April 1, 2010

That's Not Me! That's Not Me!

The first TEA party I attended was transformative.

Here were enough people to cover the West lawn of the State Capitol, all of whom believed in limited government and enumerated rights enough to come down to the West lawn of the State Capitol. The people were nice, the signs were clever, the atmosphere festive. Many times since, I have wished I could have shown that to non-believers on the right and left. No, these people are not crazy racists -- and no, these people are not ignorant fools who will let this opportunity slip away. I would have been proud to have brought anyone I know there.

Yesterday, The Tea Party Express bus tour rolled through my hometown. We were again on the West lawn and once again there was a good crowd, bright signage, and general comity. Sadly, this time the event was tarnished by the Tea Party Express. Where I would have longed to share the first experience, this one would have embarrassed me. At times, it felt as if I were watching an SNL portrayal of a Tea Party. What? Tina Fey is not scheduled to appear?

Brother jg and Sister dagny-- after providing most commendable handicapped transportation services -- worked the crowd, politely engaged some counter-protesters, and starred in photos with their clever signage and preternaturally photogenic daughters. My lovely bride and I opted for a secluded opportunity to sit and listen. If you dance every dance, you may not care so much that the band sucks; but if you sit and listen...

The first TEA party had Jon Caldera from the Colorado Independence Institute, a couple State Senators came out of the Capitol and I think Michele Malkin was the "star." The sound was poor and the spontaneousness of the event was apparent. Hayek would have been proud.

While any two or three of yesterday's speakers or performers would have fit in perfectly, the sum total was dispiriting. There was not a single intellectual, philosophical or educational speaker. There was a lengthy series of patriotic songs and poems and speeches supporting the troops. I don't think anyone who has read this blog for more than three days would suggest that I am indifferent to patriotism or to recognition of those who wear the nation's uniform. But we have work to do and what started as sweet (a Gold Star Mom extolling her son's last day with stories and a song she composed) grew kitschy and maudlin. Again, consider the reviewer.

When the theme turned to politics, it was red meat ("Pelosi and Reid and Obama, or as I like to call them 'Lenin, Stalin, and Mao-lite'") and several more novelty songs. Oh-boy. The rap song from the guy from Waco was notable as it was the only time "limited government" was mentioned in the entire rally.

In between, the chatter was condescending and offered no recognition to the more libertarian attendee. It was God and Values and Country. The hand lettered signs were intelligent and bespoke of sophistication and awareness of politics and media. And yet, the speakers talked down "You know, we’re going to have an ee-lec-shun this year…"

To make my experience complete, Rep, Tom Tancredo closed the show. His introduction included a cringe-inducing Strom Thurmond moment of deep regret and sadness that he didn't win the presidency in 2008.

At the end, I asked Brother jg to drop me off at Democratic Party HQ so that I could sign up. I’ve calmed down a little since then but if the bus tour folks successfully co-opt the TEA Party, the last great hope for the last great hope has been extinguished.

Tea Party Posted by John Kranz at April 1, 2010 2:28 PM


Thanks JK for giving me a platform for this post. BTW, I still don't buy off on the pragmatism thing, no matter how many nice things you say about my kids but I digress.

One of the best parts of the trip to the TEA party rally was the subsequent dinner with good friends. I was discussing with JK my observation that in general in seems there are many people out there with politcs enough similar to mine that we could reasonably be called fiscally conservative and socially liberal (possibly even some who post on this page as the loyal opposition). I lamented the fact that although there seem to be be many people like me, there are no politicians (or at least no electable politicians) that represent me.

I continually find myself trying to determine which party is less successfully removing my individual liberties which seems to be the goal of both. The Democrats, "redistribute," more and more of my property while the Republicans wish to regulate more of my personal life. JK theorized that the reason for this is because those of us who believe in limited government and individual rights are not very passionate and reliable constituencies even if we might be a very large constituency. If we don't vote and don't volunteer, it is no use to the politicians that there are a lot of us.

