Donald Trump

Does Sarah Palin's Endorsement of Donald Trump Mean the Tea Party Is (or Should Be) Dead?

Not so fast, say Thomas Massie, Justin Amash, and Matt Kibbe

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Yes, Sarah Palin recently did a Tina Fey impersonation. ||| YouTube
YouTube

So was that what the Tea Party, and "constitutional conservatism," was all about then? Throwing support behind a Constitution-bending, big-government populist who on April 15, 2009—the day that Tea Parties were being held all around the country in protest of the Obama administration's government-aggrandizing agenda—was saying stuff like "I don't march with the tea party," and "[Obama] really has made a great impact on people….I think he's doing a really good job"?

The expected though-unconfirmed and now confirmed news today that 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate turned Tea Party-supporting culture warrior Sarah Palin will be throwing her endorsement behind Trump has driven some conservatives to conclude that, in the pre-emptive words of Townhall.com's Guy Benson, "emotionalist nationalistic populism will have officially—perhaps temporarily—supplanted principled, policy-driven, limited-government conservatism as the dominant strain within the American right-wing." 

It's worth noting that Sarah Palin, while popular at Tea Party rallies, is not an elected official and not synonymous with Tea Party sentiment, particularly when it comes to specific policy recommendations (recall that she was pro-bailout, for instance). And certainly, the Trump-hijacked-the-Tea-Party line of argument predates today's announcement. But there is a broader question that's been gnawing at the side of many libertarians and constitutional conservatives in this never-ending Summer of Trump, and that is: What the hell happened? Was the adherence to principled limited-government values just a passing fancy until the right person pushed the right emotional buttons, philosophy be damned?

Over the past 10 days I've been putting versions of that question to people with strong limited-government bona fides, including Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), and former FreedomWorks head-turned pro-Rand Paul superPAC'er Matt Kibbe. The following is a selection from their reflections on the Tea Party and political libertarianism in the age of Donald Trump:

The history we made in such a short time…. ||| Fox Business Network
Fox Business Network

Rep. Thomas Massie: Well, you know, everybody starts trying to write the obituary for the Tea Party, and I can tell you I've got sort of a skewed view of this, because I'm from Kentucky, represent Kentucky, and the Tea Party just won the governor's race. I mean we have not only a Tea Party governor, but a Tea Party lieutenant governor. Our lieutenant governor is a black female who was the Tea Party president in Bowling Green, Kentucky, now she's the lieutenant governor….

So the interesting thing is in Kentucky the Tea Party's still alive. You've got Rand Paul, our senator, you've got me, a U.S. representative, you've got a governor and a lieutenant governor, and we're getting offices below that in Kentucky. So it's looking good there.

But on the national stage, you know, I think it's like Charlie Brown and Lucy. The voting population is so tired of…trying to kick the football, and it gets pulled away from them at the last second. And they have sent some people here to Congress who said all the right things, they ran as Tea Party candidates, then they got up here and they voted for the omnibus bill, or voting for Speaker Boehner on their first day after pledging they wouldn't vote for him. And so what they're looking for is somebody's that's not going to be controlled when they get here.

You know, I'm not voting for Donald Trump—I'm supporting Rand Paul—but I understand the frustration that leads people to support him. I understand it, and Congress is fueling it.

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He's 35 now, so…. ||| ReasonTV
ReasonTV

Rep. Justin Amash: Donald Trump is the byproduct of a political establishment that has completely ignored Americans. I don't think he's ever talked about the Constitution, but he doesn't have to. He just has to be against Washington and people at home say to themselves, "Well, Washington's not standing up for us and this guy will"….

I think he could be very dangerous as a president, but Americans at home want someone who's going to stick it to Washington, D.C., and he'll certainly do that. And he'll create a lot of havoc in the process and probably violate a lot of rights in the process based on what I've heard from him, but unfortunately the political establishment here hasn't been paying attention to people at home, and conservatives haven't been able to knock the establishment off their pedestal, whereas Donald Trump has been able to.

Now featuring deeply terrible beard. ||| ReasonTV
ReasonTV

Matt Kibbe: I still talk to Tea Partiers every day, and I find some of the strongest supporters of Donald Trump among the Tea Party, but I also find the strongest opposition from the Tea Party. And I think there's two things going on.

