Bush First Provoked Tea Party Backlash

Many on the left pretend that the Tea Parties are just about supporting Republicans and attacking Democrats. This probably has something to do with the fact that the left views everything through the lens of interest groups tribalism. Of course many Republicans are only too happy to agree about the basic purpose of the Tea Parties.

But Americans were angry before the Tea Party title became widespread. This is a point that Republican candidate Stephen Bailey makes in a recent interview and that FreedomWorks’s Matt Kibbe made in a September talk in Colorado.

Bailey told Joshua Lipana:

I’ve always been interested in politics as an armchair observer and commentator. However, the decision to run began in late 2008 when the TARP bailout legislation was first brought to a vote. I was on a business trip in Europe and celebrated when the bill was defeated. When Congress and President Bush signed the TARP bailout two weeks later, against the wishes of the American public, it initiated the chain of events that led to the creation of the Tea Party movement and my resolve to not allow my country, my freedom and my families freedom to be destroyed. The resolve accelerated over the next year as President Obama and the Democrats rammed one tyrannical bill after another down our throats, engorging themselves and their political cronies in an orgy of spending that is bankrupting America.

This echoes Kibbe’s views (and Bailey attended the event where Kibbe spoke). A transcript follows the video.

My organization was watching this grass-roots anger that we believe grew out of the frustration with Republican spending. The boiling point was when George W. Bush said we are scrapping the free market to save it, and we’re going to bail out Wall Street with TARP.

And people forget this now. But inside the beltway, there were very few willing to oppose that, and it was considered a fait accompli that this was going to happen.

And all of a sudden this wave of grass roots shut down the capitol. The first House vote failed dramatically. We believe that that was the founding day of what we now call the Tea Party. And it was frustration with Republicans.

And what did Obama run on? He ran on fiscal responsibility and transparency. He didn’t mean it, it turns out. But people with hope in their hearts for this country said we’ve got to try something, because clearly John McCain is not up to the task of a freedom movement.

And what’s the first thing [Obama] did? He tried to jam through a trillion dollar hidden, murky, I’m-not-going-to-let-you-read-it, “stimulus” bill. And we all got up out of our couches, we stopped yelling at the TV, and we started protesting.

Tea Party Prodded by Denver Post’s Chuck Plunkett

Chuck Plunkett, member of the Denver Post’s editorial board, spoke at Denver’s Liberty On the Rocks September 15. He joked, “I’m from the mainstream media, and I’m here to help.”

But his message was sincere: “If the liberty movement energy is to mean anything, it’s going to be folks like you that actually takes it somewhere. That’s your challenge. So all the vitriol, all the raw emotion, [troubled Republican candidate for governor] Dan Maes, that’s just not going to get it. My thesis is you need to supply the intellectual architecture that makes the liberty movement experience matter, or the experiment matter.”

Plunkett’s talk illustrates the symbiosis between the “mainstream” media and independent and activist media. While, on the national level, the blogosphere seems to constantly war with the “mainstream” media, in Colorado journalists, bloggers, and thoughtful activists seem to participate together more in a broader intellectual community.

The Denver Post responds to bloggers and sometimes writes about them, while bloggers and independent writers often break important stories and participate directly in the major media. Events like Plunkett’s talk reinforce that collaboration and exchange.

Interviews from the 9/12 Tea Party March on Washington from Grizzly Groundswell

Chad Everson over at Grizzly Groundswell captured a couple of fantastic interviews of Tea Partiers in Washington September 12. (I’m the guy asking questions.)

In the first video, Chris Peterson of Pennsylvania says that in his local groups “our discussions are all about ideas, principles, not parties.” When I asked him if Obama was at least a motivational force, he added, “I think Obama’s election was almost providential. It was what made us finally realize that we were on a very slippery slope for a long time, and now he just pushed us there a lot faster. We all of a sudden realized… this isn’t where we want to go. This is not what we want to be. … It certainly has America riled up.”