So I mulled this over for a while and the penny finally dropped. JK, if this was what you were trying to communicate last night, sorry for my slow response. So here is my NEW working theory. To get elected, a politician MUST pander to a group that wants government to DO something for them. The Republicans want the government to outlaw abortion and gay marriage. Democrats want the government to take money from the nasty rich people and make sure the poor have food, health care, and big screen TV's.

Those of us who want the government to leave us alone, wallet and sex life alike have not so far been willing to stand up and say so and work to get candidates elected. So here is a note of optimism. Maybe those like me are now energized enough to elect candidates to DO something for us. I want them to REPEAL Obamacare and STOP spending. Do you suppose that will actually get candidates elected that represent ME??

Posted by: dagny at April 1, 2010 7:59 PM

I have not yet been to a TEA party event, though I'd be more apt to attend some local organized event than a "TEA Party Express (R)" event--for precisely the reasons both jk and dagny enumerated above. Dagny, you hit the nail on the head when you said that "a politician MUST pander to a group that wants government to DO something for them." And unfortunately for all of us, a politician is not going to actively work to REDUCE his reach or power. I have no solutions to this quandry to offer at this time.

jk and dagny, thank you so much for your honest reporting on this event. I have suspected that there have been many attempts by political animals to usurp this movement as their own for some time. At the heart of the TEA party movement, I believe, is a strong anti-incumbent feeling. I wonder if either one of you got a feeling for how many of your feloow attendees were left flat by the event?

Posted by: Lisa M at April 1, 2010 9:19 PM

As a matter of fact Lisa, we did talk about that last night. I noticed a fair amount of uncomfortable looking around in the crowd. It was gradual, as the speakers became more repetitive (and less focused on taxes and spending) and one wondered when it stopped being impolite to continue clapping and cheering. It did though, eventually.

I saw Lloyd Marcus, one of the featured TEA Party Express performers, pass through the crowd behind me. He said hi to one person who talked to him but was either in a hurry to get somewhere or didn't really want to chat with people. In his defense, this post from his blog speaks well of his motivations.

Consider this a public service to our Pennsylvania brothers - Be wary of the Bus.

Posted by: johngalt at April 1, 2010 11:42 PM

@dagny: And we were getting along so well. I'll tweak your characterization of my position just a hair: libertarians do not lack for passion. Sadly, they lack focus and loyalty. Pro-lifers will show up at caucus, write checks to candidates, and show up on election day. Libertarians will attach a bumper sticker for a fringe candidate, say "I could never give money to X, because he/she said "Y" in 19ZZ. And then they'll probably be high on mushrooms on election day and forget to show.

One can wish American politics didn't work that way. And one can wish that overweight, bald guys were basketball stars. But in the end, the guys who reliably do their part and bite their teeth when they got to will get their candidates elected. And tall, spry, athletic guys will get more rebounds.

@lisa: go anyway, avoid the bus if you can. It is energizing to see people who care.

@jg: Yeah, I saw a video interview of the TEA Party Express guy that blew me away (I'll hint for a link). He said everything right.

@all: ...and that was my hope for the TEA party. To energize the "hell no" vote, cement different factions around the "enumerated powers" platform, and put political power in the hands of liberty theorists. The jury is definitely still out.

Posted by: jk at April 2, 2010 3:02 PM

Just got permission to reprint part of an email where blog friend sugarchuck out-pragmatists teh pragmatist.

If you are looking for the Cato institute, Reason magazine or the Randians to win this battle, forget about it. Game over. This comes down to seniors, with assets they want to protect, health care they don't want to lose and a culture they don't want to see maligned. Libertarians won't do near the heavy lifting that the pro life folks will do after Stupak's betrayal, yet as least as far as most three sourcers are concerned, pro life voters are the enemy.
Posted by: jk at April 2, 2010 4:25 PM

jk, jg and dagny, I'll probably get to a tea party one of these days--it was my initial distrust of the Bus--anything labelled "Blankity Blank Express" has a distinct Sean Hannity flavor to it that automatically raises my hackles as something trademarked, packaged and slicked over. I prefer my grassroots movements with a little more edge to them, thank you very much. The TEA Party movement was born because the people were not being heard by their representatives in Washington; they are not assembling and channelling all of that energy so that they can listen to a few canned speeches. Furthermore, jumping on a movement and turning it into what is essentially an entertainment event, cheapens the movement and dumbs down the cause.

