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The Tea Partiers are good people with good ideas

This posting is about politics in the USA. Please realise that it is a simplification, what mathematicians call a first approximation, more true than false, and sufficiently true to be worth saying so that it may perhaps then be modified and qualified towards the actual truth.

I ought also to admit that I have never set foot in the USA, and that I got the notions that follow from the Internet, and before that from watching (as I still now watch) USA television shows (mostly comedy and cop shows). We here in Britain get lots of those. I freely admit that distance, instead of lending clarity to my eye, could merely have lent and be lending bullshit to it. In fact, I do admit it. But the bullshit it has lent includes the kind of bullshit that wins and loses USA elections. First approximation truth about what is being perceived, about what big bullshit picture is being believed in, is often sufficient to win or lose an election. For as we all know, a big part of reality in politics is perception. Voters in the USA get a lot of their ideas about politics in the USA from the Internet and from television shows, or so it says on the Internet and on television.

So here goes.

In political USA now, there are now four important groups of people. There are Democrats, Old School Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Voters. Political outcomes were determined by what the Voters decided about the first two. They are now determined by what the Voters decide about the other three.

Voters used to think that Democrats were good people with bad ideas, clever, but mostly only at excusing their bad ideas. Democrats sincerely believed in bloating the government, taxing, regulating and generally screwing things up. But they applied these bad ideas to all, without fear or favour. Personally, they had blue collars and were honest hardworking folks. They did not lie or cheat. They looked you in the eye and treated you right.

Voters used to think that Old School Republicans were bad people with good ideas. Republicans believed in business success, low taxes, less regulation, and generally getting the US economy motoring along. Trouble is that they were also rich and nasty snobs, and corrupt. They used their grasp of economics mostly to get rich themselves. Politically, they applied their ideas only in ways that suited them. If a tax or a regulation happened to suit them or their huge country club network of rich and nasty and snobbish friends, then they would, on the quiet, be for it. For them, business-friendly government meant a government friendly to their own businesses. If, on the other hand, your collar was blue, they’d deregulate and tax-cut the hell out of you, for the good of all, and for the good of themselves especially.

Hard to choose, wasn’t it? No wonder it was a dead heat, decade after decade. Good but stupid idiots versus clever but sneaky bastards.

It still is a dead heat, between Democrats and Old School Republicans, but this is because things are now moving towards Voters thinking that Democrats are bad people with bad ideas, and that Old School Republicans are bad people with bad ideas. Democrats now look like (or are being revealed as always having been) greedy and malevolent bastards with the same old bad ideas as ever. Old School Republicans are the same rich and greedy snobbish bastards they always were, but are now seen to be infected by (or revealed as always having believed in) bad ideas much like those of their opponents.

Enter the Tea Party.

The Tea Partiers started out as people whom the Voters regarded as dubious people with dubious ideas, and are moving towards being people whom the Voters believe to be …

I need some way to emphasise this next bit. Pay careful attention. I know, I’ll put the next five words into the title of this posting.

good people with good ideas. The Tea Partiers have good ideas, which they sincerely want to apply to all without fear or favour. They are good people who work or worked for their living, will look you in the eye and treat you right, no matter what colour your collar, or anything else about you.

The Tea Partiers thus threaten to destroy both the Democrats and the Old School Republicans. They threaten to destroy the Democrats by destroying them, and to destroy the Old School Republicans by replacing them with different Republicans, Tea Party Republicans.

The Democrats say that the Tea Partiers are “extreme” Republicans, Republicans who are even nastier. They wish. The Tea Partiers are indeed creating a new sort of Republican, but not an even nastier Republican. They are creating nice Republicans. Electorally, the Tea Partiers are cleansing the selfish richness and snobbishness and nastiness out of the Republican brand, leaving the ideas that the Republicans appeared once to believe in untouched, and renewed in strength and quality. If the Republican brand resists too much, the Tea Partiers will destroy it and make another.

The recent financial melt-down is, of course, crucial to all of the above. In a crisis, ideas matter. And the Internet, the new idea spreader, is also crucial. USA citizens need no longer submit to being told what they think about bad times, by the bad people with bad ideas who are to blame for these bad times. Democrats are being revealed as nasty, by the melt-down and the Internet. Old School Republicans are being revealed as stupid, by the melt-down and the Internet. The Tea Partiers are being revealed as being good people with good ideas, by the melt-down and the Internet. No melt-down and no Internet, and you are back to the old dead heat between nice idiot Democrats and sneaky bastard Old School Republicans. And the Tea Party? Without the melt-down and the Internet, there is no Tea Party. (According to television, there is, still, no Tea Party, only criminals.)

