Is the Tea Party a Modern-Day Renaissance?
By Staff News & Analysis - September 20, 2010

Tea Party insurgents prepare to seize power in 2012 … Misunderstood and misrepresented, the Tea Party is a genuinely democratic movement with growing political power, argues Toby Harnden … First they were ignored. Then they were derided as the tools of Big Money. Then they were branded as racists, the unhinged, the unwashed, the paranoid, the subversive and the ignorant – or some combination thereof. Now, they stand accused of aiding and abetting the enemy by splitting the Republican party and giving Democrats hope for the November mid-terms. It has been a rough ride for members of the Tea Party in the 19 months since their movement sprung up. But each insult and attempt to marginalize them seems only to have stiffened their resolve and swelled their numbers. Polling indicates that they are now more popular than either Republicans or Democrats. Despite all the claims they are extremists, around half of the electorate now identifies with the Tea Party and up to a quarter view themselves as members. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: The Tea Party is, anyway, a significant political movement.

Free-Market Analysis: This analysis in the UK Telegraph is actually a pretty good one, though the article falls short – as almost all do in our humble opinion – in terms of contextualizing the Tea Party from a historical standpoint. The dominant social theme might be, "The Tea Party is underestimated and is a genuine populist movement."

But does this miss the point? Of course in granting that the Tea Party movement is a genuine grass-roots movement, Hamden does better than most, especially when it comes to mainstream writers. But one needs to examine where the Tea Party came from and how it arose to really figure out what the Tea Party might portend. Yesterday we carried a most insightful interview on the Tea Party from Dr. Tibor Machan, and we thank him again for participating. The interview sets the stage for this analysis, much as Hamden's article in the Telegraph provides us a jumping-off point.

Here at the Bell we have written numerous articles about the Tea Party. We did so to try to figure out what was going on, especially when the Tea Party was being co-opted by individuals such as Sarah Palin. We also saw, as it was happening, that Tea Party rhetoric grew increasingly jingoistic. This meant that while Tea Partiers wanted smaller government, perversely, certain elements supported the obscenely violent and wasteful military industrial complex, with its incessant warring overseas and increasingly aggressive domestic spying.

This dichotomy has continued, with individuals such as Dick Armey doing their best to co-opt the Tea Party movement via such groups as Freedomworks and such platforms as the Contract From America. As has been pointed out here and elsewhere the Contract From America purported to be a summation of what Americans wanted in terms of smaller government, but it was a fairly watered down document. It didn't deal with such issues having to do with legalizing drugs, doing away with the Federal Reserve, downscaling or eliminating public schools and above all the necessary radical pruning of the military-industrial-intelligence complex.

All this is beside the point in our view.

It has taken us a while to get here of course because we try to be cautious. And what we are about to write is indeed speculation as it must be since it concerns the future as well as the past. But basically, we believe that analysis of the Tea Party movement as a political entity is an analysis that provides a structure without a frame of reference.

The frame of reference is actually twofold: One influence is the truth-telling of the Internet and the other is the economic crisis itself. These two influences have combined to create a wave of free-market thinking not only in America but in Europe, too, throughout the West in other words. The Austrian economic school, for instance, has made great strides in Eastern Europe and Tea Party movements are springing up in such places as Australia. Again, we are only at the beginning of the process, but that is what it is – a process not a (Tea) party.

This is our point, then. It definitely may not be yours, dear reader. But we have been riding this particular bandwagon for about a decade, long before it was popular or even seemed realistic. Seven or eight years ago, in certain articles, we predicted that segments of the mainstream media would lose most if not all of their value – because sunken costs having to do with newsprint facilities and broadcast stations could never be recovered. We pointed out that we were moving from an epoch of (artificial) information scarcity to one of unintended plenty. At that point the days of selling Businessweek and Newsweek for a dollar were not upon us yet – and the idea that such transactions would occur seemed ludicrous. And yet they came true.

And thus we venture out on a limb once more to present the idea that possibly, just possibly, a new Renaissance is upon us, a rediscovery and increased acceptance of free-market thinking, of limited government, judicial modesty – as a result of an increasingly forceful confrontation with the Money Power conspiracy that has haunted the West for the past 200-300 years.

Of course such an optimistic forecast is anathema to many who are aware of the great battle now being waged. But we venture to suggest it anyway. As we wrote recently, we have been amazed by how much trouble the elite is having in promoting its fear-based promotions these days. And, yes, we try to remain agnostic on such issues in terms of predicting an ultimate outcome, but nothing stops us from pointing out trends in pursuit of our brief to analyze these elite dominant social themes. And while one can look at these issues from both sides – half full or half empty – we want to point out emphatically that wasn't the case in the 20th century. No, it would have been fairly ridiculous to suggest that 20 years ago, or even 10. But how far we have come since then.

We have long listed the themes that the elite is having trouble promoting these days. (And that is not good for those who want increased centralization of power and authority.) Global warming, Peak Oil, central banking, the European Union, gold and silver (versus the dollar), the IMF, the United Nations, vaccinations, the war in Afghanistan – on and on … almost everywhere we look we see these fear-based promotions foundering. And the realities they are supposed to establish crumble as well.

Are we simply to conclude this is all serendipity? You may, dear reader, but we do not. There is something that is going on that is profound. The new communications technologies are radically challenging the plans of the power elite – in much the same manner as the Gutenberg press once did. It is a fact. And what if by some chance "prosperity" returns to the West? Will the Tea Party movement and the larger sense of unease about Western institutions subside? Is that really a possibility?

After Thoughts

We can only repeat that what is happening is a process, not a series of inexplicable, serial events. Of course, we may yet be wrong. Perhaps the power elite can – via censorship and military force – reverse the trends that we see continuing to grow. But think for a moment: Was the Renaissance reversible? Or the Reformation? Or Protestantism? Or the development of the New World? We know we are perhaps a lone voice in all of this, but ponder the consequences (monetary and otherwise) if such a position has some merit. Just think!

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