Point: The Tea Parties Are Ultimately Bad For Liberty

This post is the opening salvo of a feature we occasionally offer here at The Liberty Papers called “Point-Counterpoint”. In this feature, Kevin is arguing the Point that Tea Parties are ultimately damaging to the libertarian movement. Tomorrow, Brad will respond to this argument with his Counterpoint (response here).

The so-called Tea Party movement has been upheld by some as a movement of Americans fed up with overtaxation and excessive spending by the Federal government. These supposedly disgruntled ordinary Americans have been having rallies all across the country to show their disgust with the fiscal shape of the country. However, there is more beneath the surface of the Tea Party movement. In reality, the Tea Party movement has become a platform for assorted kooks, Republican party operatives looking to regain credibility with the American people, and libertarian and conservative activists who frankly should know better than to associate with the above.

Many of the featured Tea Party speakers this weekend were either tax hiking, big government politicians themselves or can be safely classified as kooky.

One of the cases in point is none other than celebrity Joe the Plumber aka Samuel Wurzelbacher who turned an Austin Tea Party into an anti-immigration rant:

“I believe we need to spend a little more on illegal immigrants get them the (expletive) out of our (expletive) country, and close the borders down,” Wurzelbacher said. “We can do it.”

“We’ve got the greatest military in the world and you’re telling me we can’t close our borders- that’s just ridiculous.”

Another group of kooks gathered in Duval County, Florida at an event organized by the county’s Republican Party.

The Republican Party of Duval County is backing away from their promotion of an event that featured numerous controversial comparisons of President Barack Obama with German Dictator Adolf Hitler. The event, a Tea Party held at the Jacksonville Landing on July 2, was organized by the First Coast Tea Party. However, the Duval County Republican Party promoted the event with e-mails that stated “Paid by Republican Party of Duval County.” Duval Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry also broadcasted live from the event on the party’s weekly radio broadcast hosted by AM 1320.

The event, which was attended by Florida State Representatives Lake Ray, Charles McBurney and Mike Weinstein and Florida State Senator Stephen Wise, drew about 1,000 people to the Jacksonville Landing. Local party officials were on stage, along with numerous members of the Jacksonville business community.

While partisan rhetoric at any rally is expected, controversy has arisen over numerous signs that were prominently displayed at the gathering, including two that featured Barack Obama in Nazi garb. One sign, in fact, had altered Obama’s appearance to resemble Hitler. Other signs compared ACORN, the community organizing group accused of voter registration irregularities, with the SS—the Nazi organization responsible for enacting the Holocaust and the group responsible for most of the crimes against humanity committed by the Third Reich.

In short, the Tea Parties have become less about opposition to bailouts and reckless spending and instead have begun to resemble the “anti-war” rallies of the Bush years. The “anti-war” rallies were generally nothing more than “We Hate Bush” rallies and the Tea Parties have become “We Hate Obama” rallies where every phony outrage and faux scandal about Obama are aired to a country that is rejecting them. The Tea Parties have lost their original purpose of promoting fiscal responsibility in most of the country and the movement has come to the point where it harms the liberty movement by continuing to associate with them.

Plus, while original supporters of bailouts, higher taxes, and higher spending are being booed at some events, other tax and spend hypocrites are being welcomed as speakers and are cheered because they’re playing for the right team aka the GOP. By cheering on the same politicians who created the fiscal mess our country is in, the Tea Party movement continues the same fiscal mess they claim to oppose.

If the only purpose of the Tea Parties is to elect more Republicans then we have failed. Instead, we as libertarians must let this movement lose steam and fade away, like all populist movements do. Especially when we start seeing talk of the Tea Party movement nominating Sarah Palin, who is an enemy of everything classical liberalism stands for, to be its presidential candidate. If the point is to gain publicity for our causes, we are failing in this because the media is focusing on the fringe participation and the Republican party sponsorship of these events.

