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The Self Shelf: Tea parties: Dregs of the right wing

Published: March 12, 2010
Section: Opinions


PHOTO BY Ariel Wittenberg/The Hoot

As spring finally is arriving, the political scene is about to enter a nuclear winter.  The Democrats have imploded during the past six months and the Republicans can’t find a common platform besides obstructing the Democrats.

Out of this morass has appeared the Tea Party, the biggest third party movement since … well, since the last third party movement.  This new movement stands for fiscal conservatism.  Why they differentiate themselves from libertarians is far beyond me—perhaps they think libertarians are too liberal.

This new political movement is not to be confused with the Republicans.  They are far more conservative.  Some reports show them as a mob of disorganized protestors ranting about Obama.  Others (a.k.a. Fox News) show them as the savior of the Republican Party.  Reports on their leadership range in points of view from that of Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin to Glenn Beck.

However, the Tea Party is not really about the leadership or organization, it’s about the message.  For example, it’s about attacking the government stimulus package passed when our economy was in the throes of recession.  The Tea Partiers claim that this was an example of communism, socialism or some kind of leftist policy (it varies depending on how angry the speaker is at the moment).

In light of this, I have a better name for the Tea Party.  Let’s call it the Herbert Hoover Party.  Everyone remembers how much he championed capitalism, and according to the Tea Party’s philosophy, the Great Depression was a triumph of capitalism.  Most other people believe the stimulus was absolutely necessary.

Even the Republicans were at least somewhat in favor of stimulus.  After all, former President George W. Bush passed his own stimulus bill in 2008.  Economists were very much in favor of a stimulus–in fact, they lobbied for a larger stimulus bill.  The Tea Party apparently ignored this when they were busy dressing up in colonial costume to the applause of Glenn Beck.

The other big issue of the Tea Party is the idea that the Democratic healthcare bill is leading us to communism (socialism or the like as before).  The Republicans generally have a strong ideological stance against the health care bill.  This I can comprehend.  However, the Tea Party has not been able to present a coherent philosophical analysis on the topic besides the fact that it’s communism incarnate.

I would expand more upon the Tea Party’s ideas on health care but I can’t glean its actual message (and I have looked).  Are these the guys who stood up in health care town hall meetings and compared President Obama to Hitler?  Were they the ones who campaigned upon the “Save Grandma!” platform in opposing the healthcare bill?  At some point, it seems that all of these messages were attributed to the Tea Party.

The Tea Party has been so radical and incoherent that even the Republicans have distanced themselves from them somewhat (although it seems to be a love hate relationship).  In my opinion, the Tea Party represents the stereotypically backwards part of the Republican Party.   They have played into the hands of Democrats because they represent the ignorant caricatures derided by liberal elites.

They lack the coherency of the libertarian party and the ideological consistency of the Republicans.  All in all, the Tea Party should go back to the drawing board if it ever wants to be taken seriously in American politics (making Sarah Palin a keynote speaker doesn’t help their cause).

In the end, the Tea Party needs to examine the facts before it organizes protests.  Thus far though, reason just doesn’t seem to be its cup of … well you know.