Tea Party

Reason Writers Around Town: Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on the Tea Party Tendency


Writing in a faraway time zone, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch and Reason.com/ReasonTV Editor Nick Gillespie argue that "the independent-bent thirst for limited government is more than just some marginalized shouting." Excerpt:

You're looking good just like a snake on the flag

Underlying this intense and growing alienation is a fact that no demonization of individual Tea Party protesters can sweep aside: Ever since then-President George W. Bush went on live national TV in September 2008 to declare that "under normal circumstances" he was "a strong believer in free enterprise," the economic policies favored by Official Washington have been tremendously unpopular. […]

To the consternation of many interpreters, the Tea Party is not behaving like a top-down political organization at all, but rather a series of loosely connected local groups ready to fall in — or fall out — at a moment's notice. This weekend's pricey proceedings in Nashville were condemned by many Tea Party loyalists long before Sarah Palin gave her odd and hugely publicized speech.

But it would be a mistake to confuse organizational incoherence — not to mention a hysterical, off-putting tendency to portray the president as some kind of totalitarian jackal — with political impotence. Not only are Tea Party activists materially affecting things as big as Scott Brown's election and as little as a Virginia state vote to outlaw health insurance mandates, but their broad and relentless critique of runaway government is, if anything, more popular than the movement itself.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. I thought Nick was getting over the tea party romanticism.

    Oh well, give him some more time. Every broken heart takes time to mend.

  2. but their broad and relentless critique of runaway government is, if anything, more popular than the movement itself.

    Hence the need for “legitimate” politicians and their co-conspirators in the “legitimate” media to ceaselessly demean them.

  3. Mexican mafia. The have no heirarchy so they cannot be dismantled.
    And make it makes it tougher for the law to prosecute, unlike the Italian mafia.

    1. You’re thinking of the Tea *Fiesta* movement. Which is different.

  4. ” not to mention a hysterical, off-putting tendency to portray the president as some kind of totalitarian jackal ? ”

    Umm – but he actually IS a totalitarian jackal. Have you read about his administration’s argument that people on cell phones have no reasonable expectation of privacy? One could argue that current techonology makes it easy for a nefarious person to listen in but future technology may change that. In the meantime our conversations need to be protected from totalitarian jackels in government.

    1. ……..pation.

      I read “…some kind of totalitarian …” and I thought the next word would be harsher. Disa ……

  5. I was amazed this got printed when I read it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. They’re not as far left as the Honolulu Advertiser, but something from actual libertarians? Wow.

  6. Does Hawaii have tea parties — I mean, the political movement, not the social gathering? I’m sure the Sandwich Islands had tea parties.

  7. off-putting

    To TEAM BLUE! and its enablers, sure. But the only thread that (barely) unifies tea party types is “Fuck those guys.” The “tendency” is defined negatively, against those (allegedly) off-put. So…duh?

  8. I detect mixed messages from the tea party clusterfuck- they want “smaller government” but a lot of them don’t want to actually get rid of their entitlements, and don’t really seem to understand what a free market is. They don’t seem to know exactly what the fuck it is they want. It’s like “change!” all over again.

    1. Threadwinner

    2. Psst… they want the n*gger out of the WHITE house.

      1. Race has nothing to do with it. It’s the LOONEY LEFT that can’t see past race. That’s why idiots on the left attack black conservatives with such vitriol. When you can’t win the debate, start screaming RACISM.

        1. Any criticism of Obama is and must be racist. He is the Messiah. He is above all criticism. There is no possible reason anyone who ever criticize anything he ever does or says. This is very convenient isn’t it?

          1. PIRS is absolutely right. Anyone who criticizes Obama is clearly not racist. It is moronic to consider these things on a case by case basis! No one who dislikes Obama has ever said or done anything racist. People dislike him solely on his policy. It is absurd to assert that there are still racists in 2010, and even if tehre were, certainly they would be fair enough to keep those feelings out of politics.

        2. >Race has nothing to do with it

          “He’s… he’s… he’s an Arab.”

        3. Someone needs to give Buchanan that memo

      2. There is always going to be someone, usually from the left, that wants to make the Tea Party phenominum into a racist sentiment.