No wonder the Democrats and the Old School Republicans hate and fear the Tea Party and are trying anything and everything they can think of to make it seem like bad people with bad ideas. Trouble is, all that the critics of the Tea Party can now think of to say about the Tea Party just adds to the impression that such critics are nasty and stupid bastards.

This is a snapshot of now, not a prophecy about the next century. This is how USA politics is now and the direction that USA politics is moving in now. I don’t say that things will continue this way indefinitely. In particular, how will the Tea Partiers take to being part of the government, to having to grapple face-to-face with the melt-down? The continuing melt-down and the Internet might then turn round and reveal the Tea Partiers to be just another bunch of good idiots or nasty bastards, or just nasty idiots. But, the melt-down and the Internet are not doing that now. They are doing the exact opposite of that.

36 comments to The Tea Partiers are good people with good ideas

  • Johnthan Pearce

    Brian, you should go to the USA. You’d really enjoy it.

  • The party of FDR and JFK always had a snobbish element. When it morphed into the Party of George Soros, Warren Buffet , Hollywood and Wall Street it lost any blue collar credibility it ever had. Thus Obama’s insult in 2008 about the bitter clingers to religion and guns. Which was pronounced at a billionaires fundraising party.

    Also people caught on that the meltdown was largely caused by the Community Reinvestment Act that forced banks to make loans to people with zero credit. Barney Frank (D Massachusetts ) kept the “dice rolling’ . that one. Bush and his team tried to bring it under control but they failed. Their great mistake was in not trying harder. Bush did make a stab at fixing Social Security and again failed,

    The Tea Party is about a lot of things, I’ve been to two rallies in New York and DC. In New York it was mostly small government, libertarian types. In DC it included lots of social conservatives. The Tea Party more than anything else is a reuniting of parts of the GOP base that fell out with each other under Bush.

    If one can fault Bush and his team for anything it is for not understanding the small government/ libertarian wing of the Reagan coalition. This happened in part because it was the Social Conservatives who were willing to knock on doors and do all the vital, but boring work involved in politics.

    Brian I noticed you missed the fact that the old country club Republicans almost ceased to exist in the 1980s. Bush 41 looked like one, but he was more of an oil patch guy who was more interested in national security and diplomacy than anything else.

    The Reagan coalition was a three legged stool based on anti communists, social conservatives and small government types. Your take on the GOP looks like its at least 60 years out of date.

    Still you make some good points and I look forward to seeing how the discussion develops.

  • newrouter

    [Republicans] If, on the other hand, your collar was blue, they’d deregulate”

    The Decline of Unions, Part One: President Jimmy Carter, Union-Buster Extraordinaire

    Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Carter destroyed Big Labor far more than Reagan (Link)

  • As a first approximation I’d have to say it’s a pretty good one, Brian.

    I also think you’re right about impreessions being formed by our TV exports. In the 70’s I went to school in England and noted that almost everything people thought they knew about the US was based on watching either Kojak or Starsky & Hutch.

    And Johnathan is right. You might find you like it here.

  • Kim du Toit

    Brian, if you can stand living amidst barely-organized chaos — and hey, you’re a libertarian, you should be able to handle it — feel free to come and stay with us here in North Texas, anytime. Recreational shooting is mandatory, however. THAT part is very well organized.

  • Bod

    I could probably stand you a few days in CT too Brian, if you’d like to go on a fact-finding expedition!

  • Kevin B

    I’m not sure it’s about good guys with bad ideas or bad guys with good ideas. I reckon there are, like pretty much everywhere else, two tribes and a middle.

    In the US, the actual tribes are maybe twenty – twenty, leaving the middle as sixty per-cent, and those in the midldle were more or less happy to let the politicians rule. Oh they occasionaly showed their displeasure by swapping sides and giving the other lot a go but by and large they left politics to those who wanted to do the lousy job while they got on with their lives. This state of affairs led to an elite ruliing class developing while few outside the tribal elites were paying attention.

    Then the elite ruling class fucked up. Totally, completely, comprehensively fucked up, and the middle suddenly noticed that they had let this elite class develop, and that they were paying a big price for their inattention. So some of them decided that they needed to start getting involved with the running of their country again or they were stuffed.

    Being Americans and largely conservative leaning, whether dems or reps, they didn’t throw tantrums or storm down Main Street breaking things, they held rallies and attended town hall meetings where they demanded that their representatives start doing the things that they wanted done rather than pandering to the special interests and lobbyists that lined the supposed representatives’s pockets.

    So now the elites are desperately trying to cling on to their priviledged positions while the Tea Party tries to either get them to toe the line or kick them into touch.

    And one irony is that after November, there were some who thought the Tea Partiers might go back to sleep again but, if that was ever a risk, last week’s shenanigans over the Tucson shootings, where the elite tried to blame them for the actions of a madmen, has certainly made sure the guys and gals of the TP are back focused like a laser.