[September 10, 2014 Update: This video no longer exists.]

In the second video, Paul Johnson of D.C. said, “I am tired of the Democrats and the way they are going about this country. … I’m just sick of this; taxes, spending… I want to make a change… I agree that Bush was guilty of spending some too, but this Democrat stuff is ridiculous. It seems as though every time they come into office, that’s the only thing they know how to do is spend. And I’m just sick of it. And I want a change, I want a change immediately.”



Grizzly GroundswellSeptember 13, 2010 at 7:47 PM
Ari, I am uploading them to youtube.com/user/grizzlygroundswell as well because they are so much easier to embed and share! Feel free to add annotations where needed! They take forever to upload!

Tea Party March On Washington Focuses on Election Day

It was the longest sunset of my life. The evening after the September 12 Tea Party march on Washington, I took a 7:35 flight headed West, chasing the sun. I wondered how fast one would have to travel to catch it. Within the hour, it was clear that, whatever the necessary speed, we hadn’t achieved it. I wondered whether the same was true of the Tea Party movement in pursuing the torch of economic liberty.

It was a large crowd; huge by the standards of the Colorado rallies I’ve attended. The train of people marching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol seemed to go on for at least half that distance, meaning at least half a mile. Yet by the massive scale of the Mall, the assembled crowded seemed healthy but not gigantic. I wonder how much the earlier Glenn Beck rally hurt attendance on the twelfth.

The signs and T-shirts in attendance sounded an ideological cacophony. Many lambasted Obama and the Democratic congress. Some blasted the “mainstream” media (from which I had to disclaim membership a couple of times). Some praised capitalism. A few declared that outlawing abortion was the penultimate policy imperative and that God is the ultimate sovereign. At least one promoted Ayn Rand.

Perhaps it was because I was tired or because I largely worked the periphery, but it seemed to me that the crowd was less exuberantly enthusiastic than I’ve seen before and more calmly determined. Perhaps people were thinking about the long fight to election day and the hard work required after that to keep the new congress honest. Or maybe that was partly my wishful thinking.

I do think, as several people I talked with confirmed, that the election of Obama and the resulting rapid expansion of federal power has caused many Americans to fundamentally reexamine their own ideas about politics and the direction the country is heading. Rather than being pulled gradually in the direction of statism, now many Americans feel the carpet has been pulled from under their feet. Or, to invoke the familiar metaphor, the frog has noticed the sharp temperature increase and started kicking. Whether he can flop himself out of the pot — and at the same time avoid the fire — remains to be determined.

The big question remains whether colorful signs and noisy protests can translate into the demanding long-term commitment to the ideas of liberty. I’ve seen some indications that they can, and what I saw and heard at the latest rally confirms that.

Notes: FreedomWorks, which organized the rally, paid for me to travel to D.C. for the weekend; I’ll have more to say about that later. I’ll also post a lot of photos and interviews, so check back! For now, check out the photos from Grizzly Groundswell. See also photos from Tom Nally.

Update: Here is my Flickr set of the event.

Why Tea Party Groups Should Not Endorse Candidates

Yesterday “Acmaurerco” argued at the People’s Press Collective that “Tea Party organizations should make endorsements.” He is wrong. (I don’t know who is “Acmaurerco,” but I’ll refer to the party as “AC” with masculine pronouns.)

Notably, AC completely fails to respond to my previous arguments against Tea Party endorsements. Here I will review and expand them.

Was the Tea Party leadership unanimously elected by the members of the respective organizations? The obvious answer is no. I know of no case in which a Tea Party group even maintains an official membership roster. I do not know how Tea Party leaders came to their roles, but I suspect it was through the voting of a relatively small portion of the regional Tea Party movement.

Did the Tea Party leadership gain the consent of every Tea Party member to speak on behalf of every Tea Party member in matters of politics? Again, the obvious answer is no. I am quite confident that many different self-proclaimed Tea Partiers support Ken Buck, Jane Norton, Scott McInnis, and Dan Maes (the four major Republican candidates running in Colorado for U.S. Senate and governor).

