Anti-Incumbent Backlash Finds a Strange Vessel

The “Tea Party,” if it were a proper party, polls above both partisan mainline parties, a split conservatives are happy to encourage. More on this later…


  1. The story here is not really about the Tea Party, but a resurgence of populism. The Tea Party just happens to be the only really organized populist group out there. That’s why if you dig into its membership you will see a real diversity of reasons for people joining (don’t believe the liberal spin – they aren’t all homogenous conservatives).

    The GOP had 8 years of screw ups to drive them out of office. So far the Democrats have been pretty lackluster. That’s what breeds populism.

  2. Show me a liberal, moderate, or otherwise non-conservative teabagger, or tea party sign.

    1. You’re basing your assesment on protest signs? C’mon Ames, that’s just bad research. Furthermore, unless those signs specifically say, “I’m a conservative,” then your assesment is just conjecture.

      Many people in the Tea Party movement are libertarian. There are also some conservatives that do not identify with the GOP. There was also a piece on NPR the other day where they talked about the large number of independents and people who have never belonged to a party or even been active in politics.

      I realize it serves your cause to paint the all the Tea Party folks as crazy conservatives…but unfortunately that doesn’t jive with the more professional analysis of their membership done by other organizations.

  3. Libertarian? I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    And fine. If not protest signs, then what outer marker do you have to prove that there is a diversity of opinion within the “tea party” movement — that they’re not all Beckian birthers?

    1. As a conservative I would contend I am much more positioned to understand libertarian than a libby-lib like yourself.

      Well, as I pointed out, NPR took the time to actually talk to some of those folks rather than make ill-advised pronouncements based on the signs they carry and Keith Olberman’s latest talking points. I’m quite sure there are plenty of articles out there in magazines like Time or Newsweek for the intrepid blogger like yourself.

  4. An artful attempt to shift to me a burden that I need not carry :). I suppose Danville’s chapter isn’t representative?

    And equating libertarianism with conservatism shows you don’t really grasp it. There has been no libertarian party in America for years (other than, ahem, the Libertarian Party). No Republican has ever stood for small government in deeds, a situation that the right’s co-opting by fundamentalists only exacerbates.

    1. Yes – I assumed you would see solid, non-partisan research as a burden. It’s really not that hard man, I do it daily.

      I didn’t equate them. I just think they are closer to conservatives than liberals. I’d be happy to debate that fact with you. And libertarians are just about small govt. It’s really more about personal freedoms, etc.

  5. For “burden,” you should’ve read “burden of proof.” All evidence suggests the tea party movement deserves dismissal — staging “die-ins” and marches on Washington with birther/joker signs is not respectable. If you’re trying to supply them with some credibility, the burden of proof is yours, not mine.

    1. I’m saying it’s a diverse movement and lumping them all as conservatives is pure spin.

  6. Right! And I’m saying your evidence for that is only aspirational. Prove me wrong!

    1. If we’re talking ideology, yes, conservatism and libertarianism are closer cousins. If you want to talk about practice, i’d say libertarians are mostly opportunists in that they will support whichever party mirrors their views on any particular issue and that is roughly a 50/50 split.

  7. You Americans have really weird definitions of political ideologies. You call libertarian what we would call liberal; the similarity of the words already shows that some shift in meaning has led to a discrepancy here. It has shifted because you call liberal what we would call social democrat (Germanic) or socialist (romance), and I have never grasped how liberal, even just on a meaning-of-the-word level, can be understood to mean “big government” or “regulation of the economy”, both the exact opposites of liberal. Lastly, you seem to think that conservative is some kind of ideology at all, whereas the word simply means somebody who wants to stop the modernization of society, as opposed to progressive and reactionary. So conservative depends on the issue that is debated at the moment – if you are in a socialist society, a socialist would be the conservative. All of this leads to the kind of muddied and unproductive discussions like the one we see above.

  8. I reject the idea that libertarianism is anything close to modern conservatism. Let’s parse libertarianism into two facets — economic rights and personal rights. Libertarianism struggles to maximize both. If we take our modern ideologies at their most simplistic, liberalism maximizes the latter; conservatism, the former.

    Which is “closer” to libertarianism depends on their relative value. I, obviously, put personal liberties first — as does the American Constitution. Therefore the fact that the GOP is the only party that pretends to care about maximizing economic liberty is a nullity, because it’s not as valuable as the other.

    1. What ‘personal rights’ does American liberalism maximize? How about gun rights? How about the rights to smoke in public? Etc.

      Liberals maximize ‘personal rights’ only when they fit into liberal ideology.

  9. False: liberals maximize personal rights when they don’t create negative externalities.

    1. Yeah – that’s how we feel about abortion.

  10. No — it’s not. You feel it’s murder.

    1. And you think gun rights will lead to murder, or smoking will lead to cancer.

      The difference of course is that with abortion death is certain.

  11. The distinction is fine, but real: the harm from gun/cigarette usage is societal, meaning regulation rests on an objective, verifiable concern from misuse or collective use. The harm from abortion is based on subjective morality. One is more paternalistic than the other. Which do you think it is?

    1. Cars kill more people than guns Ames – where’s your concern?

      The quest for govt healthcare is based on subjective morality as well…you guys are happy to pursue that when it’s convienant.

      1. Suspected Replicant · ·

        The sole purpose of a gun is to kill, which is not true of cars so the comparison is false. Even with cars, it’s Liberals who press for airbags, seatbelt laws, speed limits and other safety improvements over the claims of conservatives that they will destroy the auto industry.

        1. I could name hundreds of gun models specifically designed for non-killing purposes.

          1. Me too!

            You’ve got the Maverick, the NiteFinder, the Ballzooka

            1. Been in NYC waaaaay too long.

          2. Don’t nerf me, bro!

            Hey, I wonder if those qualify as “arms” for the purpose of the 2nd Amendment.

        2. Sole purpose is to kill, what’s your point? Killing is an important and socially beneficial function.

    2. Either way the harm is supposed to be irrelevant. You don’t compromise on rights.

  12. I’ve read Tea Party literature. They are definitely conservative, harking back to an early 19th century version of government.

    They are not necesarily Republicans, and many will argue that the Republican party has become too liberal.

  13. Quite so. They’re like a pre-Lochner conservative party, premised on reading “liberty” as an unrestrained liberty of contract, from which we deviated long ago, and for the better.

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