Tea Parties In Full Swing

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Conservatism, Media

Regardless of what I might think of how they were started, promoted or whether or not they’ll last, it’s always a good thing when Americans peaceably unite to protest. Thankfully we’re lucky enough to have those rights and, as we all know, rights are best when exercised often and vigorously.

Also, I understand the anger over the bailouts. I genuinely do. A lot of “T”s haven’t been crossed or “I”s dotted. And when there aren’t a lot of answers as to the whos, whys or hows, frustration is inevitable.

Again, all of this is certainly within the protestors’ rights, but anybody who doesn’t admit that Obama inherited this mess is playing fast and loose with the facts. And I appreciate that they think he’s going down the wrong path, but where are the alternative plans? All we’ve seen so far from the Republican leadership are tax cuts that would destroy social safety net funding around the country. Or, in other words, all we’ve seen are plans that are completely unrealistic.

And riddle me this…what are the tea partiers for? What are their ideas? We know what they’re against, but they haven’t been effected AT ALL by the government’s bailout of the banks. I also find that there’s a basic lack of recognition that the financial system a) can’t be allowed to fail and b) this was caused by unregulated, unchecked free marketism. So I find it disingenuous that these protests are even being likened to the Boston Tea Party when our forefathers acted because of genuinely prohibitive grievances that were effecting their daily lives. And they protested again and again and again for years and years and years.

So yes, my guess is a genuine populist storm isn’t truly brewing yet, and if conservatives think it’ll happen after today, they’re kidding themselves. Also, if this Tea Party crowd truly wants to make an impact, they better realize that they’ll have to stand out in public places with signs for months on end, and that’s certainly not something most conservatives are use to. Because one big media hit isn’t going to do it. In fact, it could very well hurt them because all subsequent protests will most likely be smaller.

And, let’s face it, we’re seeing a lot of nutty anti-Obamaism at rallies today and that’s unsustainable. Because eventually the serious folks will be turned off and simply not show up.

Those are my thoughts.

What are yours?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 and is filed under Conservatism, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Tea Parties In Full Swing”

  1. Simon Says:

    [T]he tea partiers … haven’t been effected AT ALL by the government’s bailout of the banks.

    They feel that they are the ones asked to pay the (hefty) bill.

  2. Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    First of all, I think it’s sufficient for them to be upset about misguided policies and there’s nothing particularly wrong with saying “This isn’t the answer.”

    Secondly, there’s nothing wrong at all with perceiving that the government is going into shocking levels of debt and no tangible benefit is accruing to taxpayers for it.

    Finally, if what they are arguing for, rather than against, actually is a lower-taxation system that would effectively dismantle social welfare programs, well, that is certainly a political agenda. A shortsighted one, one whose appeal is more superficial than actual, and one that enlightened conservatives ought to think twice about before support — but it’s a cogent enough goal anyway.

    Is this a “real” movement? No — more’s the pity, because it could have been that. But it is an expression of outrage and disgust at policies. Yes, there are a healthy strain of nutjobs involved, but it seems to me that for the most part this is a legitimate political expression.

  3. Agnostick Says:

    You mean, Simon, the way some others feel that they have been asked to pay the hefty bill on an unnecessary war on Iraq?

    I’d bet my left cojon that a lot of these folks “exercising their rights” today were the same ones spitting on Cindy Sheehan and “Camp Casey” back in ’05.

    Agnostick
    [email protected]

  4. Tillyosu Says:

    “that the financial system a) can’t be allowed to fail and b) this was caused by unregulated, unchecked free marketism.”

    And therein lies the fundamental disagreement.

    First, why can’t we allow these banks to fail? This is how the market works. Banks that are run poorly will be acquired by those that aren’t and the financial sector will be stronger because of it. This argument that the banks are “too big to fail” is nothing more than an excuse to seize them because, after all, if you control finance, you control the rest of the economy.