So my first basic argument is that it is immoral and deceitful to claim to speak for others without their consent, and that is exactly what happens when proclaimed leaders of the Tea Party groups endorse some particular candidate on behalf of the group. I do not believe that Tea Party leaders ultimately advance their ideas or their movement by acting immorally and deceitfully. Instead, what they do is alienate not only many current and potential Tea Partiers but much of the public.

Many Americans are hungry for the ideas of liberty, not the same old petty and unprincipled party squabbling.

My second basic argument is this: there is no principled candidate in any of the large races in Colorado. Many Tea Partiers favor Maes over McInnis. But the simple fact is that both Maes and McInnis are unprincipled, pragmatic populists. Consider, for example, Maes’s flip-flopping on guns and abortion. What, then, has been the basis for Tea Party endorsements? Generally those endorsements are rooted in anti-establishment sentiments, not in any careful comparison of how fully the candidates endorse liberty.

The subsidiary problem is that the Tea Parties hardly advocate a consistent ideology supportive of liberty. Instead, the Tea Parties advocate a mish-mash of free markets with statist controls and welfare transfers. To take but two examples, consider how many Tea Partiers advocate economic protectionism regarding immigration policy, or how many (including Rand Paul) endorse police-state abortion controls. Operating from such an ideological hash, Tea Party leaders cannot help but to endorse candidates based on superficial traits.

Let us, then, consider AC’s arguments for why Tea Party leaders should endorse candidates. AC claims that the Tea Party movement is “more like an interest group or a civic group” like the “Elks or Moose, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Rotary Club, the VFW, the NRA.” I don’t think the Elks, the Boy Scouts, or the VFW endorse candidates for political office. The only group in that list that I think endorses candidates is the National Rifle Association. To take a comparable example, here in Colorado Rocky Mountain Gun Owners endorses candidates.

But let us consider the important differences between the Tea Party movement and the NRA and RMGO. The basic way one becomes an active member of the NRA or of RMGO is to pay those organizations an annual fee. Obviously that is not remotely how Tea Party groups work. Instead, basically if you say “I’m a Tea Partier,” you’re a part of the group. Moreover, when RMGO endorses a candidate, it is abundantly obvious that RMGO is not claiming to speak for every gun owner in Colorado or even every paid member of RMGO. Instead, an RMGO endorsement obviously means, “I, Dudley Brown, founder of RMGO, prefer candidate X over candidate Y, and I am prepared to spend some portion of my group’s resources promoting my favored candidate among those who I think will respond positively to such promotion.” If you disagree, you are free to withhold your funds from RMGO and declare your disagreement.

In the amorphous Tea Party movement, it is simply impossible to so distinguish the voices of the proclaimed leaders from the voices of the members, if the leaders claim to speak for an entire Tea Party group. Now, of course, this says nothing against individuals who happen to be leaders of Tea Party groups independently endorsing and promoting some candidate. But there is a huge difference between saying, “I, Joe Blow, endorse candidate X,” and saying, “This entire Tea Party group or movement endorses candidate X.” In all cases involving Tea Party groups, such claims for an entire group or the entire movement constitute blatant lies.

AC’s next (and only other) argument is that, by promoting particular candidates, Tea Partiers can advance their ideas in the political sphere. With this, I wholly agree. Tea Partiers can and, where they think they can be effective, should endorse and work for the election of particular candidates. But AC confuses the endorsements and efforts of individual Tea Partiers with the endorsements of proclaimed Tea Party leaders made on behalf on an entire group or movement.

As I concluded last time, “we’re supposed to be individualists, not collectivists. Let’s act like it.”

Critics of the Tea Party

While Tea Partiers rallied at the Denver capitol April 15 (see the video), a few critics wandered the crowd. I interviewed Ali Mickelson from the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute and Ray Harlan of the Coffee Party.

