As we start this year a look at the political landscape for Republicans shows that despite calls of a Republican revolution, such a thing may not happen. Tea Party conservative and libertarian purists are running amok, demanding that those within the party who do not represent their absolute ideological views be politically destroyed and thrown out of the party. Moderate Republicans such as Mark Kirk in Illinois and Charlie Crist in Florida face a populist driven movement of conservatives from their right flank made up of all brands from social to libertarian in a similar fashion as to what happened in NY 23 last year. It is a movement that nevertheless is fractured at this point and even if it can be organized enough, will not lead to any solutions. It is a movement that is made up of those who are merely reactionary and peeved by the idea that they had lost in the last few previous elections and who sometimes even put forth grotesque dreams of revolution and secession.
This is a movement that I saw firsthand at the largest Tea Party event in the nation held in San Antonio in front of the Alamo last year. It was an incredible event to go to as it enlightened me of a movement that had just started to form and before it started to fracture among its many lines of thought or personalities. I had a keen interest in this group, as I had no idea what type of people and what kind of overall crowd would be present that day. First off, I will say that regardless of what some liberal commentators have said, this was a grassroots event and it was a movement. Some have come to believe that it was only formulated and planned by large companies and conservative groups, and while the actual grassroots may have had quite the assistance from such entities, one cannot simply perceive that those thousands that came marching did so only because they were ordered to by corporate entities. If its conception and basic organization was FOX news and Glenn Beck, the people were the real thing. To understand this movement, we as centrists cannot merely wave it off as a non-viable group of people that is falsely labeled as grassroots. No, this was the real thing and those people that day were the real and upset partakers in a Tea Party that chanted and held signs in visible discontent with Washington.
In establishing that this is a real movement one would be able to see that it has an energy that political strategists may see as opportunities to use as a source of momentum; a wave which they may be able to ride to political office. This I do not totally disagree with for to do so would ignore the feelings of discontent in some parts of the nation towards the current administration and how that could be used for political victory. But what needs to be taken into account is not whether it is a viable and continuing movement or one that will dissipate if the economy begins to recover or not. What needs to be taken into consideration is whether or not making a deal with this movement is the right thing to do, or will it merely be an act of selling ones soul for short term benefit.
In that day I was able to see up front what the Tea Parties believed in, and what they stood for and it was one that brought worry to me on that day in front of the Alamo.Ã‚ First, let’s get something straight: this movement is not a movement of new ideas. It is exactly the same old ideas that drove the conservative revolution in the latter half of the 20th century. There is nothing new with people and speakers believing that abortion should be outlawed and that God’s law be followed within government. There is nothing new with the idea that government is evil and inept and that inaction in a crisis is better than action. There is nothing new when science is generally regarded as a liberal plot and that Intelligent Design aka literal belief in a holy book as science, has actual real scientific backing and that global warming or even pollution are conspiracies for the government to tell the markets to make cleaner appliances and for vehicles to have slightly higher standards of efficiency, of which would be an infringement on their perceived rights and desire to do as they please regardless of the consequences to those around them and to our lands. There is nothing new with jingoistic and nativist sentiments that was dominant among the crowd and how the same sentiment towards the world that led to the neo-conservative foreign policy mishaps of the W. Bush administration were still present among these people who would say that they were so different from the prior administration. If anything other than the lack of spending vetoes they are every bit an embodiment not of W. Bush, but of the view of the nation and of the world that his administration implemented: arrogant unilateralism, general environmental policy negligence and denial, and a belief of government not as a tool to ensure balance and stability within the markets but as a hindrance to be left basically unused or without reform no matter the real world consequences. With most of these ideas, the Tea Party movement is one and the same.
As with most populist movements, it is by and large not made up of intellectuals or academics.Ã‚ In fact, these are the same people who believe that academics is elitism and that Sarah Palin with her hokey soundbites is better candidate for president than one that can actually present a nuanced view of policies.Ã‚ While I disagree with many conservative thinkers on their take on governance, at least they have given an actual amount of learned thinking to the process that led to their conclusions. Instead, this populist movement is based on sheer reactionary emotions towards how the political process panned out for their side. They simply did not like Obama from the start, and to a degree this is understandable. Their side had been blamed for symbolizing power or “the man” who was running the economy into the ground, creating an unnecessary war without finishing the correct one, and just being generally representative of a segment of the country that believes that God and guns is what we should be about while the rest of the nation became disconcerted enough to vote out their representatives in the Republican party twice. Now the Tea Party people like to tell how they are different from the Republican Party representatives, but in the end they actually agree with almost every aspect of the George W. Bush doctrine and his domestic views including the budget busting across the board, corporate aimed tax cuts. Now if only he had gotten rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and sold the national parks off to private owners to shrink the federal government.Ã‚ Then he would have started to gain real conservative/libertarian credentials.Ã‚ Whatever W. Bush has done was mostly within the realm of conservatism, and it is impressive to see those out there who actually want an even more hardline conservative take on government than what he has done.Ã‚ In the end, what is not reasonable is the absolute hatred towards the President that exists today within the Tea Party crowd.
By far and large there is no plan for America put forth by this movement that isn’t sheer idealism with a near complete lack of realistic thinking. It cannot see the problems that a complex world has brought and how it can’t be solved by merely chanting U.S.A and following a strict conservative ideology. It is a movement that was spearheaded by Glenn Beck and his misinformation and conspiratorial views. Only mere tub thumping that I had previously thought found only in protests based on the far-left was present that day as well. Most of the college students at the University of Texas at San Antonio by far and large did not participate, which will lead to another problem in having the Republican Party adopt this movement for its own. Most fit the description of white, middle aged and I would suppose at one time youthful members of the Reagan Revolution. It was interesting how many of them fit this bill, and how few minorities were present. I believe I could count the number of black people there on my fingers with the count being slightly higher with those of Hispanic origin. The average age of a Tea Party person was usually 40 with relatively few in the teens and twenties. Even 30 year olds seemed sparse. Confederate flags waved and secession/ states’ rights extremists were abundant. This is not some youth revolution: it is merely a disgruntled and aging echo of what happened in the 80’s.
This is a movement, but one that is a minority movement and not one that can be translated into a moderate or long term base of success. It a movement that only encases a small section of the white population and virtually none of the fast growing minority populations. It is a movement that is sheer emotion and one most clearly defined by unreasonable hate and vitriol and delusion by those that make up its members. Even if this was to bring short term success to the Republican party in the 2010 or even 2012 elections, it would fail to translate into a true winning strategy afterwards.Ã‚ This would mirror the same problems the democratic party experienced in the 1980’s with the then powerful liberal wing. Simply put, the Democratic party ended up realizing that despite their midterm wins during Reagan’s first term by going hard-left in their ideology, it was simply not the answer most Americans looked for in the long run of the late 20th century. Despite the current leaders of the party who say otherwise, the Tea Party and its Tea Baggers are not the logical future of the Republican Party and a Republican resurgence. The Tea Party is merely a wild forest fire that unfortunately for the Republican Party will hurt many in the short term, both those who support them and those brave enough to stand against them; but it will eventually burn itself out and as a wildfire show how non-enduring populist movements rooted in anti-intellectualism are. When that happens, we as Republicans do not want to be on that same burnt out field.Ã‚ As we start off the new year which looks to be very rough to centrist republicanism everywhere, take heed and don’t cave in and I hope everyone had a happy new year.