    Second, this crisis was in no way caused by “unchecked free marketism.” That’s just a slogan. In fact, this crisis was caused by GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN THE MARKETS. The government, through its ambiguous relationship with Fannie and Freddie, artificially increased the supply of mortgages and thus the demand for housing. The public took them up on it, and the banks made huge bets (and who wouldn’t?).

    No, the only way to fix this crisis is to let the banks fail, and to get rid of the GSE business model…NOT to spend trillions on expanding the federal government.

  5. Simon Says:

    Agnostick, I don’t think that anyone opposes spending as a matter of principle, it’s a question of scale and merit. Some people argue that we have spent too much on the Iraq war and/or that this was money poorly spent, but the amount of money at issue is about $600bn since 2003 (for comparison purposes, that’s two fifths of last year’s federal entitlement spending).

    Meanwhile how much spending have Presidents Bush and Obama, complicit with the Congressional Democratic Party, saddled us with in the last year? Well, you can tot up the numbers: $20bn for Bank of America, nearly $30bn for Bear Stearns, $85bn for AIG, $140bn for GE, and in the realm of $300 for Citigroup. At $575bn, we’re already within spitting distance of the total amount of money spent in Iraq since 2003. Did I leave anything out? Oh, yes: $350bn for Fannie and Freddie. Then there was the 700bn TARP program.

    Next, a new administration walks in the door, and the count is already at $1.6tn as the new administration is walking in the door, and what’s the first thing they do? Why, yes! It rams another $700bn in “stimulus” through Congress, and then, while the legislature is still slack-jawed from that experience, gives it a three point five trillion dollar budget to slurp down. (Coincidentally, that’s just shy of about $600bn more than actual spending in FY2008.) If I’ve left nothing out, that’s very nearly four trillion dollars – forty times our average annual spending in Iraq – committed in a year.

    Money has been spent in Iraq, and on “stimulus,” also. The Sun is a star, and Arcturus is, also.

  6. Brad Says:

    I haven’t been posting much here lately, mostly because this topic seems a little intra-party fighting for this site, but my community of readers tends to be a decent mix of new style conservatives (what Meghan McCain terms “progressive Republicans” but that I was a year ago calling “Ron Paul Republicans”, which isn’t an exact overlap but close enough) and center progressive (left-leaning independents with a strong libertarian streak), and this has been an ongoing argument there.

    Namely, understand that there are essentially two forces at work in this tea party stuff.

    The first are, believe it or not, the Ron Paul brigades. Despite being reviled and generally shat upon by the Republican party writ large in the context of the Republican primary, it was always the case that even the people that hated them respected their style, their enthusiasm, and their tactics (by the way, I’m going to go ahead and lump LP activists in this category, for my purposes). The first Tea Party was in December 2007, wholly in service of the Ron Paul campaign (though organized entirely by the grassroots and really for the most part totally spontaneous. There are two things that characterize the Paulites.

    One, they are committed. These people have been finding every opportunity to stand on street corners and hold protests for two years now. When you see coverage of these rallies and see the guys that seem almost incredibly to-the-bone behind the notion of limited government and against federal spending, it’s probably Paulites you’re looking at. These are not fair weather activists who just happened to show up because there was a party. They’ve been out there taking flint to stone for awhile now trying to light these fires.

    Second, they tend to be ideological first and partisan a distant, distant, distant second. It is wrong to say that they don’t have arguments—they actually have, on balance, a very very internally consistent and total worldview, very very clear ideas on the way forward, and were not afraid to say so whether it was Bush or Obama in office. Tillyosu gives a pretty fair beginning point to the Paulian answer on your question of where they stand: it begins with challenging the two things you put forward as premises you seem to feel are beyond discussion. In any case, most of the criticisms being lobbed at the current Tea Partying doesn’t really apply to them.

    The Paulites, more or less, started the meme, got the ball rolling, and its from their playbook and largely based on their hard work and unimpeachable enthusiasm that this whole thing got going.

