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Samizdata quote of the day

The Tea Party, perhaps more than any other contemporary movement, brings out the ‘Yeah, but what they’re really saying…’ tendency. The ‘tea’ stands for ‘Taxed Enough Already’ but, if you relied on the BBC and the Guardian for your information, you might not know it. Many Lefties pretend – or perhaps have genuinely convinced themselves – that the Tea Party is clandestinely protesting against immigration or abortion or the fact of having a mixed race president; anything, in fact, other than what it actually says it’s against, viz big government. The existence of a popular and spontaneous anti-tax movement has unsettled the Establishment. They’d much rather deal with a stupid and authoritarian Right than with a libertarian one. Hence the almost desperate insistence that the Tea Partiers have some secret agenda.

Daniel Hannan, writing about the extraordinary abuse heaped on the Tea Party crowd. Well, they want to cut taxes and push back the State. I guess they must be psychotic or something.

37 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Because the left never really means what they are saying, they assume no one else does either.

  • Sigivald

    I keep being told they’re against government itself; that somehow they’re anarchists.

    I think there are two things going on here:

    First, their opponents are (at least some of them) scared, and scared political types attack.

    Second, their opponents (some, again, but far more this time) don’t comprehend that there can even exist a political movement that isn’t organized top-down.

    Thus they “know” there must be some Secret Agenda, because after all, no top-down organizer would merely be for “less government and less taxation”; centralized organizers always want to use State power, not lessen it.

    I dislike such psychologizing, but the twin explanations of fear (for their own side’s political power) and inability to imagine a non-Organized opponent have such great explanatory power for the nonsense being peddled that I can’t resist.

  • Sam Duncan

    No perhaps about it. Most of them have “genuinely convinced themselves”.

    I don’t think the Left really understands what’s going on here. It’s a milder, western, version of Ceaucescu’s “balcony moment”: to them, the Left is The People, standing up to Power. How can so many people be against them? That’s not possible. There must be some other agenda, or someone must be putting them up to it. It’s racism, it’s The Rich pretending to be poor, or paying people to dance to their tune.

    Meanwhile, one of their own is President of the United States, with one of the richest men in the world – Buffet – cheering him on. They’ve completely failed to recognise (as has the British Left) that they are the Establishment now. They are the Rich, living, through taxation, off the backs of the (relatively) poor. And, as they’ve been telling us for decades, relative poverty matters.

    After a brief interlude of (arguably justifiable, at the time) Marxist anti-capitalist agitation, we’re back to the status quo ante: the primary social tension is again between the taxed class and the taxing, as it always was. And the Left is on the wrong side for its self-image.

  • a_random_guy

    Sadly, most Tea Party people do not agree with you. Taxes and small government are not priorities on most Tea Party websites.

    Take TeaParty.org as an example. The homepage is almost entirely devoted to Obama-bashing – there is not a single article saying what the Tea Party wants, only what it dislikes about the current administration. Searching farther, you can click on the “about” page, which says:

    The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that calls awareness to any issue that challenges the security, sovereignty, or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation, the United States of America.

    Blather, useless tripe. Any issue? Domestic tranquility? In the 15 bullet points that follow, #6 is the first to mention small government. Most of the other points could have been copied off of any Fox News rant: illegal immigration, English as the official language, strong military, family values, blah, blah, blah.

    In other words, the Tea Party has already lost its way. It may originally have been about small government, but in attempting to become mainstream, decided to encompass most of the uber-conservative talkiing points. Having lost focus, the Tea Party will almost certainly be eaten by the Republican political machinery.

  • that the Tea Party is clandestinely protesting against immigration or abortion or the fact of having a mixed race president

    Are you asserting that support for these positions isn’t higher among Tea Partiers that among the overall US electorate? And if so, do you have figure to back you up?

