TAG | Tea Party
The Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson:
[T]he Tea Party wasn’t the Religious Right – at least, not at first. When Christian fundamentalists jumped on board, that’s when public support began to bleed away.
There’s something to that, I think, not least because of some of the candidates that emerged as a result, like DeMint’s O’Donnell in Delaware back in 2010.
David Kirby and Emily Ekins write in Politico:
The Republican National Convention this week announced speaking slots for libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and social conservative Rick Santorum. Both claim the “tea party” brand. However the 2012 primary season reveals that the tea party playbook is more Paul than Santorum.
Conventional political wisdom for at least two decades has held that Republican primaries are won by emphasizing values issues to placate socially conservative voters. Observers point to Santorum’s strong showing in the presidential primaries. Exit polls, however, reveal Santorum never won a majority of the tea party vote in any primary.
Republican candidates must increasingly win over both Paul and tea party supporters on economic issues. Libertarians and the tea party movement are intertwined in ways the campaigns and the media have yet to fully appreciate.
Tea party supporters are actually united on economics, but split on social issues, we find, compiling data from local and national polls with dozens of original interviews with tea party members and leaders. Roughly half the tea party is socially conservative, half libertarian: fiscally conservative, but socially moderate to liberal.
Libertarians led the way for tea party disaffection with establishment Republicans. Starting in early 2008 through the early tea parties, libertarians were more than twice as “angry” with the Republican Party as social conservatives; more pessimistic about the economy and deficit during the Bush years, and more frustrated that people like them cannot affect government. Libertarians, including young people who supported Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, provided much of the early energy for the tea party and spread the word through social media.
In fact, 91 percent of tea party libertarians are more concerned about taxes and jobs than gay marriage and abortion, according to a New York Times poll. Religious bona fides will not win the tea party vote in primaries. The tea party’s strong libertarian roots help explain why more and more Republican candidates are running as functional libertarians—emphasizing fiscal issues such as spending, tax reform and ending bailouts, while avoiding subjects like abortion and gay marriage—and winning…
I’ve been skeptical of the Tea Partyers’ commitment to entitlement reform and meaningful debt reduction. Sarah Palin, after all, pioneered death panel demagoguery in response to the mere possibility of rationalized Medicare spending. The notion that eliminating earmarks—a Tea Party whipping boy–will have any effect on the budget deficit is fantastical, since earmarks constitute a mere $16 billion in federal spending.
So it will be revealing to see how Tea Party representatives react to the preliminary deficit reduction plan from the presidential commission. It would be refreshing if, instead of exclusively blasting the proposal’s relatively modest tax increases, such as raising the federal gas tax fifteen cents to pay for transportation projects (a legitimate user fee), they supported the proposal’s more audacious cuts, such as reducing the mortgage deduction. (The commission would eliminate the deduction only for mortgages over $500,000, alas.) The willingness to take on this middle class subsidy would be stronger proof of iconoclastic independence than pushing for repeal of 17th Amendment, a favorite piece of Tea Party arcana. Both would be an uphill battle; I’d rather see political capital expended on getting rid of a constitutionally-suspect government hand-out, especially given the contribution of the federal government’s obsession with increasing home ownership to the 2008 fiscal crisis.
Here are some other commission proposals that the Tea Partyers should meet and raise: (more…)
Here’s an interesting piece from the New York Times on the Tea Parties. This extract gives a flavor:
For decades, faith and family have been at the center of the conservative movement. But as the Tea Party infuses conservatism with new energy, its leaders deliberately avoid discussion of issues like gay marriage or abortion. God, life and family get little if any mention in statements or manifestos. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, a large coalition of groups, is “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Independence Caucus questionnaire, which many Tea Party groups use to evaluate candidates, poses 80 questions, most on the proper role of government, tax policy and the federal budgeting process, and virtually none on social issues.
The Contract From America, which is being created Wiki-style by Internet contributors as a manifesto of what “the people” want government to do, also mentions little in the way of social issues, beyond a declaration that parents should be given choice in how to educate their children. By contrast, the document it aims to improve upon — the Contract With America, which Republicans used to market their successful campaign to win a majority in Congress in 1994 — was prefaced with the promise that the party would lead a Congress that “respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.”
Tea Party leaders argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations. But the focus is also strategic: leaders think they can attract independent voters if they stay away from divisive issues.
“We should be creating the biggest tent possible around the economic conservative issue,” said Ryan Hecker, the organizer behind the Contract From America. “I think social issues may matter to particular individuals, but at the end of the day, the movement should be agnostic about it. This is a movement that rose largely because of the Republican Party failing to deliver on being representative of the economic conservative ideology. To include social issues would be beside the point.”
Indeed it would.
TPMMuckraker sinks into the well, muck, with this story headlined “Man Charged With Stockpiling Weapons Was Tea Partier, Palin Fan”:
The Massachusetts man charged this week with stockpiling weapons after saying he feared an imminent “Armageddon” appears to have been active in the Tea Party movement, and saw Sarah Palin, who he said is on a “righteous ‘Mission from God,'” as the only figure capable of averting the destruction of society….Girard’s wife said her husband had recently told her: “Don’t talk to people, shoot them instead,” and “it’s fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it.” But it appears that Girard had lately found a community with which to share some of his growing fears. A “Greg Girard,” listing his location as Manchester, Mass., has a personal page on the “Patriots of America” online network, a popular site affiliated with the Tea Party movement.
Mr. Girard is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and we’ll have to see what emerges at any trial, but a commonsense interpretation of this story would suggest that the real issues are likely more psychiatric than political.
On a not entirely unconnected topic, Jesse Walker’s 2009 Reason piece on the “paranoid center” is well worth reading. Here’s an extract:
We’ve heard ample warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president, and we’re sure to hear many more throughout his term. But we’ve heard almost nothing about the paranoia of the political center. When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers’ anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world.
When such a story is directed at those who oppose the politicians in power, it has an additional effect. The list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics.