The tea party movement was something many libertarians had great hopes for when it really came to life shortly after Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange in early 2009. It was a sign to many of us that there was hope for a large and national small government movement. Conservatives who spent most of the last decade pushing libertarians out of the Republican Party were even joining in and championing the movement in their media echo chambers. Things were going great until Obamacare passed because shortly after that, the movement started chasing shiny objects like a distracted dog. Yes, the primary focus remains cutting taxes and shrinking government but now the tea party is chasing squeaky emotional chew toys like illegal immigration and the mosque/community center/theatre space/whatever in Manhattan.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The tea party movement is an amoeba with no central leadership or unifying structure other than government is too big, taxes are too high, and Obama sucks. There is no single figure head who can command all the large groups of Gadsden flag wavers to move one way or the other. Ultimately this is a good thing because it limits the ability of the GOP to co-opt it and run it into the ground—but it does lead to the current predicament the movement is in now.
In the last month various tea party groups have spent precious resources and energy on emotional culture issues nearly three months before the congressional midterms. These issues are not going to win votes this November and they certainly won’t win votes in future elections. This obsession with what will become of an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory a few blocks from Ground Zero is very troubling. So much of the rhetoric coming from the tea party is “Constitution this” and “Constitution that” but that, along with property rights, apparently goes out the window when you pray on a rug to the East five times a day. The mama grizzly of the tea party, Sarah Palin, has weighed in on this extensively and she is not happy at all that a Mosque will be built several thousand miles away from her home state.
Pamela Geller, a self-absorbed tea party activist and blogger who writes poorly on a very libertarian named website but has little-to-no libertarian in her, has coined the term “Mega Mosque” when writing about the project but in reality it’s going to be nothing more than an Islamic YMCA. Maybe tea party activists in New York have grown tired of fighting their confiscatory state and city taxes. Why fight higher taxes when you can pretend you’re fighting the war on terror? Hell, it’s easier to pretend to fight terrorists than it is to fight to actually cut taxes and shrink government.
Since its inception the tea party movement has been dogged by mostly unfair charges of racism and now many tea party groups are diving into the racially charged issue of illegal immigration? How does weighing in on illegal immigration bring about lower taxes and smaller government? It doesn’t, but it will make them feel good when they protest the brown people coming over the southern border looking for low-paying jobs that their pampered teenagers won’t do.
The arguments of “Oh they come here to commit crimes and mooch off the welfare system” do not hold water when you look at crime and welfare statistics since “the latest wave of illegal immigration” began. The tea party and the greater conservative movement are both very misguided when they spout nonsense about repealing the 14th Amendment. If they’re serious and still interested in their original goals they should start a movement to repeal the 16th Amendment and curtail the welfare state. Run away from these cultural and emotional issues that are merely distractions from our bigger problems as a nation. Of course tax laws and regulations just aren’t as sexy as being a culture warrior on the Arizona border. I get stupid forwarded emails about Sherrif Joe Arpaio from people all the time. They tell me about how he’s “tough on illegals” and makes them wear “pink underwear.” Oh boy what a Real American! I have never received the forwarded emails about elected official so and so who cut taxes and eliminated this department and repealed this program. Why? Cutting government spending isn’t sexy; it’s actually really complicated and boring. Blaming immigrants from Central America for all our cultural problems is an easy and successful way to avoid addressing the fiscal problems we face. It’s easier to crow on the radio for four hours a day about the illegal immigrant who crashed his car into a state rep than it is to explain the nuances of why my generation won’t collect a dime of social security.
If the tea party movement really wants to cut taxes and curb government power it should focus on that and not chase these stupid emotional issues like a puppy chases a ball once it grows tired of its canned food.
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