The Very Angry Tea Party (Part 2)

Themon,

But of course. I am always out here as you put it. I am just not always as noisy as I might like to be. Then again, as I find myself saying the same cynical things repeatedly, I might just be sick of hearing myself talk—or write as the case may be.

As to the Tea Party, I do happen to have some connection. It seems that the People’s Press Collective (PPC) is now considered one of the foremost conservative news and commentary organization in the nation and THE foremost such organization in Colorado. Given our traffic numbers, and the number of times national news organizations and columnists have cited us, I suppose that perception is not without justification. It mattered enough that the people, having lost faith in Republican leadership, asked PPC to verify the voting process at the state Republican assembly. As it turns out, it was not actually corrupt, just wildly incompetent. Surprisingly, Julian Dunraven, as a board member and editor of the PPC, is also thought of as a leading member of the conservative movement here in Colorado. Thus, I have been invited to damn near every Tea Party event in the state, sometimes as a journalist, sometimes to consult, frequently to train activists, and occasionally to edit or review books for conservative publishers. The fact that I am pagan and bisexual is quietly ignored as the Tea Party members, who draw from social conservatives, social libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and independents, all try to come together on issues of limited government, free markets, and individual rights. Thus, while I am not a part of the Tea Party myself, I am heavily connected with it here in Colorado and well acquainted with all of its organizing members and opinion leaders.

Thank you for the article. It was . . . strange. Bernstein is clearly no natural law philosopher. I found it rather ironic that a man who asserts that we have no value but what we find reflected in one another would accuse the Tea Party of nihilism for rejecting such a notion. Normally the assertion of natural law rights is considered the very opposite of nihilism. Odd.

Of course, he may be arguing high points of theoretical philosophy rather than practical politics and economics, neither of which he seems to grasp. The Tea Party does not want nothing, though. The economic crisis has indeed made them aware of how thoroughly our government has intruded into every aspect of human life and they object to such encroachment. The monetary policies have undermined their wealth and savings, ensuring that we must work harder and longer for less. Though few people can articulate the actual causes for that, most understand the basic premise that government is meddling in everything and everything sucks as a result. That is hardly irrational. Austrian Economics and Natural Law Philosophy both have many noteworthy scholars articulating the finer details of that general premise.

He is also incorrect in asserting that the Tea Party movement wants “radical independence” or the overthrow of civil society. Though I do have the dubious pleasure of knowing a few anarchists, they have yet to hold up in an argument with me and are universally ignored by the rest of the conservative movement as harmless fools. I have yet to encounter any of their ideas in the Tea Party movement. Far from the overthrow of civil society or radical independence, the Tea Party seems to call for an adherence to a constitutional legal framework and a reliance between people to live by that contract without overstepping and to help protect one another’s rights. Thanks to people like Glen Beck assisting the Tea Party Movement with the 9-12 groups, there is even a call for constitutional and historical education in the movement. Some of the history they have uncovered has surprised even me (which, especially as a lawyer, is quite embarrassing). Though it came as a shock to many in D.C., the latest surveys show Tea Party members tend to have above average educations and income levels. Also surprising to many in D.C., blacks and minorities are leading figures in many Tea Party movements (including here in Colorado). These are not forces of chaos. They are forces of order. In fact, at every Tea Party event, the only reported violence thus far has come from those opposed to the Tea Parties. That was certainly true in Denver, where 5000 Tea Party members were overseen by three police officers while the liberal counter-protest of 70 people across the street drew the attention of dozens of officers due to vile slogans and attempts at rushing the officers. To most Tea Party members, our current government is the true threat to civil society and they are actually trying to restore civil society.

As to the positions of the Tea Party, Bernstein seems to mistake it for an actual political party. The Tea Party is not. It wants a constitutional limited government. It wants government rolled back and spending under control. That is it as a movement. Republicans might want to preserve Social Security and Medicare, but the Tea Party movement has no such policy positions to speak of. Some of the members might even agree with Republicans. Some might realize those programs are ultimately doomed. But policy positions are not what the Tea Party is about. The name refers to the Boston Tea Party of old—not a political party.

Where I agree with Bernstein, though, is that the Tea Party, at its roots, is an almost metaphysical expression of anger. I also agree that, if things continue as they are, that anger is likely to boil over beyond the peaceful demonstrations of the Tea Parties and into street violence. In fact, I am quite certain that will happen in the very near future. It has already begun in California. Unlike Bernstein, though, I have no confusion as to why people are angry. Is it so hard to understand that government is too big? Does he really need a complex Hegelian analysis of the illusion of independence? Doesn’t it make more sense to look at the past millennia or so of human history and see that every time government gets too big and lives beyond its means economies tend to start collapsing and people tend to get really angry? A wonderful book called This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly charts that process rather nicely. In America, we are fortunate to have a constitutional system to fall back on which can—hopefully—mitigate some of the destruction that typically erupts from such situations.

I tend to agree with you that we are not likely to escape violence and traumatic collapse, though. Another thing about Tea Party people is that they are all new to politics. They can elect all the solid conservatives they want. If those conservatives don’t know what they are doing, though—and at this point I will only give one statewide or federal candidate in Colorado credit for knowing much of anything—then it won’t make a bit of difference. Frankly, even if all conservatives currently running knew what they were doing, it would be difficult to elect enough of them in time to make any real difference.

That said, I do not think you have an illusion of independence. Perhaps complete autonomy would be an illusion, but I do not think we are all so dependent upon the state as you maintain. Oh, we are not without problems, but huge chunks of government could be chopped away and few people would ever even notice the change save that the deficit was smaller, there was less paperwork, and more money in the real economy. The teat of government produces remarkably little actual milk. Wouldn’t you agree?

Julian

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