        Reality, thanks for taking your talking points from the MSM.

    3. It might be like “hope and change” all over again. It comes down to whether it’s a group that’s incoherent because its individual members have different and irreconcilable agendas, or whether it’s a group that’s incoherent because its individual members share the same internally inconsistent agenda.

      1. Or both, the hope and changers had both diverse and irreconcilable agendas based upon internally inconsistent world views. The Democratic party is nothing more than a collection of special interests united around using big government to collect goodies; many of whom are at odds with each other, all based upon an internally inconsistent world view. Not that the GOP or the tea party people are much better, but some of them come closer to internal consistency than others.

        Overreactions to terrorism isn’t inconsistent, just dumb; and similarly is the desire to spread freedom abroad to countries that don’t want it. I’d also point out that again although dumb, many of the old people ranting about their entitlements paid into those programs and got robbed blind; yes intellectually they are entitlements but they were nefariously designed so as not to appear that way instinctively and emotionally. I don’t think that many of them understand that all their entitlement dollars come from current workers not savings nor that what they are getting through Medicare at least vastly outweighs what they put in. Much of populist conservatism is more wrong or stupid rather than internally inconsistent.

        1. Are you basing an argument on the fallacy that the hatred for terrorism is an “overreaction”? I’ve got a few names for you to look up: Robert Spencer, Pam Gellar, Daniel Pipes, Walid Phares, Oriana Fallaci, Steve Emerson, Fjordman,Geert Wilders, and Theodore Van Gogh.

    4. Well they speak in a way to attract all conservatives, but in reality have an obviously neo-con agenda.

      1. Some of the media like MSNBC just now have been spinning the “frustration” as nothing but a response to democrats not accomplishing the things they said they would (health insurance, cap and trade) which makes it seem like people wanted these things.

        1. People do want these things. A teabagger nation is not one in which a majority favors a public option. There is frustration from the right and the left, it’s just that the left’s tends to get ignored more because they don’t wear silly hats.

          1. There are a lot of people who don’t want these things. And they are the majority. And that doesn’t matter anyways because those things interfere with individual choice.

            1. Going bankrupt from a medical condition also interferes with individual choice, in a much greater way than the absence of a few tax dollars from your wallet does.

              1. You might be able to make a Samaritan or Utilitarian case there if you could actually defend your premise that it is just a few tax dollars from your wallet; when in reality the taxes will fall on many people and be much more than just a few dollars, not to mention the interference in personal freedom when government puts price controls on drugs and medical services or out right deems some not cost effective from a social standpoint. That’s a pretty big burden to fall on some people, but then you don’t care about who you grind up on the way to your utopia. At it’s alleged worst, the libertarian worldview risks having some people not being helped by private actors; be it through charity or increased living standards via sound economics.

                I’ll also point out that when I read the polls that liberals show me showing people supporting the public option, I can find that support for it drops off significantly once people are asked how much higher taxes they will pay for it. I could poll how many people want boats and get a much higher number if I left it vague of enough for them to answer it without thinking about cost or by implying that they personally won’t have to pay for it.

                Look at Medicare, it isn’t possible to raise taxes enough just to cover it’s liabilities; how are we supposed to have a Medicare style program for everyone without significant taxes on a great deal of people besides just the rich or without price controls and rationing? And don’t say that markets ration merely because people can’t afford something; market allocation is completely different from having a coercive entity show up and stop you from purchasing something you can afford or setting that thing’s price too low and creating an artificial shortage. That’s what happened with Medicaid, it pays doctors so little they don’t want to participate; unless the government forces doctors to go along digging quite deep into their pockets violating your alleged principle of only costing a few tax dollars.

                Liberals always couch their arguments in minor taxes to save starving children; the problem is that it is never that simple, money is often spent inefficiently and often not on children at all while the taxes aren’t low. There are decent arguments for a social safety net, but not for a ridiculous cradle to grave entitlement state for the middle class; and not for actual government run health insurance rather than a simple go out and buy health insurance yourself transfer payment. Which again comes from their lack of respect for individual choices as they don’t want some people buying “too much” or “too little” health care because that might lead to a price increase for the health care of some other group of people via increased demand or inability to cost shift; further showing how the costs of a public option are far more than just paying a few extra dollars to give “free” health care to all.

