Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Michael Gerson on the Tea Party

George W. Bush's former Speechwriter Michael Gerson--now a WaPost editorial writer--has a column up this morning in which he raises a series of questions for "Tea Party" candidates, questions clearly derived from his uneasiness with the movement (or what may be more properly viewed as a fringe of the fringe).  Gerson is as always--civil. But civility does not hide the overall weakness of his view.

Here's how Gerson begins his argument:  "In the normal course of events, political movements begin as intellectual arguments, often conducted for years in serious books and journals. To study the Tea Party movement, future scholars will sift through the collected tweets of Sarah Palin. Without a history of clarifying, refining debates, Republicans need to ask three questions of candidates rising on the Tea Party wave:"

First, do you believe that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional?... It reflects a conviction that the federal government has only those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution -- which doesn't mention retirement insurance or health care.....This view is logically consistent -- as well as historically uninformed, morally irresponsible and politically disastrous. 

Gerson starts out by telling us that political movements begin as intellectual arguments--and on this, we agree.  Then he takes a potshot at the Tea Party by suggesting that future scholars will sift through "tweets" to get at the underpinnings of the Tea Party movement.  This is ungenerous. Basic, enduring Constitutional principles lay at the heart of much of the Tea Party's angst.   It is Gerson who is historically uninformed, if he fails to recognize that the same arguments made today by (some) Tea Party candidates were made against the enabling legislation of both Social Security and Medicare.  Clearly, those principled arguments were not based on "tweets", but on an ideologically honorable view of the role of government that animated the discussions of the Founders.  Do I think Social Security or Medicare is unconstitutional?  No.  Do I think that objecting to them on constitutional grounds is loony or fringe or worthy of contempt?  No.  Gerson moves on to question number 2:

A second question of Tea Party candidates: Do you believe that American identity is undermined by immigration? An internal debate has broken out on this issue among Tea Party favorites. Tom Tancredo, running for Colorado governor, raises the prospect of bombing Mecca, urges the president to return to his Kenyan "homeland" and calls Miami a "Third World country" -- managing to offend people on four continents. Dick Armey of FreedomWorks appropriately criticizes Tancredo's "harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited attitude on the immigration issue." But the extremes of the movement, during recent debates on birthright citizenship and the Manhattan mosque, seem intent on depicting Hispanics and Muslims as a fifth column. 

I don't know about Mr. Gerson, but I don't hear Tea Party advocates bashing "immigration".  I hear them bashing "illegal immigration", which is of course, very different than lawfully entering the country.  That Mr. Gerson does not distinguish between them is unfortunate.  Additionally, Gerson sweeps right over the legitimate questions (constitutional questions) surrounding birthright citizenship and the considerable cultural insensitivity surrounding the placement of a mosque so close to the defining attack of radical Islam upon modern western civilization.  These are questions that vex not only Tea Party advocates, but also folks in the middle--which is why so high a percentage of Americans are on the Tea Party's side of both issues.

Question three: Do you believe that gun rights are relevant to the health-care debate? Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle raised this issue by asserting that, "If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies." Far from reflecting the spirit of the Founders (who knew how to deal with the Whiskey Rebellion), the implied resort to political violence is an affectation -- more foolish than frightening. But it is toxic for the GOP to be associated with the armed and juvenile. 

I agree completely.
Frequent readers know I am not of the Tea Party,  and that I am far less a populist than is required to adhere to much of the movement's ideology.  Gerson is right that the GOP should not be led by the Tea Party--but in his criticism of the intellectual roots of the movement and its current popular appeal, he denigrates a potential source of strength in practical right of center politics.


"The Hammer" said...

It seems the country club Republicans don't care for the Reagan Republicans.

Anonymous said...

The guy who teamed up with Karl Rove to help Bush sell the war in Iraq is warning the GOP that the Tea Parties are "toxic"? Did Gerson not learn a thing from 2008? It wasn't the tea parties that decimated the GOP's credibility over the last decade, it was the likes of Bush, Rove, and Gerson. Some nerve the guy has.

Mudge said...

Anon--let's not be so stingy in giving credit where credit is due. Perhaps the reason the Main Stream Media has been in hibernation since the coronation of HRH Obama is because they are so exhausted from fomenting unprecedented disdain for our last President. They truly went "above and beyond" in carrying out their self-aggrandized "first amendment responsibilities to the American public." It's hard to imagine, in the last two years that it's the same duty-committed media today. That they are not shining their light on the dark corners of government during a government with more dark corners than a darkened ditrigonal icosidodecahedron is understandable given that any light would disturb their well-deserved slumber. That we were "lied to" about WMD is perhaps the biggest lie of the entire debate and few are more complicit in this lie than the(shhh, they're still sleeping) main stream media.

AFROsnow said...

Stop and think if Americans become so scared as to travel anywhere else in the entire world.
Thats impossible.THE'UNITED STATES'
Who is dividing thee?Foreign Powers
Money.They couldn't do it with arms
And You.The BIBLE says for those who sees the truth and knows the truth but to save his life distort the truth shall LOOSE THAT LIFE FIRST.Take away everything.And You will still be unhappy.WHY NOT PAY FOR THE SINS OF YOUR FATHERS AND LEAVE THE REST TO GOD.?

AFROsnow said...

Dear Sir
I never watch fox news but surfing off my channel during comm. stumbled me into your interview with one of their young women they always put out to insult growned folks.With very stupid and one sided questions that which ever way you answer the question you end up offending GOD.
bUT TO MY suprise you chosed to speak the truth and stand by it.

AFROsnow said...

If you will escuse me what are you drinking?Guys like you think everything is a joke?Do you have any idea what the office of the president look like in good times?
Have America been in good times?
To the 1% its always good times YOU MIGHT BE THERE.

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