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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are "Tea Parties" good, bad, or neutral?

On their face, grassroots taxpayer revolts sound like just the kind of thing we need. But a bit of careful observation brings into question the true motivation, nature and value of the now common "Tea Party" springing up across the U.S. (I talk about the U.S. because I don't know if Canada has anything similar going on).

Jack McHugh blogs about the possible pitfalls of these parties:

The Tea Party movement is a genuine bottom-up. grassroots protest. It’s fueled by angst and rage arising from a feeling of helplessness at the realization that the people have lost control of their government.


What many people don’t recognize yet is the proper target of their rage: a self-serving, self perpetuating, inbred and bipartisan political class.


Some in the Tea Party movement think that it’s a protest against Democrats. I refer them to “Government, massive expansion of, 2001-2006” – a period during which Republicans held all the marbles.

He goes on to mention the dangers of letting members of the partisan political class - namely Republicans - in on the party. They inevitably will try to hijack the spotlight and use their permanent political apparatus to claim credit for the movement.

A word to those truly upset about spending, bailouts, tax hikes and government largess: don't buy it. Don't give in to the siren calls of so-called conservative Republicans. Conservative grass-roots people, and even some libertarians, are like an abused girlfriend. They keep believing that this time, he really has changed. This time he'll be sweet. He's not such a bad guy underneath, he just loses control sometimes.  Witness the new found love for Republicans after they (reluctantly) voted 'no' on the stimulus.

Grassroots conservatives might need an intervention. It is not, nor will it ever be, by politicians that any salvation will come.  McHugh goes on, and posts one of my favorite quotes from Milton Friedman:

"Parties aren’t about principles, they’re about power – getting and keeping it.


Restoring limited, representative government will only happen when both political parties and all politicians are forced to align not just their words but their behavior with this goal. Here’s how Milton Friedman described how to accomplish that:


“The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

True. Will people take heed, and display a genuine revolt against the political class? Or will they simply vent frustration with one party, and accept a leader of the other party as savior?

McHugh has another earlier post on the value of rage vs. that of hope as a tool for long-term political change.  I'll give you a hint - hope is better.

UPDATE (from the General Manager): Welcome Instalanche hordes!

Feel free to stick around and poke about the website of the Western Standard, Canada's libertarian/conservative news outlet of record and this here Shotgun Blog.

Recently, we reviewed Gerry Nicholls' book about his former friend and colleague, Canadian Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in which he argues the importance maintaining a separation between the conservative movement and the Conservative Party of Canada (this point seems particularly important following Harper's atrocious stimulus budget and subsequent disavowal of fiscal conservatives and libertarians).

Other items of potential interest, our founding publisher Ezra Levant talking about his new book on Canada's anti-free speech Human Rights Commissions (coming to a jurisdiction near you?), a post exploring where in the world people are reading Rand and where they're reading Marx, and, naturally, Stalin vs. Martians: the videogame.

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on April 11, 2009 in U.S. politics | Permalink


agreed totally. I would throw Mitt Romney and Ginrich out as well. BOTH supported the first bailout and also "reluctantly" supported big spending

Posted by: 4rc | 2009-04-11 7:41:03 PM

4rc: the point I would make about the earlier spending, and why it wasn’t protested by those who are protesting now, was 9/11. All of the spending was (mostly) based on 2 parallel goals, establish a war footing, and countering the economic terror attack that 9/11 brought.

Back in 2006 I did some research on the national debt and the Bush tax package, and the debt was turning around. The percentage of who was paying what had also shifted more to the wealthy. As an economic combination / package it was essentially working. The mistake made by the republicans was that they got use to the spending; they should have started the cutbacks after the 2004 election.

Posted by: DEK46656 | 2009-04-11 7:58:50 PM

Libertarians are claiming ownership of the Tea Party wave as well, more so than Republicans by my readings.

Don't be fooled into allowing one enemy in while the eye is fixed on another.

Posted by: Mike Johnson | 2009-04-11 8:31:41 PM

You ask if the Tea Parties are a good thing.

The last time they had a political tea party it is in Boston Harbor more than 200 years ago. It was the first indication that they people had enough of over-taxation by a government that did NOT represent them. That is the case today. What followed was the American Revolution.

So is the Tea Party thingy good? If the rest of it follows the script, I would say yes. The USA desperately needs a revolution to overthrow a political system that is obese and corroded to it's core. It is beyond redemption.

Both parties are nothing but political zombies and a new government with the constitution at it's center is in order.

