Why did the GOP do so badly in the most recent election? It has everything to do with fear. Fear of the Tea Party.
Remember the Tea Party? Two years ago it swept a GOP majority into the House. It was the most amazing bit of grass roots I’ve witnessed in my 37 years of being alive. I think the Vietnam protests and the civil rights movement probably eclipsed it, but that was long before my time. The Tea Party emergence was amazing.
However, as soon as the establishment got hip to the Tea Party it either sought to co-opt it or to slander it.
On April 15th 2009, I was part of one of the first Tea Party rallies, in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s home, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the wake of the bank and auto bailouts.
On a very cool spring day, 2000+ people gathered to hear speakers, only a couple of whom were famous, to speak on the need for a smaller government. In a town which is often called the “Berkley of the Blue Ridge,” the amphitheater was filled to capacity. People sat and cheered for 3 hours in uncomfortable weather.
“End the Fed” signs filled the audience. The most rousing speech was given by a buddy of mine, John Munchmier, then head of the Jefferson Area Libertarians, and he didn’t hold back. He called for an end to the drug war. And the crowd cheered – loudly.
This was the Tea Party, birthed by the Ron Paul “Revolution” of 2008, salted with Rick Santelli’s exasperated rant on CNBC which went viral, and then mainstreamed by Glenn Beck who reached a massive audience. (Glen Beck it can be argued is part of the co-opting of the Tea Party too, though he is not as bad as many believe. He has a very strong classically liberal streak.)
But one thing struck me as I went over the speech I was about to deliver on the need for a gold standard and an end to the Federal Reserve. Over the loud speakers, prior to the event, Rush Limbaugh was being broadcast. This struck me as odd seeing as Rush had often attacked the early Tea Party. As Rush’s familiar partisan words washed over the crowd I felt a twinge in my stomach.
For the record, Limbaugh, now has a brand of iced tea called 2 if by Tea. This from a guy who viciously attacked Ron Paul.
Though I did not want to believe it, I could sense that the machine was seeking to turn the Tea Party for its own ends. I wasn’t surprised, but I hoped that the Tea Party, as a vehicle of resistance would hold together and grow. And it did hold together and it did grow. But there were and are massive forces working against it.
Even though it was the uprising of the American people personified by what is now called “The Tea Party” which gave the GOP the House, leadership within the GOP did not wait long in its effort to neutralize the upstart movement.
What many people don’t understand, especially my friends, on what is called the “left,” is that for all the fear the Democrats have of a rising Tea Party, the establishment GOP fears the Tea Party even more.
Because the Tea Party represents a real challenge, with sound arguments, to the Republican political class.
Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Speaker Boehner, and Eric Cantor do not relate to the Tea Party. Neither do many people within the broader GOP election apparatus. The Tea Party people are rabble-rousers with a silly and naïve belief in adherence to the Constitution and the principals of small government. The establishment GOP is not at all interested in small government. When given the chance they have always expanded the state.
For all the “party of small government” rhetoric, the GOP is in no way the party of small government. It has expanded the state at every turn, in some cases at a greater rate than the Dems. The GW Bush years were a bonanza for big government—a trend continued by the current president.
Many people within the current GOP have spent a lifetime working the system. They have gotten the right posts within government, worked for the right congressman or senator, lobbied for the right interests. They are not about to give up their standing invitation to the Georgetown cocktail party circuit. They’ve worked hard to become as powerful as they are and sold a good bit of soul along the way. They’ll be damned if some group of hicks from the hinterlands, with some ridiculous belief in truly small government is going to take their positions from them. No way that is going to happen.
That is why it is curious why so many Democrats, supposed partisans who we are told oppose the Republicans, rail against the Tea Party so much. Curious but understandable.
From nearly the very beginning of the Tea Party, the establishment media which is solidly what is called “left of center” (I think the right/left thing is tired but I will use it in this essay) in this country, sought to characterize the Tea Party as some sort of “ultra-conservative” effort (seriously I have heard reporters on NPR refer to the Tea Party people this way.)
First the establishment left called the Tea Party “astroturf” and insinuated that there was a shadowy conspiracy behind the rise of the Tea Party.
When the American public didn’t buy this narrative—because it was so obviously untrue, the establishment left shifted to playing the race card.