    The second force at work are the Republican operatives. I don’t say “operatives” in the conspiratorial sense, but here I mean to lump in the strategic technicians (Gingrich, Armey, FreedomWatch) with the opportunists (Beck, Santelli, Fox News) with the just plain deranged partisans (Malkin, Reynolds, Bachman). Basically, people who are not necessarily as committed as the first group, who are indeed more fair weather, and whose interest here may or may not be based on ideas (ideological). These are the same people that hated that first group’s fucking guts for the last several years, but they were also paying attention, and realized that, in a focused extent, there was real power in the Paulite movement. However, in the context of the election, that didn’t stop them from closing ranks and basically trying to exile the Paulites. Now, they’re conveniently forgetting all that and just using the Paulite playbook while ripping out the preamble, the first and last third of the book (social policy and civil liberties, war and peace), and all of the appendices (federal reserve et al).

    What’s more, once they realized the Paulite Tea Party thing that was already rolling was an excellent opportunity to try to gain some momentum for an across-the-board anti-Obama public demonstration, they jumped all over it and basically co-opted the entire thing. In most ways that count, it’s their tea party, in that they’re the ones that are now, in the public eye, most attached to it. And for the most part, though the first category of folks are keeping a distance, the foot soldiers are guardedly accepting of the GOP party interlopers figuring, not unreasonably, that at least it’s better late than never, and of course if it takes some party machine machinations and much bigger soapboxes to put butts in the seats, that’s a roundly acceptable, if not ideal, compromise.

    But the point is, there are two tea party movements working in sort-of tandem to create the one tea party. What’s important to remember is you couldn’t have one without the other in this particular case.

    Does that make sense? I’ve been trying to articulate it all day, but am having trouble.

    Here’s my post about today’s events as I experienced them.

    Here’s my post about the voluntary hijacking of the Paulite movement by the GOP.

  7. name Says:

    So if they are against “socialism” why dont they protest Social Security? I dont hear any “conservative” leaders rallying to end Social Security.
    Social Security must be the most Socialist thing around.

  8. michael reynolds Says:

    Mr. Bush commits a trillion off-budget on Iraq. He commits trillions on his vote-buying prescription drug plan. He spends trillions on vote-buying tax cuts for . . . well, for me. Scarcely a whimper from the Right.

    But now it’s a Democrat spending the money to fix the mess the Republicans handed off to Mr. Obama. So now it’s a crime. Now it’s a travesty. Now we need a rebellion.

    The difference between a year ago and now? 1) Then the rich had lower taxes and the middle class paid higher taxes. 2) Then the GOP was buying votes, now the Democrats are fixing the GOP’s mess.

    So now the Right discovers its principles. Yeah. I so totally believe this is a question of principle.

    In point of fact the vast majority of the teabaggers will see a tax cut. Me? I’m going to get hosed. And yet I’m not whining because I understand that the country is in trouble. So I get that I have to help pay the bill. I’ll pay the bill for the Iraq war, and I’ll pay the interest bill on the tax cut I got earlier (yay?) and I’ll pay for the old people’s meds, and I’ll pay for Phil Gramm’s deluded econo-religious ideology.

    But gosh, I do love seeing wack-jobs in funny hats carrying idiot signs protesting their tax cut and my tax hike. Thanks, guys. Don’t quite know what the heck you’re doing but, okay.

  9. Simon Says:

    michael reynolds Says:

    Mr. Bush commits a trillion off-budget on Iraq.

    Virtually every serious analysis I’ve seen puts the figure at around $600bn, ±$100bn to date. Even the scrupulously anti-war costofwar.com puts the number at @660.4bn. What’s your source?

    He commits trillions on his vote-buying prescription drug plan.

    For which he was roundly criticized by the right.

    He spends trillions on vote-buying tax cuts

    A claim that assumes that tax cuts take place in a vacuum, and that falsely assumes that reductions in tax rates do not affect the broader economy and thus tax revenues. A claim, more simply put, that is either ignorant or deceitful (see, for example, http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pdupont/?id=110010798).

