The Tea Party is Process, Not an Episode
By Staff News & Analysis - January 19, 2011

Sen. Brown: Forget ‘itty-bitty' R at end of name … U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (left) said this morning he'll take part in the bipartisan seating at President Obama's State of the Union address, urging that people need to move past the "itty-bitty letter" signifying he's a Republican at the end of his name. "I'll sit where ever they put me. I don't care," Brown said at the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Boston. "That's the type of attitude we need to have not only in Washington but here in our local political system where people need to forget about the little itty-bitty letter behind my name and other people's names and just kind of get going and get our jobs going and do what's best for this state and this country." U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Col.) suggested senators sit together for Obama's annual address on Jan. 25 as a symbolic act to tamp down the bitter political fighting between the two parties. – Boston Herald

Dominant Social Theme: Can't we all just get along?

Free-Market Analysis: Senator Scott Brown soared like a comet in the US political firmament. He was the unexpected Republican victor in a contest for the "Kennedy" seat in Massachusetts after famous Senator Ted Kennedy passed on due to a brain tumor. Brown paid homage to Tea Party support but once in Washington he declared himself his own man and has been pursuing his own vision of the office ever since (see article excerpt above).

This points out a larger difficulty from the perspective of those who are hoping to prune the American Leviathan: Politicians are under no obligation to honor their campaign promises, or, in fact, any of their rhetoric. They can always claim – once they are elected – that the realities of governing make some of their more radical stances impractical.

The new American Congress features a sizeable Republican majority in the House, and the 70 or so new members were elected in large part based on disgust with the over-legislating of the previous Congress. Many of these members were apparently choices of the American Tea Party movement and benefited from enthusiastic support of those who want to shrink the federal government.

Scott Brown's campaign benefitted from Tea Party donations from across the country, and expectations that he would that he would reduce the scope and ambition of government. But once in the Senate, he has simply asserted that the Republican/Democratic divide is not necessarily an obstacle for him. In fact, he proved it by voting for both the Wall Street reform bill and controversial health care legislation that further nationalized medical treatment.

The next controversial piece of legislation in Congress will deal with increasing the nation's debt limit. One would suppose that the Republican party, including those newly elected in the House and Senate, would be opposed to increasing the amount the nation can borrow once again. But this does not seem to be the case, as noted yesterday in an article posted at World Net Daily by editor Joseph Farrah:

Why you can't trust 'fiscal conservatives' … I'm beginning to believe the term "fiscal conservative" is an oxymoron. As long as I have been reporting and commenting on politics (which is a long, long time), I have noticed that those promoting themselves as "fiscal conservatives" are always among the first to call for retreat on economic issues. Ever since I became conscious of the term "fiscal conservative," I've seen this phenomenon. And I'm seeing it today more than ever – on steroids, as they say.

Let me give you an example. There is a quiet movement afoot … Certain movers and shakers inside the Beltway – "fiscal conservatives" all – are actively promoting the idea to Republican lawmakers that they should increase the debt limit, as Barack Obama and the Democrats will be requesting. The rationale they give is the following: "We'll tie big cuts in the budget to raising the debt limit."

They'll say this like it's a new idea, when, in fact, it's a very old idea that has never worked in the past. Quite simply, the steep budget cuts never come – and we continue to add an ever-increasing mountain of debt … Who is promoting such wacky ideas? Who are these unnamed con-conspirators? Who are the "fiscal conservatives" about to betray fiscal conservatism once again?

Farah provides three examples of his thesis. The first, he writes, is Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist, an influential lobbyist, has already called FOR raising the debt ceiling. This is not a fiscally conservative position. He cites Dick Morris, whom he describes as "Fox News' favorite expert on everything political." Morris, he claims, holds views similar to Norquist's and the two men, Farrah reports, are doing a sort of "road show" together, meeting with various conservatives to try to convince them of the merits of their position.

Finally, there is Republican Sen. Rand Paul, son of the famous libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex). Rand Paul, too, is willing to vote for raising the debt limit in return for a commitment to move the nation toward a balanced budget.

We have had our doubts regarding Rand Paul from nearly the beginning of his campaign. On a number of free-market issues he seemed either wobbly or non-committal and we wrote several articles about his campaign and his positions as follows:

Our fears regarding Rand Paul seem to be confirmed by his recent efforts to set up a Tea Party caucus in the US Senate. The caucus is to hold its first meeting on January 27 and Rand Paul's effort is being replicated in the House by the outspoken Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). The trouble with a Tea Party caucus, of course, is that it tends to concretize what cannot easily be reduced to pat, political positions. The Tea Party movement is an inchoate one that emphasizes significant government reduction, especially at the federal level. Policy positions and political horse-trading may not produce the kind of fundamental change that many Americans seem to want.

There are of course several Tea Parties in the US; it began as a libertarian movement in response to Ron Paul's presidential candicacy and was both anti-war and anti- socialist. But over time, power brokers have realigned the message, turning the Tea Party message into something more palatable to the mainstream Republican party. Version 2.0 of the Tea Party is "patriotic,' even pro-war and far more practical when it comes to the kinds of down-sizing that can be accomplished as regards the federal government.

Yes, the powers-that-be have already tried their best to solidify the positions of various Tea Party movements in order to control their supporters' aspirations. Ultimately, however, turning the spontaneous eruption of the Tea Party into a subsidiary of the American Right is probably not going to work very well. Politicians with even as pure a pedigree as libertarian-conservative Rand Paul are apt to get swept up in Washington's seductive atmosphere and end up accommodating business as usual; meanwhile the anger that supported the movement initially remains and is not addressed at a fundamental level.

The anti-government sentiment that grips America currently has been building for decades and has been further facilitated by the truth-telling of the Internet, which was midwife to the Tea Party movement. While the media currently treats the Tea Party as a political entity, it is not. It is an angry sentiment that is borne of the failures of the domestic US economy (see other article, this issue), the burden of 1,000 overseas mllitary bases and an increasingly clear understanding of the central-banking mechanics of modern America.

After Thoughts

Like the Internet itself, the Tea Party is a process not an episode. Trying to capture its dynamics in a caucus or a formal movement is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. But in our view its incandescence will only burn more brightly unless the underlying issues that fuel it are addressed. A caucus is beside the point.

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