It had to happen. The Tea Partiers — a term which covers a whole range of folks from conservatives to libertarians whose uniting commonality is a biting aversion to big government and bigger taxes — have finally made it into the big time. The mainstream media has not only been paying attention but is now beginning to unleash its sultry enticements; platforms from which individuals claiming to represent the group can glean their 15 minutes of fame and reap the so-called rewards.
It was hoped that when this commendable movement began, it would remain a loose coalition of local groups that would, like those Sons of Liberty they seek to emulate, come together only to defeat a common enemy – à la the Swift Boaters — and afterwards blend back into a newly enlightened electorate. The thought being that the only voices they would require would be those of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
But, as often happens when an idea gains any type of power, especially of the electoral type, people will seek to gain control of it and harness it for their own purposes. So you now have what invariably follows any attempt at grassroots organizing; multiple factions all claiming to speak for the movement.
But what kind of movement is it really, and what, if any, are its long-term goals? Well, its Contract from America includes the desire to be “free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.” Good and noble aspirations to be sure, but how, in our present two-party system, to attain them? Do these lovers of liberty intend to form a viable political party? Recent events may point to a “yes.”
And that’s where the problems start; especially when fanned by the liberal media. In seeking to carve out for themselves a new niche in American politics, too many self-identified TPers seem to be parroting the media’s assertion that it is not only liberals that the public is tired of, but all incumbents, regardless of their political views. They harbor a particular contempt for congressional Republicans with whom they brook no desire for compromise. And they may have a point with the left-leaning GOP members, but some of their rhetoric is disturbing.
For instance, when my colleague Quin Hillyer penned a great piece on the potential political comeback of Rick Santorum, it was met with cries of “we don’t need any more retread RINOs or big government hacks.” These men aren’t retreads any more than was Ronald Reagan when he lost the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976. They are simply good, common-sense conservatives who have been effectively demonized by a liberal media that, in most cases, are nothing more than mouth organs of the Democratic Party. They are the George Allens, Dan Quayles and Robert Borks. And, had it not been for the abysmal state of our nation after four years of Jimmy Carter, Reagan himself might have been relegated to the conservative ash heap of history where the media so vigorously desired him to be. Men like these need the support of American patriots, not their disdain.
So, in their desire to clean house, the TPers would do well to remember that the most of our founders, the very men they claim to venerate, were not untried newcomers who were strangers to the politics involved in self-governance. They were well aware of the allurements that power and politics could hold. And although many of the founders hated the baggage that often comes with political parties, they nonetheless banded together along partisan lines and managed to get the job done. Indeed, the exquisite system of checks and balances that we call our Constitution — the child of both Federalists and Anti-Federalists — was crafted with the vagaries of the party system in mind.
Incumbent-hating TPers should also remember that when its feet are held to the fire, the GOP can deliver. Recall that not one caucus member voted for the health care bill. The ongoing role of the Tea Parties should be to keep Republican feet in the fire, not in working to send neophytes — like Barack Obama — to Washington. All lovers of our nation and our Constitution should insist that Republicans stand up for the conservative plank they advance; one that sounds very much like the Contract from America:
Republicans will uphold and defend our party’s core principles: Constrain the federal government to its legitimate constitutional functions. Let it empower people, while limiting its reach into their lives. Spend only what is necessary, and tax only to raise revenue for essential government functions. Unleash the power of enterprise, innovation, civic energy, and the American spirit, and never pretend that government is a substitute for family or community.