  • Richard Thomas

    Brian, I think you make a bit of an error by characterizing “old democrats”/democrats and “old republicans”/republicans in a fairly static way. Let’s not forget that the republicans were on the “right: side of the civil rights movement and that Marting Luther King and Abraham Lincoln were republicans.

    Both parties have changed a lot. When there was a rich, old, white guy hegemony (sexuality being something not spoken about), both parties were more purely ideologically divided. As suffrage became universal, the parties divided into rich old white guys supported by rich old white guys and rich old white guys supported by everybody else (Black people, women, homosexuals, the poor). The Republicans became the “haves” and the Democrats the “have nots” (Note that I’m not just speaking money-wise here). The republicans taking fundamentalist Christianity into the fold surely did not help much.

    Here’s where it starts to get messy. The “have nots” are in many ways justifiably upset because their situation can (disregarding temporarily the opportunity for self improvement) be argued to have been cause by others. Thus, they can be pitted against the “haves” by the manipulative. Of course, the flaw is that the “haves” that exist currently are not the ones responsible for their condition, those guys are dead and gone by now.

    So for a while, you have the population divided and pitted against each other. Perfect for the exploitation by those in power. Pick a team, red or blue, it doesn’t matter, get some backers then get ready to board the gravy train.

    So now you have two parties, both in thrall to corporate (including unions) coffers for their continued existence, one of which has to spend funds on “social programs” for their voters and one which does not but both of which need to send taxpayer funds back to their corporate backers. All you have to do is try and keep things as much your way as possible. Sure, a few voters might slip through the net now and then and the other side wins but the grass is always greener and you’ll be back in in a few years.

    Except that this is a cumulative game you’re playing. Not unlike the game “Buckaroo”, eventually, you’ll just add one to many pick-axe to the back of that donkey. Only instead of a pick-axe, it was Bush. I won’t bore with the details but he was a pretty disastrous president from a conservative’s point of view. The Tea Party was starting to shape up in the last year of his presidency but look at the trash the republicans offered up as hopefuls in 2008, finally culminating in McCain, a man who interrupted his campaign to vote for the bailout. What was a conservative to do? It’s a surprise that Obama didn’t win by a landslide. I think only simple-minded “lesser of two evils” thinking helped him there.

    But now the election is over and that “lesser of two evils” thinking could be dropped for a while. So what next? Obama is obviously taking the country into a nosedive and the Republicans clearly have little to offer conservatives so the fledgling tea party, out there waiting starts to get some wind in it sails.

    So we are left with two basically defunct parties and a powerful movement. In many ways, the tea party is not so much about “good ideas” since those good ideas have always been there, it’s about allowing those good ideas to focus on something other than the traditional blue team/red team divisiveness, providing a point of leverage for voters needs and opinions to be addressed rather than simply be used as pawns in sick power games.

    The risk with the tea party is that it will become absorbed into the political structure and neutered. It is obvious that the Republican party has already attempted this to varying degrees. Things like the likes of Sarah Palin joining in are worrisome The one sad ray of hope is that things really have gotten so bad that the tea party will retain its integrity. But we don’t want things to stay bad, we want them to improve. Unfortunately, that could mean that if the Tea Party actually manages to attain many of its goals, it will be unable to sustain itself and we’ll be better off but not really getting where we need to be.

    Anyway, think I’ve digressed a little much there. Please be aware that I am aware I used a very broad brush in some places and that one shouldn’t group people like that.

  • Thomas

    Come mid-May (no earlier than that, it will still be too chilly), go see the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. The wineries, the Glenn Curtiss museum (in Hammondsport I believe), all of it is terrific.

    Then, for a real treasure that just about nobody outside the area knows about, go a bit west to Livingston county and check out Letchworth state park. It’s a miniature Grand Canyon, and quite spectacular.

    Continue west to Buffalo and get some Duff’s wings. Best wings in the country.

    Turn around, go to Rochester and check out the Lilac fest and the Lake Ontario beaches. Check the web for concerts at the Highland Bowl, there’s all sorts of good stuff there, usually dirt cheap.

    Continue east to Adirondack state park — a state park the size of Massachusetts — and see Whiteface mountain.

    Turn north and drive up to Plattsburgh and Montreal. Much as I love my western NY, this is the most beautiful part of the state. Take time to see Au Sable chasm, it’s well worthwhile. Or turn south and go see Manhattan, the Intrepid, and so on.

    I understand the rest of the country has some neat stuff too.

  • llamas

    Brian – I think you are 90% there.

