Tea Party: Worthless? Well...
By Larken Rose
Okay, now that I've bashed the Libertarian and Constitutional political parties as being worthless, how about the so-called "Tea Party"? Does it have any chance of achieving anything positive?
Well, the Tea Party as a whole doesn't actually believe anything. Basically, it's a conglomeration of lots of people disaffected with the "government" they see today. Well, so what? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that something is horribly wrong. The question is, what do the Tea Partiers intend to do about it? If they were in charge, what would they do?
The trouble is, very few of them have anything even vaguely resembling a coherent philosophy or belief system. When I hear people using terms like "reasonable regulatory controls," "responsible government spending," "lower taxes," "accountability in government," and so on, it tells me that their complaints are not based on actual principles, but are based only upon the current unpleasant side-effects of tyranny. In short, they don't even know what they want; they only know that this isn't it.
It's a safe bet that if you don't even know what you're trying to achieve, you won't achieve it. And I believe that most people who wear the label of "Tea Party" supporter fit that category. They see things to complain about, but they haven't the slightest clue of the underlying cause of the problems. In truth, the underlying cause is still lodged firmly inside their very own heads. They firmly believe in the very delusions that led to the current disaster, and that would lead to it again if they were "in charge."
About the most depressing thing to me when I read first-hand accounts of what happened in Nazi Germany has to do with the opposition to the Nazis. The major opposition to the Nazis were the people advocating communism. Talk about a hopeless endeavor. When the argument is about what flavor of totalitarian, violent authoritarian control should be in place, the outcome is certain to be unpleasant. The Germans arguing for communism didn't have the slightest idea why national socialism (Nazi-ism) became what it did. As a result, they argued for something that, in principle, was no better--in fact, it was no different. If the entire spectrum of political ideas in a country is communism versus socialism, things are doomed to get extremely nasty.
And so it is (though to a less drastic degree) with the "Tea Party" folk. If what they are hoping for is some modifications and reforms to a system of violent control and economic plunder, all of their efforts will accomplish absolutely nothing. To be even more blunt, that part of the "Tea Party" movement concerned with voting and lobbying does not have an ice cube's chance in hell of achieving anything worthwhile. And I suspect that's what most "Tea Party" folk are focusing on: "working within the system" (i.e., playing by the rules made up by the tyrants) to achieve freedom.
As I've explained before (over and over again), to play the game of voting, to praise the cult of democracy, is to begin by conceding that you are someone else's property. The control freaks must be thrilled to pieces every time they look out and see their victims trying to vote them out, or petition them to change their minds. As long as the slaves are groveling, and begging, "please, massuh," the slavemaster knows he's in charge.
The question is, how many Tea Party folk are ready to stop begging and whining, and instead break their chains and walk off the plantation? Very few, I suspect. To put it another way (which makes most loyal subjects uncomfortable), how many Tea Party folk are prepared to "break the law"--i.e., disobey the politicians--in their attempts to achieve freedom? Again, I suspect the number is pretty small.
The very name, "Tea Party," is somewhat ironic. It's a reference to a dramatic act of illegal resistance (the Boston Tea Party). (Incidentally, there were several things about it that were fairly stupid, too, since it harmed a private industry more than those in "government.") But I would bet that most of those who now call themselves "Tea Party" members are not only too scared to actually disobey their masters (which is somewhat understandable), but don't even dare to think about it inside their own heads. They have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into the notion that obedience to "authority" and "government" is a moral imperative, that they won't even allow themselves to consider "breaking the law" to achieve freedom.
Let me be blunt. As long as you won't break a "law" to be free, you won't ever be free, because you're not even free inside your own head yet. If you still feel a moral obligation to obey the commands of politicians (which they call "law"), then all you're doing is begging the master to not whip you so hard. Even if he agrees (fat chance), you'll still be a slave.
For the most part, the Tea Party movement is beyond utterly worthless: it is hugely counter-productive, because it will use up huge amounts of resources and energy of good people, without making them a bit more free. However, if those who are so upset actually dare to think about things, re-examine philosophical principles instead of just whining about details, it might end up doing something constructive, at least for some of those involved.
If, instead of thousands of people standing around outside the lairs of the overlords, whining for "change," there were thousands of people simply disobeying their masters, that might accomplish something. If, instead of whining to the megalomaniacs to end various wars, people quietly stopped funding, or otherwise sabotaged war-mongering efforts, that might accomplish something. If, instead of begging for "lower taxes," people simply stopped paying, that might accomplish something. And--to be terrifyingly blunt--if people stopped merely complaining about the fascist crap that the state mercenaries ("police") get away with, and started resisting them instead, things might change. (If the consequence for a fascist thug who beat the hell out of an innocent, unarmed civilian was death, instead of a paid vacation, it might happen less often.)
As long as the final decision of how the people are treated rests with the masters, and their hired thugs, the people can whine, vote, beg, and complain all they want. It will achieve nothing. But if enough people start coming to the realization that they own themselves, and that they don't need a "law" saying so, they don't need "legislation" giving them permission to keep what they earn, or to make their own choices, and if they start acting like people who understand and love liberty, they might actually get some. But I'm afraid that describes only the smallest fraction of those in the "Tea Party" movement.
