Sunday, September 19, 2010

ON THE TEA PARTY

Those of us who trend in a libertarian direction, and who are appalled and psychologically sickened by the government-caused and government-extended economic crisis we’ve been struggling with for 2+ years now, are watching the rise of the Tea Party movement with some bemusement - and, in my case at least, with quite a bit of apple-cart upsetting glee. No, I don’t like to see a woman who’s gone on record as being anti-masturbation (Christine O’Donnell, who just won the Republican senatorial primary in Delaware) held up as any sort of “free minds and free markets” ideal, and no, I don’t cotton to many of the Republicans who are riding this train, nor the social conservatism they’re sneakily tamping down in hopes of being elected. But let me tell you what I do like – because I actually like a lot about this movement.

First, for all the nutballs who might be signing on to the cause, Tea Partiers are united behind a couple of exceptionally sound goals: curtailing the cost of government, and refusing to live high on the hog today at the expense of future generations. These are goals (my goals) that have had few true champions since the Reagan/Thatcher days, and I’m delighted to see this as a seemingly people-led movement, rather than just another Republican ideological plank that will be abandoned the moment the newly elected arrive in Washington. I also like watching this movement internally police itself, so that that the core issue – cutting government and living within our means – is the main one on the table, and not abortion, gays or guns. I’ve noticed some anti-immigration blather sneaking into some of the recent articles I’ve read about Tea Party rallies, but that’s something I can put up with for the time being, since their spine on the main economic challenges that face the country appears to be so strong. This is really flummoxing the mainstream media - the New York Times articles on the Tea Party in today's paper were utterly laughable. It may be a shopworn cliche, but most reporters "just don't get it", and have almost zero interest in trying to understand why they don't.

The Tea Party, by standing on principle, is working to root out the establishment Republican politicians exemplified by George W. Bush and the many Senators and congressmen who should have been drummed out years ago – to say nothing of the Democrats they’re going after. It's a true "enough is enough" sort of populist movement. I love their baseball-bat approach to sweeping these free-spending Washington toadies out of power. Nothing matters more in our country right now than getting the size & scope of government under control, and ensuring that the US system of free enterprise is once again able to help wide swaths of the country prosper – including the very demoralized working and middle classes, who are quite understandably turning to the Tea Party in droves. I knew that Obama and his absurd class-warfare politics would eventually turn the country against him – I just didn’t think it would happen this quickly.

Does this mean I’m personally joining the Tea Party? No thanks. (See my “Marching With The Idiots” piece from this past March here). There are the people that fight in the streets, and then there are the people who dutifully vote in every election (and oh, uh, occasionally rant about politics on blogs). I’m living in a California, long the economic engine of this country, that might very well go bankrupt in 2011 with its back-breaking union pension obligations and market-stifling regulations. I send a child to public school here, pay my taxes, cross my fingers that I’ll continue to keep my job and that the home I just bought can keep its value. I’m very concerned about this state, and it’s why I’ll do everything in my power to make sure politics turns a 180 here. No more Jerry Browns, no more Arnold Schwarzeneggers – and I’ll take any Tea Party support that cause gets, even if there are a few birthers in the crowd.

Yes, it would be fantastic if people who share my personal brand of "socially tolerant, economically mighty" libertarianism were running the show, and sending old-school Sacramento and Washington down the toilet in dramatic fashion. Until then, I’ll raise a glass for the semi-lunatics in the Tea Party, and heartily cheer on America’s potential return to first principles.