Monday, February 8, 2010

An Objective View of the Tea Party Movement

I'll preface this by saying that I've never attended a Tea Party demonstration. I do like the initial principles that were espoused by the Tea Party: limiting government, promoting free enterprise, and protecting individual freedom. I am skeptical about where this movement may be headed, given the philosophical predilictions of those who have jumped on board with the Tea Partiers in recent months.

Anyway, I'm going to take a look at the Tea Party, where it can do a lot of good, and what it needs to do to avoid being "hijacked" by people who don't understand the true principles of the movement.

Let's be real, here...the Tea Party Movement is too large to be considered a bunch of "fringe right-wing wingnuts". This movement is something that has appeal to conservatives, libertarians, and third-way/centrist Democrats who saw the prosperity that came with the 1990's and the continuation of non-expansionist government policy.

There are those who think that it is a racist movement, since it is anti-Obama. I'm a bit tired of this rhetoric. As long as Obama is black, there will always be someone who claims any attempt to push back against his agenda is rooted in some kind of blatantly racist motive. Since Obama will always be black, there will always be someone who pulls the race card to discredit the push-back.

While I'm sure there are those who may hold such sentiments within the movement (as there are in all political parties), it is an obviously small minority. There are too many people who favor the Tea Party principles that it isn't some kind of tiny fringe group who happen to make a lot of noise. Get over it, race-baiters, the Tea Party principles of good, limited government are more in line with Ron Paul than with Pat Robertson, despite what others may want you to think.

While many may knock Sarah Palin, she said some things that many people across the majority of the political spectrum (except for dedicated "progressives"). In fact, I was watching MSNBC after Palin's speech, and they had the always-thinking Lionel talking about what Palin said. I do not remember who was hosting the post-speech commentary, but I know it was someone who was a part of the left (I think it was Ed Schultz, but I could be wrong). However, Lionel told the host that in Palin's speech "she said things that, if it wasn't Sarah Palin saying them, you would agree with."

Palin's general stance on the fact that government should roll back it's size and scope is one that many, many people can agree with. Given Palin's populist appeal, she can be a lightning rod for the Tea Party Movement to push forward with more support.

The movement (and using Palin as a lightning rod) is not without faults, though.

First of all, the Tea Party Movement (in principle) should really have nothing to do with religion. However, using Palin as a lightning rod will naturally attract a lot of social conservatives. The same social conservatives who supported the Republicans who allowed government spending and budget deficits to expand on their watch for 6 years under George W. Bush. If we want to move in a different direction, we have to change fiscal thinking and reduce government's size and scope. This will require moving away from the social issues, as they are not part of the Tea Party's principles.

There are those who want to push very "Christian" ideals in the Tea Party (I guess sensing an opportunity to "start over and get it right" in their opinion). Some of the ideas I've heard tossed around have involved pushing Christianity in schools (or "keeping God in school"). I've found this to be odd, because all through my 13 years of primary education, I only found "God" to be a part of school twice...once, in Kindergarten, at a Lutheran school...and the other in 8th grade, at a Catholic school. The rest of the time, I was in public school, and I don't remember there being a God to how can we put him back if he wasn't there in the first place?

OK, obviously I was going for a little humor there, but the point is made. We can teach kids the basic morals of civilized society (which yes, I do believe are derived from religious beliefs of many different kinds...which goes to show you that religions aren't as different as some may think). Most of the people who are pushing these things are new to the Tea Party, and see it as some kind of new conservative party, instead of a push for fundamental change in governmental philosophy back to the foundation set by our founding fathers.

Secondly, the Tea Partiers must recognize that the Republicans are jumping on board because the concepts of limited government and personal freedom (sound familiar libertarians?) are part of the core of conservatism (see the Reagan quote in the subtitle of this blog)...which the Republicans moved away from over the past decade or so. They know to win back the populous, they need to adopt these aspects of the Tea Party. However, those who hold true to the Tea Party's principles need to make the politicians move to them, and not the inverse.

See, if they move towards the Republican Party in it's current state, you're moving towards such politicians as Tom Tancredo (whose stance on immigration is more than just anti-illegal immigrant), the hardline SoCons (who want to ban gay marriage and all abortions, as well as bring about more theocratic philosophy), and RINOs.

So I warn the Tea Party...stick to the principles that the majority of people believe in (which is a mostly libertarian-based philosophy with some conservative elements). Keep government's size and scope in check, allow for free enterprise for all, a strong national defense that is for defensive purposes (emphasis on "defensive"), and reforms of ineffective government policies (like current immigration laws).

Otherwise, you will allow the more extreme elements that have joined your movement to allow you to continue to be marginalized by politicians and the media elite.

As for Palin for President in 2012? I doubt it. She is better in her role as a spokesperson and rally artist for a governmental philosophy, but I do not necessarily see her as a leader of a nation, as she carries a lot of negative baggage. Then again, if she can prove to me that she is a better candidate in 2012 than she was in 2008, I might change my mind. However, right now, I can't say that I could go with her as a potential presidential candidate.

On that note (2012), I would like to see Ron Paul run for President again, but that's just me :)

**Addendum To This Post - 8:16 PM**

Leslie Carbone, one of my favorite intellectuals anywhere, addresses some of my same concerns in her latest post, "The Problem With Palin", and brings up a few new issues as well.


zen said...

Palin held an elected office, and she resigned! She's out, I wish she would go away. The anti-intellectualism that she represents is offensive, and cannot be overcome by a couple of years of image control.

Leslie Carbone said...

Thanks for the link and the nice words, Phil, and especially for taking on the question of whither the tea parties. I too have serious concerns. The anti-intellectualism of Palin's worshippers is one of them. The more I read and think, the more convinced I become that what distinguishes a lasting political revolution from a short-term revolt is mooring to a well-formed political philosophy. The original Boston Tea Partiers certainly had such a philosophical mooring; not all today's Tea Partiers do, and several of them actually dismiss suggestions that they should have such a philosophy as elitist. The kind of class warfare being fomented threatens to split our movement, and, should the anti-intellectuals "win", to undo any good that the tea parties have achieved.