Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Tea Party’s ancient grievance

Latest gambit in the branding business is the suggestion that Democrats are “reactionaries” and Republicans are “radicals.” Supposedly, the core business of Democrats is to uphold the entitlement programs legislated over the last seventy years and the defining purpose of Republicans is to re-invent America according to the Constitution of 1787. These two roughly equivalent pejorative terms leave reasonable people outside of the debate.

However, the credibility of this semantic exercise—switching their historic accusations of one another—is over-run by the facts.

For one thing, today’s Republican Party resurgence—the element in its base that gives it its fresh energy—has no comprehensive ideological point of view and, emotionally, predates the 20th century. The Tea Party isn’t radical, it’s mom and apple pie sectarian.

Chrystia Freeland neatly summed up a careful study by three Harvard political scientists entitled “The Tea Party and Remaking of Republican Conservatism.”

“The central tension for the Tea Party grassroots isn’t between the Big Brother state and the freedom-loving individual, or between inefficient government spending and effective free markets. Instead, the researchers found that the fundamental distinction for Tea Partiers is not state versus individual, it is the division of their country into “workers” versus “people who don’t work.”

Freedland notes that Tea Party followers like their entitlements but don’t like their tax dollars going to young “freeloaders.” The immigration issue, she notes generously, isn’t race-based, “it is about (the) deserving, income-earning citizen and unauthorized, foreign freeloader.”

What other terms do populists ever use to define the “other”?

 Radicalism is a way of thinking. How can you think your way into believing that a $4 trillion dollar debt problem was created solely by spending on free loaders and illegal immigrants? Do they think throwing in undeserving corporate subsidies and open-ended home mortgage subsidies would close the circle?

Yes, there is something radical about the resurgence within the Republican Party—a child’s insistence that everyone else is the problem.

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