I believe in small government; I believe that people are generally good, albeit ignorant, and that left to their own devices, they will generally evolve toward social norms that bring the greatest good to the greatest number. I believe that everything has trade-offs, that nothing is free, and that it’s rational to be optimistic. More than anything, though, I believe that the constitution is to protect us from government, but also to protect government from us.
That last point is why I’m skeptical, but hopeful, about the Tea Parties. The common narrative is that they’re dangerous white gun nuts. I heard tell if’n they git in the gubernerment, it’s AK’s for all, abortions for none, and a sunscreen-marketers paradise from coast to coast. They’ll burn down the Education department, bomb the New York Times, eliminate Kwanza, and defenestrate IRS agents. After they look up “defenestrate”.
Jonathan Rauch tried to dissect the movement, and his piece is filled with hazy falsehoods, and missed messages.
Call it the Tea Party Paradox. The very forces that are leading to the Republican surge in 2010 may also create a painful dilemma for the GOP thereafter. The reason lies with an emerging phenomenon of which the tea party movement is just a leading indicator: the rise of “debranded” Republicans. . . .
A second trend is also noticeable. Far from being wishy-washy, in 1997 Republican-leaning independents were about as skeptical of government as were Republicans. In 2010, they became, if anything, even more conservative. Today, your average Republican-leaning independent is at least as anti-government as your average Republican. Why? Probably because self-identified Republicans include moderates and even a sprinkling of liberals. Republican-leaners seem to be less diverse ideologically. They look like not just Republicans in exile; they look like conservativeRepublicans in exile. The seepage of Republican debranding has been from the right edge of the party.
Why is that surprising? The last round of Republican power politics saw the party move dramatically toward the center on fiscal issues, but farther to the right on social issues. The Neo-conservatives spent more than any previous administration, while denying social freedoms and bombing the hell out of a good chunk of the world. Shockingly, people who actually understood conservative tenants had a problem with this. Rauch, however, continues to swing and miss:
Moreover, and perhaps more ominous for the GOP, not only are debranded Republicans cool to social conservatism, they are downright hostile to the Republican establishment.
According to Pew’s surveys, a solid majority of Republican-leaning independents, 55 percent, disapprove of the Republican Party’s leaders, a level that places them closer on the spectrum to Democrats than to Republicans.
For now, the saving grace for Republicans is this: If debranded Republicans are sour on Republican leaders, they are positively repelled by Democratic leaders. Fully 84 percent of them, according to Pew, disapprove of the Democratic Party’s leaders, a figure that puts them on a par with Republicans.
Imagine that. Voters who object to specific policies and philosophies don’t like when they’re party, traditionally opposed to those ideas, suddenly embraces them. Well done, Jonathan.
Debranded Republicans may present the GOP with an unpleasant strategic dilemma.
The party is already well to the right of the country’s center. Here is another version of a chart you saw earlier, this time omitting independents to emphasize the ideological mix among partisans.
Well fuck. You almost had it. The problem isn’t that the party establishment is too conservative. Rauch acts like the identity of the party has remained constant, and the people have changed. He’s exactly backward. The problem is the Party, as an institution, became more liberal about fiscal issues, and more stridently centralist about social issues. My sense is that conservatives in the Republican establishment went along with that, because of the team mentality of the system; even if I disagree with the tactics, we’re winning.
A conservative fiscal policy, coupled with a respect for social freedoms (not to say endorsement) is the best conservative tradition. Republicans haven’t run their institution that way for a decade or longer. If anything, the party isn’t conservative enough, and the existence of a broad popular movement on its right is evidence. But leave it to Rauch, a beltway guy all the way, to assume it’s the Party, not the people, who matter.
So I’m optimistic that the Tea Party could pull the Party back towards it’s truly conservative roots. Sure, they’re a little kooky about some things, but I’m betting that the courts, under a working federalist system, will check most of their egregious uncouthness. Federalism is the separation of powers, that prevents the tyranny of the majority. That’s the part of the Constitution that protects government from us. Unlike the majority of observers and commentators, I don’t think the government exists to “solve problems”, I think it exists to preserve freedom in the long run. I’m not going to boil up some tea myself, but I’m not terrified just because other folks found a new drink.