The Tea Party, Its Problems, Its Potential, Who Is To Blame, and What To Do
One of my closest friends recently made a bitter Facebook post, blaming the Tea Party for losing the Republicans the Senate, as the Delaware Tea Party supported O’Donnell has very little chance of beating the Democratic opponent, whereas the establishment Republican candidate with over two decades of experience in government would likely have won. And while I will agree with his assessment of the chances for the Republicans taking over in 2010, it is a simplistic accusation that ignores who is really to blame. But first let’s look at what the Tea Party is and why it is problematic.
To be short and blunt the problem with the Tea Party is that it’s a populist movement. It is based not on ideals and philosophy, but on a gut reaction to higher taxes. Now I have no problem with lashing out at higher taxes–I yearn for the days of Robin Hood and the American Revolution when people knew how to treat a tax collector. But it’s a visceral reaction and not a thoughtful action. I have actually seen some people like Glenn Beck try to get people to understand the philosophic nature of the movement and recommend the books that detail the philosophy behind hating taxes and government expansion. But while Beck mentioning Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” might send the book to best seller list, I have my doubt of how many made it through its dry discussion of Austrian school economic theory…and I have my suspicions that even fewer understood all the subtleties. After all the king maker right now for the Tea Party is not Gingrich, Rove, Guilani or someone of equal part intellect and experience…it’s Sarah Palin. And while Sarah may not be the complete ditz the liberals would have her be, she is also not the person of character and principle that she would have everyone believe (and I’ll come back to this later, but given that these were the people who selected McCain, Romney, and Huckabee as the final three for the Republican nomination, I am just not convinced that the American public is always using the brains God gave them…but I am eager to be proven wrong).
I am perpetually afraid that, as much as I agree with the Tea Party right now in its stance of lower taxes, less government (in terms of power and spending), fiscal responsibility and a return to states rights, when push comes to shove the lack of philosophical basis and structured organization, the Tea Party will eventually collapse. I am afraid that if the Democrats just play the propaganda right and pull the budget version of three-card monte, and convince people that this new program for healthcare or welfare or stimulus or whatever government plan the Democrats want to expand, they’ll fall for it. Don’t believe my fears are well founded? The Tea Party seems to be doing well in the mid-West, but I’ve yet to hear any Tea Party rallies decrying the absolute waste of ethanol subsidies. The Tea Party does well in the South, but I haven’t heard Tea Party candidates complaining about the wasteful tobacco subsidies. And those are just two examples that make me doubt how much this is a principled movement and not just people worried about their own taxes (and by extension their handouts) and to hell if the government screws somebody else. Further to those in the Tea Party who might read this and feel I am unjustified in believing that the Tea Party could be so easily fooled into believing the latest act of socialism by the Democrats was really in their best interest, I submit this one historical fact: Your average German in 1930 was more educated than your average American is now…and what exactly were they willing to believe when the chips were down? People are stupid and easily led when you tell them what they want to hear.
However, the Tea Party has some potential that is being ignored. The entrenched establishment of the GOP, under clueless and gutless wonders like Michael Steele, are resisting the Tea Party, viewing them with even more distain than the preceding paragraphs in this blog. They actively fight against Tea Party candidates, scorn them, and in general violate the 11th Commandment (Thou Shalt not Speak ill of your fellow Republican). Then they go about supporting RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) who don’t take consistently conservative stances (which happens to be why I don’t feel I’m breaking the 11th commandment). If the GOP would just come out with a new platform that was in line with Tea Party then the Republicans would win a group of voters instead of alienating them. If the GOP worked to bring the Tea Party into the Republican Party, slowly and deliberately, they would form a much stronger and wider base for the GOP and would give the Tea Party the philosophical base and structure it is desperately in need of. But that won’t happen, because the GOP is the reason why the Tea Party exists.
