There's been a bit of debate recently about the Tea Party is, and what it stands for. Having watched the movement saddle up its hover-round from the get-go, I've got a solid grasp on this thing, and what it is doing.
But that doesn't stop News Corp from telling me I don't. Here's the latest bit of hackery that is now standard fare at the Wall Street Journal (Fox News: Print Edition).
Highly educated people say the darndest things, these days particularly about the tea party movement. Vast numbers of other highly educated people read and hear these dubious pronouncements, smile knowingly, and nod their heads in agreement. University educations and advanced degrees notwithstanding, they lack a basic understanding of the contours of American constitutional government.
This should be interesting. The article then goes on the paint various portrayals of the Tea Party as wrong. You can check out his favorites to dismiss there. I noticed he doesn't mention Matt Taibbi's article, which is one of the more direct assessments of the movement I've seen.
The article then makes a rather strange claim, given the realities we've been seeing lately (which I'll get to in a moment).
Born in response to President Obama's self-declared desire to fundamentally change America, the tea party movement has made its central goals abundantly clear. Activists and the sizeable swath of voters who sympathize with them want to reduce the massively ballooning national debt [A], cut runaway federal spending [B], keep taxes in check [C], reinvigorate the economy [D], and block the expansion of the state into citizens' lives [E].
In other words, the tea party movement is inspired above all by a commitment to limited government [X]. And that does distinguish it from the competition.
See, now here is where many note the huge contradictions inherent in the Tea Party, from its birth to its offspring.
[A] The debt grew more under Bush and Reagan (90% of the total) than anyone else. Even Obama's first full year brought it down from Bush's final year. That this is all blamed on Obama is contradictory and wrong.
[B] First off, it's not runaway. Second, if you don't count Military, Medicare, and Social Security as federal spending (since they can't seem to be touched or talked about for cutting it) then the complaints here are very empty. Which of the three do you want to cut and how much.
In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know.
Actually, the tax cut was, by design, hard to notice. Faced with evidence that people were more likely to save than spend the tax rebate checks they received during the Bush administration, the Obama administration decided to take a different tack: it arranged for less tax money to be withheld from people’s paychecks.
They reasoned that people would be more likely to spend a small, recurring extra bit of money that they might not even notice, and that the quicker the money was spent, the faster it would cycle through the economy.
And so they did, without noticing it, and getting a check in the mail. This one is tough for Obama (and why he's going to lose in 2010...) here he did exactly what the people most piss off wanted him to do, and they think he did the opposite. I can only imagine *why* they think this, and to what degree it relates to them getting their information from the aforementioned (and totally fair and balanced) international media conglomerate.
[D] I'm guessing by "re-invigorate the economy" they either mean 1) do nothing (doing anything could be considered "stimulus" and they all think that's bad) and 2) cut taxes. If it's 2) please see [B] above. When you have a set budget, cutting income (taxes) is the exact same on the bottom line (the deficit) as spending. You can't cut taxes and the deficit at the same time. That's as dumb as cutting taxes and going to war at the same time (so I guess the Republicans might do it again, since they did it the first time).
[E] and [X] both go together. Here's the *REAL* problem with the Tea Party. You can see the end result of what any party brings to the table in its candidates. In the case of the Tea Party, well, it's pretty evidently filled with a bunch of nuts. In Alaska there's a guy, fired from a gov't job for incompetence, put his wife on unemployment, then complains both about government incompetence and federal unemployment help. In Nevada there's a lady that thinks Muslims have taken over Dallas, TX (and it's ruled under harsh Sharia law). In Delware...oh...in Delaware...the darling of the Tea Party (who is definitely *not* a witch) DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT'S IN THE 1ST AMENDMENT.
"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked, a statement that drew laughter from the audience. When Coons returned to the topic a few minutes later, he said her comment "reveals her fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution is."
"The First Amendment establishes the separation, the fact that the federal government shall not establish religion," Coons said.
"The First Amendment does?" O'Donnell interrupted. "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"
When Coons summarized the amendment as saying government shall make no law establishing religion, O'Donnell interrupted again: "That's in the First Amendment?"
Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.
"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.
There is a pretty simple explanation for where political mis-understandings like O'Donnell's come from. Here's what happens: the concepts of the Consitution get simplified over time. There is a concept, embodied in the First Amendment, that the state and religion should be kept separate. As someone once put it, freedom of religion comes with freedom from religion. The state doesn't endorse or deny religion. The concept is called "separation of Church and State".
What people like O'Donnell believe is that because the exact phrase of the concept is not in the Constitution the concept itself isn't. Their argument goes exactly like what O'Donnell stated, "Show me where it is!" This overly simplistic thinking about how the Constitution works ("Show me where the right to abort is!") is endemic in the Tea Party. All of their All-Stars share this same problem (if not the problem of outright hypocrisy and nutjobery).
The idea that "limited government" means that government is small enough to only control who you marry, what you can worship, when you can die, and when you give birth. "Smaller government" seems to mean very little in the real world (see [B] above, and Bush and Reagan before).
So, trust me, we know what the Tea Party is about. All too well. We've seen it for years, over there, on the fringes. Now it has simply evolved on the backs of crisis into something more. And something less.
We know that the light of day is exactly what is needed to either propel a movement to prominence or condemn it back to the shadows.
November will let us know which way this cookie crumbled, and I'm betting on shadows for the Tea Party (based on the quality of the candidates it has produced).