Ron Paul would have been the right choice to have this happen without the shooting that is bound to come eventually.

It still may take some time as the cattle that used to be Americans stand in a field watching their currency being destroyed by high speed printing presses and an insane administration that has no idea what it's doing UNLESS .... destroying the integrity of the USA and working behind the scene with the One World Global Feudal State Elites is the plan.

Either way, a revolution is badly needed.

Posted by: Momar | 2009-04-11 10:07:13 PM

I was going to go to one of these parties. However, you make it sound like Republicans shouldn't be invited. There are some good Republican leaders and some bad ones. Where are the good Democrat politicians? There are no true fiscal conservatives in that party. As for social issues, Republicans are much more gun rights. Most Democrats have gone from overt to covert gun control freaks. Also, it will be a cold day in hell before you get most U.S. politicians support real marijuana legalization.
I like the Libertarian economic principles. However, I have several real issues with the Libertarian party. One, I can't vote for a party that has no problem with abortion. In addition, I oppose the thinking that people have the right to blow pot in my face or my kids. Meanwhile, I'm supposed to just accept it because its their right. Also, what anti-terrorist policies do you have besides pull U.S. troops out of every foreign country? Do you even believe that we should use military force when attacked? Is the U.S. supposed to simply fight a defensive war(never take offensive operations) against terrorists to get your seal of approval? Do you support the U.S. even winning? It seems that you oppose almost every anti-terrorists. Are U.S. officials allowed to send commandos in to hit foreign terrorist bases? Or are we only supposed to arrest suspects that are in the U.S. and just about to blow something up.

Posted by: James | 2009-04-11 10:08:56 PM

That's very nice, but it's irrelevant. We are not a European Parliamentary democracy, thank God. Libertarians can claim all the credit they like, but they're irrelevant, and always will be.

Posted by: rightwingprof | 2009-04-12 3:30:55 AM

Tea Parties are a great thing. Grassroots conservatives know that our true enemy is not "Democrats" but all politicians in general and all government in principle. We know we can't get rid of either; this is about the eternal fight to hold their feet to the fire and hold them accountable. We will never get rid of the political class, more's the pity.

The fact that conservatives and independents are actually getting involved and becoming activists to an extent can only be a good thing. Until now, activism was owned by the Left and socialists. The Tea Party movement is targeting specific issues, but its larger goal should be to educate and activate many of us content to ignore all the dangers and malfeasance by our so-called leaders. True tea partiers tell the politicians who want to get involved and take over to get lost. This is for Americans to speak and politicians to shut up and listen. Above all, it is for us to scare all politicians witless and gather enough steam to let them know their cushy fiefdoms are at grave risk.

Some party will always hold the WH. Some party will always hold the House, the Senate, and the many state and local offices and bodies. We can start to demand accountability and responsibility. It's terribly hard and an endless fight. But don't say it's not worth it. From little things, big things grow. We had a revolution 200+ years ago, after all. We are not sheeple yet - not totally. This movement can help push back at the overwhelming, soul-destroying wave of socialism we see coming at us, our kids and our grandkids. We can't not try.

Posted by: Peg C. | 2009-04-12 4:14:28 AM

A couple tea parties and you'll end up on a terrorist watch list.

The American revolutionaries were paying less tax than we do now.

Posted by: Pete | 2009-04-12 1:03:06 PM

Isaac, so are you saying that because impure Republicans might get involved along with some Dems that a grassroots demonstration clearly in favour of less government is a bad idea? If so, the status-quo alternative of libertarians squirreled away in a chess club (or blogging echo chamber) somewhere patting each other on the back for philosophical purity or debating esoterica is preferable?

Politicians don't lead, they scramble to get in front of the mob. Who gives a shit who gets in front of a good cause!

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-04-12 1:37:34 PM

My issue is with the messenger. Santelli is a bottom feeding derivative seller. Derivatives got us in this mess.

Posted by: Faramir | 2009-04-14 11:01:58 PM

These are american tea parties, NOT SO CALLED TEA PARTIES, THEY ACTUALLY HAPPEN, SO THEY ARE NOT LIKE SO CALLED UFO'S...the people going to them do not care what party you are for or against. They are about the government Republicans and Democrats over taxing us and spitting on the constitution, read it you may understand...It is a right of U.S. citizens to protest if you don't agree keep your mouth shut I have never seen this much ridicule over so called global warming which really does not exist.Or anti war movements so live and let live do not show you complete paty bias by attacking tea parties as Republican

Posted by: vince | 2009-04-19 10:08:10 AM

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