Lee Harris writes, at the conservative Hoover Institution no less, about the supposed intellectual emptiness of the Tea Party.
Intellectual critics ofÂ the Tea Party movement most often attack it for its lack of ideas, especially new ideas â€” and these critics have a point. But the point they are making reveals as much about them as it does about the Tea Party. Behind the criticism lies the implicit assumption that comes quite naturally to American intellectuals: Namely, that a political movement ought be motivated by ideas and that a new political movement should provide new ideas.
(Emphasis added for a very debatable point.)
But the Tea Party movement is not about ideas. It is all about attitude, like the attitude expressed by the popular poster seen at all Tea Party rallies. Over the head of a hissing rattlesnake threatening to strike is inscribed the defiant slogan so popular among our revolutionary ancestors: â€œDonâ€™t tread on me!â€ The old defiant motto is certainly not a new idea. In fact, it is not an idea at all. It is a warning.
First of all, there appears to be no consistent ideology or coherent set of policies behind the movement. Second, when intellectuals turn to examine some of the more radical proposals championed in Tea Party circles, such as the abolition of Social Security or the return to the gold standard, they can only shake their heads in dismay. These crank nostrums are well past their historical expiration date. They may elicit fanatic support from the politically naÃ¯ve and unsophisticated, but no one who knows how the political world operates will pay them a momentâ€™s notice. Reviving the gold standard in order to solve our economic problems is akin to reviving the horse-and-buggy to reduce our level of carbon emissions. It ainâ€™t gonna happen.
Every spontaneous political movement brings along its share of cranks. But to define the Tea Party as such is shallow and foolish.
The Tea Party was always about reducing the size of government and respecting the Constitution. That this is regarded as radical says more about the establishment than the Tea Party.
No ideas? Here are the Core Principles listed on the Tea Party Patriots website.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY means not overspending, and not burdening our children and grandchildren with our bills. In the words of Thomas Jefferson: â€œthe principle of spending money to be paid by posterity [is] swindling futurity on a large scale.â€ A more fiscally responsible government will take fewer taxes from our paychecks.
CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT means power resides with the people and not with the government. Governing should be done at the most local level possible where it can be held accountable. Americaâ€™s founders believed that government power should be limited, enumerated, and constrained by our Constitution. Tea Party Patriots agree. The American people make this country great, not our government.
FREE MARKET ECONOMICS made America an economic superpower that for at least two centuries provided subsequent generations of Americans more opportunities and higher standards of living. An erosion of our free markets through government intervention is at the heart of Americaâ€™s current economic decline, stagnating jobs, and spiraling debt and deficits. Failures in government programs and government-controlled financial markets helped spark the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Further government interventions and takeovers have made this Great Recession longer and deeper. A renewed focus on free markets will lead to a more vibrant economy creating jobs and higher standards of living for future generations.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
And why is the OWS crowd given credence for “starting a conversation?” After months of making a stink, can anyone define a coherent OWS platform?
Oh, yeah, they hate Wall Street, whatever that means. And they want their student loans forgiven. And the stock market abolished. And a bunch of other anti-capitalist ideas that ain’t never gonna happen.
And the Tea Party? If there’s such an intellectual vacuum in the Tea Party, how did it manage to hand Obama such a “shellacking” in the midterms?