In short, libertarians and the Tea Party movement must divorce if the liberty movement is to survive. Or the Tea Party movement must clean its own house and get back to its core issues of fiscal responsibility.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    I’ve also noticed that some of the people at some of the tea parties were carrying signs about the non-controversy over Obama’s citizenship and 9/11.

    This may not represent the “tea party” movement as a whole, but Kevin is right that the fight for liberty cannot afford to be associated with kooks like this.

    It’s what killed Ron Paul’s campaign, and it will most assuredly kill this movement as well if it’s not put an immediate stop

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin


    What’s even more disturbing is the fact that a major political party, GOP, appears to be encouraging the kooks.

  • http://www.twitter.com/LyleLanley Chris

    Although I (sometimes) consider myself a libertarian and would like a smaller government and lower taxes, it seems to me that the whole Tea Party Movement (or as I like to call it, the pit-tea party movement) will only alienate the base. At the Tea Party held in Lansing on April 15th, my reaction to the various signs was less of solidarity and more of irritation.

    My hope is that this “movement” is just a large-scale trolling effort, and will have no real impact on the political realm.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org Stephen Gordon

    My observation is still that each Tea Party is different. Some good, some ok, some bad.

    I don’t think all Tea Parties can be painted with the same broad brush.

  • Bill Badman

    Hmmm…Gosh…Oldmanbadman rdncoic

    Tea Party involvement is about getting rid of pork in politics and getting rid of democrats and republicans who push big government and control of the people. We will Win! Bill Badman, not always saying what you want to hear, but saying it just the same.

    Goodbye B.H.Obamaman and hello to America

  • http://www.rlc.org Westmiller

    IF the Tea Parties intend to invoke the revolutionary Boston Tea Party of 1773, then they’re pointless: we *have* taxation *with* representation.
    If there is no uniting theme to the protests, then it’s all just hot air: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” … with no specific content for the “it”.
    Maybe the various organizers have some inkling of an objective that the Tea Parties are supposed to achieve, but I’m not getting any kind of uniform, concrete message to indicate any real political purpose to the rallies.
    Is there a point, or is this just a rabble-rousing party?

  • http://www.libertyhat.blogspot.com Jane


    But DO we “the people” *have* representation?


    “Connecticut Post (04/16/2009):

    “WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd appears to have looked everywhere but his home state to fuel what pundits anticipate will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010.

    The five-term incumbent reported raising just $4,250 from five Connecticut residents during the first three months of the year while raking in $604,745 from nearly 400 individuals living outside the state.”

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Bill (Westmiller),

    Did any representative who voted for Waxman-Markey actually read it? How, then, can they say they’re representing our interests, if they can’t even say they know whether the bill is in our interest?

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    Isn’t that what elections are for ?

    If people don’t like what their representatives are doing, they need to vote them out of office.

  • Kestrel

    The Tea Parties are about out of control government and a corrupt two party system. You see people addressing many issues at the tea parties — Out of control spending, Government corruption; the list could go on and on. The common them is smaller government.

    The importants of the tea parties is that it sends the message — you are not alone in your beliefs. They will radicalize larger and larger groups as the economy worsens and Taxes go through the roof.

    The scum from both parties that think they will harness this force for political advantage will have a rude awakening.

  • http://www.rlc.org Westmiller

    Jane: “But DO we “the people” *have* representation?”

    Yep. The best that money can buy … whether they can read or not.
    But, my point is not whether representation is good or bad, nor who buys it, nor what they do. The point is that we *do* have representation, so the “Tea Party” theme doesn’t apply, as it did in 1773.

    It’s fine to attach your own issues to the Tea Party theme … everybody does it. Which means that it has no coherent message. “Politicians are scum!” is not a message, it’s just whining.

  • Chris

    “the fight for liberty cannot afford to be associated with kooks like this.

    It’s what killed Ron Paul’s campaign, and it will most assuredly kill this movement as well if it’s not put an immediate stop”

    100% incorrect. That is NOT “what killed Ron Paul’s campaign. Ostracism and then marginalization by mainstream media, plus poor management, is what killed it.

