Dan Quayle’s wrong
Not completely, not utterly, just in how he discusses the Tea Party’s origins.
Like many influential causes before it, the “tea party” movement appeared on the scene uninvited by the political establishment. Democrats in the White House and in Congress recognize it for what it is — a spontaneous and pointed response to the Obama agenda — but some Republican leaders still aren’t sure what to make of it, as tea partiers have risen on their own and stirred up trouble in GOP primaries.
The tea party movement is not exclusively a reaction only to “the Obama agenda”. And if the GOP buys into that, they’re buying trouble. Quayle even acknowledges that without knowing it when he talks about trouble in Republican primaries.
This grass roots movement didn’t begin when Obama took office or in reaction to his specific agenda, but instead began to form during the Bush administration as government continued to expand. About the time TARP found its way into the political lexicon, it went public. It was the size of the crisis and response – the trillions of dollars thrown around like confetti – that finally spurred people into the streets and birthed the official “tea party movement”.
If you haven’t already, I’d like you to watch and listen to this interview with Pam Stout, a local tea party movement president from Idaho. She’s on the Dave Letterman show, and, knowing the history of the show, I’m sure you can figure out why he wanted her there. But she blows up the game and in what I’m sure was an unintended outcome, gives lie to almost all the myths, legends and charges being circulated about Tea Partiers. Listen at the 3 minutes mark on the second video where Ms. Stout verifies exactly what I’ve been saying about the movement.
Stout is the perfect example of my point – this isn’t a movement of right wing disgruntled Republicans. This is a movement of small government fiscal conservatives – almost libertarian in leaning. Her discussion of the demonization of business, the necessity of allowing businesses to fail, getting out of the way of the markets and let them take the lead in recovery were on target and well delivered.
But most importantly, the GOP needs to understand that her “hero” is Sen. Jim DeMint, not because DeMint is a Republican, but because DeMint is a small government fiscal conservative who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. The reason they’re identified with the GOP is because that’s about the only place other than the libertarian side of the house, that you’ll find those type people.
That’s who Tea Partiers are looking for. They’re not looking necessarily for Republicans. They’re looking for principled small government fiscal conservatives who will return sanity to government and scale down its size, scope and cost. Sen. Olympia Snowe would not qualify. Sen. Lindsey Graham most likely wouldn’t qualify either. And I’ll venture to say, neither would Sen. John McCain. These are the type people they’re promising “trouble” for in Republican primaries.
But if the Republicans don’t quite get it, the Democrats definitely do. They understand they are faced with a grass roots group – a real grass roots group which makes them doubly dangerous – that stand for everything Democrats do not. Democrats are absolutely dedicated to using government as a tool to expand the social welfare state come hell or high water. Their concentration is on expanding both the size and scope of government and, by fiat, it’s cost. Their almost single-minded effort of over a year to pass health care reform, while a more critical priority – the economy – went wanting underlines their agenda, and yes, as Quayle says, this group opposes that agenda. That’s why you’ve seen efforts almost since day one to brand the tea parties as extremist, racist, terrorist – you name it – in an effort to discredit it.
But this goes much deeper than just Democrats and a specific agenda and I think Ms. Stout does a great job representing the movement and of making that point clear. The tea party movement certainly has a focus – but it isn’t necessarily that of many in the GOP. If they thought they had a place in the GOP – if they thought the GOP was indeed the party of small government fiscal conservancy – there’d be no need for tea parties, would there?