One is sort of more broadly, there's a real paradigm shift going on in politics; it's shifting power away from party bosses, and this democratization, this disintermediation, I think, is a very good thing. And you're seeing it on both the left and the right. You're seeing it with the rise of Ron Paul, he was sort of one of the precursors to this; the Tea Party was part of that.

But it's such disgust with the D.C. establishment that I think some Tea Partiers have just given up, and they view Donald Trump as a bull in a china shop—they love the fact that he's creating such fits with the GOP establishment. And they're not really worried about what he stands for, and I think that's a very dangerous thing.

I'm not one of those guys that thinks that Donald Trump would make a bad president because he's not a conservative; I'm one of those guys that thinks that Donald Trump is dangerous because he has such an authoritarian instinct that we don't know what he would do as president. But he would not follow the rules, he would not respect the differences between the executive branch and the legislative branch. And that's what the Tea Party was supposedly all about. We didn't like executive power. […]

And I hate to use the F-word, but let's go ahead and use it: The technical definition of fascism, and the history of fascism in the world, really wasn't tethered to some sort of ideology the way socialism is. The goals were more random and scattered, but it creates a lot of chaos and it requires a lot of power. And I think we as Tea Partiers, as libertarians, as constitutional conservatives, we should judge a candidate based on whether or not they've actually read and respect the restraints placed on government power by the Constitution….

And by the way we should point out that there's a mythology that all of Trump's support is coming from the Tea Party. The data suggests something quite different–there's a lot of independents, there's a lot of registered Democrats, there's a lot of people that haven't participated in the process before.

Never forget! ||| Reason
Reason

So would Amash and Massie vote for Donald Trump if he wins the GOP nomination?

Amash: I'm not going to vote for Hillary Clinton….

So, I have a lot of concerns about Donald Trump. I do not want Hillary Clinton to win. I think she would be the worst president of my lifetime. I think she's much worse than Barack Obama—much, much worse—and President Obama has been a pretty awful president in many ways. I was hopeful that he would actually take steps with respect to civil liberties and wars that would actually reflect what he said were his views. He presented himself as a guy who was going to stop some of the things that were happening under the Bush administration, and he hasn't really taken the steps necessary….

Clinton would be much worse than Obama, and I will do what it takes to make sure that Clinton is not our next president. But yeah, I'm not going to say who I would vote for on Election Day if Trump were the Republican nominee. I've always been a proud Republican and have voted for Republican nominees I didn't always agree with on a whole bunch of issues, but I think we can do better. 

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Massie: Well, if it's between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I will most certainly vote for Donald Trump, I can tell you that. Or Bernie Sanders, or literally anybody on the Democrat side. So there you have it.

Adorbs! ||| Reason
Reason

Finally, can libertarians do business with Ted Cruz, and/or have anything to feel good about during this presidential season?

Kibbe: I know him a little bit, and I know his dad even a little bit more. And if you look at Ted Cruz's upbringing, his training, he was immersed in classical liberalism—I think when he was two, he was quoting verbatim Human Action. So he's a fairly unique politician in that sense.

I think we are sometimes too critical of ourselves. You know, we're so frustrated with politics, and what we didn't accomplish over the last five years, it's important to recognize that what I call the Liberty Caucus in the Senate—and I would include Ted Cruz in there, and I would include other senators as well—that, historically is unprecedented. There were no Justin Amashes, there were no Thomas Massies, there were no Raul Labradors. And all of these guys grew up reading Reason magazine. I don't know this for a fact, but I'm sure Ted Cruz was reading Reason as well. And that's different.

And so let's not give up on politics all the time, but let's be picky about our guys. So you know, if I were to choose a second candidate, it probably would be Ted Cruz, but luckily I don't have to do that, because Rand Paul is going to win.

* Headline and text updated with confirmation.

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  1. The Tea Party was too ill-defined to not be usurped or feckless. Fortunately libertarianism suffers no such problems.

    1. True. The only thing unanimously agreed upon by members of the Tea Party is that they were all mad about something or other.

    2. Fortunately libertarianism suffers no such problems.

      Sarcasm should be properly annotated.

    3. Way to violate the non passive-aggression principle.

      1. The NPAP? I would be so fucked.

  2. If I didn’t think it would be such a waste of Rand Paul’s talent, I would say a Cruz/Paul ticket would be an ideal scenario. Lets face it that Rand is unlikely to win the nomination, and if he is not in the top 3 in Iowa or South Carolina we should look to a second choice.