    Just to add that what most people would think of as the core ‘old-school’ Republican set, are in fact Democrats and have been for generations. I’m just now reading “Last Call”, Daniel Okrent’s history of Prohibition (+1, BTW, highly recommend) and it’s amazing how, even back then, the real snobs and the real racists and the real dividers – were Democrats. One of the greatest triumphs of the modern Democratic party may be their sucess in making the voters believe that the Republicans were all lily-white country-club racists, in spite of all the evidence – when in fact it was them all along.

    Welcome in SE Michigan, target shooting is a non-elective here too. But we have TyPhoo tea, Heinz baked beans and Hob Nobs to ‘tice you.



  • If memory serves – although it’s being rebellious at the moment – here’s one Simpsons episode which features the Republicans bearing a banner saying, “We are evil” and the Democrats bearing a banner saying, “We are useless.”

  • Sounds pretty much spot on from where I am standing (living periodically in Westport, Connecticut at the moment).

    Unfortunately, no matter what the stripe (Red, Blue or Tea?), when an elected representative gets to DC, they are bombarded by lobbyists offering cash incentives for their own brand of special pleading.

    I accept that a Tea Party representative may have great ideals, however with the integrity of Washington it’s very difficult for ordinary people to retain their integrity, corruption being at the heart of modern US politics (despite protestations to the contrary).

    “The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop” — P.J. O’Rourke

  • RRS

    Here is another “Tea-Party” motivation base, which is closer to the spark of Rick Santelli’s outburst:

    What has been brought into clearer focus is the issue of redistribution, which is now evolving more strongly into more aspects of governmental actions.

    Previously most attention has been focused on “spread the wealth around” type of politics (tax the “rich” etc). Most of the “noise” has been generated around redistribution of incomes, plus a modest amount of wealth transfers (death taxes).

    What is evolving is a redistribution of COSTS

    That is what has been going on with mortgage default costs and other financial activities losses.

    That is why those issues ignited the “Tea Party” reactions – people sensed ( if they did not realize or have a measure) that costs incurred by others were being transferred to them (since the burden of government actions would fall on the whole economy).

    This has certainly been recognized now, on the record, for healthcare costs.

    In the cases on ObamaCare in Florida, the Federal position is that “cost-spreading” of Health CARE is exactly the function of “health INSURANCE,” and that such “cost-spreading” is Interstate Commerce, which give Congress the power to mandate the payment of premiums (purchase of insurance) in order to regulate that cost-spreading.

    In the most recent actions of FERC to “allocate costs” (their words) for development of Wind Energy Sources in the mid-west the WSJ calls this “socialization” of costs – it’s redistribution of costs to those who get no benefit. AND it’s totally bureaucratically determined.

    Examination of the many forms of subsidies and transfers of funding to states are buttressing these “Tea- Party” type obsevations and reactions. The costs of public employee benefits, costs of state education systems, costs of state and municipal borrowing, and many other functions are being redistributed; it has been creeping up to what is now an accelerating pace involving ever increasing amounts.

    So, what “Tea-Party” people sense is a “backdoor” to centralized socialism. When there are not adequate incomes for the political class to redistribute, the politicians will shift to redistribute costs (which are never in short supply) – by any means at hand.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Brian, that is not a bad estimate given your distance. Add in what Kevin B says, and you are even closer. From my point of view [technically a registered Republican, describe myself as a TEA Party Conservative and an Oathkeeper, and fully cognizant that the Institutional Republican party is as much an enemy of the TEA Party and the Constitution as the Democrats] we are approaching a cusp. First, will the Republicans return to their old Vichy-ite ways? If so, they will find themselves as the 3rd largest party. Second, after the Leftist MSM [pardon the redundancy] and administration’s reaction and lies about Tucson; there are more than a few who expect organized violence committed by the opponents of the TEA Party. If such does take place, political life in this country is going to be interesting in the Chinese sense.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Here is a somewhat jaded and cynical take on the grassroots Tea Party revolution, but just because it’s cynical and jaded doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    Up until the Congressional elections I found the whole Tea Party thing quite exciting and full of promise for the future, but since the election things seem to be backtracking already. Several top ranking Tea Party backed Congressmen have already begun to show signs of being “co-opted”, and making deals with the Republicans.
    Even if the impossible were to happen, and the Tea Partiers, once in power, were to stick closely to their anti-tax, anti-big government, anti-debt ceiling rise promises then they would soon be voted out by an apathetic, dumbed down, entitlement seeking electorate. when the going gets tough, and the other parties promise them bailouts.
    If the Tea Party were to overcome all of the above, and still retain the reigns of power, within a decade their ranks would be bursting with individuals like Cameron and Blair, smooth talking and very ambitious conmen, who might have been Democrats or Republicans in an earlier age, but see their opportunities maximised by jumping on the Tea Party bandwagon.

