March 1, 2016

Whither TEA Party?

Rising with the Inauguration of President Obama, the TEA Party said "We don't want to struggle to get by on our own earnings while some of our tax dollars are given to our neighbors to buy a bigger house." Since then, the message has been co-opted and distorted by various interests to mean "anti-gay marriage" or "anti-welfare" or, most despicable of all, "racist." But as a Slate columnist observes, the rise of "Trumpism" reveals the true nature of the TEA Party uprising -

One of the hallmarks of the Trump campaign has been his support for Social Security and Medicare, and his insistence that he would protect these programs from budget cuts. To many conservatives, Trump's defense of these old-age entitlements is his greatest heresy. What they fail to understand is that conservative voters are very fond of these programs, and their fondness canít be chalked up to simple hypocrisy.

We saw this dynamic at play during the early days of the Tea Party, the last time elite Republicans faced a serious populist challenge. Many conservative intellectuals viewed the Tea Party movement as the realization of their fondest wishes: a grassroots rebellion demanding fiscal austerity. In fact, as Emily Ekins of the Cato Institute has observed, Tea Party members were chiefly motivated by a theory of economic fairness. They believed, in Ekins' words, that "everyone should be rewarded in strict proportion to their achievements and failings and that government should not shield people from the consequences of their decisions." This is why Tea Party conservatives are more favorably disposed toward programs like Social Security and Medicare -- to which workers contribute over a lifetime in exchange for benefits when they need them -- than they are to programs that lack this contributory element.

I confess that my appreciation for Trump's populist appeal runs counter to my unfettered free-market principles, and it is an unsettling cognitive dissonance. But as my blog brother often reminds me, the world is not Three Sources. Peggy Noonan reminded me that economic dislocations affect and frighten the "unprotected" with greater intensity than those of us with the time and inclination to bloviate on philosophy, politics, and government policy.

Reihan Salam, author of the Slate article linked above, makes many other suggestions for a populist reform of the GOP platform in the "post-Trump era." Some of them are palatable:

- A Pay-Your-Own-Way Immigration Policy Admit new immigrants based on earning ability, not family connections.

- Eat China's Lunch
"On more than one occasion, Donald Trump has said that "China's just eating our lunch," and that we ought to retaliate. He's not wrong."

- Defend the Safety Net
Accept the reality of Obamacare, but make it a safety net program and not a mandate on every American.

- Respect, Not Compassion
Reform the tax code to make refundable tax credits proportional to earnings, and other things to stop disincentivizing work.

I can endorse all of these things. What I can not abide is rent-seeking. Government favoritism for the well-connected. Corporate welfare. Cronyism.

I would rather not see a President Trump. I don't share the assumption that he cannot win a general election with Hillary. And perhaps Senator Cruz' principled opposition to many of these things is so strong that he could never compromise and let them happen, for the good of the country, for the good of the party, and for the good of the American people. But as Trump is so fond of saying, "Everything is negotiable." I can only hope that even that statement itself is also negotiable when it comes to issues like SCOTUS nominees.

UPDATE: Robert Tracinski's endorsement of "Rubio-ism"

Calling Rubio the only leading Republican with an aspirational message, a writer and thinker I admire greatly has just endorsed the "establishment candidate." He doesn't address my concern about routing the cockroaches of the Washington cartel, however.

But one thing I am coming to accept is that Cruz is probably the least electable of the three, due to his lack of positivity.

GOP 2016 Primary Tea Party Posted by JohnGalt at March 1, 2016 2:37 PM

The TEA Party I saw on the Denver Capitol steps was dedicated to constitutional limits on government. One fellow in a Tri-Cornered hat carried a sign upon which was lettered Tenth Amendment. That has always been the Tea Party to me.

I have my faults but am not a fool. The populism frightened me and it was obvious that the bulk of my fellow revelers were far more conservative and far less libertarian than me.

But, at the caucuses, our precinct sent a batch of Ron Paul folk to be delegates, and I thought that this plan was working -- or that it had the chance to win.

Trump is the grave marker for the Tea Party. The scary populist side won and the libertarian-minarchist fringe has been dissipated.

"That didn't work." I don't care that I devoted six years. It was a good time and I took my shot.

But I'll be home for caucus tonight. I no longer believe that my participation matters. The last throws of a dying empire can be quite comfortable. And young people will have unprecedented tools to discover liberty and see its fine examples.

People will be free again somewhere. I hope in America. I hope soon. But the last gasp, Tea Party effort to save it here and now has come a cropper.

Posted by: jk at March 1, 2016 4:35 PM

I'm going to caucus. In the county wide presidential preference poll, I have decided that I must hold my nose and cast by ballot for "little Marco."

Posted by: johngalt at March 1, 2016 6:54 PM | What do you think? [2]