Years ago, there was a woman I worked with at the polls who, because she was a registered Libertarian, was our minority inspector. She was always trying to get my husband and I to register as Libertarians as well. My husband's response was that as soon as we get rid of the Democrats, we'd become Libertarians.

FWIW, sugarchuck makes a lot of excellent points. Only I've never noticed hostility to the pro-life point of view here.

Posted by: Lisa M at April 2, 2010 6:49 PM

Tweak of characterization accepted.

Working theory remains that those who will, "show up at caucuses and write checks," want the government to DO something and usually what they want the government to do infringes individual liberty. Therefore almost universally, all politicians want to DO something that infringes individual liberty. I bet there is a fancy latin phrase that belongs here but I don't know what it is.

Posted by: dagny at April 2, 2010 6:57 PM

Lisa, I've pointed out before [below the vids] that while abortion is abominable, government coercion is worse. When the pro-life agenda extends to outlawing abortion I am hostile to it.

Posted by: johngalt at April 3, 2010 10:33 AM

I considered editing the SC quote. Out of context it seems like a complaint that was not really made. Besides, I don't think we're hostile to those knucledraggin' prolifers around here, are we?

But it speaks to the political basis of my little-p pragmatism: that is that little-l libertarians would do well do join forces with the powerful groups mentioned.

And, dagny, I am not as cynical. The heart of Frank Meyers Fusionism is that one group wants to be left alone to pursue their religion, one wants to be left alone to pursue prosperity. It's an uneasy and imperfect alliance, but it plays on a natural overlap of Lassez faire.

Posted by: jk at April 3, 2010 10:59 AM

jg, I believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and would like to see the question return to the states where the will of the people can be heard. I also find abortion abominable, but I also believe it is wrong to force taxpayers to fund it. I don't quite believe that outlawing abortion is the solution to the problem; rather the cavalier attitude towards abortion is.

Posted by: Lisa M at April 3, 2010 8:43 PM

LisaM: Abortion need not be outlawed to ban taxpayer funding of same. I agree with both of those points of view. Those who argue that Roe was wrongly decided ignore the tyranny that would result if a single state outlawed a woman's right to decide the fate of her own body. Until another individual comes out of her she is master of her reproductive organs. Educate her, counsel her but dare not compel her.

jk: As one of the little-l's you referred to, I am eager to join forces with the pro-lifers and will do so as long as they only want "to be left alone to pursue their religion." Pro-lifers typically want to use the power of states to impose at least some of their religion on everyone. Some of the powerful groups mentioned are driving moderates out of the GOP. They would do well to join forces with little-l libertarians instead.

Posted by: johngalt at April 4, 2010 1:27 PM

Like JG I am not sanguine that, "one group wants to be left alone to pursue their religion." My experience is that too many of them want to use the power of government to impose their religion on me.

Posted by: dagny at April 4, 2010 4:08 PM

jg, perish the thought that I want to impose my religion on anybody, because that religion has been lapsed Catholicism for the last 25 years. My views on abortion were not born of religion, since, when I was a practicing Catholic in my youth, I was also pro-choice. I've written on this pretty exentsively, if you areinterested. The most recent was when I wrote about one of our local guys running for governor and adding Kate Michelman to his campaign. The good stuff, if you care to read it, is in the comments here

And in response to this blogger's response to that same column:

Posted by: Lisa M at April 5, 2010 7:14 PM

LM, I've just read your first link in its entirety. I had no idea you were so well versed in this subject and welcome the opportunity for honest discussion about it. I think my views are sympathetic to yours, unlike at least two of your commenters. You and they seemed to be talking past each other. Let's try not to do that.