    Well I did warn you, I am pretty jaded and cynical after fifty years following politics. However, I don’t suffer from the other affliction that is usually associated with being jaded and cynical, being bitter and twisted. I now keep politics at arms length, invest my money as a contrarian, look after myself and my family, and enjoy life.
    I leave the world to fend for itself.

  • newrouter

    Voters used to think that Old School Republicans were bad people with good ideas. Republicans believed in business success, low taxes, less regulation, and generally getting the US economy motoring along. Trouble is that they were also rich and nasty snobs, and corrupt.

    who told them this? and is it true?

  • West

    I think that is a pretty astute assessment of US politics over the last 20 years or so. Amazing you came to it from your vantage point. Before that 20-year span, things were different.

    But I agree with all the others here that you should visit. We would both benefit.

    As for the snapshot of US culture/society you get from TV and the Internet, think of what the UK looks like through the same pinhole, and you might get an idea of just how narrow and incorrect that picture is, although from your astute summarisation of US politics, your personal picture might not be that far off. My hat is off to you!

  • West

    John G, It’s a small world. I grew up in Westport, and am working in Southport. And here we are commenting on a UK blog. How weird is that?

  • I have set foot in the USA. I was in Miami airport for 6 hours, once. So I feel my wisdom is sorely needed here.

    A couple of points. First, I have yet to come across a mainstream Internet publication that does not lay into the Tea Party every chance it gets. The US MSM, the UK MSM, even the Ecuadorian MSM for chrissakes: there seems to be a universal consensus that the Tea Party is a motley, opportunistic alliance of gun worshippers, religious nutters, KKK pointy-heads, paranoic conspiracy theorists, log cabin sociopaths and redneck wife-beaters. The only reason so far I can adduce to justify supporting this movement is the hysterical shrillness of the opposition to it: that alone makes me think they must be doing something right, or have a few good ideas. But I wonder how many other people lean towards this contrarian way of thinking, and how on earth the TP can keep up the momentum with so much vitriol being flung at them. As the original poster says, the bullshit we get in the media may be bullshit, but it matters.

    My second question is perhaps a naive one, but I have often wondered why the TP is so ready to identify itself as a tendency within the GOP and not, instead, insist on a more independent stance, which might be tactically more productive. As it is, the RINOs can count on the votes of TPers through party loyalty. Republicans, according to this possibly misguided and misinformed analysis, ought to be made to work harder for the seal of TP approval. There ought to be a threat of “if we don’t like you, we’ll go elsewhere” which currently there is not. Is this a correct or tenable point of view?

  • Oops. Only the “have” was supposed to be in boldface. Never mind.

  • John

    I feel like I’m letting the side down because I’m right in the middle of this but can’t tell you a whole lot.

    I suspect that a big source of misapprehension is in thinking that they are more organized and monolithic than they are. I *think* the “party” part isn’t a reference to a political party, but rather to a social get together. I think it is supposed to invoke a social gathering of anti-tax folks, with echoes of the Boston Tea Party. I know for years I’ve been seeing bumper stickers etc. that say things like, “Time to throw their tea in the harbor again.”

    Endivio R:

    You *might* be underestimating the power of the two party system in the US. (Or maybe you’re not…) Most people here can’t conceive of operating outside of that paradigm politically. In the minds of most people, the choice is Democrat or Republican. Since the Democrats are *never* going to be sympathetic to the idea that taxes should be lower, the TEA folks are necessarily going to answer “Republican” and work through that party. “Neither” isn’t really something in the mindset.

    One more point which may be of interest:
    I was at dinner with a group of old friends and family when a woman in the group from California said, “You guys aren’t in the TEA Party are you!?” (in answer to a political remark). The chorus of “no” was universal. Then one guy said, “But I’m very sympathetic” and the chorus of “Oh, yeah, me too, sure.” went around the table.


  • Brian save yourself the angst and visit Canada instead. We have tea and coffee, old and new world. All of the nanny state you are familiar with from UK, total absence of leadership (UK and US) and the same MSM mis-direction as the US. Plus we have real issues: what to replace the Armed Forces 40 year old helicopters with, which ocean to send our one remaining ship to and when, why we can’t get a meaningful UN position despite prostituting our principles constantly (and in both official languages) and, with real foresight, having an industry watchdog agency voluntarily ban the playing of Dire Straits Money for Nothing lest it offend anyone, anywhere, anytime — ha, who else is that progressive! We don’t need a government to curtail our liberty, we do it ourselves!
    Icing on the cake? We have solved the whole good/bad people and ideas thing: we have mandated that only bad people with really bad ideas can ever run for election because nothing that ever happens here is our fault anyways — well, except for any loss at any level by any Canadian hockey team to the Russians — that is the basis for a Royal Commission, a national year of mourning and global warming.
    Forget the US: come here and watch those same US shows, just newer and ahead of UK scheduling. Now that you have a taste of snow you will be ready for real winter. No more than 3 or 4 more months tops: just in time for our next election — we have them every six months or so now, Italian style, shows how cosmopolitan we are!