    1. I can’t vote for Cruz, but it seems like he sucks less than some of the rest.

    2. Cruz is a slick Harvard lawyer with a wife working for Goldman Sachs.

      1. and….?

  3. Palin just wishes she had the ego (and the hair) needed to be the female Trump.

  4. Matt’s take on Cruz is right in line with mine. Ted Cruz isn’t “libertarian”. He would certainly acknowledge that. But I believe that he does represent the closest to a VIABLE libertarian-leaning candidate we will see this cycle.
    (Sorry Rand! And come on, I like Gay Jay as much as the next guy, but really?)

    I think that libertarians are just going to have to decide which particular issues are more important and then decide from there. I firmly believe Hillary would be worse than Trump. Enough worse to vote for Trump if he gets the nomination? I just don’t know yet. But if it is Cruz, I will HAPPILY vote for him. (Rubio I would still vote for, but not as enthusiastically). The only ones I know for sure I won’t vote for are Jeb and Christie. Maybe I am just dumb and naive enough not to “go Galt” just yet.

    Of course, not that my opinion means jack shit. But hey, what the hell!

    1. Cruz isn’t a libertarian or anywhere close to one. I don’t know why the fuck people think he is. He has no beliefs other than gaining power for himself. Carefully listen to what he says; he has a gift for not actually saying anything even though there are apparently words coming out of his mouth: he offers nothing but platitudes, zingers, and coded language so vague that he can ‘truthfully’ claim later he didn’t mean to say what everybody knows he meant.

      He’s a huckster who has been playing the Tea Party for years. He’s their version of Reverend Sharpton.

  5. Shriek just detonated, like a 50kt warhead.

  6. Trumps success is based, in large part, because electing those Tea Party politicians and giving Republicans majorities in both houses of congress hasn’t resulted in a smaller government, quite the opposite. Trump isn’t running explicitly for a smaller government but he’s running against those who blew it up to the size it is now.

    1. Or maybe the people who elected Tea Partiers to Congress don’t actually give a shit about the size of government, only that it’s not benefiting them enough.

      1. I think the original concept (Taxed Enough Already) was very much for lower taxes and smaller scope of government.

        I think that lasted all of about ten minutes before every SoCon special interest glommed on.

  7. Sarah Palin is merely Anne Coulter in drag.
    Everything she does is for attention and for reaction, and she gets them.
    ignore the cunt, she’ll fade away.

  8. She was for the bailout? That wasn’t entirely clear at the time…

    1. She was for whatever John McCain was for. That’s the deal when you’re the running mate.

  9. I aree with the choice of Trump over Hillary, as much as I think Trump is just a proto fascist. But Hillary has thirty years experience in the political world, tons of skeletons in her closet to be blackmailable, and knows where tons of other people’s skeletons are for her own extortion purposes, and she has long since lost any idea of the real world or what she actually wants (other than power) or what real people want. Trump is a political newbie in comparison, and I think that’s compensates for his fascistic tendencies, not to mention he’d piss off enough Congress critters to stall out, mostly, and his so-called plans (getting Mexico to pay for a wall? deporting 11M people?) are so unfounded in reality that all he would mostly do is flounder and bluster.

  10. Cruz isn’t a libertarian or anywhere close to one.

    Hell, nobody is. And I don’t just mean nobody running for public office. I mean nobody at all.

    There is not one person who can pass every single libertarian purity test, who isn’t an anarchist as opposed to libertarian.

    There’s things I like about Cruz, but I keep coming back to the fact that he used to be a prosecutor.

    Of the “viable” candidates, I think Cruz is least likely to raise taxes, most likely to cut or at least reign in spending, and most likely to try to prune the regulatory state. That’s probably as close as we will get this cycle. Whether its close enough for you, is up to you.

  11. Welp, at some point, Sarah Palin aged out of my Would Zone.

  12. Palin looks ready for a bro-down (or a ho-down? terrible).

    Great alt text on Kibbe.

    I think Trump would be worse than Clinton just because his ideas (build a wall and make them pay for it, deport all illegals), just aren’t ever going to happen. But…ugh..either one.

    Good interviews, as these are three of the few people in Washington who are not useless scum.

  13. Sorry, Mr. Welch, but some of this just screams “unforced error” on the part of libertarians. I can remember some of the stuff I heard from Tea Partiers at the time. It was incredibly encouraging. You had people who were strict Republicans actually talking about limited government and some even acknowledging it also applied to their pet projects. Hell you had Republicans actually talking about Bastiat. It really was the moment when libertarianism could have made huge inroads into American politics. Libertarianism had gotten the ear of a large portion of the GOP base.