  • Dom

    Why did you go to TeaParty.org? This is from TheTeaParty.net:

    — Begin quote
    The Tea Party movement is a grassroots movement of millions of like-minded Americans from all backgrounds and political parties. Tea Party members share similar core principles supporting the United States Constitution as the Founders intended, such as:
    • Limited federal government
    • Individual freedoms
    • Personal responsibility
    • Free markets
    • Returning political power to the states and the people

    As a movement, The Tea Party is not a political party nor is looking to form a third political party any time soon. The Tea Party movement, is instead, about reforming all political parties and government so that the core principles of our Founding Fathers become, once again, the foundation upon which America stands.
    —End quote

    In “About Us”, the site read:

    — Begin quote
    We believe, like many of you, that our government has grown out-of-control in a death spiral of unsustainable and barely imaginable trillion-dollar deficits and a national debt rivaling Gross Domestic Product. This government has ignored the Constitution that defines us; invaded the liberty from which our nation was born; and daily drains away the individuality and entrepreneurial spirit of Americans in order to advance a radical, socialist policy built on the back of American taxpayers
    — End quote

  • Dom

    I was smited. But the original comment may appear soon. In the meantime, let me just say … It is wrong to look at TeaParty.org. Go to TheTeaParty.net instead.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    Well no wonder the Left is scared. These TEA party types want to take of the government and then LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE.

    The horror…..

  • Lynn

    My personal experience with the Tea Party, which I very much supported, was dissapointing. When I joined my states Tea Party (Indiana) they instantly shared my information with other conservative movements… social conscervative movements. I received an email requesting my presence as a Tea Party Patriot to an anit-abortion rally in Indianapolis.. To see the least, I was pissed… Talk about bait and switch.

  • Tully

    Similar experience as Lynn’s. The local TEA Party candidates that have reached office in my area have paid some lip service to fiscal restraint, but have gone full bore on implementing “stupid and authoritarian Right” social agenda items. The first I am in favor of, the second just pisses me off.

  • Evil Otto

    When I joined my states Tea Party (Indiana)

    That was the mistake, Lynn. There is no “states Tea Party” to join. The Tea Party is a grassroots movement, and anyone claiming to speak for the Tea Party, anyone claiming to BE the Tea Party is selling something.

  • J.P.

    The political divide is easier to understand if you think of it a little differently than usually presented. For a little over a century in the US (slightly longer in Europe), there has been a concerted effort on the part of those who do not engage in objectively measurable pursuits to appropriate wealth, status, and power from those who do.

    For a workable meaning of “objectively measurable”, try this, at least as a mental experiment: Gather a dozen or so persons knowledgeable in some realm. If they materially agree (by at least 10 to 2) regarding the quality of some result of work, then that work is objectively measurable. (If there’s contention over the selection of the jury, then each side picks half.)

    The people of not-objectively-measurable work are afraid. They’ve ridden on the back of their betters for so long they can conceive of no other way to exist. These fearful people lash out in defense of their own mental models, which stray from reality due to the nature and practice of people who are not regularly held to account for objectively measurable work.

    Oh, yeah, one thing – once we all figure out the ramifications and starve the useless ones back into their proper state of submission, let’s remember to take care of the lawyers first. They’re the exemplars.

  • Insufficiently Sensitive

    Sadly, most Tea Party people do not agree with you. Taxes and small government are not priorities on most Tea Party websites.”

    Take off your blinkers. ANYONE can start up a website calling itself ‘TeaPartyStormbahnFuehrers’ or anything it likes. You’ve fallen into the trap of thinking it’s a top-down organization. It’s not, and none of those presumptious websites can claim to speak for a monolithic Tea Party.

    Watch its deeds – for instance the avalanche of votes that turned over not only the House of Representatives, but hundreds of State and local governing bodies last October. That wasn’t done by one dinky little website – which is probably trying to ca$h in on, rather than promote, a small-government political movement.

  • J.P.

    Oh, and another thing. In the sidebar here, I see:

    …Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling.

    Shouldn’t that read “… crimes are …” ?

    One more before I go. The tab order on this page is annoying. If you’re in the Name: field for comments, tab takes you to the keywords field under Search and Archives.

    Just tryin’ to make a point here.

