Friday, July 29, 2011

On the Arrogance of the Tea Party

As Americans watch our ridiculous political process play out to what can only be viewed as yet another sign of the decline of our civilization, the world looks in and wonders when the United States reached the point of ungovernability.  When did the "Shining City on the Hill" become a large, multi-ethnic, Western Hemispheric Greece?  No one event signaled this turning point.  It was rather, like the day a man in his forties looks at the scale and realizes he's gained 25 lbs since leaving college---which some would say happened 15 extra calories a day, every day during that period.  We've reached this point slowly, over time, a Chinese water-torture of dysfunction.

I write today to identify and to call out the Tea Party for its role in this decline.  The Tea Party--as a political phenomenon--is long past the point of being praised for its renewed focus on spending and fiscal discipline, its adherence to core constitutional principles, and its advocacy for limited government.  All of these impulses necessarily and effectively impacted the political debate in demonstrably positive ways.  Just look at where we are--2.5 years after the start of the most liberal Presidency ever--both parties are (at some level of abstraction) resigned to cut spending along significant lines.  Yes, one party would also raise taxes, but that it is also advocating deep cuts also, simply cannot be ignored.  This never would have happened without the rise of an effective force insisting on fiscal discipline.  It never would have happened without the Tea Party.

But the Tea Party--and its adherents who somehow believe that they were sent to Washington with the mandate not to think and not to compromise, but rather only to reflexively adhere to their "principles"--has committed sin of arrogance. Although my Wikipedia tells me that "pride" is the deadly sin, I suspect arrogance is close enough to pride to be included.

What do I mean by arrogance?

The (largely freshmen) members of the Republican caucus who are holding up Speaker Boehner's bill to temporarily raise the debt ceiling are doing so under the arrogant (and mistaken) assumption that THEIR principles are more legitimate and more closely held than those held by others in this political debate--and so, come what may, Tea Party principles shall not be compromised.  To some, getting a vote on a balanced budget amendment is more important than the full faith and credit of US financial obligations around the world, including to our own citizens who hold its debt and who faithfully do business with the federal government.

And while I have a great deal of admiration and a large measure of policy coherence with Tea Party principles, it must be remembered that there is a great liberal tradition in this country with DECADES of time and energy behind it who also believes in its principles.  Many in its sway believe that health care is a civil right, and that it ought to be provided by the government for all, at a common level of service.  Many liberals believe that our tax code favors the better off by subsidizing their choices in shelter, and by privileging investments over other income.  Many liberals believe that it is a sign of a civil society that it takes care of its poor and its elderly and that it places that burden on the young and the healthy. 

My point isn't that I believe any of this--it is that THEY DO.  And they believe it JUST as strongly as the Tea Party believes in its principles.  But they--liberals--realize that they work within a democratic political system, and they realize that compromise is ultimately essential to getting what they want done.  Do any of the mainly conservative readers of this blog believe that liberals "like" Obamacare?  Of course not.  They wanted single payer and they won't rest until they get it.  But they did not bring the whole works to a grinding halt in order to get it--rather, they used the power they had to get great big ship of state moving in the direction they wanted it to go, and they figured they'd come back for the rest later, when they were more powerful and when political conditions favored their approach.

I find myself in the embarrassing and unenviable position of considering the Democratic Party to be the more logical and pragmatic of the two major parties on the Hill, this after three decades of considering them to be the party of the heart (emotion) rather than the party of the head (reason). 

I still believe in the Republican Party, and I hold out hope that some kind of compromise will be reached to avert the second financial meltdown in three years.  But the longer the Tea Party stamps its feet and holds its breath, the more likely we are to face another real and deep crisis.

Grow up, Tea Party.  It's time for the adults among you to pitch in and get to work.


"The Hammer" said...

CW what in the hell are we gonna do with you?

Arrogance? The Tea Party is arrogant? What do you call arrogance in the face of arrogance? The Democrats have dedicated their political lives to spending this country into bankruptcy. They care not a whit about credit ratings or defaults. They care about control.

The Tea Party freshmen are frustrated. They are frustrated about being taken to the cleaners every time Congress has a budget showdown. Now, Boehner's plan call for a nice healthy spending "cut". But with baseline budgeting they're not really cuts at all, but reductions in the increases. Furthermore they stretched out over 10 years. So that means five years from now a potentially Democratic Congress will be bound by this agreement? Hell no. One Congress can't obligate a future Congress like that. Point being, the Democrats can say anything they like and renege almost immediately...BUT THE TAX INCREASES HAPPEN NOW! Look at Reagan, he signed of on a modest tax increase for promises of spending cuts that never happened.

I'm all for compromise but sometimes you have to take a stand and say enough is enough. My God if not now when?

LTKNoles said...

When I read comments in the paper made by Tea Party Freshmen saying "we can shut down the federal government, we don't need the FBI or CIA" I shutter at the ignorance of these folks. Hah? Scary stuff...

Sally said...

I finally somewhat agree with you on the Tea Party. I've been cringing watch this drama unfold the last two days. But many of the freshmen went along with Boehner last night - the 25 holdouts were a lot of old guard conservatives like Steve King and Louie Gohmert.

But on the Democrats being more more logical and pragmatic-did you hit your head? Look how their leadership has conducted themselves this week! 'They're blowing up the planet,' 'they want to destroy Christmas,' 'they seek a dictatorship.' While one can point to a few on the Senate side who haven't lost their minds, and it's been embarrassing watching the Republicans, I can't believe you'd describe that crowd as logical and pragmatic.

Anonymous said...

The Tea Party is not to blame for this mess - we all are...we spend and have been spending too much money, the government is too big and the debt ceiling debate is a red herring.

The real debate should be about how many billions we should stop spending. The real mandate is to stop spending right now, this very second. If you bought a $1000 plasma screen TV yesterday and lost your job today, what would you do? You'd return the stinking TV and stop spending on anything other than necessities and you'd discover that what's "necessary" has changed quite a bit. That's what America needs to do - of course, we have a government, a populace, a President and a MSM that are completely delusional.

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