  • Laird

    Endivio, the amount of vitriol being flung at the tea party is probably substantially higher in other countries than in the US itself. Oh, there’s no shortage of it here, of course, but there is also quite a bit of contrary opinion once you get beyond the MSM and outside of the bastions of liberalism in the Northeast and west coast. Much of that is in the local newspapers and talk radio stations, most of which (like the nation as a whole) are fairly conservative and sympathetic to much of the tea party movement. There’s a reason Fox News thrives here (and that it is so hated by the intelligentsia).

    In all of this it’s important to remember, as John has already noted, that the “tea party” isn’t a political party at all, but rather is a social/political movement, and a truly grass-roots one at that. It most certainly is, as you said, a “motley” group; it includes quite a broad spectrum of people who, for the most part, have until now been largely apolitical. That’s what makes it different, and I think may give it staying power. The core of the movement is a desire for smaller government and lower taxes, and that’s enough for now. If it begins to enjoy some measurable and lasting success it will undoubtedly begin to fragment, as the religious social conservatives (who harbor an authoritarian streak) become uncomfortable with the libertarian element. But that’s tomorrow’s problem.

    Most of the tea party people feel most at home in the Republican Party simply because our duopolistic political system is so entrenched that they can’t conceive of anything different, and the Republicans are a better (if highly imperfect) fit than the Democrats. Very few of them vote Libertarian or any other minor political party. Instead, they’re trying to remake the Republican Party into something they find more palatable, and in large measure the Republican Party is trying to co-opt the movement and “domesticate” it. It will be interesting to see which side prevails in that struggle over the next few years.

    What is also interesting is hearing a lot of tea party voices talking about starting a new political party if they can’t sufficiently remake the Republican Party. Such a party wouldn’t necessarily (or even probably) be libertarian, because to the extent it even has one the tea party “philosophy” isn’t that developed or internally coherent, but it would certainly be a move in that direction. I don’t know if that would ever happen, but merely hearing the talk gives me hope that people are starting to think the previously unthinkable.

  • However, I don’t suffer from the other affliction that is usually associated with being jaded and cynical, being bitter and twisted. I now keep politics at arms length, invest my money as a contrarian, look after myself and my family, and enjoy life.
    I leave the world to fend for itself.

    A big ‘me too’ there, John.

  • Graham: thank you, I needed the chuckle:-)

  • reg

    as to your second question

    Ross Perot

    ie 3rd party blowback

  • One of the best pieces I have read on the tea party movement I have seen written by someone across the pond. In fact its far better than most pieces about the tea party movement written in the US.

    The tea party movement is an amalgam of all sorts of groups of limited government types that tried it in both major parties and even a few smaller ones. Instead of concentrating what divides us, we have gone to our core values (3 cores) and stuck to them.

    There are those on the social-conservative (far) right who are as threatened by this as the “mainstream Republicans” because its so focused on merely fiscal issues.

    Conservative/libertarian leaders have failed people, so they decided to take things into their own hands.

  • Tedd

    I concur with a lot of previous posters about Brian’s characterization of the parties and where their support lies. Particularly in the case of the GOP, the country-club-Republican meme goes back to the 30s, and has probably not been very accurate for many decades — if it ever was. But it was largely the product of Hollywood (and, later, TV), and they’re still pushing it, so it’s understandable that people outside the U.S. believe it. Heck, plenty of people within the U.S. believe it!

    But the most important part of Brian’s thesis is the dynamic that the Tea Party will create. I’ve believed for a long time that the U.S. badly needs a credible third party (if not even a fourth). I don’t think two dominant parties is good for any democratic system. It’s too divisive. The U.S. is only able to make it work because of intelligent rules of procedure in Congress that force some degree of compromise and cooperation. Unfortunately, the net result of that is pork-barrel politics which, of course, is exactly what the Tea Party developed to combat.

    For a decade or more now, political strategists in the U.S. seem to have been obsessed with “getting out the base.” I’m not convinced. I think there’s evidence in several recent elections that the outcome turned on which of the two poor choices the non-committed voters decided to try. If the Tea Party movement takes over the Republicans and satisfies those non-committed voters it will be influential for a long time.

  • Paul Marks

    Andrew Ian Dodge knows what he is talking about – he goes to events, I just exchange e.mails and watch things on computer and television screens.

