The Tea Party has always struck me as a bit disingenuous. It leaders and funders are multimillionaires, billionaires and career politicians, who not only do not have the same concerns as the working class masses who make up the movement, but in many cases actually contributed to the problem. That said, I feel the rank files members of the Tea Party have been largely taken for a ride. They are angry and insecure often for good reasons, but it seems that their anger has been intentionally misdirected to supporting policies, that benefit the people responsible for many of these problems. I would add that the timing of the group’s emergence is a bit suspicious. After all, where was this allegedly fiscally conservative movement, when President Bush was rapidly expanding the deficit?
That said, there are people I like within the movement, and even some positive ideas in it, but they all to often seem to get lost among horrible people and horrible ideas. I tend to be a fan of reigning in on spending, and keeping balanced budgets, but all too often the movement seems more concerned with promoting authoritarian, nationalistic cultural positions, or things in general that have little to do with keeping the government limited or people free. Recently the platform, below was presented by the Facebook page for The Tea Party, and I felt like doing a point by point critique.
Here is my point by point response:
1. On Obama: I have been extremely critical of President Obama, and generally unhappy with him. That said, I expect to be equally unhappy with whoever replaces him too. In this corrupt system, singling out one politician is ignoring the bigger problem. It also downplays the huge roles his predecessors played in creating the fiscal and economic crises that plague our times. Furthermore, the fact that their position on Obama is so high on their list of priorities, and so simplistic that I fear this movement will stop at nothing to cut short the career of this specific politician. Even if it means making the economy worse. If I had to chose between getting rid of Obama and a functional economy, I’d take the latter, I’m not sure the Tea Party leadership or rank and file feels the same way.
Additionally, it seems to me that this focus on Obama, means that the Tea Party will potentially dissolve once Obama is out of office, in much the same way that the new left fell apart when the draft was stopped and US involvement in Vietnam was ended. Alliances are hard to keep once the factors that united them are gone.
2. On Borders: This position, strikes me as largely xenophobic and grossly nationalistic. I find it ironic people who allegedly are for small government are concerned with enforcing the arbitrary laws governments draw. In a free society people should be free to move about the earth as they please. I have no problem with people wanting to come to this country to work and tend to think preventing them from doing so is an immoral act.
3. On Language: I don’t think the government should be in the business of telling us what language to speak.
4. On culture: I don’t think the government should be in the business of culture, of promoting culture, telling us what culture to have ect. Government should be neutral to culture.
5. Drug Free: I think the government should be neutral to drug use. Drugs should be legal, and I don’t care if people on welfare take them. Efforts to enforce this have largely been an expensive exercise in giving government handouts to the makers of drug testing equipment and have been highly ineffective finding drug users. It also inevitably adds another layer to the welfare bureaucracy, which is the last thing we need. Such policies seem to be more about punishing the poor than anything else. Forbidding the use of any given drug will just encourage the use of others. If welfare recipients can’t smoke pot, they’ll go to alcohol instead, or perhaps something like cocaine, which passes through the system faster. What we should be focused on is helping people get off welfare, rather than inconveniencing those who are on it.
6. No freebies to non-citizens: I tend to dislike freebies in general, but singling out non-citizens strikes me as a bit nationalistic for my taste. I note there is no opposition to freebies for corporations, government cronies, military contractors which I believe should be just as much of a concern.
7. Also: I have no problem with the balanced budget position. “Tax Reform” is such a vague concept that I would want to know the details of the proposed reform, before claiming it to be a step in the right direction. I like the idea of term limits for congress and senators, but I would prefer we make them subject to instant recall.
8. What’s missing: I see no stated opposition to bailouts, massive military spending, wars of aggression or foreign intervention in general, which I think are as if not more important than anything else stated here. It also would have pleased me to some sort of desire to reform, or do away with our system of intellectual property, which I consider noting more than a system of government granted monopoly.
Ideally, I think the time is right for a new alliance, in anti-establishment politics, which takes the best features of the principled left and anti-authoritarian libertarianism and focuses on shared goals and creating working alternatives.