Wednesday, September 15, 2010



No matter what one thinks of the ideals of what is referred to as the “Tea (“Taxed Enough Already”) Party Movement,” one has to admit that the Tea Party has made some impressive strides in the primary season, the latest being the victories of Tea Party candidates Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware senatorial primary and Carl Paladino in the New York gubernatorial primary. Both ran against entrenched establishmentarian candidates (Mike Castle and Rick Lazio, respectively) and beat them decisively. We’ll see how real this movement is in November, but, at least for now, the Tea Partiers are the most formidable political force in our country. That they have won some big primaries with some quite pathetic candidates, like the aforementioned Christine O’Donnell and equally troubling Sharron Angle, shows the depth of their resonance among what Richard Nixon called “The Silent Majority.”

To the surprise of none of my readers, I am, largely, cheered and encouraged by the progress of the Tea Partiers. I share most of its ideals, especially its rejection of enormous government spending programs, outrageous taxation, and continual insertion of the federal proboscis into the lives of citizens. I also shared the Tea Partiers distaste for, if not abhorrence of, both major parties and the lifetime politicians they harbor. Unfortunately, this non-partisan disgust seems to be giving way to an increasingly cozy relationship with the GOP, but time will tell if ominous signs of that drift prove prescient. In fact, since I held most of these ideals when many of the “leaders” of the tea party movement were burning incense to the likes of such “big government as long as it grows in our direction” acolytes as George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Newt Gingrich, one could make the argument that I am the original tea partier and that the Insightful Pontificator ought to be the manifesto generator of the movement, but even my limited store of humility prevents me from making that argument.

Three further thoughts come up in the wake of Tuesday, 9/14’s highly favorable primary results for the Tea Partiers:

--It is simply amazing, and somewhat comical, to see the reaction of the mainstream media and the political establishment to the success of the tea partiers. Such types are dumbfounded at the notion that those who do the actual work and pay the bills in this country are sick and tired of being forced to finance the social engineering schemes of those who have eschewed real jobs in favor of spending their lives, er, nourishing themselves at the mammary glands of the public sow. Such observers of the political scene exude confidence that the Tea Partiers face certain doom in November when, as one radio reporter put it this morning “moderates hold sway.” They might be right, but, in any case, I would not, and am not, as comfortable in my prognostications as these estimables appear to be with theirs.

--Always at the forefront of political and economic thought, I have long believed that the disenchanted voter who does not vote and/or finds the political system so distasteful comes not from the middle, as the “experts” tell us, but, rather, from the right, broadly defined. Most people find most functions of government, most politicians, and therefore all politics, reprehensible and therefore refuse to choose among those who merely peddle slight variations on the “we will take your money to show you how you ought to live because we so clearly know better than you and, after all, we must finance a life long sinecures worthy of our exalted intellects and obviously humanitarian natures” theme. Perhaps I am wrong and that those who run toward the middle will prevail in November; I, unlike those who hold the opposite position, just don’t know.

--All this being said, I would be a lot more comfortable with the Tea Party Movement if it were still identified with the man who is arguably its founder, CNBC commentator and former bond trader Rich Santelli, rather than with the likes of Sarah Palin, who is the poster girl of a movement, hearkening back at least to George W. Bush, that seems to equate a dearth of grey matter with a surfeit of virtue and leadership ability.


Anonymous said...

Citizen involvement and passion is good for the most part, but you've identified the fundamental flaw of the Tea Party movement: its tendency to "equate a dearth of grey matter with a surfeit of virtue and leadership ability."
The discontent of the "average American" has long history, and it frequently has eruptions that shake the political scene--have we forgotten Ross Perot's 1992 movement already? But for a few critical (and probably inevitable) screwups, he could have been a contender. But it turned out then, as it turning out now, that these proletarian uprisings aren't based on ideology, but personality, anti-intellectual class warfare and emotion. At least Perot was ostensibly an impressive businessman who built a billion-dollar fortune, not a nitwit cutie pie who lucked into national prominence without an ounce of substance.

The Pontificator said...

You bring up some great points, especially about the relative merits of Christine O'Donnell and Ross Perot. Perot was kind of a crank, but he was an accomplished person who made some points that we would have been well served to heed. Moreover, he had a substantial impact on the course of the 1992 election, and maybe history, by effectively winning the election for Bill Clinton, who won that year (and in 1996) with less than a majority of the vote. O’Donnell is a flake.

I do think, though, that while the Tea Party has most of the elements you cite, it is more ideologically driven than most historical populist movements. It is certainly more ideologically based than Perot’s “movement;” Perot was operating in the center while the Tea Party is clearly on the right, broadly defined. And to call the Tea Party a “proletarian uprising” is probably stretching the point on a number of fronts.

Great observations; it’s good to have you as a reader and commenter.