February 23, 2010

When the Tea Party Ends

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Only two things in life are guaranteed: taxes and Republicans complaining about taxes.

In an interview with Fox News regarding the Feb. 18 attack on an Internal Revenue Service office in Austin, Sen. Scott (“I drive a truck”) Brown remarked that “people are frustrated” with Washington.

“Nobody likes paying taxes, obviously,” said Brown, the newest face of Republican populism.

This particular person who didn’t like paying taxes was a 53-year-old software engineer named Andrew J. Stack III. To protest, he set his house on fire — with his wife and her daughter inside — and crashed a small airplane into an I.R.S. building, 9/11-style, killing one and wounding 13.

In his suicide letter, which he published online, Stack rants at length about the unconstitutionality of income tax and the American government’s sinister plot to repeal civil liberties.

While Stack is not officially part of the Tea Party, his ideology eerily parallels that of the Tea Party movement — the very same movement responsible for securing Brown’s electoral victory last month in a historically Democratic Senate seat. To rationalize Stack’s actions by suggesting that they reflect a general frustration felt by Americans is not only wrong, but also dangerous. Brown should know better.

But Republicans are the Party of No, not the Party of Know.

Brown is certainly not the first Republican politician to flirt with (or at least not sufficiently reject the merits of) the extralegal. (Look no further than former vice-president Dick Cheney, who reiterated last week his approval of torture — a war crime by both international and American standards.) But the Tea Party has brought blind rage to the mainstream, and provoking the paranoid is irresponsible.

Tea Party-associated groups are already organizing militias and stocking up on ammunition, gold and canned food for a second American civil war. Some have stated that they are prepared to storm the White House, should they feel it necessary.

Richard Behney, a Republican running for the Senate in 2010, declared, “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show,” if dissatisfied with the Congressional election results. He added, “I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.”

In other words, the threat of violence is no longer implicit.

And many of the people who pose this threat confess to have not even followed politics prior to the election of President Barack Obama.

Darin Stevens, an organizer for Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, admits, “I voted twice and I failed political science twice” before getting involved with the Tea Party movement. He, like many Tea Partiers, credits Beck and Fox News for calling to his attention to Washington’s supposed plot to dismantle America.

People like Stevens are upset about the bank bailouts and the stimulus package, preternaturally fear the government and, as a general rule, hold Ivy League-educated “liberal elites” like Obama in great contempt.

And it is a contempt rooted not in reason but in a lack thereof.

According to a recent poll, only 2 percent of Tea Partiers are even aware that taxes have fallen, not risen, for 95 percent of working families since Obama took office.

It’s no wonder they believe Obama was born in Kenya. They probably believe 2Pac is chilling in Cuba, too.

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher explains that, to Tea Partiers, “Freedom means guns, diplomacy means weakness, elitist means reader and socialist means black.”

And these are the people the Republican Party is bending its principles to appease.

The take-home message from last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference was that economic conservatism cannot succeed without social conservatism. Sen. Jim DeMint tweeted that Republicans not on board with this narrow agenda “are a part of the problem and should be replaced.”

The Tea Party wants to homogenize conservatism, as if the Republican Party really needed a whitewash.

Even Sen. John McCain, who abandoned a career of thoughtful politics to appeal to the Sarah Palin side of the Republican Party, is facing strong opposition from Tea Partiers who claim that “he runs like a conservative but legislates like liberal.”

This is the guy who most recently resisted efforts to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, claiming that banning openly gay soldiers from serving in the military is “imperfect but effective.”

So, if McCain is still too liberal for the Tea Party, who’s left? Mostly a collection of Republican upstarts with few ideas, no clear vision and an anti-government agenda.

In the interim, running against the government will win them a great deal of support from Tea Partiers. But the strategy sort of falls to pieces if they manage to get elected. And they very well might, as polls are suggesting that the Congressional elections in 2010 may skew heavily Republican.

If this is indeed the case, will the elected Republicans allow themselves to be sworn in? And if they do, won’t they instantly become part of “the problem” in Washington (i.e. the government)?

In other words, can these populist-pleasing Republicans be the government and the anti-government at the same time, or will they have a “does not compute” moment and self-destruct?

This could be one of those philosophical paradoxes best left to those Ivy League-educated liberal elites.

Original Author: Cody Gault