  • richard40

    Some of the commenters here make a good point. Most Tea Party members, and also most of their volunteer leaders, really beleive in their fiscal conservative goals. But the socon base of the repub party would love to coopt the Tea Party people for their own ends. All Tea Party people have to be very careful to not let the socons take them over. When any Tea Party group decides to endorse any candidate, it should be solely on the basis of their small gov fiscal conservative views, with social views being irelevant. For example, if there was a dem that was more fiscally responsible, and more devoted to small gov, than his repub opponent (who won his repub primary mainly with social conservatism), I would vote for the dem (I realize that right now fiscally responsible dems are mighty scarce). If the Tea party ever departs from that, they cease being the Tea Party, and just become another group of corrupt Bush repubs, and they will no longer have my support.

    This does not mean that I oppose all social conservatives. This does not even mean that we can’t be in coalitions with socons, but only if they are supporting our goals as well as us supporting theirs. For example, I would never go to a pro life single issue group, but a group that was pro life but also for smaller gov, yes I could travel with them. But it does mean that I will oppose them unless they are also small gov fiscal conservatives first and foremost. If the repubs think that they can go back to the Bush days, where they brandished their “conservative” credentials with irelevant social conservative garbage, while selling us down the river fiscally, and engaging in Obama style crony capitalism, just with a different set of cronies, they can forget it.

  • Russ in TX

    Tea Party, the social movement, is largely co-opted by Tea Party, the political fundraiser.

    Guess which one tends to “stupid and authoritarian right?”

  • hitnrun

    “It may originally have been about small government, but in attempting to become mainstream, decided to encompass most of the uber-conservative talkiing points.”

    This gets at the crux of the misunderstanding. The Tea Party doesn’t “decide” anything. It has no leadership. It certainly doesn’t attempt PR.

    It is certainly true that social issues and fiscally related but somewhat peripheral issues (immigration) have polluted the Tea Party waters. However, that’s just an unavoidable result of who has answered the call to shrink the government. There is and was some Democrat and independent sympathy for tea party ideals, but if five people show up to a political rally and four of them oppose gay marriage, it’s asking a bit much to expect their political movement to remain silent on the topic. It’s less than ideal for true libertarians, but for those of us with the more urgent view that gays could have public orgies or be taken to concentration camps for all I care because the world is literally going to end without vast cuts to the federal budget yesterday, the Tea Party is a vast improvement on the situation of eight, five, and certainly two years ago. They’re certainly no *more* dedicated to social issues than the old GOP.

    The cross-promotion with social issues is done because, well, it’s impossible to resist. That’s what happens when an organization has similarities in its membership but no leadership. On the one hand, no one can railroad you into being someone’s fool, as the Republicans have for so many years. On the other hand, anyone can claim what the movement does and doesn’t stand for and send you mail to stand up for social issues as a “tea party patriot.” The saving grace is, of course, is that you don’t need to rally or donate to anyone you don’t want to.

    The Tea Party certainly hasn’t lived up to its original promise of a bipartisan, independent movement of people dedicated to stopping the expansion of the state, but it’s still a far cry from the id of the Religious Right that the media has desperately portrayed. More to the point, the slander is in vain because it attacks the wrong target: the Tea Party’s potency is its message, not its amorphous, unofficial character. Convincing Americans that the rally opposing Obama is actually about racism does not cause them to love taxes more.

  • Kim du Toit

    The first rule about Tea Party is that you don’t try to categorize Tea Party.

    Just remember where it comes from: the Boston Tea Party, protesting an unjust and overreaching tax.

    Rein in government spending, size and reach (okay, if you get the first one, the rest follows).

    And that’s why the statists and other Big Government types are so fearful of the Tea Party.

  • Milhouse

    The Tea Party certainly hasn’t lived up to its original promise of a bipartisan, independent movement of people dedicated to stopping the expansion of the state

    That’s because there are almost no Democrats who believe in that goal. Many Republicans do, though unfortunately most don’t; but any Democrat who does is a freak, an aberration, someone who has not felt comfortable in his party for decades.

  • Angela H.