The real people to blame for the Tea Party isn’t Obama and his wannabe brownshirts. No it’s the Republican Party. But, aren’t the Tea Parties reacting to Obama and fighting his socialist initiatives and expansions of government? Isn’t he the one who they are fighting against? Yes he is. But here’s the problem, it shouldn’t be a populist movement fighting the President…it should be…hmm I forget who should it be…oh, that’s right the opposition party, The Republicans. But we haven’t seen that in a while. All through Bush we saw expansion of government entitlements (prescription drug reform anyone) and government spending (Bush’s proposal to give money to religious organization to help communities, a real conservative would have said, lets not collect those taxes and let people have money to tithe and give to charity of their own free will) and of course an extension of useless and irrelevant government bureaucracy (No Child Left Behind). And we’ve seen that expansion go on steroids under Obama. What have the Republican done. Not much. I haven’t seen much opposition. I have heard comment about compromise. Why is it that the Republican Party is the one that always compromises? Why is that we always give in and go further and further to the left? Why is it that under Bush spending kept going up and up? Why is it under Republican controlled Congresses spending kept going up and up? Should the Republican party be surprised that the Tea Party formed? No. You can only piss people off for so long before they will take matters into their own hands (ask George III and Louis XVI). Republicans like my friend are disappointed the Republicans won’t take back the Senate. But the Tea Party asks why should that matter? If it’s the RNC backed candidates like we’ve been getting for the last decade what does it matter. Republicans for the last decade have only been Democrats-lite, so why does it matter if we sacrifice the Senate to make a statement. And yeah, O’Donnell may not actually live up to those ideals (and may be a total loon) but she is at least saying the right things. And the Tea Party is thinking in a choice between the establishment that doesn’t say the right things and has never done the right things and someone who at least says the right things…hmm even if she is a total failure, we actually lost nothing. And what does the RNC do. Nothing. It looks with distain at the Tea Party and sees them only as populist ramble who will soon dissipate…which is what they will do.
As I stated, the Tea Party could be exactly what the Republican Party needs, and vice versa. So what does the Republican Party need to do? Well if there is one thing that conservatives do well is stand on principle (which is why most of the current selections in the GOP are only RINOs). Lets looks at our recent selections for principle. We had John McCain, a worthless disgusting excuse for a leader. A man who will switch to any position to be popular. A man who has supported legislation designed to be in opposition to the Bill of Rights. A man who’s understanding of economics may actually be worse than Paul Krugman’s. A man who, for those of you who forgot, was deeply involved in bribery and corruption scandals in the 1990’s. God bless McCain for his service in the military, but his actions since have erased all the good and shown him to now be a man of no character, no virtue, and no principles. At the time I referred to Obama v. McCain as a choice between Tweedle-dumb and Tweedle-dumber….but looking back I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s statement that it may be better to be wholly evil than to be wholly indifferent and hollow (Guess America felt the same way). Oh and who else made it to the end of the Republican primary. Mitt Romney! A Massachusetts Republican who supported a government healthcare system and further expansion of entitlements. Oh yeah there’s a principled conservative. And then there was Mike Huckabee. There’s principled and then there’s crazy. Take a guess where I think Huckabee might be. So our top three choices were all worthless, and the masses are responsible for that–but the fact that these losers weren’t laughed out of the party years ago is partly why it’s in trouble it is also why Republicans failed to win and why America turned against the GOP. So when was the last time Republican actually stood for something…if I recall that was called 1994 and the Contract with America. Clear, straight-forward, principles coupled to just as clear actions that would be taken. Republican won big back in 1994 when they not only stood for principles but actually stated just as clearly what they would do and how they would get those things passed.
What went wrong with the Contract was that after they tried the first time to get some of those things passed and failed they didn’t take a page from the Reagan handbook and use the media to turn the public to their side and force swing votes to change their votes (the Tea Party kind of understands this, but they need infrastructure to be effective).
What the Republicans need to do is stand for something. They need to come out with a set of principles. A set of actions for the next two years that are basically revolving around shutting down and defunding not just everything Obama stands for but rolling back Bush, Clinton and Bush extensions (hell I’d be willing to go back to the Roosevelt extension…and I don’t mean Franklin, but I realize I am a bit more extreme than the average American). They need to come out with a set of actions for 2012 that they will not just defend but roll back these extensions of government power, but take them off the law books (maybe even a few Amendments to reaffirm private property rights and limiting the use of the “commerce” and “necessary and proper clauses”). And they need to make a promise that these are all they will focus on. No new spending, no other legislation (unless there is a threat to national security), no increase of loopholes, a promise of unending “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” style filibusters and no backing down. That’s what Americans want to see, they want to see a line drawn in the sand, they want to see a backbone and not a politician. That is why the Tea Party is voting for these candidates, because they feel it is better to stand for something and fail, than stand for nothing and win….because if you win that way, what have you won? After all, I realize as a New Ager I’m not as well versed in the book, but isn’t there some statement about gaining the world at the cost of your soul? What profit it the Republican if they gain the Senate and lose their principles.