              2. Rhetorical garbage.

                Everybody pays taxes (well, not the Democratic base). Very few file for bankruptcy because of medical costs.

                1. Tony thinks we can solve all our problems if we just let Godvernment work its magic. Why, there may be a cure for death itself someday!

              3. I hear varieties of this BS argument all the time. Pay attention: The terms “individual choice” and “freedom” are not synonyms for “getting what you want”.

              4. So YOU would go bankrupt from a medical condition, but when *I* pay for your medical bills, it only amounts to “a few tax dollars” from my wallet. The difference must be due to evaporation.

              5. Empty your wallet if you wish, just get your f###in hands off mine. You must be one of those constitution is a ‘living document’ morons. This document does give you the right to be an idiot, but not to mandate that I be one as well. Personal responsibility must come to play at some point, until ‘The Great One’ abolishes it.

          2. The left doesn’t wear silly hats?? What about all those Bush masks?

    5. Actually you’re wrong and the OP is closer to correct. No insult intended, no one would ever have seen anything like a reality of the movement in the media. You’ll just see a pic of someone with a Obama/Hitler sign.

      Lots do understand free markets. I gave a well received speech about how health care needs to be fixed a couple months ago.

      As much as you can put a solid handle on the movement you will find a common understanding that medicaid, social security, etc should never have been implemented.

      1. I’ve been to several Tea Party functions, starting in 2007, back when it was called the Campaign for Liberty and was putting forth the likes of Ron Paul.

        Make no mistake; the Tea Party has gotten a large influx of neo-conservatives that sunk off the radar in 2008, ashamed to call themselves a Republican, so they jumped into the nearest opposition movement. You can spot them easily, since they’re the ones who carry Taxed Enough Already signs but are perfectly okay with the un-Patriot Act and the two wars (costing 1 billion a week).

        There are still people who aren’t politically traveled there. They may not understand finance or the tax code, but they sure understand what happens when you spend more than you make. It’s something that really, really smart people can’t arrive at, yet these regular folks nail it on the head.

        1. Most of the tea party people have no objection to their tax dollars funding military operations. In fact, most that I have met are very hawkish when it comes to foreign policy. It’s the redistribution of wealth that ruffles their proverbial feathers; it’s government involving itself in private enterprise (ie. bailouts).

    6. Obama is approximately 50% white, 44-46% Arab, and 4-6% black. Now, don;t you feel silly?





    2. Wow, I can’t even tell what is sarcasm, hyperbole, satire, insanity, or plain stupidity any more. Well, Mr. FIGHTER FOR LIBERTY, let me ask, how does one angrily enter their email address into the little box?

      I try to get outraged filling in that thing but… nothing? Do you save it up all day? Like; “Man I am going to enter the fuck out of this email address into that goddamned little box!!”.

      1. Oh and hey, check this out duuude…




        1. dammit this was way bigger when I previewed it, what the fuck. Shit took up like half of my screen. My font needs to be humongous, I will be heard, mocking others words…shakes fist at sky in rage.

    3. There is nothing as repulsive as military talk from someone who never served

      You are a coward in need of a serious B-slapping.

  10. Populist conservatism scares me.

    Conservatives, and sundry other right leaning individuals, are supposed to be the ones who think. They’re the ones who realize that we can’t always get what we want, and thus don’t vote in their own economic self interest (to take their money from others who have it).

    The TEA Party’s average member’s willingness to flush individuality down the drain to join the angry mob is quite unsettling.

    1. They’ll have to pry my pitchfork from my cold, dead hands!

    2. It’s a human tendency, not just right or left. In any movement there are leaders, thinkers, and mindless followers. Sadly, the mindless followers often comprise the majority and as a result are led around by whoever is most charismatic, rather than who has the better (often difficult to swallow) argument.

