A proud conservative, it goes without saying that the Presidential election of November 2, 2008 was for me a particularly sad day. During the months that led up to the election of our first “post-racial” President (far from an apt descriptor in hindsight), truth be known, I never seriously considered B. Obama a serious challenger. My money was on a Clinton-McCain battle, in which I gave odds to our current Secretary of State and her command of the superior resources provided by the Clinton political machine.
I don’t think I could have ever foreseen such a swell of support for a peculiarly unaccomplished candidate, all premised on little more than the vague promise of “change” and an otherwise unarticulated agenda. This was the year that, to my astonishment, we as a nation displayed our clear preference for style over substance. This is my chief complaint against the ascension of President Obama, that we as a people were foolish enough to gamble away the farm on a charismatic unknown, so given to our idolatry that we not only refused to investigate or question any substantive details, but we stubbornly ignored the ample warning signs (Ayers, Wright, etc.). As unattractive a candidate as I may have personally found him, Sen. John McCain was to me clearly the lesser of evils. Alas, we appear to have been destined for change all right, and a more clearly articulated agenda.
Be that as it may, this article, if I might call it that, is not about the historic Obama campaign, nor even particularly about his Presidency and the deeply troubling consequences thereof. Likewise, it is not even about this cultural anomaly of the blind and unquestioning devotion of the masses to an attractive but nebulous political figure. Rather, it is about perhaps the single greatest, although unintended achievement provided by the reign of Obama and the 111th Congress…that of the Tea Party movement.
It is interesting to note the reactions of opponents toward this growing body of active political participants. Much effort has been made to portray them as radicals or extremists. In fairness, it cannot be denied that there are some fringe elements who inevitably gravitate towards the nexus that is the Tea Party. But really now, what sizable group does not have these? They are certainly not representative of the Party any more than Bill Ayers can be said to represent the entirety of the Democrat Party. Furthermore, it has become a defining characteristic of Tea Party members to roundly rebuke extremists amongst them, as can be seen with repeated confrontations with liberal poseurs, amongst others, who often attempt to infiltrate their ranks with the purposes of creating deceptively unflattering publicity for them.
Beyond these, there are also those within the ranks who would like to see some social issues addressed. Perhaps of primary interest are those who oppose “gay marriage” or insist on the enforcement of immigration policies. While they may have legitimate points to offer, these unfortunately give their more disreputable opponents an opportunity to seize upon these issues and craft distorted portrayals of Tea Partiers as being “racist” or “homophobic”. As transparent as this is to the bulk of Americans, honest dialogue seemingly cannot progress for those whose stock in trade is propaganda and libelous name-calling. Regardless, while the body of the Tea Party as a whole is a big-tent concept comprised of many views (some might call this genuine diversity), it is nonetheless defined by the ideas expressed in the Contract From America. Thus far lacking any social prescriptions, current attempts by critics to define this movement in terms expressed by the far left stretch what credibility they might have theoretically had.
To listen to the detractors, it is preferred we believe that the Tea Party is comprised of uneducated bigots…backwards and unenlightened souls who take their marching orders strictly from Fox News. This is the mantra of the delusional left, sung by the liberal choir exclusively and verbatim. For instance, while President Obama was at least decent and honest enough (or politically savvy enough not to blatantly over-indulge himself in partisan rhetoric, as he is known to do) to deny detecting racism as a motivator for Partiers, he nonetheless attempted to dismiss them as simply people who are “watching certain news channels”, the insinuation being that they are not thinkers but followers, mindless drones, as it were. O’ we simple rubes.
Of course any reasonable investigation of the matter reveals that the truth is in this case Is in the largest part precisely the opposite. Statistically, Tea Partiers in fact tend to be more educated than most (particularly with regards to non-revisionist history and the political sciences), and are in large part comprised of a particularly intelligent and accomplished professional class disposed towards individual responsibility rather than class entitlement.
Insinuations of ignorance aside, we also have the accusation by Speaker Pelosi that the Tea Party is not at all a grass roots movement, but “Astroturf”. More clever than humorous, the implication was and is a complete denial of the organic nature of the movement, with the resulting inference that it was instead an engineered peculiarity unworthy of being taken seriously. We shall see, Madame Speaker, we shall see. But a mere day prior to the elections, I have a sense that you and your legions will soon be having something of a reckoning with this “Astroturf”.
And then who can forget the less clever and patently crude reference to these folks as “Tea-Baggers”? This juvenile quip refers to an explicitly sexual act more appropriate for conversation in a porno parlor rather than the halls of Congress. Gratified with their disparaging wit, many have since become quick to realize the ramifications of such a gutter-level lack of common civility. These proceeded to either feign ignorance of this term or to transform it into a more benign reference to the practice of some Tea Party members to mail representatives tea bags as a sign of displeasure. Many who “got the joke” and were the targets thereof thought this an offense which clearly defined the character of modern liberal politics (it should be noted that the first instances of using this term were by a small number of Partiers themselves, although it has since then become a degrading term exclusively preferred by uncouth elements of the left) leaving little doubt that this was an overt act intended to degrade and further marginalize Tea Partiers. They were not amused.
This is the point; that each instance wherein the out-of-touch political class not only selected to ignore this body of the people, but to attack them instead, the larger the group has become. This is a serious and growing segment of people that Gallup polls report as being demographically similar to the population as a whole. The question must be asked, is this really the sort of group that you want to ignore or dismiss so cavalierly? Had the current leadership the earlier wisdom to at the very least adopt some Clintonesque form of triangulation, the Tea Party would likely now be much smaller and quieter, if in existence at all. I think that they would still be there, at the edge of demanding that “enough is enough”, angered by how far we have strayed from the principles of liberty and equality as the indoctrinated class lead us over the precipice. But, were it not for the hubris of the left, I do not think this body would have nearly the size or impact that it currently enjoys.
It is precisely this sort of deaf arrogance and absolute dishonesty that created the Tea Party. Both the “stimulus” and the health care bills were enacted in defiance of the will of the majority of Americans (with Obamacare recently earning a 70% disapproval rate amongst Americans, well before it has even been implemented), and these are seen by many as merely the most blatant in a stream of expressions of contempt towards the people by a class who are meant to represent them rather than rule them. One would think that a person whose ascendancy relied so heavily on an appeal to the masses would also calculate that maintenance of such position requires legislative mass appeal as well, rather than exclusive capitulation to the fringe minority that is endlessly needy, never concerning themselves with those who must bear the costs of their new entitlements.
A long overdue and much needed populist expression of absolute frustration with an increasingly detached, power-hungry, and indulgent political class, it is commonly thought that the Tea Party is both a rejection of liberal proclivities for governing towards socialism and a direct response to the current Presidents neglect of the will of the people and the constitutional limitations placed on federal government scope and authority. Where we have seen that opponents are routinely far less charitable in their descriptions, this is essentially accurate. However, the seeds for this movement actually pre-date the Obama Presidency, finding their origins with the Bush White House and the Democrat-led 110th Congress.
The first notable expression of unrest came as a result of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Originally proposed by Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson but later amended and approved by Congress, this was the first in a series of controversial bailouts that sowed the seeds of unrest amongst many informed and irritated citizens who correctly saw the federal government as increasingly exceeding its mandate. Moreover, the bills inclusion of an additional 150 billion dollars of unrelated spending was perceived as continued abuse of taxpayer dollars. Nonetheless, despite objections President George W. Bush signed H.R. 1424 into law on October 3, 2008.
However, it cannot be said that without Bush the Tea Party would never had been. The increasing frustration and growing impatience amongst conservatives, constitutionalists, and traditionalists of varying stripes has been brewing for some time. Regardless of Bush and H.R. 1424, the actions and attitudes of the current administration and Congress would surely have propelled this body into action, and in fact, the Democrats in particular have very much served to “fuel the fire” inasmuch as they have not only been utterly neglectful of the concerns commonly expressed, they have been hostile towards them.