I agree that NARAL and NOW "want abortion to be socially acceptable." But I don't think you ever satisfactorily explained why that is so. I'm not prepared to explain that now either but it's something I think we should work on together.

You criticized commenters for "disenfranchising the pro-life movement" by upholding minority rights. This is a losing argument, in my opinion. Minority (individual) rights are the only rights that exist. "Your liberty ends at the tip of my nose."

Lastly, your closing thought that abortion cheapens life, lessens us all as human beings, and makes us "become no more than the sum of our parts, a function of biology and chemistry with no spark, no soul" is exactly the same case I made against outlawing abortion. [Link in 5th comment.] This may be a good place for more reflection and dialog. One suggestion I'll make is that the actions of another are no reflection of my morality, or of anyone's but his own. And trying to make "us all" moral through force of law is as futile as running an entire political economy from a corner office in Washington, D.C.

Posted by: johngalt at April 6, 2010 3:24 PM

I’m afraid I cannot look on this as dispassionately as jg. I am a woman so this is personal!

LM, I read all of both links and this is my understanding of your position: Regardless of how you reached your position (religious or otherwise), you want to the government to DO something. You want the government to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the question to the states. Then you want the governments of the states to make it illegal for ME to have an abortion. You perhaps want legal carve-outs for abortion to be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or if my life is, “in danger.” You have not specified who gets to determine what, “in danger,” means. Some government bureaucrat? Mostly likely male? Please correct me if this is a mischaracterization.

Like all other areas of my health care, my reproduction is, with all due respect, none of your business. It is further none of the government’s business, and certainly none of the business of the 51% of people that would be required to pass such legislation by the initiative process in one or more of our several states. The correct purpose of government is to defend the choices of each individual.

The question of abortion is a difficult one. I commend and admire the choice made by Sarah Palin. Fortunately I have 3 happy, healthy, children and have not faced that choice. However, I am almost 42 and we are considering another child. I realize that with my age the chances that I will have to face the same question Mrs. Palin did continue to increase. Perhaps I don’t have the resources of Mrs. Palin, personal, familial, financial.

Therefore my contention remains that it is NOT the government’s business, nor yours, nor NARAL and NOW. It is my decision to decide what I can live with and what I can’t. Why in the world would you turn such decisions over to a government that has so screwed up everything else it has tried to do?

Posted by: dagny at April 6, 2010 6:07 PM

Grab your bag! It's On!

I am loath to re-bore ThreeSourcers with my position, but I offer it in partial support of lm.

Dagny, you accept a gift from SCOTUS because you appreciate its outcome. I can appreciate that and yet if you ignore process, you set yourself up for more encroachment on your rights. If Justice Douglas can close his eyes and divine "emanations and penumbra" for Mr. and Mrs. Griswold, than Justice Hillary Clinton can likewise decide that we all have a right to health care funded by your taxes.

I'll join you in that I would vote for liberal reproductive rights at the state level. But I will join lm in thinking Roe to be wrongly decided.

There, now everybody hates me.

Posted by: jk at April 6, 2010 7:15 PM

With all due respect jk, and it is a significant amount of respect, Roe is a symptom and not the cause of the relativistic jurisprudence we all fear.

But more than that, Roe acted to limit the power of government. "Emanations ane penumbra" in support of the tenth amendment are wholly defensible while those that trample it are indefensible.

Besides, what power hath consistency among those who deny its virtue?

Posted by: johngalt at April 6, 2010 7:55 PM

I strongly agree this is a conversation worth having. While I believe that Roe was wrongly decided, I also believe that the Roe decision, in and of itself, has poisoned the debate. The mere act of judicial fiat granting the unhindered right to kill the unborn has created the so-called "litmus test" the Supreme Court justices which every administration denies is in effect, but we all know different. Preserving or striking down Roe becomes a greater issue than it needs to be; indeed, how many "single issue" voters do you know who base their vote solely on the abortion issue? Though the pro-abortion side argues that striking down Roe deprives people of choice, the pro-life side was deprived of that choice when the judicial fiat was handed down.
I firmly believe that if Roe was overturned and the people were allowed to vote their conscience on the issue, much of the vitril, regardless of the ultimate decision, wuld simply dissolve.