    Some of the social issues are also fiscal issues. Immigration, for example, is (to me) more about the fiscal problems than anything else. We educate, feed and house illegal immigrants. They get the same, if not more, social safety nets as those of us who work and pay into the system. In some states, if you are an American, your benefits are less than what you would get if you were an illegal immigrant.
    De funding Planned Parenthood, NPR, PBS, etc. really shouldn’t be this darned difficult. Do you really think that Big Bird couldn’t find sponsors? Maybe the NPR programming would suffer, but that just means that they are not competitive. The money spent on Planned Parenthood would serve the community better if it were given to the neighborhood clinics or simply to help pay down the deficit.
    It is often difficult to separate the financial issues from the social ones and the beauty of the Tea Party is that we don’t have to. We can, and do, maintain our personal beliefs and values while coming together on the issues that unite rather than divide us.

  • RTN

    “Hence the almost desperate insistence that the Tea Partiers have some secret agenda.”

    If you have your own secret agenda, then it’s probably natural to assume everybody else does as well.

  • Laird

    Dan Hannan repeats the common fallacy that “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already.” In reality the letters don’t “stand” for anything; it’s the actual beverage, and an homage to the original Boston Tea Party of 1773. Later people took the letters and added words to them, as we are wont to do. (Did you know that “Obama” stands for “Oh Boy, A Marxist America!”? Or perhaps “Overly Boastful About Minor Accomplishments”?)

    And he’s also wrong to characterize the Tea Party movement as “libertarian”. At its core it is indeed anti-tax and in favor of shrinking the federal government, but that is more “constitutional originalist” than truly libertarian. Most of the people in the movement are fairly mainstream conservatives who don’t so much dislike the federal government as simply think it has gotten too big. Carve it back to its 1950’s size and they’d be ecstatic, even though that era was hardly a libertarian paradise.

    None of which is intended to disparage Mr. Hannan. I’m a big fan, and very much enjoyed his wonderful little book “The New Road to Serfdom“. And I liked the rest of the linked essay, too.

  • ManikMonkee

    I was hopeful but then I heard a transcript of Sarah Bachmann ranting about neolithic jews…
    People hear talk about the Tea Party like it was Anonymous…the problem is, if that were true initially, it now definitely in the Media appears to have leaders and they look retarded. Maybe the MSM used setup Bachmann to discredit the call for smaller government? Seems unlikely to me though

  • Tom Perkins

    “Dan Hannan repeats the common fallacy that “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already.””

    ‘Taxed Enough Already’ is just something seen on placards at Tea Party rallies. So you must be right and relevant…

    “And he’s also wrong to characterize the Tea Party movement as “libertarian”. At its core it is indeed anti-tax and in favor of shrinking the federal government, but that is more “constitutional originalist” than truly libertarian.”

    As if the constitution as written isn’t still the most libertarian government yet created…

    “Carve it back to its 1950’s size and they’d be ecstatic”

    Since the sheer increase in discretionary spending that’s destroying the nation would be repealed at that point, who shouldn’t be ecstatic?

    Given the large chunks of the New Deal and the Great Society they’d like to undo, you can’t say most of the Tea partiers would be happy to stop at a return to the 50’s size government, not and be careful with the facts, anyway.

  • Tom Perkins

    “I was hopeful but then I heard a transcript of Sarah Bachmann ranting about neolithic jews…”

    And say, have you looked at how she’s doing in the polls lately? She’s a goner.

    Her basic problem is that everything some people claim is true and wrong about Palin actually is wrong with Bachmann. Your concerns about the Tea party are groundless because Michelle is no one look at for a bellweather.

  • Tom Perkins

    “Sadly, most Tea Party people do not agree with you. Taxes and small government are not priorities on most Tea Party websites.”

    What you have written is diametrically opposite to reality. You’re 180 out, perfectly wrong.

    Lower taxes and smaller government are all they agree on. Surprisingly to you, I reckon, there aren’t many websites talking about how wet water is.

  • It’s a great litmus test that the more abuse one gets, the more effectively one is getting the job done.

  • FrancisChalk

    BBC stands for Big Bunch of Crap. The BBC should only be watched or listened to for the purpose of determining “What would Joe Stalin do?”

  • Rob H

    I think as Brian M has pointed out before, now that the TEA party is established into all walks of life and probably includes lots of peoples family members, blind attacks will be counter productive for the left.

    While on a salumi course in Tuscany I met a Chef from Seattle and it was the time that the BBC were really trying hard to “position” the TEA partiers as evil in the minds of the viewers. All the Brits were quite “liberal” and kept asking the chef what was going on with all these TEA party people. How extreme they were and with their weird views.