      Palin looks pretty and can get a crowd chanting “drill baby drill” like no other. People will follow that, and if libertarians want to win, they’ve got to emulate it, to become entertainers as well as economists and philosophers. It’s a necessary evil.

    3. I think you should amend that statement to populist anything. Populist is pretty much defined as some group of people acting in opposition to elites; who are usually smart. The problem with populist conservatives is that they are rightly lashing out at arrogant progressives who although intelligent don’t posses the knowledge required to micromanage the economy as they desire but they twist that opposition to arrogant intellectuals to intellectualism in general. It is tough to reconcile the concept of a “party of ideas” composed of people who think with the current rejection of arrogant elitists who think their narrow expertise qualify them to micromanage things far to complex for them to ever understand.

      Given a kind of bias twords the status quo, conservative and libertarian intellectuals often come of as grand tinkerers despite the fact is that all they are trying to do is remove past government interventions. Gay marriage is a perfect example, most conservatives view extending marriage to gays as giving them special rights; rather than just returning to gays their natural right to contract they would have except for the intervention of government. Prohibition of gay marriage was the social experiment, not extension of it; and it only “worked” because most gays just stayed in the closet and the costs imposed upon them were never seen by heterosexual people. The problem with pragmatism in generally is that stuff often “works” if one ignores the costs placed upon other people, who often don’t have a voice like minorities or future generations. Which is why pragmatism itself is ideological; as one’s worldview will determine whom is considered and whom is ignored, and whom has a right to expect something. For example one might argue gays are immoral and thus don’t have marriage rights if one doesn’t outright ignore them, or one might argue that rich people really don’t deserve all that money or that taxes upon them are mere minor impositions.

      Much of populist conservatism is short sighted and misguided “pragmatism”, and they reject people who point out how things like free trade and immigration are beneficial as mere ideology because they are looking at the world and what works through a very narrow lens.

      1. Most conservatives, othet than evangelicals, do not mind “gay rights.” There are 2 things that anny us: changing the definition of a word that already has a traditional meaning, and the parades and street fairs where gays display obscenity in public. Other than that, live and let live.

    4. It seems to me that Populist Conservativism is all about Socialism for the Police and Military.

    5. “The TEA Party’s average member’s willingness to flush individuality down the drain to join the angry mob is quite unsettling.”

      Actually the Tea Party movement is at the heart of things individuals. For example, at one event I was at one of the speakers was roundly booed, and then applauded as he listed his viewpoints. The Tea Party group is people from all over that don’t agree about many things, but they do agree they want to see smaller government and less spending.

      If you want to see a mass of people flushing common sense and individuality down the drain – well look no further than the mass of people voting in Obama, because he told them what they wanted to believe, along with the people who thought the exact opposite on any given topic. Many were willing to overlook the duplicity, thinking Obama was lying to the other guy…

    6. Why is a goup of liberals a protest, but a group of conservatives is an “angry mob”?

      1. That would depend on the news agency reporting it. MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and the Post would call the liberal group, enlightened, divine responsible taxpayers. And the other a disruptive, war mongering, America hating old white men.

  11. If there is one thing that reasonable people can agree on, it somehow must be term limits. Both parties suck. Career politicians (same thing?) suck. Sarah Palin has nothing to do with the anger that people are feeling with our bloated, useless government. She is a personality who is cashing in big-time. That’s fine, but she is a lightweight. If the Tea Party “movement” gets more organized it will become as bad as the Democrats and the Republicans. Can we all just vote the bastards out?

    1. I really do think the founders would have supported term limits (at least for the House of Representatives) if they had known how entrenched most of the Congresscritters in DC are today. I am not so sure about the Sentat though. Two reasons I am more skeptical about the Senate and term limits.
      1. They were originally not elected.
      2. They were inteneded to have an institutional memory longer than the HOP. This is why they have 6 year terms.

      1. Term limits aren’t a golden bullet, and can even make things worse as we end up with only lobbyists and bureaucrats around to understand the nuts and bolts of getting stuff done.

        Actual limits on government power are required, and the direct election of senators should be repealed. Much of what the federal government does should be devolved to the states. That way the states can serve as laboratories of democracy that will serve as both good and bad examples, where people can vote with their feet and bad policies will be contained within a state rather than be inflicted on the entire nation.

