Friday, February 12, 2010

Has the Tea Party Become a Drag?

I just submitted this post at the RLC website:

I was reviewing Sarah Palin’s speech at the Tea Party convention on Youtube and was reminded of her position on the 2008 bailout. In a September 24, 2008 television interview Palin supported the bailout. But at the recent Tea Party convention she objected to bonuses that the support she had previously advocated made possible. I think the expression is that she has been shedding conservative crocodile tears.

Conservatives love to hate Saul Alinsky but in fact all activists, conservative, libertarian or left-wing, follow his advice if they aim to succeed. One of Alinsky’s rules for radicals is that a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. This seems to be occurring with the Tea Party.

A reader suggested this blog by the Alantic Magazine’s Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan argues that the Tea Party convention was not economically conservative but was rather dominated by Christian activists. Sullivan writes:

They have no plans to cut serious spending whatsoever. They love their Medicare, as they screamed at us last August. Do you remember them revolting against Bush’s unfunded, Medicare prescription drug bill, the worst act of fiscal vandalism since the Iraq war?

I have attended my local Tea Party meeting in Kingston, New York. I do recall others, besides myself, talking about economic issues. One individual brought up the exit of manufacturing from the US, another talked about corruption in government. There are frequent references to the nation becoming worse for future generations. These are all good signs and say to me that the Tea Party has potential left.

Since the Atlantic is not a libertarian source (disclaimer: I read it regularly more than a quarter century ago and not since) my gut would be suspicious of anything its writers have to say about the Tea Party. However, Sullivan makes a good point.

It was obvious from the beginning that the Tea Party rank and file is largely inexperienced. Moreover, these are people who have developed a bad habit of voting for big government candidates who say that they are for small government. They did it for George W. Bush and they did it for George H. Bush. They nominated John McCain, who lept at the bailout like a terrier at a steak, along with Palin and Obama. The Tea Party people realize that something has gone wrong after decades of their de facto support for big government and their solution is…to do the same thing once again. This is seen in their decision to ask John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, to be the keynote speaker at their convention. Palin may speak economic conservative rhetoric at times, but she is not schooled in basic economics and can be seen in the September 2008 interview to be in the Progressive tradition.

I believe that libertarians need to work with the Christian right. However, we have been hammered once before, with respect to George W. Bush. The tactic of working with the Tea Party has helped expose our views, and it has been successful. But should libertarians continue to support the Tea Party? I am not certain that the leadership of the Tea Party supports our mission of limited government. Sarah Palin does not. I don’t think she understands that government activism in the bailout is logically inconsistent with support for limited government. The Tea Party may soon become a drag.

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