Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tea Party Series: To Protest Everything is to Protest Nothing

I read an interesting op-ed piece today, by Leonard Pitts Jr., entitled Crazy and Incoherent. It was printed in the Oregonian, and you can read the entire article here.

Pitts talks about the Tea Parties and many of the extremists found within its ranks. He gives a surprising quote, by Editor in Chief Erick Erickson of RedState, a big name conservative blog:

"At some point, you have to use the word 'crazy.'"
Erickson was recently quoted on Politico in a report about how he and other
conservatives are attempting to distance their ideology and the Republican Party
from the paranoid theorizing and loud, incoherent screaming that have recently
passed for discourse on the political right. And of course, the darkly comic
thing about it is that, less than a year ago, some conservatives were exulting
over the tea parties, believing they brought needed energy to a movement
demoralized by its 2008 shellacking at the polls. "The Republican comeback has
begun," declared GOP chief Michael Steele.

What a difference a year makes. Or not.

Some of us after all, have argued all along that the tea parties were about
as "conservative" -- insofar as that term has traditionally been understood --
as ladies night in a Castro Street bar. Indeed, some of us made the same point
about George W. Bush, the putatively conservative president who nevertheless
presided over an expansion of the federal government and of a federal
entitlement program (Medicare), a costly war of choice in Iraq founded on a
shifting rationale, and financial mismanagement that turned surplus into deficit
seemingly overnight. For at least the last decade, then, conservatism has not seemed particularly conservative -- a
disconnect many of the ideology's adherents managed to ignore so long as it was
useful to do so, i.e., so long as it played well at the ballot box. "Just win,
baby" was their mantra; intellectual honesty, their casualty...

This, I believe, is completely on the nose. The reason Republicans lost so badly in 2008 wasn't because the Democrats and liberals are great---far from the truth, as we can clearly see with our current administration and Democrat majority. Washington is still broken. No, Republicans didn't lose due to their competition; Republicans lost because of themselves. One thing Americans hate, hate, is hypocrisy. And when Republicans talk about conservativism, less government, fiscal responsibility, and then use their majority to do the opposite, America reacts. And that is why we currently have a Democratically controlled, well, everything.

Pitts continues on why the Tea Parties really haven't accomplished a lot in the last year:

...the tea party movement [was found] to be amorphous and largely without
an organizing principle other than its anger toward government and fear of a
supposedly imminent dictatorship. Beyond that, partiers are an unwieldy amalgam
of tax haters, global warming holdouts, illegal-immigration protesters,
secessionists, gun rights advocates, white supremacists, militia types and
conspiracy theorists, all banging their gongs at the same time. Like the liberal
noisemakers who follow the World Trade Organization around, their lack of
message discipline renders them -- that word, yet again -- incoherent. Like
them, they have yet to figure out that to protest everything is to
protest nothing

Make no mistake: every movement or marginalized people has its fringe
extremists who threaten to define the whole. Thus, moderate American Muslims are
periodically required to rebuke Islamic terrorists, environmentalists are
obligated to rebuff eco-terrorists, and moderate African-Americans are expected
to reprove Louis Farrakhan.

But conservatives, outside of a few integrity-driven souls over the years,
have not rushed to repudiate the crazies among them, even as the crazies have
grown crazier and threatened to engulf the whole.

And here he is right. We need to continue to repudiate, as Erick Erickson has done, the crazier parts. Otherwise, the fringe of the tea party will take over the tea party, and the tea party will, in turn, define the Republican Party. And that would be disastrous for the party, and the for the country.

Crossposted at Republican United

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