02.28.2010 0

What the Tea Party Movement Is Not — A Short Primer

  • On: 03/05/2010 09:42:25
  • In: Conservative Movement
  • By David Bozeman

    Columnist Kathleen Parker recently called tea partiers “the noisiest sector of the GOP.” She chided members of the movement for attacking newly elected Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who voted with Democrats in supporting a cloture motion on their $15 billion jobs bill. Brown, who conceded that the bill was imperfect, added that he hoped his vote would be “a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington.”

    Parker did kindly note that most tea partiers are “not weird.” Kathleen, you are too kind. Such obligatory politeness softens the blow to come (and preserves her stature — such as it is — as a conservative columnist). She proceeds with: “But some are at risk of flying off into the blood-red zone of wing nuttery” and “the growing libertarian strain [within the party] combined with an anti-RINO (Republican In Name Only) attitude is making life increasingly difficult for moderates such as Brown.”

    We can only hope!

    Most tea partiers are reserving judgment on Senator Brown, but there are a few points about the Tea Party Movement that Ms. Parker and the senator should bear in mind.

    First, this is not a top-down movement, fueled by charismatic personality and silky baritone oration, a la Barack Obama. Most tea partiers are motivated by their adherence to such principles as smaller government, less spending and lower taxes. While leadership, particularly in government, certainly matters, leaders tend, as often as not, to disappoint, so their actions are viewed somewhat skeptically. Still, most activists are confident that the right leader will present his or her self in due course for 2012. Until then, the real fun, a guiltier pleasure than a reality TV drama, is watching the growing fissure between President Obama and Democrats running for re-election in moderate and conservative districts.

    Second, tea partiers do not send leaders to Washington to achieve bipartisanship. To Democrats who want to support any plank of the conservative agenda — welcome aboard. To the rest, tea partiers seek your defeat. Since liberals have grown their power incrementally, bipartisanship usually works to their advantage. Conservatism advances by holding to principle, thus tea partiers shun such banal fashion statements as ‘civility’ and the current already-worn-to-death ‘reconciliation.’

    Finally, tea partiers do not do nuance. Not to sound anti-intellectual, but big-government elites have granted themselves enough rhetorical wiggle room to near effortlessly increase spending (called ‘investing’) and raise taxes on middle-income earners and business owners (i.e., ‘the rich’). While tea partiers need not be confrontational, they are at least direct. While the movement may have attracted some “wing nuts,” maybe Ms. Parker would like to detail how the GOP has been served by the nauseatingly conciliatory tones of John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush.

    David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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