This also was absolute nonsense, but gained a bit of traction with the far left who see any effort to rein in an expansive state as somehow “racist.” Presumably, this is because many government programs are perceived as benefiting “minority” populations more than white folks. This presumption by right and left alike is often not true by the way.
The fact that out of millions of people who attended the Tea Party rallies across the nation, a handful of clearly racist people did show up, helped to continue the narrative for many people who were convinced that the effort to roll back the state did in fact constitute racism.
It is inconceivable to many in the establishment left that a true anti-establishment effort would emerge from something they didn’t have an intellectual frame for. As such, the establishment media tried to jam the Tea Party into tired clichés centered around racist white people and “Republicans.”
What actually happened is that time moved on and politics moved on. The Tea Party, the Ron Paul folks, the people calling for small government are not in fact some reactionary force bent on opposing “progress” per se. They just recognize that the 20th Century experiment with the state has failed, and so “progress” means making government much smaller and accountable to the average person.
How can this be? Ask many progressives. It is we, the progressive who have the way forward. See it’s right in our name – progressive . Progress can’t come from you, you silly people who believe in property rights and free speech. The way “forward” has been clearly laid out. Progress is toward more government control. This was outlined clearly by German thinkers in the 19th century, and FDR and company 70 years ago and well…Um…Well, it’s still the way forward! It’s tradition!
But for anyone who has any understanding of modern technology and systems, command and control is not “progressive.” Crowd sourcing is progressive. The Tea Party is crowd sourced politics, and that drives the establishment crazy—both the Dems and the GOP.
That the Tea Party establishes in many ways an entirely new frame of politics, is what scares the American “left.” The Tea Party (and I write broadly here), as champion of liberty, freedom, the right to do as one wishes, the right to be free of coercion, etc blows minds.
Who would protect your right to light up a joint in your house more? Someone in the Obama administration or some random guy one might meet at a Tea Party rally? I submit that it would most likely be the Tea Party guy. (So long as the camera is on.) But this sort of thing is almost never talked about in the establishment media, the #old media, instead the Tea Party is “ultra-conservative.” – Bulls–t.
So the GOP is afraid of the Tea Party because they want to keep their jobs. The Dems are afraid of the Tea Party because the Tea Party critique, basically a libertarian critique, suddenly puts them into the defensive position of “conservative.” The Dems must defend the large state, now 100 years old, an idea which has failed.
If the truly “liberal” Tea Party folks ever got a foothold life, would be much more difficult for those who favor the unending expansion of the state. Suddenly the arguments of the statists appear very tired. The big government people would much rather deal with a “small government party,” which says that it is, but really isn’t.
I’ve said a lot of nice things about the Tea Party here, and when I refer to the Tea Party, I write in the broadest of terms. But I am not a fan of any particular party, and AgainstCronyCapitalism.org certainly is no advocate of any party Tea, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or other. Just to be absolutely and totally clear.
But after reading the report I posted earlier today, on the kafuffle at FreedomWorks, I wanted to write a few words on the Tea Party as I have watched it from its infancy. For the record, I trace the conception of the Tea Party to a group of people in Arizona who started erecting “Ron Paul Revolution” signs in 2006 in Arizona, long before the good doctor decided run for president.
I believe that the GOP establishment so feared the emergence of the Tea Party that they played a poor hand in Romney that they didn’t have to play.
For the Republicans to win in 2012, they needed to appeal more to the Tea Party, not run from it. They needed to explain to the American people why truly small government benefits them, and why smaller government makes life better for the average person. Had they done this, with the right candidate (and I am not saying that Ron Paul would have been the best person to do this, better than the other people running, but still not quite right) the GOP I believe would have likely won, and expanded its footprint in Congress.
But, a fundamentally different party would have arrived in Washington in 2013 and there are a lot of bodies buried around Capitol Hill by the old GOP. The people who have run the show in the Republican Party for a long time preferred to lose and retain the vestiges of power, than do the right thing and to let the party evolve—and win. Witness what is going on in the RNC’s 2012 election autopsy.
And now we learn that Mitt Romney didn’t even want to run for president? That is just dysfunction on an amazing scale.
All because—I believe—the establishment feared the rise of the Tea Party.