The Tea Party Imperative

Rand Paul’s decisive victory in the Kentucky GOP primary is widely viewed as a demonstration of Tea Party power.  Democrat spin doctors have already wheeled Paul into surgery, laughing and high-fiving each other as radioactive chunks of extremism turn up in his biopsies.  He might be sitting on a healthy lead against his Democrat opponent now, but they’re hoping he’ll rot away from extremism tumors by November.  Since Jack Murtha’s chosen successor prevailed in Pennsylvania, the prognosis for anti-establishment, anti-incumbency fever might not be so bad after all!

The hopes of the Democrat Party are based on a misunderstanding of what drives the Tea Party movement, including the large number of independent voters who share their sympathies without identifying themselves as members.  No one understands the Tea Party less than Michael Kinsley, whose entire body of work can be boiled down to the assurance that titanic central government is inevitable, and all resistance is either childish or evil.  In an essay masterfully fisked by InstaPunk, Kinsley dismisses the Tea Party movement as a gang of clueless malcontents:

A Harris poll released the last day of March reported that a third of all adults support the Tea Party, and slightly less than a quarter oppose it. Do they know what they are supporting, or opposing? The movement is not yet united on a single platform or agenda, like Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America, which started as a triumph and ended as an embarrassment. The lack of specifics allows anyone who is just existentially fed up (and who isn’t, on some days?) to feel right at home. No one will demand to know what he or she is fed up with.

Kinsley would doubtless croon with delight over the difficulty opponents of Big Government encounter, once they move past a general dislike of uncontrolled deficit spending and begin discussing cuts to specific programs.  “The government spends too much money, and raising taxes is not the answer… but don’t you dare touch my [insert favored program here.]”  The hungry weed of the State has roots sunk into every American heart, and wallet.  Game, set, and match.  Now grow up, sit quietly, and watch the numbers on the deficit spin.

He’s wrong about the lack of focus in the Tea Party.  So are the Democrats trying to find a glimmer of hope in the results of the Pennsylvania special election.  There is something that unites us, more powerful and enduring than a vague fear of defaulting on the national debt, or seeing a bigger chunk of our paychecks disappear into the black hole of Washington.

The American people tired of being lied to. We’re tired of being defrauded.  We’ve had it with fabulously expensive programs that do nothing but enhance the power of those who administer them.  We reject the tired excuse that government only fails when it’s not big enough.  We know the romance of the State is a lie.  The evidence of its failure is piling up around us, at a rapidly accelerating pace.

It’s not just a matter of high taxes and choking regulation.  That’s part of it, of course, but Kinsley’s caricature of the Tea Party as a mob of grouchy old men complaining about their tax returns is far from the truth – as anyone who actually attends Tea Party gatherings could tell you.  Those gatherings are full of young people protesting their indentured servitude to the appetites of today’s politicians, and the future collapse of a ridiculously unsustainable system.

Americans are a generous people, unwilling to tolerate the poor dying of hunger or disease in the streets.  The acolytes of Big Government insult both our intelligence and character, when they insist trillion-dollar deficits are the only alternative to despair.  The energy roaring beneath the surface of the Tea Party movement springs from the growing realization that expensive government never works.  The entire concept is a fraud.  It doesn’t matter who tries it, or how noble their intentions are.  The entrenched political elite would be much better off if their fantasies of surly voters driven by personal animosity toward President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were true.  This movement is powerful precisely because it’s not shallow.

No one welcomes the understanding that a system they have lived under their entire lives, built over the course of a century, is fatally flawed and headed for collapse.  This knowledge is a heavy burden.  The Tea Party is determined, not spiteful.  It’s about renewal, not doom… demanding better from the political and media elite, not lashing out with blind fury as the light fades from America’s eyes.

This is the Tea Party imperative: No more politicians voting for legislation they haven’t written, or denouncing state laws they haven’t read.  No more billion-dollar environmentalist con jobs.  No more programs that can never be repealed.  No more fraudulent candidates.  No more illusory “moderate Democrats” representing a party that abandoned every plausible claim of “moderation” when it rammed the health-care monstrosity down our throats.  No more “moderate Republicans” cutting deals with a system only a few years away from crashing down on all our heads.

Arlen Specter got over 480,000 votes last night.  Pennsylvania’s District 12 elected the successor of a crook they made Senator-for-Life.  The power of incumbency is not to be underestimated.  In November, with the future of this country hanging in the balance, we will discover its limits.

Cross-posted at