STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Old GOP Doesn't 'Get' Tea Parties
By Staff News & Analysis - January 19, 2010

Neil Cavuto of Fox News had a visit with former Vice President Dan Quayle (pictured left) on Jan 13. Ostensibly the interview was about the earthquake in Haiti and the efforts that Quayle was saying needed to be made for the victims there, but Cavuto also asked the former veep about his feelings about the Tea Party movement. Quayle's reply was revealing in that he proved that he really didn't know how to think about the Tea Partiers. I think that Quayle is in exactly the same confused state that most of the old guard GOP is. They just don't get it. Cavuto asked what Quayle thought of the Tea Party movement and what it portended for the Republican Party and Quayle's reply was that the GOP had to "co-opt" the Tea Partiers back into the GOP. Sorry, Dan old pal, but that is wrong, wrong, wrong. The GOP had better understand that it is the Tea Partiers that have the upper hand here and the party also better understand that THEY must be the ones to become "co-opted." It ain't the other way 'round, Danny! Now, let me here say that I've always had a begrudging respect for Dan Quayle. He has always exhibited, for instance, the sort of staunch support of traditional marriage that I appreciate. I also thought he withstood well the leftist assault on him when he was VP. But he is still a member of the old guard and here he reveals that he and his ilk are out of the loop when it comes to what to think about the Tea Party movement. You can't "co-opt" us, Mr. Quayle. You will be lucky if WE co-opt YOU! – Warner Todd Huston, Andrew Breitbart, Big Government

Dominant Social Theme: Change is a-comin' …

Free-Market Analysis: We must admit we don't "get" the Tea Party movement either. Yes, it may be growing, but we think the mainstream media – and even portions of the alternative media – are purposefully massaging the movement's profile to fit certain political conceptions.

But let's proceed with our analysis. This article, for instance, seems to make the point that the Tea Party is a kind of new political movement based on radically smaller government, lower taxes, etc. He compares this political posture to the old "country club" Republican positions which were basically the watered-down socialism, what Samuel Johnson would have called leveling.

So far, so good. The socialist, high-tax, high-spend wing of the Republican party differentiated itself from the Democrats by suggesting that government could legislate morality as well as economics. Thus, you got a statist "twofer" with old-style country club Republicans. The difference between the two parties was that old-style Republicans wanted to use big government to actively reshape the moral compass of the citizenry.

Seen from this perspective, the clear delineations of Republican versus Democrat are radically diminished. The electorate was advised that Republicans stood for smaller government, lower taxes and generally a less intrusive government. But since Ronald Reagan, this has hardly been the case. And even Reagan, though he was evidently sincere, did not manage to make much of a dent in American fedgov spending and even, through the aggressive expansion of the military, enhanced the power and intrusiveness of the nation's military-industrial complex.

The most recent significant figure in the Republic part is obviously George W. Bush – "W". With George Bush, the apex of country-club Republicanism was reached. Bush seemed to believe that the dividing line when it came to Republicans and Democrats was cultural and even faith based. Thus, where Ronald Reagan was interested in cutting back domestic, big government spending programs (with the exception of the military), Bush was interested in further expansion of the government into faith-based realms. Using this nutty logic, he came up with the idea that government should fund church programs.

Bush's (plainly speaking) mind-boggling realignment of traditional conservatism continued throughout his presidency. He continually redefined conservatism so that it supported big government objectives. He liked to say he came into his own as a "war president" and indeed this was true. But there are those who would not see it as a net positive.

What 9/11 did do was allow Bush to unleash what was evidently an innate aggressiveness. And he did so in a way that left behind a litany of misleading statements. Soon after 9/11, Bush invaded Afghanistan on the pretext that the Taliban were sheltering Bin Laden and that Bin Laden was running something called Al Qaeda. But the BBC has pointed out that, at least at that time, Al Qaeda did not exist and to this day, as a Bell feed-backer recently pointed out to us, the FBI's Internet "Wanted" poster on Bin Laden does not accuse him of plotting or masterminding 9/11.

After the US invaded Afghanistan, the US invaded Iraq. These days the British are doing an inquest on the Iraq war and it has seemingly emerged that the Tony Blair and George Bush in some sense planned the Iraq war far in advance of any public perception that such a war might be necessary. Indeed there is some evidence to suggest that invading Iraq was a priority of the Bush administration from day one, or at least goal. Of course, since that time it has become clear that all of the variant justifications for the Iraq war constitute something approaching wish fulfillment rather than facts to be acted upon.

We are drawn to the conclusion (whether or not we wish to agree) that both the Afghan war and the Iraq war were based on dubious foundations and even misleading analysis. Now, after some US$1 trillion in expenditures, thousands of dead US and allied soldiers, and literally millions of civilian death later (and one cannot yet include the long-term effects of depleted uranium weapons on the civilians of the Middle East) both wars continue and the Afghan war is in its most active stage yet. An effective third front has been opened in Pakistan and a fourth war seems to loom with Iran.

Some in the American political leadership don't seem especially troubled by all this. Others are troubled. And thus it is that the Tea Party movement as we see it, is inevitably a virtually schizophrenic entity. It seems to us to be composed, in part, of Jeffersonian libertarians (Ron Paul types) that decry the overseas adventurism and endless draining of blood and treasure into the Middle East. But it also contains a significant portion of "conservatives" – many of whom believe in both smaller government and a continually enlarged military presence overseas and an ever more intrusive security apparatus at domestically.

From our point of view, these two sociopolitical stances are diametrically opposed. We have read – and even received emails – stating that conservatives and libertarians have made common cause within the umbrella of Tea Party activism. We just don't see how that is possible. The American conservative movement, whatever it is, promotes limited government activism and likes to contrast its views with Republican "country club" levelers. But in fact we cannot comprehend how a US$1trillion four-front war overseas – a war in large part apparently started under false pretenses – can in any sense be integrated with a Jeffersonian, libertarian, small government perspective.

After Thoughts

The Tea Party movement may be galvanizing parts of the Republican party. It may be providing a bright-line delineation between country club Republicans and those who label themselves conservatives and claim they are for far smaller government and less taxes, etc. But there is a larger schism in our opinion between the conservative and libertarian movements that have supposedly made a common cause within the larger umbrella of Tea Party activism. It is this schism, not the one between country club and conservative Republicans, that may prove the most problematic and contentious as the larger republican-libertarian movement grows. We think the Tea Party movement, as it is apparently currently constituted, contains another fissure, between conservatives and libertarians that must inevitably widen and deepen.

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