Weekend Open Thread: Tea Parties As Pent-Up Hostility?
As said before, much “ink” has been spilled on these “pages” to discuss the libertarian response to the tea parties. Several of us have suggested that while we’re happy the partiers have regained their allegiance to small government and fiscal conservatives, we’ve thought it a bit strange that these folks seem to come out of the woodwork once they lose power.
But I’m struck by the thought that these people may have been just as fed up with the behavior of elected Republicans as we libertarians, and although they weren’t very vocal about it, they largely laid down at the polls due to that disgust.
Why weren’t they vocal? Well, as former CA state Republican chairman Gaylord Parkinson once called The Eleventh Commandment (as recalled by Ronald Reagan):
Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
Given that one of the biggest problems in the libertarian movement is constant infighting and purity battles, I can understand the desire to hold your ammunition for the enemy, not expend it on friendly fire.
So here’s my thesis. Republicans, getting disgusted by the behavior of Bush and his spendthrift Congress, but conflicted about in-party fighting opening the door to the Democrats (particularly during wartime), acquiesced at the spending as the “cost of remaining in power”. Then, when finally Bush was gone and the Republicans lost control of Congress, the built-up rage at the spending immediately erupted into an onslaught of protest. This sudden protest seems like a change of position, but it was a position that already existed under the surface and the acceleration of spending was the catalyst to open it up.
Two things must, of course, be said:
1) Republicans remaining silent during the Bush administration was wrong. Not only did they not get small government, they ended up losing control of Congress and the White House. Had they enforced spending discipline and acted like Republicans, they might have gotten small government and kept control. At worst, they would have slowed the rate of government growth before losing, instead of dramatically increasing the growth of government.
2) Obama’s spending levels are far beyond those Bush envisioned. Even if Bush’s wish list came to fruition, Obama’s intended spending is a whole new level.
So what do you folks think? Is the tea party protest an eruption of latent hostility that was masked during the last 8 years, or is it simply an about-face of our partisan American polity?