Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tea Parties and Conservatism


I believe that there are noble and critically important ideas within the Tea Party Movement (TPM), but that they are mixed in with a lot of dangerous and destructive ideas. This is not unique to the TPM, since this phenomenon always occurs with populist movements.

What I take to be the essential and important ideas are as follows:

First: The Big Picture--The State, in general, should be minimal in size and serve a minimum of functions, the most important of which are law enforcement, national defense, and enforcement of contracts. There should be a strong sense of independence and diversity within the confines of the larger government in the form of the independence of individual states within the State.

Second: Specific Critique--The U.S. government is already far too large and needs to be reduced in size. It is already taxing us far too much and is spending obscene amounts of money. The federal government has too much authority over the operation of the states.

Third: Attitudinal Orientation--There is a deep mistrust of the State in general. There is a strong preference for local solutions insofar as corruption becomes ever more likely the higher one climbs the governmental ladder. More trust is placed in the results of the decisions of millions of everyday people than in the results of the decisions of a few elite experts.

What I take to be cluttering the message and potentially destructive are as follows:

First: Anti-Immigration Tendencies--Too many TPM activists want to close off immigration too severely. Although illegal immigration can be socially chaotic and costly, legal immigration is vital to any healthy society. I emphasize the importance of orderly and rational legal immigration. Although many TPM activists would agree with me, their voices need thoroughly to defeat general anti-immigration sentiments.

Second: Conspiracy Mongering--Although not, in the least, unique to the TPM, vulnerability to conspiracy theories hurts the credibility of the movement and its message. In particular, I am seeing far, far too much emphasis in the TPM about Obama's birth certificate. Additionally, the exaggerations surrounding the global warming panic of recent decades are not the result of conspiracies, as many TPM activists would argue, but rather of a whole host of reasons that need not have anything to do with conscious, deceptive motives.

Third: Hyper-Partisanship--We are experiencing an especially polarizing time in American politics. I understand that--I feel it, too. It is nevertheless critical to play fair, and to avoid language and actions that will be regretted by all thoughtful people in the future.

Then again, there is little here happening that is unique to us, now and in this place. Every generation in the past and in the future will go through these things, and countless insignificant turds will be writing similar blog posts about similar issues until the last red dwarf turns black.