Nancy L. Cohen
If you liked Rovian anti-gay marriage referendums, the Terry Schiavo saga, anti-abortion litmus tests for diplomatic service in a war zone, and creationism in the Grand Canyon bookstore, you'll love this season's Tea Party candidates.
Why are we just getting the bulletin about "social conservatives" in the Tea Party movement? The media, beguiled by the period costumes and libertarian theatrics of the Tea Party demonstrations, overlooked from the very beginning the influence of veteran Christian rightwing activists within it. But read between the lines and you'll find clues that the Christian Right has been in the Tea Party trenches from the start. A few examples:
- USA Today illustrates a report on the Tea Party movement's seven defining attitudes with a photograph of a Tea Partier holding his gigantic family bible. Their poll (with Gallup). however, doesn't ask a single question about social issues.
- An April New York Times poll notes that Tea Partiers are more conservative on social issues than other Republicans, only to dismiss the point as irrelevant.
- A brilliant article by historian Jill Lepore profiles Christen Varley, president of the Boston Tea Party. Varley says she's new to politics. But she is a home-schooling parent, and works for the Coalition for Marriage and Family, a nonprofit formed to try to get a same-sex marriage ban on the ballot. Home-schooling and anti-gay groups are two of the most important sites of political activism in the Christian Right, though you wouldn't know it from the article.
The successful Tea Party candidates reveal how vital social conservatism is to Tea Party voters. Would-be GOP Senators Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell are bona fide Christian zealots. "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. You can't masturbate without lust!" according to O'Donnell, during her stint as the founder and president of the abstinence group, Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth. Angle put her name in the '90s to medieval-themed screeds against gays, and famously said that teen rape and incest victims "can turn a lemon situation into lemonade." In Alaska, an onerous anti-abortion ballot measure helped drive up turnout for Joe Miller. Colorado's Ken 'Vote-for-me-because-I-don't-wear-high-heels' Buck favors a state Personhood amendment, an anti-abortion measure which would effectively outlaw many common forms of birth control. Likewise, he favors a "much closer relationship" between church and state and turning over government services to faith-based groups.
And then there are Sarah Palin's 'mama grizzlies' -- Carly Fiorina (CA), Nikki Haley (SC), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Christine O'Donnell (DE), and Angle (NV). What they have in common is not a ginned up conservative feminism, nor anti-government populism, but rather a common mission to legislate traditional Christian values. Each one plans to make abortion illegal and man the barricades against gay marriage. O'Donnell, Angle, and Palin have been vocal about how their conservative Christian faith shapes their political beliefs. Haley, faced with a difficult primary race, soft-pedaled her Sikh upbringing and testified to "living in Christ every day."
In this season of the libertarians, even the one genuine article, Kentucky's Rand Paul, would like to put the government back in your bedroom.
By their enemies you shall know them. The Tea Party's targets reveal even more about the primacy of social issues. Charlie Crist is a solid fiscal conservative, but has socially liberal inclinations. The Tea Party almost took down Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican with a decent chance of winning Obama's former Senate seat. Mike Castle's fatal act, according to Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, was to author "left and lefter" legislation on stem-cell research.
So why did the Christian Right flock to the Tea Party movement, and what explains their libertarian posturing? To survive after Bush, the Christian Right had to rebrand and lay low. That's nothing new. When Clinton took office, as I detail in my forthcoming book, Christian Right operatives were explicit--among themselves--that their recovery depended on deception. As Ralph Reed, head of the Christian Coalition, put it: "I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."
Yet signs are emerging that veteran Christian Right leaders have become so confident they've decided to come out of the closet and claim their right to dictate terms to the GOP. First there was Glenn Beck's emphasis on faith, not politics, at his August rally. He and Palin struck the same notes at their Alaskan 9/11 commemoration. That same weekend, top Republican strategists convened for Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing. At the conference, weathervane Gingrich predicted that the "election of 2010 and 2012 will be a referendum on values."
Of course there are genuine and sincere small government, fiscally conservative, quasi-libertarians in the Tea Party. With the faithful claiming power, however, tensions have flared. A Quinnipiac poll suggests that the Christian rightwingers will prevail: Born-again evangelicals are the most dissatisfied group in the nation, and the group most likely to say they would vote for a Tea Party candidate. The GOP knows well that Christian conservatives are their most reliable constituency, and won't cross evangelicals simply to hold onto the handful of votes wielded by libertarians.
History shows that when the Christian rightwingers control the GOP, the voters recoil, and Democrats win. As the mirth over O'Donnell's anti-masturbation video subsides, attention is finally turning to the real Tea Party, and its extremism on abortion, gay marriage, the family, religion, and sexuality in general. It's none too soon. Half the electorate is still undecided or knows little about the Tea Party. There's still time to get the word out. But only just.