    But now it’s a Democrat spending the money to fix the mess the Republicans handed off to Mr. Obama. So now it’s a crime. Now it’s a travesty. Now we need a rebellion.

    Except that Bush’s vapid wasting of money was as roundly condemned by conservatives as is Obama’s. I condemned it above, and Gingrich condemned it at CPAC this year, for example.

    I never get tired of quoting Senator Moynihan’s observation that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. You might profit from taking that to heart, Michael.

  10. Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    Simon, I do not recall a whole lot of criticism of Bush by the right on fiscal responsibility issues during the 2004 campaign. Indeed, Republicans who expressed alarm with the prescription drug benefit proposal as a budget-buster and an expansion of social welfare were generally hooted out of the room and called “RINOs” — look at, for instance, how Bruce Bartlett was treated in the middle of the decade, for instance. But he was right.

    It’s no defense of “movement conservatives” that they condemn runaway spending in 2009. I mean, I’m glad they’re on the issue now. But where were they four years ago? Gingrich gave a nice speech at CPAC this year. Find me the speech he gave in 2005 calling George W. Bush on the floor for advoating Medicare part D and I’ll rethink my position. Until then, I’m proceeding as if “movement conservatives” are at best Johnny-Come-Latelies to the issue of fiscal responsibility — and if they ever do get back in power somehow, they will have to disprove the presumption that they are every bit as unworthy on this point as the Democrats in power right now.

  11. TerenceC Says:

    I don’t understand where the whole Tea Party thing comes from. The Boston Tea party was essentially a protest against corporate welfare and the inability for the consumer to have a choice where to source goods from. Also, the majority of the recent “Tea Baggers” received tax cuts, not increases. What exactly are they angry about – that rich people had their taxes go up ~3.5% while theirs primarily went down?

    If the general message for the demonstrations was focused on government spending why all of the racist, religious, and “gun grabber” comments? None of that is even remotely relevant, but there were lots of people sporting signs and comments in that regard. This was nothing more than a media event, stirred up by the media, created by the media, and fomented by the media in order to make news and maintain some level of relevancy.

    It’s great that Americans are finally starting to take active participation in their government. Apathy should not be part of our political discourse. If fully half of the current budget is debt passed on from the last administration I have to ask where were all these people and media organizations 1,2, even 3 years ago while this problem was growing? Where were they when something substantial could have been done to affect real changes.

  12. michael reynolds Says:

    Simon:

    Notice the little word “commits” that I chose to use in lieu of “spent?” See that? Do you see how that might imply future tense as well as past tense? The 660b figure is what’s been “spent.” We still have years to run on Iraq.

    As for the rest, TL took care of it better than I would have. I’ll just add that you made my point: Gingrich criticized spending at CPAC . . . Once a Democrat was in the WH. Before? Not so much. And no teabagging at all.

  13. Simon Says:

    michael reynolds Says:

    Notice the little word “commits” that I chose to use in lieu of “spent?” See that? Do you see how that might imply future tense as well as past tense? The 660b figure is what’s been “spent.” We still have years to run on Iraq.

    Wait, wasn’t there an election recently? I could have sworn that we elected a new President – brand, shiny new, at that; still wet behind the ears and smelling of new car interior – who promised to get us out of Iraq toute de suite. “Years to run” there? But “[President] Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will … not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.” (Emphases added.) Years to run? That isn’t change we can believe in.

    As for the rest, TL took care of it better than I would have.

    That much is certainly true, although his point wilts. John McCain – hardly the model of a small government fiscal conservative – famously lambasted Medicare Part D, and my memory is of any number of conservatives criticizing the Bush administration’s exhorbitant spending. I have no doubt at all that a few hours research in a date-limited LexisNexis search would make mincement of the idea that no Republicans criticized Bush for NCLB, Medicare, and so forth. Indeed, TL hides a high-profile example in plain sight: he says that Bruce Bartlett was criticized for criticizing Bush, but obviously that only happened precisely because Bartlett did in fact criticize Bush. He wasn’t the only one.