        1. I agree that there is a concern about bureaucrats gaining more power with a term limit system but I also think that limiting a House member to 5 or 6 terms and a Senator to 2 terms might work. It might allow some political diversity in some parts of the country. That incumbent Democrat or Republican that always wins in that area might lose his seat to someone in the other party.

          1. Wow I used the word “might” a lot. I guess I am “hoping for change” too.

    2. I don’t remember where I hear id (Hayek?), but the idea of a single long term seems like it’s worth trying. Politicians already spend a very long time in office. With a single (long) term that wouldn’t change much. Also, they wouldn’t be constantly begging for more money for the next election. The downside is the inability to vote out any really bad officials, but that’s near impossible anyway.

  12. Tea Parties are so September 2009. They’ve definitely jumped the shark.

  13. I’m all for any movement that enourages less government. But how is Sarah Palin a plausible leader of such a movement? Anyone who takes a serious look at her governance of Alaska will see a pro-government kickback administraiton.

    1. She is not a Tea Party leader. In her speech she specifically warned the Tea Party movement against HAVING a leader. And as we can she, she was correct – because of people like you who just want someone to attack instead of an amorphous mass of humanity that just washes right over your arguments, unscathed. A tea party scandal in any given state? Doesn’t matter one county, or one state over…

    2. Palin actually fought her own party in Alaska.

  14. While the Tea Party at least has more encouraging rhetoric on smaller gov’t than either major party. Regardless of what they understand about free markets, liberty, or any philosophic issues, they are the best bet for pivoting the US political debate and rallying against the too big to fail mentality. Probably not a politically correct comparison , but the blackshirts probably didn’t understand the philosophy of Giovanni Gentile yet they still achieved their political end and swept Benito into power. Point being grass roots matters more than understanding the nuances of dogma.

    The best hope for limited gov’t is in guys like Rep. Ryan, who still voted for TARP and other bailouts, but at least proposes budget cuts. Better to start getting guys like Rep Ryan into real power than leave the pelosi Dems running things. Hopefully the Tea Party can help limited gov’t conservatives win primaries and general elections.

    The absence of real leadership, the tea party leaves the door open for nimrods like Sarah Palin.

  15. Hey guys…Come check out my latest objective analysis of the tea party movement.

    I have uncovered more racists trying to infiltrate the libertarian movement. We can’t let these people dilute the real libertarian message of true heroes like Rick Perry.


    Come on folks check out my aricle…me and Glenn Beck are gonna gang bang that Medina bitch. Sure Lee Hamilton, who was the head of the 9/11 commission, wrote a book telling us the commission was set up to fail…but who is this whore questioning our government?! The government is truthful! Medina needs to shut up and Glenn Beck and I are gonna team up to help purify the tea party of it’s racist elements.

    1. Dave, couldn’t you find a better cable-news outlet than Olbermann to dispense this info?

      1. BTW, the Captain America story was horseshit. We libertarians already have enough to worry about without government goons deciding everyone who sported a Ron Paul sticker *might* be a white supremacist:


        One of many such “fusion centers”, as you should recall. And Obama has yet to stop them from using political profiling.

        1. IOW, there are a handful of actual racists hanging around tea party groups, but that doesn’t make EVERY tea partier a racist. Right?

          If so, I agree.

  16. People, don’t sweat it, Kid Zero has the answer to all of America’s problems:


  17. The Tea Party movement is dominated by borderline theocrats; a.k.a. “social conservatives” or “Theopublicans”, which is why this socially liberal libertarian will never have anything to do with it.

    1. You’re wrong. Much of the tea party movement is libertarian and/or secular.

  18. Conservative Alliance for the Constitution: (Tea Party)


  19. The left must have had thier own ‘TEA Party’. I would suppose they could decide how much government money to spend on it. Or how many departments it would take to make it cleaner, and safer. Or what coordinated outfits to wear- hunter orange preferably, Or who would get to sit behind Pelosi. They could even hold the rally on payday, April 15.

  20. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  21. I like that saying, thanks!
    Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again

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