Broken World, Current Events — August 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Why I love the Tea Party

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Being pro-life and anti-gay marriage have stood as two immovable pillars of social conservative political orthodoxy for a long time, so long, in fact, that it is difficult to understand why relatively nothing was done about two these issues during George W. Bush’s first and second term (most notably when Republicans had majorities in the House and Senate branches).

Now the Tea Party has had enough of the Republican Party’s Leadership dragging their feet — dare I say, ignoring — these core conservative values. They have decided to push these values with or without formal support from Republican Party leadership. And while I disagree with the Tea Party on many issues, I actually admire them for not being used and ignored any longer.

At last night’s GOP Presidential debate in Aimes, Iowa, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, perennial darling of the Tea Party movement, brandished her social conservative bonafides on a number of culture war issues. She reaffirmed her support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. When questioned about her vote in favor of raising taxes to end the 2005 Minnesota government shutdown, she threw down the pro-life gauntlet, saying:

“When the deal was put together, Governor Pawlenty cut a deal with the special interest groups, and he put, in the same bill a vote to increase the cigarette tax, as well as a vote that would take away protections from the unborn, and I made a decision. I believe in the sanctity of human life; and I believe you can get money wrong, but you can’t get life wrong, and that’s why I came down on that decision… I didn’t cut deals with special interest groups where you put the pro-life issues together with tax increase issues. That’s a non-negotiable.”

Bottom-line: Bachman’s verbal mix-up saying the tax-increase bill would take away protections from the unborn notwithstanding — the actual bill included pro-life “informed consent” provisions, which she likely meant to highlight — her unwavering commitment to this issue led her to vote for a tax increase. And she defended that decision.

The Republican Party relied heavily on these Values Voters to re-elect Bush in 2004. And while I sincerely believe that Bush was personally invested in and supported pro-straight, pro-life issues, his administration focused their attention on pushing the agenda of fiscal conservatives.

Fiscal conservatives used the Bush years to further deregulate the financial markets, cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, unravel decades of environmental protection precedents, and promote lucrative deals between military contractors and oil companies during wars in Afganistan and Iraq. The deregulation of the financial sector allowed high risk loans to filter through the global markets like a cancer, the Bush tax cuts cost America nearly $2 trillion in revenue, and the money made by private contractors cost thousands of lives and increased our national debt by another $1 trillion.  Meanwhile, Bush used and then ignored the concerns of the Values Voters who helped elect him.

After the Obama election, these Values Voters re-energized around the Tea Party movement. Now Tea Party Leaders are pushing for conservative stances on sexuality but adding a strong anti-immigration stance and a commitment to reducing spending. And rather than working with Republican Leaders and fiscal conservatives, they are going rogue. Voting their values and passionately shooting down even Republican legislation that isn’t Values Voter friendly. And I applaud Values voters for electing officials that represent them. They aren’t letting Fiscal Conservatives to court them during the elections and them ignoring them while in office.

Now don’t get me wrong. I strongly oppose the Tea Party on most issues. But the Tea Party has reminded me of the power of conviction. If they want to push their conservative moral agenda then I say, more power to them — let your freak flags fly. Meanwhile, I’m gonna let my progressive Christian flag fly too. And hopefully those of us who are progressive can start a movement that doesn’t let the Democratic Party court our votes and then ignore our issues.

2 Comments

  • It definitely seems true that Tea Party folks are tired of being used up by the Republican party. And standing up for what you believe is certainly commendable, as you said. But I’m not convinced that the Tea Party should be equated with “values voters.” Values voters and small government conservatives were both virtually ignored during the Bush years, and the Tea Party seems to be trying to hold both of these groups together. Ron Paul came in just 152 votes behind Bachmann in the Iowa straw poll. Both people of conviction for sure, but they appeal to people for very different reasons. But that said, I have been surprised at how durable the value voter issues have remained in what I originally thought was just a movement concerned with fiscal issues.

    I wonder, are you imagining a world beyond the two party system? Cause now I know you crazy.

  • Your closing remark, along with Josiah’s comment, is interesting in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been going on in New York City and elsewhere for the past several weeks. It seems as though progressives with a moral agenda (to hold Wall Street accountable for the 2008 financial crisis) are so dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s reluctance to go after Wall Street and push for greater regulation of financial markets that they’re eschewing the political process altogether and taking to the streets. Many have compared the movement to the Tea Party and criticized it for lacking leadership or a policy platform unlike the Tea Party. Do you think extra-political responses like this are effective ways for progressives to have a political impact today? Or do you agree with Occupy Wall Street’s critics and think that we need a new political movement within the Democratic party?

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