Michael Gerson (RINO, Country Club Republican) has an Op-Ed in this morning's Washington Post that really sums up the way I (RINO, Country Club Republican) feel about the modern instantiation of the Tea Party. I posted it on Facebook this morning and predictably raised the ire of this blog's most prominent Tea Partier, The Hammer. So let's transfer the debate here, where it belongs.
The Tea Party was a wonderful thing when it began. I attended a rally here in Maryland in 2009, and what I saw there were politically un-involved people who had had enough--enough spending, enough taxes, enough government over-reach--enough. They wanted to be left alone, and they saw the ascendance of Barack Obama as the clearest threat to that impulse.
These were limited government people who were dealing with basic issues of economics and freedom. I watched the movement grow and I asked very basic questions about it--here in the blog. One of the points I made early on was my fear that the Tea Party movement would be hijacked by social issue conservatives. I felt then (and feel now) that the movement would be weakened by diluting its brand, and would likely just appear to be a place for the crankiest among us.
I hesitate to put immigration in the category of "social issues", but for some reason it smells an awful lot like it. At the end of the day, there is someone doing something that we feel is wrong, and there are others who are trying to tell us how wrong we are for feeling that way (i.e. gay marriage, abortion, etc). Naturally, the modern Tea Party has jumped on it like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Don't get me wrong--what is happening on our Southern border is an absolute disgrace, brought on by the President (and to some extent, John Boehner). But the rhetoric is divisive, and the attacks on anyone looking to actually SOLVE PROBLEMS rather than just round them up and deport--only serve to once again, make the Republican Party look like a bunch of unsympathetic old white guys. We need to calmly, and factually, move forward. We will give you comprehensive immigration reform if YOU build a fence. Yes, that means those that are here now are likely to be able to stay.
Where else has the Tea Party gone astray? Contrary to their tendency to expropriate Ronald Reagan for their own purposes, they have made league with the enemy (Liberal Dems) to emasculate our defense budget, treating defense spending as if it is just another line item to be cut, rather than the very basic duty of our government.
The Tea Party of 2014 is a mirror image of the "Occupy" movement. It eschews rationality, logic, and data in favor of emotion and resort to ad hominem attacks--the only difference being that the Tea Party's tactics seem generally to support policies that at least appear to be conservative in nature. Don't get me wrong--what the GOP did in the Mississippi Senatorial primary run-off was despicable and low-down. But what this election showed me (as did the Virginia governor's race last year) was that responsible states have closed primaries. Mississippi's ridiculous system that allowed Democrats to vote in a Republican primary is silly, and Virginia's even more ridiculous caucus system (as in, no primary at all) seems ripe for oldboyism and cronyism.
What is lost in this whole debate though? The fact that the original Tea Party-- the 2009/2010 version--has changed the Republican Party for the better, which was always my hope. Republicans today get squishy on taxes and the role of government at their own peril. The party IS more conservative on economic matters, and that is a very, very good thing.
So that about does it. I was very sympathetic to the Tea Party four and five years ago. Today, not so much.
Standing by for enfilade from Mudge, Hammer.