Viewers may notice that Mickelson dodged my question about the problem of deficit spending. She also inappropriately conflated tax cuts with tax subsidies; the two things obviously are fundamentally different.

Harlan insisted that the movement he supports is about process, not particular issues. However, a process apart from an end goal or standard is meaningless. He tipped his hand when he proclaimed that he wants government to implement the “will of the people;” i.e., the majority running over the rights of the minority at whim. Obviously I think his approach is fundamentally wrong. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of every individual, not bestow upon whomever proclaims to be “the people” the power to dictate to others how to live their lives.

Tax Day Tea Party: Denver 2010

What do the Tea Partiers believe? Many politicians and commentators have pretended to know. I figured I’d just ask them. This first video features numerous interviews with participants of the Tax Day Tea Party, held at the state Capitol in Denver on April 15, 2010.

A second video starkly illustrates the basic difference in tone between the Tea Parties and left-wing protests. Will the left and their media supporters continue to pretend that the Tea Partiers are the uncivil ones?

See T. L. James’s article for more on the left-wing infiltrators and protestors.

For Tea: Focus On Ideas, Not Personalities

Late last year I observed the unfortunate fact: Tea Partiers Get Partisan.

It looks like various “tea party” groups in Colorado continue to push an overtly partisan agenda, with the invitation of gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes to speak at the April 15 Tax Day Tea Party in Denver. Maes is the underdog in the primary race against Scott McInnis. What this means is that the event will take a narrowly partisan tone, thereby alienating many potential participants who are more concerned with the ideas of liberty than with partisan, Republican politics. (For reasons explained, I will not do anything that could be construed as support for Maes, which means that I will not promote this rally.)

Another concern I have with “tea party” groups is that their leaders seem increasingly willing to claim to speak for their nebulous membership base.

For example, Lu Ann Busse, Chair of The 9.12 Project Colorado Coalition, a woman who has done some great work, has overstated her role as spokesperson in a March 27 letter to Attorney General John Suthers: “Thank you for standing up and defending our individual rights and Colorado’s sovereignty by filing suit against the new federal health care insurance reform act with the other Attorneys General on March 23, 2010. … Since I am the elected Chair of 24 grassroots groups with over 10,000 registered voters in our combined membership, you may consider this email as 10,000 letters of support for your actions on our behalf.”

I too appreciate Suther’s work on this front, and I appreciate Busse taking the time to thank him. However, unless Busse personally asked each of the 10,000 members about their views and gained their approval for the letter to Suthers, she has no businesses claiming to speak for each of them. Instead, Busse’s proper role is to encourage her membership to speak up for themselves.

I do not always agree with Leonard Read, but he writes some useful comments on the matter in his chapter, “Appoint a Committee,” in his book, Anything That’s Peaceful. He writes:

The practice of committees, boards, or councils presuming to represent the views of vast constituencies occurs in educational and religious associations, in trade and commercial organizations, indeed in any segment of society where there is a propensity to organize. …

Actions of the group — council or committee — insofar as they are not accurate reflections of the participating individuals, must be classified as lies. …

On occasion, associations are formed for a particular purpose and supported by those who are like-minded as to that purpose. As long as the associational activities are limited to the stated purpose and as long as the members remain like-minded, the danger of misrepresentation is removed.

It is the multipurpose association, the one that potentially may take a “position” on a variety of subjects, particularly subjects relating to the rights or the property of others — moral questions — where misrepresentation is not only possible but almost certain. Merely keep in mind the nature of a committee.

The remedy here, if a remedy can be put into effect, is for the association to quit taking “positions” except on such rare occasions as unanimous concurrence is manifest, or except as the exact and precise degree and extent of concurrence is represented.

The alternative to associational “positions” is individual membership positions, that is, using the associational facilities to service the membership… Then, let the members speak or write or act as individual persons!

In other words, we’re supposed to be individualists, not collectivists. Let’s act like it.