    Mr Dodge also has come into contact with the idiot section of the movement (yes it exists) such as the man at Tea Party Express who insists on talking about social issues – no surprise that the MSM love him and always have him on (“Dear Sir – if you were doing the movement any good do you think the left establishment media would give you a platform so often?” is something that should be said to him more often).

    Every day what Brian Micklethwait points to here should be banged home.

    The Tea Party movement (right from the start – when it reacted to those despairing comments by the financial journalist on CNBC “the people should demonstrate against wild spending like this…”) has been about OUT OF CONTROL GOVERNMENT SPENDING (even taxes are a secondary concern).

    Someone may be a social conservative OR NOT, someone may be religous OR NOT (see the banners of the Randian Objectivists – proud athiests). But what makes a Tea Party person is that you want to ROLL BACK GOVERNMENT SPENDING.

    That is the definition – that is what the movement is about.

    And Brian is quite correct – the vast majority of people involved are not Country Club or Wall Street types. They are ordinary people all over the United States.

    That is the movement – that is the movement that the left (the MSM and so on) so desperately want to discredit (with their lies about how grandmothers and so on are “violent” and “racist”). This is the movement that the schools and universities work so hard to brainwash students against.

    Only for (at least some of the students) to think “but my mother and father are not violent and they are not racists” – of course the message of the education system (of the schools and the universities) is that Barack Obama (and the government generally) are young peoples “true” mother and father (those silly people back home are just a biological accident – one should just have contempt and pity for them, not take them seriously).

    Will the left (such as the education system and the MSM) succeed in controlling the minds of the young (or most of them)? Or will movements such as the Tea Party be able to reach out to the young, to let them know there is an alternative to ever bigger state controlling every aspect of human life? Perhaps even letting them know that their parents (the “biological accident” ones) are not evil, violent, racist, space monsters, after all.

    It is not an exageration to say that the future of civilization depends on the answer to this question.

  • I wrote this posting in a way that rather blurred two things: reality, and what voters think is reality and are being told is reality – what I think, and what I think Americans are thinking. It is mostly about the second.

    So, for instance, I don’t know what Old School Republicans are really like, and I admitted this kind of thing in my second paragraph. I wasn’t wrong about Old School Republicans, nor was I right. But I do know how they are shown on many American TV shows, still. I am right about that, and am pleased that commenters have agreed.

    One of my current TV comedy favourites (as it has been ever since it was first shown here about a decade ago) is Dharma and Greg, now being re-run on Fiver TV here in the UK. Greg’s mother is a classic clever nasty Republican. My all time favourite line of hers, all the more resonant what with recent events, is: “There’s a problem and I’m throwing money at it.”

    (In the cop shows, and especially in the movies, clever nasty Republicans are the villains, again and again, along with more downmarket off-the-scale right wing wingnuts.)

    Dharma’s Dad, on the other hand, is a classic good but stupid lefty. He means well, but his drug-addled brain has almost totally collapsed. To see him and still believe that American TV is straightforward leftist propaganda is to get it seriously wrong.

  • Well said Paul and yes, there is an section that are not in it or the 3cores but for their own agenda.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Brian – the entertainment media is not 100% leftist propaganda, but there is a vast amount of leftist propaganda in it.

    Including on Fox entertainment – although sometimes the shows (especially the Seth Macfarlane animations) are so over-the-top leftist propaganda that I think they are counter productive (how many times can Sarah Palin supporters be shown as members of the SS before even college students say “this stuff is all propaganda – and ultra crude propaganda at that”).

    On the “clever but nasty Republicans” – these would be Wall Street types, and as Ann Coulter never tires of pointing out THEY BANKROLLED THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN.

    There is even a book out on it “Bought and Paid For” (it goes back to 2004).

    Of course I think these people (although very rich) are nasty and STUPID. For example, I believe the Financial “Reform” Act will eventually be used against Obama’s “friends” on Wall Street as well as their competitors (it gives arbitrary power to the govenrment to basically destroy anyone in the financial industry).

    However, I do not see Barack Obama as the “clever” people on Wall Street see him.

    They see him as like themselves – a corrupt scumbag after money (and regarding anything like “honour” with contempt).

    I see him (and his key allies) as much worse than this.

  • Paul Marks

    It should also be remembered that some of the high ups at JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America, and so on (perhaps even at Goldman Sachs itself) have a sort of morality (or memory of one).

    They are indeed utterly corrupt and will accept untold billions of stolen money without batting an eyelid, but…….

    They also at least half remember the doctrines that were taught at their schools and universities – the collectivist far left doctrines.

    They actually hope that Barack Obama is not like them – that he is not a corrupt scumbag, that he actually believes in the far left doctrines they remember (or half remember).