    He was a Democrat and responded that his two democrat aunties were both Tea Partiers and his republican cousins on the other side of the family. They were not crazy, just had a “good old fashioned” worry about being in too much debt. That people were scared of what was coming and didn’t trust “the man” to solve it.

  • Valerie

    Angela is correct in stating that tax issues and social issues are all of a piece and the negative comments about the latter is why no Libertarian will ever be elected to high office in the U.S.

  • BigFatFlyingBloke

    To be fair statist-inclined media outlets don’t have much work to do to try and demonize the Tea Party when a goodly number of the media personalities who have associated themselves with it are, to be frank, anti-intellectual blowhards and theocrats eulogizing a romanticized 1950’s postwar America which never existed.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    the BBC, as the Goon Show revealed once, stands for the Big Brother Corporation. Or it could be Bolshevic Broadcasting Commission. The only thing it is good for is Doctor Whom. Oh, and Coupling. And all those great period dramas. But, aside from that, not much…

  • jackofsuffolk

    The theory of a popular grass roots anti-statist movement is certainly a seductive one – its just a shame the tea party is not it.

    If the tea party really were a non-partisan, anti government movement rather than simply a wing of the republican party then presumably they would have been active under Under Bush, when the national debt grew by more than $4 trillion

  • Russ

    Actually, Jack, the Tea Party is the direct descendant of Porkbusters, an organization that did get off the ground specifically because of Bush’s overspending.

    It’s a bit of a political myth that the Tea Party sprung fully-formed from the head of Pres. Obama, as it were — primarily, I think, because the Democrats didn’t want to admit that Obama didn’t win b/c of the Iraq War (something said over and over) as much as 08 was simply the continuation of 06, where the Republican “brand” was simply so damaged that you could have run a barrel of fetid dingoes’ kidneys against McCain, and still won.

  • Paul Marks

    The problem with disinformation smear campaigns is that they work.

    The vast majority of members of Tea Party groups (organized locally – but who form associations, of which the largest is “Tea Party Patriots”) are just people who want the government to be a bit smaller.

    Actually they campaign against government spending (the explosion of) more than they campaign against taxes.

    The movement was sparked off by a financial journalist (on CNBC – of all places) calling for protests against wild government spending – and the first protest was in Seattle (not known as a “right wing” city).

    Vast numbers of people got involved all over the United States – including very many independents and, yes, DEMOCRATS.

    And, although media coverage was always mostly hostile, most people in the United States had a positive view of Tea Party protestors.

    Yet – over time, the lies and smears (not just on news and current affairs shows – but also on fictional output where Tea Party people are always shown as stupid, evil, or both) have had an effect.

    Not most people (even in the United States) have a negative view of Tea Party protestors.

    As I say above – it is a case study to show that an intense (and almost universal – bar a few people on FNC such as Neil Cavuto) campaign of disinformation, smears and blatent lies WORKS. It moves public opinion.

    However, the left (the establishment – from the universities out) may have made an error.

    In concentrating on creating as much hatred of Tea Party protestors as PEOPLE they have forgotten about IDEAS.

    Contrary to John Le Carre (and other scum) millions of Western people really do have alternative IDEAS – BELIEFS to those of “social justice” (i.e. ever bigger government).

    Some (many) of such people have died for their beliefs – all over the world.

    But many millions of such people remain and they have learnt that they must spread their IDEAS.

    It does not matter (not in the end) if the left destroy us personally (all human beings are mortal) what matters is that the idea of liberty (of private property based civil society) survives.

    The “game” is not over yet.

    There is still hope.

  • Paul Marks

    I love the way that just as the latest “Tea Party people are racists” campaign was under way (with Morgan Freeman ranting on to P. Morgan on CNN) Hermon Cain attracted large number of Tea Party activist votes in Florida. Yes many Tea Party people were not Republicans orginally – but most have gone that way by now (as the Democrats keep insulting them).

    It was not a deliberate response (Tea Party people do not tend to watch CNN) – it was just one of coincidences that are worth a smile.