Thursday, September 23, 2010

The beliefs behind the tea party movement

Dan Henninger is right on target when he enunciates what the tea party stands for. They're trying to tell the elites in Washington, those in both parties, that it is time to reduce the size of government. We're on an unsustainable trajectory and it has to stop.
They are winning because they stand for one thing—the tea party. What prescient Democrats like Mr. Rendell now see is that the tea party isn't "crazy," as originally thought. And it isn't even a party but something more potent. It's a new political belief system.

The political status quo, whatever good it did at times over the past 50 years, has arrived at a dead zone. The status quo—a vast, aging network of appropriators, Beltway enablers, bloodless public unions and private-sector pilot fish—budgeted the federal government, California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and other states to the brink of effective bankruptcy.

The Obama administration is the dismaying, logical end-point of decades of public spending, a Gargantua that now threatens to smother everything else in the American economy. Velma Hart's confronting Barack Obama at that town-hall meeting Monday about the stalled economy—"I'm waiting, sir, I'm waiting"—may have been the central moment in what is happening now. It was the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes: He isn't wearing anything at all!

The torpid political world, the ancien regime, has put the nation at long-term risk. It is killing America's ability to revive from this punishing recession and compete with fast-running nations like China, India, Brazil and South Korea.

What the tea party and independent voters sympathetic to it are about is giving the United States the tools to compete again in the big global game. It starts with Stop-the-Spending. To the Democrats now demonizing the tea party and its candidates, those three words mean Armageddon, the end of their game.
The more that establishment politicians attempt to vilify the tea partiers, the more they betray their own cluelessness. We can't become an entire country of California, much as the liberals would love that. California is sinking of its own weight. It can't recover without a major change. We can't become Michigan or New York. That is the path they've put the entire country on and millions are rising up and crying out Enough! Call them wackos, but the thought that we can continue on the disastrous path they've been trodding is the truly wacky notion.


2421Rich said...

Great post! You are right on target with Mr. Henninger. It is the spending that has us concerned but it is Washington ignoring us and our concerns that has us angry and involved. When 60% plus of the people say they don't want Obamacare and they shove it down our throats anyway, that makes my blood boil. "Can you hear me now?" has become one of our rallying calls as hundreds of thousands traveled crossed the country to attend Demonstrations. And now on Nov 2 we know we will be heard, loud and clear.

LarryD said...

Actually, the words I want the elites to hear, loud and clear, are:

"You're fired!"

Freeven said...

I go back and forth on how significant the Tea Party movement is. At the moment, I'm leaning toward not very, at least in terms of the big picture. There's no doubt they are having an impact on the current political landscape. They carry the promise of a badly needed course correction away from a path I believe will ultimately destroy the country. But it's only a promise, and while I'd like to think there's some permanence here, even the past few decades of American politics teaches us that these realignments slip away in an instant.

My guess is that our new batch of Washington representatives will slow the country's leftward drift for a time, but once the economy recovers a bit and people start to turn their attentions toward other things, we'll pretty quickly end up back on the same ill-fated course.

The problem, I think, is that there really are two Americas. There's the America that wants freedom, lower taxes, and less intrusive government; then there's the America that wants to live on cruise control, have things handed to it, and not be bothered. Worse, for the most part, these aren't two distinct sets of people, but competing tendencies within each of us. We want the goodies and conveniences, but we don't want to pay the bills. Ask a Tea Partier whether they are willing to give up their Social Security and Medicare and you'll see what I mean. We really do want to have it both ways, and that just defies social physics. When the pendulum swings a bit too far in one direction, we get cranky and do something about it. But once we're assured it's headed back in the right direction (even if it's not, actually), we lose interest, roll over and go back to sleep.

And so it goes, I fear.

2421Rich said...

Freeven, Not all Tea Party people are on Social Security. There are many but I think it's because they have seen more of the erosion of the American way of life than the younger people have. They are much more aware of what we in danger of losing. But seriously, how would you expect someone who was forced to pay into a government retirement benefit plan for 40 plus years to give up their Social Security. Even so, we are all in danger of losing all government programs because of the irresponsible spending and vote buying policies of our politicians.
You also imply the people will go back to sleep so the Tea Party is a waste of time. You can't be responsible for what others do but let me ask you if you have been involved politically and will you stay involved. If enough of us do that we can continue to hold their feet to the fire, so don't use your pessimism as an excuse to quit before you start.

Freeven said...

You miss my point, which is not about Social Security, but rather human nature. Americans, on balance, are comfortable with entitlement programs and other government trespasses. We didn't see large numbers of people opposing them -- on constitutional, moral, federalist, efficacy, or other grounds -- until the economy went south. If unemployment were 4.5% and the economy were humming along, we likely wouldn't even be talking about a Tea Party movement. That's because we generally view entitlement programs as good and helpful (if we bother to consider them at all) until they hit us squarely in the wallet. Then we get cranky. We don't necessarily want to end government entitlements; we just don't want them to cramp our style too much. Even a close reading of the Pledge to America bears this out. On one page it vows to adhere closely to constitutional limitations, while on the next it promises to protect and defend entitlements that clearly exceed those limitations. When even the right-most leaning elements of the spectrum are championing the status quo, it's hard to see how the country will not continue to move leftward once the economic pressures are off. I remember just a few decades ago when eliminating the departments of education and energy were part of the Republican platform. Those causes are considered "extreme" today, even by most "conservatives."

One lesson that comes out of all of this is that we should avoid making economics the sole focus of our arguments against big government. Because once the economy turns around, those arguments lose their impact. The moral, constitutional, and libertarian arguments remain strong.

Editor said...

Freeven, you obviously make some great points about the permanence of the Tea Party, which we have to understand does not have to be permanent. It's usefulness serves only for that course correction you mentioned.
Just as the abolitionists no longer exist as a movement, their course correction not only survived, it accomplished their goals and forever changed this nation.
That is all the Tea Party could hope to accomplish, to re-assert the Constitution, which leads to a reduction in the governmental role in our lives and the reduction of spending attendant to it. But, without the Tea Party, the Constitution would continue to mean less and less. It doesn't have to fix everything unconstitutional up front, it can move in that direction, picking up speed as previous policies prove fruitful.
As for the economy rebounding and taking the pressure off. It won't happen. We HAD a chance to use government to help the economy and we spent trillions of dollars paying off Obama's supporters, nothing more, now the money is gone and bills are coming due and there is a reckoning between what public service employees expect and what can be delivered. The economy cannot recover enough, having gone so far in debt, to rectify not only public service pension promises, but also the looming debt of social security.
The whole idea of state-supported pensions and taxpayer obligations is about to crash. What we purchased with all of the funds from previous booms was obligation, not prosperity. We are at the end of that way of thinking and if you look around, so is the rest of the world.