The latest Gallup poll tracking overall American political sensibilities maintains what most have clearly known all along: America is for better or worse a center-right country. With self-identified conservatives leading the way with a commanding 42%, moderates following with 35%, and liberals trailing with a dismal 20%, this fantastic display of myopic political calculations failed completely to heed the obvious dangers of such lustful power grabs as those witnessed over the past two years. Serving only the ideological fancies of a self indulgent minority, it was inevitable that such narcissism would provoke not only the predictable responses from conservatives who outnumber them two to one, but that of many moderates who took a chance on an unchecked Democrat majority. As a result, we are now seeing numbers approaching a three to one rejection of both these trophy policies and the scorched earth methods though which they were obtained. Thus, while Bush and the Democrat-led Congress may have technically caused the original spark of this small scale revolution, it was the policies and attitudes of utter disrespect by the Obama administration and the 111th Congress which fanned that spark into a roaring fire.
The adoption of the “Tea Party” theme came from Libertarian Ron Paul supporters who emphasized fiscal conservatism. Drawing analogies between the 1773 Boston Tea Party and current trends of politicians in power, primarily the ability of detached bodies to forcefully extract unfair, unconstitutional, and non-representative taxes, the Tea Party is a manifestation of traditional patriotism that tends to be far more well steeped in the historical dangers of expanded governmental powers than are their liberal counterparts who prefer an expanded role for centralized government, usually as a means to achieve some form of utopian goals.
Comprised of conservatives, independents (many suffering a deep sense of buyers remorse), and even liberals, although admittedly a relative minority, it cannot be honestly said that this is a far-right or “extreme” group, as much as opponents fight to portray them that way. If there is any overall defining characteristic, it is that they tend to see government as having long overstepped its boundaries. This is illustrated clearly in its anti-incumbent preferences. While they overwhelmingly support fiscally conservative candidates over liberal ones, the firm imprint of a libertarian philosophy, on several occasions incumbent and establishment Republicans such as Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski, amongst a growing list of others, have been shown the door as a clear repudiation of “politics as usual”. Without any centralized organization or authority, it is a genuine grass-roots movement seeking real “change”, led from the bottom up rather than dictated from the top down.
An illustration of some general goals of the Tea Party might be found in what has come to be known as the “Contract From America”. Taking cue from the 1994 Contract With America, this list took its form from over 1000 ideas offered and voted on by hundreds of thousands of people, reflecting the concerns of every day Americans. Reduced to 21 possible planks, each was voted on by the public online, with the top 10 comprising the resulting “contract”. If these results can represent the primary concerns and animus of the Tea Party, and I believe they can, they are far from nefarious. For the sake of brevity I will not address all of them (feel free to Google…), but they include:
Identify constitutionality of every new law. The current administration and Congress constitute the historical pinnacle of willingness to bend, circumvent or ignore existing constitutional limitations on their legislative and executive powers, particularly where it might advance ideological ends. It is now necessary to hold politicians on both sides of the isle firmly in check, and within the boundaries of the powers that the Constitution and we the people grant them. Obamacare is simply one of many constitutional breaches that make clear the need to reform or replace our current class of political “servants”.
Demand a balanced federal budget. Given the inability of both Republicans and Democrats to restrain their desire to spend taxpayers dollars like drunken sailors (largely intoxicated by their own power), the adults (we the people) must insist that the children (politicians) live within the means of the allowances we grant them.
Simplify the tax system. The current tax code is a monolithic monstrosity that conceals its propensity for abuse and unfair application, all of which is backed by the weight of legal authority to prosecute “offenders”. There is no excuse for the mess of our tax system. Simplify it and we not only have no use for the resource guzzling farce that is the IRS, but the class warfare commandos will finally be faced with a clear picture of who is actually paying what in our entitlement minded society.
Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality. The real beauty of this plank is that we finally do what should have been done long ago, namely to identify and abolish or modify agencies or programs that are found to be redundant, ineffective or wasteful, or are more appropriately left at the level of State or local government. The billions of dollars that are wasted yearly on government bureaucracy alone is mind numbingly offensive, particularly to those of us in the upper fifty percent of wage earners who actually pick up the tab for such blatant abuse (note that the bottom fifty percent effectively pay no taxes while enjoying the bulk of the benefits…talk about unfair).
Repeal of Obamacare. A “holy grail” of the socialistas, There is no disagreement that our healthcare system is in need of repair, but to ram through a potentially devastating law without concern for the overwhelming majority who vociferously opposed it, or without so much as the common courtesy of actually reading the thing (so that politicians could “know what was in it” before they passed it, rather than vice-versa). Such monumental dereliction of duty is blatantly disrespectful and even hostile towards the public who must suffer the consequences. The longer that the laws and their anticipated ramifications are considered, the longer the list becomes of adverse effects it will certainly have on the health care costs and options available to all Americans, to say nothing of the heavy economic damages inflicted. Destroying quality health care for all Americans to provide it to a minority of Americans is a reprehensible solution that only an unscrupulous political class could have embraced. We needn’t even ponder long the fact that legislators ensured that they would not have to suffer the effects of Obamacare. They were quick to protect their own taxpayer purchased Cadillac health coverage plans. Talk about adding insult to injury. And then there was the slick little move to trigger the enactment of Obamacare after his re-election. This way the effects would not start to be fully realized until after he had secured a second term on the throne. We could go on and on and on, but I digress. Unsurprisingly, very few if any liberal candidates are now campaigning on the “legislative accomplishment” of Obamacare, and in fact many are now flailing about trying to distance themselves from it. Why is that? Could it be that the opponents (and the majority of Americans) were right all along?
The remaining items on the list include an all inclusive energy policy, the rejection of emissions trading, limiting annual growth in federal spending, and reducing both earmarks and taxes. Now I ask you, which of these is “extreme”? In fact, which of these is not just plain common sense? More importantly, if these are the goals of the Tea Party consensus, where are the nefarious racial undertones (or overtones, according to some) that the mainstream media and the politically correct culture queens constantly remind us are the true driving force behind this band of non-conformist misfits?
Note the lack of social policy in this list. There is nothing here that serves “radical” Christians as a group, a particular phobia of the pagan mainstream, or any other religious group for that matter. Likewise, there is nothing here that is designed to serve one group over another along the lines of race, gender, or sexual orientation. This is a movement concerned with the responsibilities of government, reacquainting these bodies with the notion that their power is limited, and the insistence that the will of the people be respected.
With the dominance of a far-left President and Congress leading against a center-right country, tone-deaf and irresponsible actions such as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (“Stimulus”) and the Health Care debacle have served to antagonize increasing numbers of people across all social and economic lines. The former is widely perceived as a massive government slush fund full of waste and abuse that substantially contributes to existing sums of crippling debt while failing to address the ailments it was proclaimed to remedy. The latter is seen as a clear incremental effort to socialize health care nationally, one of the holy grails of the socialist left in a larger effort to transform America into something very un-American.
Seen by a decreasing number of particular ideologues as great achievements of the current administration, and in truth they are, if you subscribe to that line of political thought, they are also viewed as abuses of authority, dangers to opportunities in a free society, and as the epitome of fiscal irresponsibility to a larger and more broad group of citizens who are simply tired of government run amok. As noted by a far superior President, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
We have seen the impact of the Tea Party as it continues to overthrow comfortable politicians in both parties, and this is a good thing. Indeed, it is a very healthy thing. Where I may have initially had a few concerns, based on its platforms and track record, I have them no longer. To me, the continued growth of the Tea Party is a marvelous historic occurrence, and with any luck their impact will reach far into the future of American politics. And if the saying “by their enemies you shall know them” is any indicator of quality, then sign me up.