte community.
“If we don’t educate people on economics, monetary policy, and fiscally conservative values, then we’re really not making a lasting impression,” he explained. “This year is going to set the stage for what we can accomplish next year.”
Follow the Charlotte Tea Party and upcoming events by visiting CharlotteTeaParty.org.