    TL is certainly right to say that Simon, there was not “a whole lot of criticism of Bush by the right on fiscal responsibility issues during the 2004 campaign”; why that should be a shock, however, is a mystery. What was this “2004 campaign”? Why, that’s right, it was an election campaign, in which the choice was between bad and worse. The criticism just quoted comes to this: why is it that in a storm, even the crewmen who think the captain’s inadequate stop complaining and help row the boat? Gee, perhaps because it’s better to sail in an imperfect vessel than be drowned.

  14. Simon Says:

    To be sure, we had to extract the Alito nomination from Bush virtually at gunpoint, but that’s beside the point: the point is that O’Connor and the chief were ultimately replaced with jurists who are, in O’Connor’s case, better on most issues (I do feel that we’ve lost ground on federalism with the change in personnel, and that bothers me a great deal) and in Roberts’ case, a successor I think the chief would have hand-picked himself, given the opportunity. We shouldn’t focus solely on the Supreme Court, though; as Justice Breyer once put it, with only a touch of overstatement (he may still have been on the First Circuit at the time, though!), the law is made in the court of appeals. But for reelecting Bush, one almost dreads to ask who a President Kerry would have appointed instead of Judges Tinder, Livingston, Hardiman, Jordan, Chagares, Agee, Owen, Elrod, Southwick, Haynes, White, Griffin, Kethledge, Shepherd, Ikuta, Randall and Milan Smith, Gorsuch, Holmes, Moore, Kavanaugh, Griffith, and (notwithstanding my personal reservations about her) Brown.

    Was I thrilled about reelecting Bush? Not particularly. Was it necessary – better than the alternative? You betcha.

  15. michael reynolds Says:

    Simon:

    Interesting theory you have that once there’s a new administration all past obligations can simply be wished away. Wars once begun are rather hard to end. Likewise financial meltdowns. Your Mr. Bush left us with a shattered economy and two wars. We are now cleaning up his mess.

    Yes, normally, Simon, the new president can simply wave his magic wand like Harry Potter and make everything brand new again. But your party did such a thorough job of trashing the economy and the wars that it’s going to take us a little while to fix.

    You have your own blog, Simon, so maybe you can point us to the no-doubt numerous posts you wrote attacking “off-budget” Iraq war spending. Surely you wrote dozens of times about the way Mr. Bush turned a surplus into the largest deficits in history. Because it’s not like you’re just a partisan, right? You’re a true believer movement guy. You have principles.

  16. Agnostick Says:

    Brad, thanks for confirming what I’ve suspected since this whole thing got going.

    The same people that took a dump on Ron Paul a scant 12 months ago have hijacked some of his (more gullible) followers for what amounts to nothing more than a publicity stunt.

    Which just equates to the usual dumptruck load of hypocrisy by the pundits that cobbled this whole thing together.

    Ho hum.

  17. Jon Says:

    I walked down the the tea party near me just to watch the chaos and it was a stereotypical protest. Freakshow. Curiously a majority of the people there were either too young to pay taxes (tons of kids and Spring break already came and went) or retired and thus living at least partly off the Federal government and receiving socialized healthcare.

    I saw lots of anger (at various issues from the lack of godliness to abortion to bailouts to obama being the worst ever), but no solutions. I got the impression they don’t even know what the problem is. They were just angry out of power conservatives who needed a good group think circle jerk. And got it. Good for them!

    Getting out of this mess won’t happen by protests and it won’t happen by a massive reduction in Federal spending. It will happen after we fully assess the damage, reshape the financial regulatory system to accommodate what’s actually going on these days and then all get back to work. It won’t be as fun as tea bagging, but it’s what needs done. That’s not even partisan.

  18. Seth Harrington Says:

    Obamaism.com is up for sale on ebay:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Obamaism-com_W0QQitemZ160363954797QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item25566fc26d&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14#ht_500wt_1182

    Someone should buy the name and put up a real protest site against Obama’s policies!

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