Leave us alone, or we’re leaving

Byline: | Category: Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Thursday, 16 April 2009

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Jennifer Rubin penned a thought-provoking piece on the meaning of yesterday’s Tea Parties.  It bears further exploration.

. . . the crowd, if anything, was libertarian in bent rather than conservative. These people are advocating less government, restraints on federal power, and a return to “constitutional government.” Social conservatives who seek expansion of state power on issues from abortion to support for faith-based programs may find themselves at odds with a newly invigorated movement to shrink government and enhance individual liberty.

In recent years the Republican party has housed two sometimes irreconcilable wings:  social conservatives who want government to impose their views on others and fiscal conservatives who want government to leave them alone.  The pairing is a vestige of a coalition Reagan built.  Back then conservatives were on defense.  Social conservatives objected to what was being pushed on their children in public schools, the stamping out of the mention of Christmas on the public square, and to having their tax dollars used to fund abortions.  Fiscal conservatives likewise objected to profligate government spending and a tax code that punished success.  Reagan’s grand alliance that created a generation of Republican success was a result of what Grover Norquist sometimes called the “Leave Us Alone Coalition.”

Over the past quarter century the two groups have changed stances.  No longer on defense, social conservatives advanced beyond “leave us alone” and into the realm of pushing their beliefs onto others.  Alabama Justice Roy Moore tried to force the Ten Commandments into a courtroom, anti-gay marriage amendments sprang up on ballots across the country, and in a measure that rivals the 90% tax on AIG bonuses in terms of the disproportionate weight of the entire federal government arrayed against a private individual, the national Republican Party pushed the limits of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in a vain attempt to preserve Terri Schiavo’s dead life.

Meanwhile, fiscally conservative Republicans who finally toppled Democrats from the Congressional throne in 1994, had by 2002 annointed themselves as supreme rulers of the people’s money and dispensed grants and favors upon their cronies with little regard for the fiscal consequences.  The most powerful member of the Senate, Alaska’s Ted Stevens was the worst of the lot, but hardly alone in the amount of taxpayer money he spent for little gain except to himself.  It is with parties as it is with men: the true test of character is not adversity, but success.  And when Republicans finally achieved success, they failed the test.

Rubin’s second point is this:

. . . the absence of a single Republican leader does not hinder some impressive grassroots organizing.

I would go even further.  The absence of Republican leadership made possible impressive grassroots organizing.  I sensed a great willingness among a lot of Republicans gathered at Nashville’s protest to break with their party if it doesn’t change.  As Rubin cautioned “Republicans should not be rejoicing quite yet.” Some of the Tea Party Poopers have tried to paint the gatherings as Republican events.  They were most definitely not.  They were anti-big deficit government gatherings.  Where that overlaps with the Republican Party, the GOP may benefit, but where it doesn’t, there is probably enough momentum to deny a Republican victory.

Yesterday symbolized, perhaps, a final opportunity for the GOP to reunite the two conservative wings that Reagan had united once before.  “Leave us alone” is the sentiment that drew thousands.  “Leave us alone” is the banner that will rally thousands of supporters again.  But until the Republican establishment embraces ”leave us alone” in all its forms, there are thousands of vocal supporters who will leave them alone. 

No, yesterday’s gatherings were not Republican Party events.  On the contrary, they were a warning to the Republican Party:  Leave us alone, or we’re leaving.

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4 Responses to “Leave us alone, or we’re leaving”

  1. SayUncle » Not a bug, a feature Says:

    [...] Seen at Krumm’s: These people are advocating less government, restraints on federal power, and a return to constitutional government. Social conservatives who seek expansion of state power on issues from abortion to support for faith-based programs may find themselves at odds with a newly invigorated movement to shrink government and enhance individual liberty. [...]

  2. Stan Says:

    TEA Party attendees who wish to get organized should contact the Davidson County Republican Party. It is going through rebirth labor pains thus new dedicated and energic members have opportunities to shape its growth.

  3. Seerak Says:

    But until the Republican establishment embraces ”leave us alone” in all its forms, there are thousands of vocal supporters who will leave them alone.

    The source of the move away from individual rights — which I would not term an “advance”, by the way — towards paternalism, was driven by the Republican Party’s paternalist — read: religious — members.

    Haven’t you seen all the Ayn Rand references in these rallies? She’s an atheist, you know — the “world’s deadliest opponent of mysticism. That is the loudest voice of “leave us alone” that this world has ever heard.

    If there is to be a true rebirth of the Republicans, this is the voice that speaks at the Tea Parties, and those are the votes that the Republicans need to win back.

    It wasn’t too long ago that the power-loving religious wing was threatening to up and leave the Republican Party. They aren’t saying that kind of thing now, are they?

  4. Jocelyn Thelen Says:

    I stumbled on this site while looking for Fascist elements in the Bank takeovers and liked what I saw— until now. I printed out a quote from John Gault and Ayn Rand while deciding what to put on my tea party sign. What I chose complimented their thoughts on Capitalism (not religion) which I find invigorating. And yes, I am NOT happy with the Republican Party right now as a social AND fiscal conservative. However, I fought very hard to try to save Terri Shaivo, a living, responding, severely handicapped woman, from being murdered without the same rights as a convicted murderer. Even Democrat Tom Harkin, no friend of conservatives, fought for her because HE has a clue about rights for the handicapped. Did any of you read what those from NOT DEAD YET had to say about their concerns on this issue? Rubin and Seerak’s tone toward Christians, many who swelled the ranks of Tea Party goers, is unhelpful. If we don’t want this movement to splinter into a million piles we’re going to have to do better than this.

    P.S. ‘These people are advocating less government, restraints on federal power, and a return to “constitutional government.”’ I AGREE WITH THIS! Sorry, but at least as stated here, you can not co-opt this Conservative principle for Libertarians only. ;-)

    Voice of unborn child to abortionist: “Just leave me alone.”

    Just passing through, I guess.