  • Paul

    The problem with the Tea Partys is the same problem associated with electoral politics. It accomplishes nothing, but makes its participants feel as if they’ve done something.

    If we are to roll back the State and regain any freedom it will not be by voting or picketing. It will because of secession or revolution or a refusal of the individual to recognize the State after it has gone bankrupt. The State will not voluntarily yield one iota of authority due to a vote or petition.

  • Michael

    H.L. Mencken said “The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think

    things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions

    and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government

    he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic,

    he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread

    discontent among those who are.”

    The Tea Parties are just a way of spreading discontent among those who’ve realized Mencken’s view of our government is correct. How can there be reform if we don’t begin by airing our discontent?

    As for those people attending the Tea Parties with whom we disagree, I don’t care if they’re wrong on a multitude of issues as long as we agree on one, that we need to shrink government and reclaim our liberty.

  • Mart

    The article’s thesis is that these TEA Parties are really being hijacked by loonies and the GOP……. I agree, but the emphasis really needs to be placed on the GOP more than the kooks. Were there any TEA Parties before the socilaist was elected???? Didn’t this bailout garbage begin under “W”? Both wars were passed by both sides of both Houses. The deficits and debt are the products of most state governments and those of us that are screaming, seem to be ignored. What can we do? “Informing” is not working, as handouts are multiplying, and our grandchildren’s lives and liberties, and chances to pursue their own happinesses are withering away. What to do????

  • http://www.campaignforliberty.com/usa/LA/ Tom Rankin

    A true liberty organization is going to be focused on one main national objective. Audit the Fed.

    If you do not agree with this 100% then you have home work to do. Educate yourself on who the Fed is and what they do.

    A true liberty organization is going to be focused on one main state issue. State Sovereignty.

    Many different Liberty Organizations all across America are talking to each other, sharing ideas,
    joining each other. They are organizing this movement.

    Join Us.
    Get on the same page.
    Hold Town Hall meetings
    Get Active
    Our voice will be heard.

    In Liberty,
    Tom Rankin

  • http://www.meetup.com/Cape-Fear-Tea-Party-Patriots/ Thomas Naramore

    100% of the shots you don’t take don’t score. This is not the time to be quoting philosophers, it is the time to be quoting Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry. Stop telling why it wont succeed and start doing your small part to fufill your duty to preserve liberty for posterity.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    Auditing the Fed isn’t going to accomplish much of anything.

  • Peter

    Auditing the Fed will not do much of anything, but it is a step in the right direction. It must happen before any real changes are made to “the finacial system”.

  • http://www.meetup.com/Cape-Fear-Tea-Party-Patriots/ Thomas Naramore

    Turning on the light doesn’t hurt the cockroaches, but it will certainly lead to a motivated coursr of action.

  • http://www.politicalclassdismissed.com/teaparty Jim Ostrowski

    The tea party movement is what’s happening now. Libertarians need to jump in and lead it, not skulk away to their famous seminars where they love to talk to each other.

    We also need a plan for victory.



  • Paul Roberts

    There will always be some ‘kooks’. Goes with the territory. At the April 15 tea party in Lansing MI, someone who tried to start an anti-obama chant was ignored by the thousands of others there and he quickly gave up. Can’t keep them away, but we can outnumber them and ignore them.

  • Hampden

    Guys like Mataconis are responsible for harming Ron Paul’s campaign, with their continual irrigation of libelous statements regarding his record. No one can be wholly responsible for those who choose to associate with a political campaign. We have a pale shadow of freedom of association in this country, and because of it, the kooks, moon-bats and other pseudo-libertarians like Mataconis can associate with various groups and tar them, and their message of liberty, with their insidious presence.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis


    Ron Paul and his supporters damaged that campaign all by themselves, I had nothing to do with it.

    And since when did supporting Ron Paul’s campaign for President become a libertarian litmus test ?

  • southernjames

    Wow, all this infighting from a crowd that, if you gather then all together, can barely fill a handful of football stadiums.

    Looks like a good moment for a Rodney King quote. :)