Just a few quick thoughts before I run out the door for work, but I look forward to more discussion before the thread falls off the page.

Posted by: Lisa M at April 7, 2010 7:19 AM

Respect accepted and reciprocated. Now can I start name calling?

We ALL tend to do a little fair-weather Federalism: "I believe in States' Rights and all but my pet project is so important, it needs to be nationalized." I hear my friends jg and dagny doing this.

I would vote to allow legal abortions in Colorado but think it is okay for Kansas to outlaw it, South Dakota to restrict it, and California presumably to have it at the drive through window. It strikes me as a poster child issue for Federalism. Individuals could effectively advocate their positions in their home states.

The trouble with the free gift of a right in Roe is that it removed the right of state citizens to self-determination. If a national right to abortion is required, I'd refer you to Article V.

Posted by: jk at April 7, 2010 11:08 AM

Hmmm, have we ever hit 20 comments before?

Before I can address the charge of nationalizing pet projects I must press harder on this idea of equivocating and conflating individual choice with majority choice. When LM says "...the pro-life side was deprived of that choice when the judicial fiat was handed down" the choice she refers to is the "choice" to infringe upon the actions of others. Their right to choose not to abort their own pregancies was never even at stake.

JK makes the same error with Roe "removed the right of state citizens to self-determination." No, it removed the right of state citizens to impose majority will via democracy upon other state citizens. But the founders gave us "a republic, madam, if you can keep it." This ain't a democracy!

Individuals have rights. Groups or "society" or collectives or states have only the accumulated rights of the individuals. Society can't think or act or have an opinion. Individuals can.

Posted by: johngalt at April 7, 2010 4:03 PM

Umm, yeah, self-determination. The ability to enact and enforce laws under the auspices of a State Constitution so long as those laws are not superseded by the Federal Constitution.

I would support a ban on D&X procedures (an assertion of the right to life of a viable infant) and would support parental notification with reasonable safeguards.

And yet, the Federal government, though the Judiciary, has removed my voice. They have packaged it with a pretty bow of "rights," but it remains an infringement on my self-determination.

The Constitution can be amended. It is no gift to liberty that it can sometimes be ignored. You cannot run to the Constitution for protection from ObamaCare® and then shrug when another overreach happens to please.

Posted by: jk at April 7, 2010 5:05 PM

So the state, which sets state law, is a "self?"

I don't understand how you think any of this rebuts my argument that state law is the imposition of majority will upon the minority.

Posted by: johngalt at April 7, 2010 7:41 PM

Prior to the Roe decision, many states had their own abortion laws. What Roe did was create a sweeping new "right" that had not existed, the right to privacy, and from there infer that the right to privacy meant the right to kill an unborn child. States can dictate to me whether or not I may carry my .357 concealed, or in certain areas. If they can place restraints on my right to bear arms, which is, in fact, clearly enumerated in the Constitution, why can they not regulate the ability to terminate our young, a far more consequential and heinous practice?

jg, I understand your point that a fetus is essentially a parasitic organism until birth; however, I would argue that to most women who decide to complete their pregnancies, should that pregnancy end in miscarriage, that woman is not going to say, whew! I'm glad I was cured of that parasitic organism. On the contrary, most women will mourn the loss of their "baby." On this point, I can speak from personal experience as well. In this instance, the only thing that changes the equation is whether the mother wants the child or not. A decision, given the ubiquity of birth control and sex education these days, that could have been made before a human life was hanging in the balance.

Additionally, given the advances in modern medicine, a fetus is viable long before the pregancy comes to term at 40 weeks. My cousin gave birth to twins at 26 weeks gestation; they are now active and completely normal seven-year-olds. So the question becomes, at what point would it have been ok to terminate the lives of those twins without it becoming murder? Any time prior to their emergence from the womb? This seems a rather arbitrary way to decide when a human life, already begun, can be snuffed out.