    And their hope (their secret wish) has been granted – for although he has accepted their money and other help (for years) he truly does believe in the things these high ups in the financial industry (and elsewhere) sort of remember from college.

    The things that have the rosy glow of “goodness” in their memory.

    So do Obama’s true allies – they all believe in these doctrines, and there are very many of these people (in key positions now).

    They are Legion.

  • SKPeterson

    Good observations of the current American political scene. What was noted above regarding the socialization of costs is indeed deep at the heart of what drives the Tea Party movement. As more information was brought out, particularly via the internet, on the complete botching of the economy by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve and how both party’s in Congress aided, abetted and continually enabled such shenanigans, people began to take notice. Other factors – such as the the incestuous relationship that exists between Goldman, Treasury and the Fed also came to light. The bailouts were rightly viewed as the political and banking elites gaming the system to their advantage by protecting their profits and transferring the costs to the average “Main Street” taxpayers and small businesses. That royally pissed off a huge segment of the population that supported the Tea Party and the candidates they blessed.

    Thus, the old guard of the Left and Right was exposed – the Democrats for being stupidly evil and the Republicans for being evilly stupid. Neither party came across as being interested in the “general welfare” of the Republic. Both parties came out as adherents to a failed elite-boosting Keynesianism, if not sliding headlong into advocacy for an Americanized fascist/socialist admixture.

  • David Lucas

    1) Wall street always back both sides in the presidential election – often the same bank will back both sides. The motivation is access and influence after the election.

    2) The Tea Party has attracted – and has I believe tried to manage a vast array of nutters who wish to get involved for thier own reasons (Birthers, Truthers, Klansmen, etc. etc.). They cannot afford to find out that they have let a nutter get to be an organiser or representative.

  • Paul Marks

    David Lucas.

    1. – Bascially wrong on both counts.

    Wall Street people did not equally back both sides in the election – the money overwhelmingly went for Obama over McCain (and that was before it became clear Obama was going to win).

    Nor was it the case that it was all corrupt motivation – although there was some of that (as “Bought and Paid For” makes clear the more corrupt people on Wall Street understood that Barack Obama had no honour as that term is understood in conventional society, whereas there was always that nasty nagging doubt that McCain might have a problem with blatent theft – at least once in awhile).

    However, there was also MORALITY (of a sort) involved on the Obama supporting side. For example, the top man at J.P. Morgan Chase consideres himself a Progressive (as do many other people in the financial industry) he was following the half remembered doctrines he sort of understood at college.

    Obama wants to use government to help people, therefore he is good, therefore I should support him.

    A perfectly “moral” position (if one’s mind is as twisted as the mind of the top man at J.P. Morgan Chase).


    How charming of you Mr Lucas.

    First you said “The Tea Party” – interesting you clearly know nothing about the matter. Real Tea Party events – there are Tea Party organizations (of which the largest is Tea Party Patriots), but there is no THE Tea Party (even associations such as Tea Party Patriots are ground up not top down).

    The left often create phony “community groups” – controlled by national authorities and with large paid staff of Communit Organizers.

    But real “community groups are very different”.

    A classic example is the contrast between Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event and the “One Nation” event a few days later.

    “How many coaches did Beck provide” – none.

    “How many people did he pay to get people to come” – none.

    “But people came” – yes they got themselves there because they wanted to.

    “But why” – you would not understand you evil slime (the last reply is of course from me – I am not very nice).

    Still let us get on…

    Let us see – truthers (mostly, although totally, on the left). One is more likely to find them in the ranks of Obama supporters (for example Mr Van Jones) than one is at the average Tea Party event.

    “Birthers” – a line that was produced by the HILLARY CLINTON campaign (trace it back yourself – it was one of their little under the radar operations) and one that has never been supported by Beck or by anyone on Fox News, or any major talk radio person.

    “Klansman” – oh dear Mr Lucas.

    You remind me of MSNBC.

    They were desperate to find an armed man at a Tea Party event and, at long last after much searching, they found a man with a rifle on his back.

    A high powered group of academics (and other slime) duely discussed the evil white “racist” in alamed terms.

    But then people started to question why the head and arms of the evil racist (the “Klansman”) could not be seen on the film – it had been carefully cropped.

    And then other film emerged – showing THE MAN WAS BLACK.

    By the way.

    Why anyone at Tea Party event (other than a leftist there to cause trouble) would actually want to be a Klansman – i.e. to support the PROGRESSIVE organization that President Woodrow Wilson (clue – he is not exactly a popular name at Tea Party event) did so much to restore to the mainstream of American life, I leave to you.

    Perhaps they are just “nutters” – accept the real “nutters” were President Woodrow Wilson, and most of the leading academics in the country. The Progressive movement from Richard Ely on down.