I did indeed attend the Tea Party last weekend with my esteemed colleague Karl, which inspired the following thoughts.
One particular meme that I’ve seen cropping up among the Tea Party circles is those signs with pics of Bush and Cheney, along with the line “Miss Me Yet?” This is something that never fails to send the vomit shooting up the back of my throat. I won’t recount, yet again, the multitude of sins against limited government and fiscal sanity that have been promulgated by the Bush-bots and their neoconservative counselors. Sure, as Karl pointed out to me this weekend, for all his wretchedness, McCain probably wouldn’t have been foisting socialized (or cartelized) healthcare on us, at least this year (although it’s not inconceivable). Nevertheless the prominence of these die-hard Bushie fanboys among the supposedly revolutionary Tea Partiers is the number-one piece of evidence that the movement has been co-opted by amoral GOP set and its talk-radio enablers.
Depressingly, Ron Paul types and associated libertoids, apparently, were completely non-existent among this crowd. In fact, I would guess that, say, a Ron Paul Revolution t-shirt would get some hostile attention from these guys. That’s too bad, because the hard-libertarian forces are younger, more geographically diverse, and are much more serious about pushing back at against the growth of the state. This is not to criticize the undoubtedly fine and dedicated middle-American family men who seemed to make up the bulk of the Partiers, but a broad-based coalition is becoming increasingly essential.
Now, maybe it isn’t fair to pick on the Tea Partiers when after all, they, and indeed the GOP, were at the forefront of the opposition to this monstrous healthcare bill, as Karl pointed out in his post. So on that front, good for them, and I mean that, and I proudly stand with them.
But you get the idea if you ask these guys what they really want, it would boil down to a recitation of stale Heritage Foundation website copy. Let’s see, how about a reduction in marginal tax rates? Invade Iran! Support Israel! And we don’t like the welfare state, but we’re happy to ignore it, for the most part. Basically, Bush/Cheney. Miss ‘em yet?
Worse yet, the fringier of the Tea Partiers seem wont to eschew serious thought in favor of garbage like the birther movement or the “Barack is a Muslim” nonsense. Less stupid, but still stupid, is the tendency to characterize Obama as some kind of a hardline Leninist. Chatting with Karl that evening over some beers I characterized this tendency as, basically, rightwing mental masturbation. (To those who would characterize Conservative Donnybrook similarly: you’re wrong!) Fixating on these obsessions is a good way to push an already disfavored movement into total irrelevance.
If these Tea Party guys really want to keep what’s left of this country from disappearing down the shitter, the answer isn’t Marco Rubio or Scott Brown, and, for God’s sake, it’s not installing some sort of Bush/Cheney 2.0. It isn’t fiddling with marginal tax rates and, emphatically, it is not raining bunker-busters on Iran or expanding NATO or amping up bloodthirsty rhetoric towards China. It isn’t about kicking out DC Scumbag Team A and replacing it with DC Scumbag Team B, which will make comforting noises about its “conservatism” while advancing its own National Review-endorsed assaults on our liberty. And it certainly won’t come from joining the personality cult of the vapid, narcissistic and stupid Sarah Palin, an ardent fan of state power when it benefits her personally, whom we love anyway because she shoots guns and has lots of babies, and exudes family-friendly MILFey sultriness that sends middle-aged white dudes’ pulses racing.
What’s needed to counter the loss of freedom and the growth of centralized power in every sphere of life is nothing short of a rollback of the state on all fronts. Will the Tea Party crowd commit to this? Do they even want it?
How many of these “middle-American radicals” would vote today to repeal Social Security? Heck, ten years from now will these same “Kill the Bill” tea-partiers, as they load up on their government-provided diabetes and blood pressure meds, even be willing to repeal universal healthcare? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t like them.
UPDATE: If you still refuse to become depressed about the Tea Party movement, read Derbyshire.