Posted by: Lisa M at April 7, 2010 8:44 PM

dagny, forgive me, but I did not originally see your post above and there are a few things that need clarification. You characterize my position as "wanting the government to DO something" which is correct, up to a point: I want the government to UNDO something that they should have never done in the first place. Then put it back to the people to decide. Once the people's voices are heard on the matter, I believe only then can the country have an intelligent, and somewhat less emotional discussion regarding abortion rights.

I agree that your body is your business, however, as I mentioned to jg in the post above, at what point does the human being inside of you gain rights? As a woman you make many choices with regard to birth control and whom you decide to sleep with; the decision to get pregnant in my mind is the same as deciding to have unprotected sex. Irresponsibly starting another human life, then choosing to shrug off that resulting responsibility to another human being by terminating that life cheapens all life. And it makes all life an easy thing to end. It is my belief that the ubiquity of abortion led in a direct line to the starvation death of Terri Shiavo, a woman who was brutally murdered by the state because, like a woman making a choice about her unborn baby, someone else made a choice for her: that her life was not worth living.

As a woman, and a mother of a daughter with a chronic illness, the fact that anyone can make a decision that another's quality of life (or potential quality of life) would not be worth living chills me to the bone. I don't necessarily believe abortion should be outlawed, but neither do I believe it is a right enumerated in the constitution.

Posted by: Lisa M at April 8, 2010 7:37 AM

I put this toward the worng post. (What's he going on about...)

I vote in my State. My State has a constitutional process (a pretty wide open one as you know in Colorado) to create laws. I can work through the legislature or referendum process and seek to enact laws. But Article VI gives the Constitution supremacy over the laws I may enact.

Fair enough if the topic deserves Constitutional purview. I'll respect the 13th Amendment and not re-institute slavery. But every time you "give me a right" and take away my power to define my own laws, you've offered an unusual bargain.

Majority rule as tempered by a State and Federal Constitution is certainly not inconsistent with republican government. If you’re concerned that Colorado's referenda process is too close to plebiscite, consider another State.

Speaking of not answering. I haven't heard much on Justice Clinton's defining health care as a right. It's not much more a leap that security->privacy->abortion. You either live in a Constitutional framework or you do not. I think you're being opportunistic in deciding when to be constructionist and when to follow a "living document."

Posted by: jk at April 8, 2010 10:38 AM

I am arguing that the "unusual bargain" you described is what makes America unique in the world. She is "the land of the free..."

I have not read the majority decision in Roe, at least not recently. I am not defending the reasoning of the decision, but its result. And I do not find its result inconsistent with the Constitution or kicking the door open for ignorance or overreach.

I contend that our difference of opinion arises from two different interpretations of the Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

I submit that these unenumerated rights are those of individual people. I read you as insisting that what is not explicitly prohibited by the Constitution any majority of people may impose upon all individual people. I say the latter interpretation de facto turns the ninth amendment on its head.

The ninth amendment is to protect the rights of individuals, of minorities, from all levels of government, not of states from the Feds. By my reading the tenth amendment does not give the states power to abrogate the right of individual people "to be secure in their persons..."

This is the nature of my "parasite" argument. That clinical term does not imply benefit or harm, but the state of being conjoined as one person in the eyes of the Constitution. No, you won't find this in the text. But you will find numerous prohibitions that threaten Obamacare or "the right to receive uncompensated medical care from my neighbor."

LM: It appears that said parasite argument hasn't persuaded you, unless I can take credit for your not necessarily believing abortion should be illegal. Your arguments have reinforced my belief that abortion is abominable, but I disagree that when individuals choose this it "cheapens" all life. Individual self-determination is the essence of a moral existence. As a three-time witness to the miracle of human birth I am convinced that the matter is rightly decided by the woman, under advisors of her choice, and her Creator.

Posted by: johngalt at April 8, 2010 3:29 PM | What do you think? [26]