    And how did libertarians exploit it? By recognizing that these might be people who could be educated and brought along? By pushing for increased dialogue between libertarians and conservatives? By encouraging these people to continue to make steps in the right direction?

    Not in my recollection. I recall that even a lot of the commenters here responded with sneering. Nope, can’t let libertarianism be associated with the “squares”. I mean, God, what would our liberaltarian and progressive friends think.

    That was your libertarian moment. Libertarians just let it slip through their fingers.

    1. I share some of your pain, Bill.

      I recall a couple of things:

      (1) Libertarians who rejected the Tea Party because it opposed Medicare reform.

      (2) Libertarians who rejected the Tea Party because so-cons were showing up.

      As somebody said, you don’t build a broad popular movement by subtraction.

      1. Here’s the thing, though, sure, a lot of the Tea Partiers were wrong about those issues. Did libertarians decide that was an opportunity to educate them? Did they decide it would be better to accept imperfect allies than no allies at all? No. I mean, think about it. Just a few years prior, a lot of libertarians were ready to jump in bed with progressives who were absolutely and utterly opposed to libertarian principles and ideals. And not to bring them along. To play the junior partner in an alliance that made no sense whatsoever. But, here was a bunch of “icky” people who were starting to see the world in a libertarian manner and the libertarian response was to look for any excuse whatsoever to cast them out as unclean. And that left them open for any huckster coming down the pike.

    2. This entire thread.

      Why are the people who are supposed to be libertarian pundits constantly snuffling up the crumbs that leftists leave behind in the hopes that there’ll be some praise for them among the detritus?

      Why did so many libertarians spit in the faces of people who were just starting to wake up to libertarianism?

      Why has the Libertarian Party and so many libertarians chosen to ignore the spread of libertarianism in Kentucky?

      I can keep going with these questions, napolitanoing the page, but to what end?

      Modern libertarianism is so infested with ex and quasi leftists who are so terrified of anyone ever thinking they’re –horror of horrors– ‘right-wing’ in any way that much of the central core of libertarianism has been discarded in favor of a robust ‘socially liberal’ stance and the practice of saying ‘fuck you, slaver’ instead of ‘racist’ in place of any actual support for individual liberty.

  14. Sarah Palin is not the Tea Party.

  15. the Tea Party in general wasn’t just about reducing the size of government. It stemmed from outrage that the current political class of both parties are wrecking this country with their statist solutions that accumulate more power in themselves while depriving individuals of our freedom. It was a demand to end bailouts of corporations or people who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford. The Tea Party is a direct affront to the idea that if you play by the rules and work hard and save some dough that you have to pay for everyone that doesn’t.

    The bottom line is that the Tea Party was about saying Fuck You to the elites who run this country. Palin is kinda about that as well. That’s why she endorses Trump. Trump is the ultimate FUCK YOU to the status quo and ruling class, which is pretty much why his voters don’t care what anyone else thinks.

  16. Luckily…Rand Paul is going to win!

  17. The head of the Tea Party of the Bronx, Robert Diamond, says that while he’d prefer Ted Cruz to be president, Trump is preferable for the GOP nomination because he’d have a better chance of being elected. I think he’s right about that.

  18. Does this fucking moron (Mrs. Palin) realize that Donald J. Trump has called on a Republican to challenge the Senator that she admires so much she did her shout out to him (Senator Rand Paul), for the simple reason that he isn’t nice enough to him. Yes, that’s right, Donald J. Trump is calling on Republicans to challenge Senator Rand Paul for his Senate seat, because he isn’t nice enough t Donald J. Trump. I suppose that’s what this Republican challenger would run on. Let’s get rid of the leading voice in the Senate for individual liberty and replace it with someone who will slobber over Donald Trump 24 hours a day, because we don’t already have enough of those people on television and radio all fucking day long. Does anyone else here think there might be some money changing hands between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Palin? Any American who supports this man needs their head examined!

  19. the tea party died when it allowed itself to be infiltrated and taken over by the republicans/conservatives.
    thats the problem with movements and parties is that they have no controls to keep the platform intact.
    the tea party was great when it started and held libertarian and our founding fathers principles, once that was lost it became nothing more then the republican party.

  20. a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants. ups drop box locations

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