Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Tea Party Is a Metaphor

Nothing, it seems, gets the media more in a lather than the idea of the Tea Party, so much so that they can't get their stories straight. One week, the Tea Party is dead, the next they are a potent force. That they are a force for evil goes without saying, of course.

The deposing of Eric Cantor is the latest happenstance that has apparently raised the Tea Party from the dead. What nobody seems to have noticed is that the Tea Party had nothing to do with Cantor's loss. Not in any literal sense, anyway. Understand there is no actual political party called the Tea Party. There is only a fairly motley collection of organizations such as the Tea Party Patriots that try to raise money for candidates. David Brat, the unknown professor who beat Cantor, had no financial support from any Tea Party organizations. Brat, in fact, spent all of $100,000. I'm guessing most of that was from friends and relatives.

What does exist, though, is a profoundly unhappy conservative base that isn't willing to give the Republican establishment too many more chances. This tension has existed for decades. It was once the Goldwater Republicans versus the Country Club Republicans. Later, it was Reagan Republicans versus Bush Republicans. Always, on the right, it has been about constitutional and limited government.

So, the "Tea Party" is simply what we call this faction now. If you are a limited government conservative, you are a Tea Partier, whether you sport a "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker or not. This is somewhat unfortunate, in a way, because once something has a name, it becomes easier to demonize - "Oh, you know all those Tea Baggers are racist, right?"

The interesting thing is that the Tea Party was (and is) one of the most truly spontaneous and widespread grass roots movements in our lifetimes. The big Washington rally a few years back was probably a thousand times larger than the entire "Occupy" movement. Many were getting involved in politics for the first time in their lives. To the media and the left, though, it is a toxic movement. Naturally, when the same sort of grass roots, political new-comers kind of movement got Barack Obama elected, it was hailed as the greatest thing to ever happen to our democracy.

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