Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.
Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as “socialized medicine.” But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. “Physicians,” he said, “should be allowed to make a comfortable living.”
The Tea Party is truly pathetic. They are a tragic parody of right-wing libertarianism.
The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren’t yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it’s only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP’s campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.
The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives.
On page 2 of this article, we see some of Taibbi’s clarity: he praises Ron Paul for his honesty and sincerity, noting that an “anti-war, pro-legalization Republican won’t ever play in Peoria, which is why in 2008 Paul’s supporters were literally outside the tent at most GOP events, their candidate pissed on by a party hierarchy that preferred Wall Street-friendly phonies like Mitt Romney and John McCain.”
Then he points out how after the election, “tens of thousands of Republicans who had been conspicuously silent during George Bush’s gargantuan spending on behalf of defense contractors and hedge-fund gazillionaires showed up at Tea Party rallies across the nation, declaring themselves fed up with wasteful government spending.”
I’ll admit I’ve never talked to anyone who actually admitted to attending a Tea Party rally as a supporter. But I have talked to plenty of libertarian, anti-government, alternative-currency, and Patriot Movement folks over the past 15 years. To the extent that these same people may make up the Tea Party, I feel sorry for them.
First, most TEA-party activists don’t vote on principle. They don’t hate socialism and government theft and abuse as a rule. If they did they would have been just as exercised about socialism, big government, fascism, dubious legislative tactics, deficits and the national debt during George W. Bush’s term in office. But they were silent. The greatest increases in national debt since WWII came during the presidencies of Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. Here’s the best chart I’ve seen illustrating national debt growth. During these decades TEA-parties were non-existent. Silence. They don’t oppose Socialism on principle, they oppose the other guys’ socialism. That is, they oppose socialism for causes they don’t agree with at the moment. They don’t vote on principle, they vote pragmatically to get a government that benefits them in ways they want.
The first point simply grows out of the second: TEA-partiers don’t really oppose socialism. They are socialists. They believe in using government theft to fund causes they personally benefit from. They denounce—via chant and mantra—Obamacare as a government takeover of health care. The TEA-parties rage when Obama proclaims something so bold as “Our government is finally bringing prescription drug coverage to the seniors of America.” But, ironically, those are not Obama’s but Bush’s exact words after signing a $550 billion Medicare bill into law in 2003. TEA-parties fume when Obama wants to overhaul health care. But Bush could pass “the largest overhaul of Medicare in the public health program’s 38-year history,” and there’s not a word. At the time, only nine Senate Republicans opposed the measure due to its exorbitant cost. Where was fiscal conservatism? Where was the huge public outcry then? Where was the organized protest of big government, government takeover, and huge debts then?
Why do I keep going on about the Tea Party? Because they are merely the most recent manifestation of a type of “conservativism” that I despise: the conservativism of Republicans who don’t actually believe most of what they say and cynically calculate everything to meet some foolish, short-term political objective.
1. Most Republicans are as socialist as the Left. While not as socially liberal as the left—not advocating equality, gay rights, feminism, etc., etc.—Republicans have proven every bit as fiscally liberal with the exception of the last year or so when political convenience has changed their rhetoric. . . .
2. Public schooling is a socialist institution, paid for like a social welfare scheme, where socialist teachers teach socialism to conservatives’ kids. It was designed as an anti-conservative institution and operates openly as an anti-conservative institution. Yet most conservative parents still mock homeschooling and refuse to put their kids in even a private school. Some Christians argue they’re salt and light—”we just need prayer back in schools!” The only prayer any kid should be praying in school is “Mom! Dad! Please! Get me out!”
3. There is no such thing as private property as long as property taxes and the threat of liens exist. Bad-mouthing Obama’s socialism rings hollow until you pressure your state, county, and municipal officials to abolish property taxes. Of course, you’d also have to argue against public schooling as well, for about 75% of property taxes go to pay for public schools.
4. There is nothing inherently or historically conservative about our national standing military. It was a Republican-led effort that ignored everything the American founders wrote about the dangers of standing armies and centralized the state militias into a national army, the outlawed state militias. . . . Progressives love war inherently: it was one aspect that grew directly out of social Darwinism. Conservatives fight when necessary to protect their own land and freedom, except against property taxes, apparently.
5. Republicans were the original spend-and-tax, big-government Progressives, and remain so today. The same Republican men who nationalized the military, in order to fund their progressive ideals, created, promoted, and signed into law the Sixteenth amendment (national income tax) which had the side-effect of rendering the IRS a permanent institution. . . .