Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party Protests: What's Your Motivation?

It's difficult to gauge the Tea Party movement at this moment in time, for many reasons. First of all, I'm relatively new to the Libertarian movement. I was once a total shill for the State and for the Bush administration. There was once, not too long ago, nothing the Bush administration could do, right or wrong, that I wouldn't bitterly defend.

So I can't help but feel a little timid for asserting myself against the State, and against the Obama administration for the same things I used to defend the Bush administration for. Of course, at the time I wasn't aware of the economics of deficit spending. I had no idea what the Fed was, what inflation was, and the mechanics behind who bought our debt and how we went about paying it off, or, most importantly, how much we had actually borrowed. I hadn't fully considered the implications of our interventionist foreign policy, of denying Habeas Corpus, or rendition, or torture, etc. At one time I took the hard neo-con line, that terrorists didn't deserve rights; it never occured to me the scope of the power my attitude granted the government - this power to, at will, declare anyone they wanted a terrorist and arrest and detain them indefinitely with absolutely no due process. To this day I have no sympathy for terrorists or jihadists or whatever, but no one should have the power to declare someone as such and arrest them with total impunity. No one. And of course, ignorant of economics and drunk on American exceptionalism, I thought we could continue these aggressive interventions until the end of time. We were Americans; we would always find a way.

Of course, these Tea Parties aren't about torture or rendition, but economics goes hand-in-hand with foreign policy. After all, these adventures have to be paid for, somehow. And I can't help but wonder if a very large percentage of those who protested today weren't in favor of much of the same policies they protested against when a so-called conservative occupied the White House. This is troubling to me. I understand that the movement started gaining traction when Bush was still in office. Much of the anger over this calamity is rooted in Bush's TARP bailout. And talk of a massive economic stimulus against which we now protest was in the works long before Obama took office. So the timing seems suspicious, but maybe it's not so suspicious. I don't know.

What I do know is that the "conservative" movement always finds its voice as the minority - how convenient! It was strong and potent during the Clinton years, so potent that the naive conservative couldn't help but be ecstatic for the prospects of a clean sweep of the three branches by the GOP after the 2000 election. They had legislated, supposedly, so effectively during the Clinton years, that with a Republican in the White House there would be no obstacles in the way of a total conservative remake of government. Lower taxes. Spending cuts. Slicing and dicing the bureaucracy. More efficient government. But if you payed attention you learned, the hard way, that the two parties are really nothing more than two wings of the same bird of prey, and while there are slight intricacies in practice, if not massive differences in the rhetoric, the two parties had the same goal.

This is clear now to any objective observer of politics; if you hated Bush, you must hate Obama. And if you hate Obama yet loved Bush, or vice-versa, you have to examine the motivations behind that. Because between Bush and Obama nothing has changed, except the aggressiveness of the policy. Obama is doing the same things Bush did, only on a larger scale. He has broken every campaign promise, and has validated Bush for everything he ran against McCain for, as "the 3rd Bush term", during his campaign. Obama is, in fact, the 3rd Bush term.

And that is my concern for these protests. Are they nothing more than sour grapes for the fact that a Democrat is now president, and that Democrats control all three branches of government, as Republicans did 8 years ago? Or is this rage merely carried over from the end of the Bush presidency, a movement that had its infancy at the TARP bailout mere months before Bush left office and has exploded due to the government take-overs of the banking and automobile industry, the many hundreds of billions of "stimulus" which amounts to little more than cash payouts to favored corporations and industries, as well as wasteful welfare and entitlement programs democrats have wanted to shove down our throats for years? $75 Million to pave three miles of highway? Is this what it's about? Do people finally realize that things would not be any different had McCain won in November?

The timing is terrible. Many of those now jumping on the bandwagon of the movement have no credibility. Dick Army. Sean Hannity. Glenn Beck. Even myself. All at one time shills for the Bush administration, ardent defenders of all we now hate about Obama. None of us will have any real credibility until the GOP regains control and we focus the same criticism on them as we did the Democrats. Have we simply had a recent and ill-timed epiphany about the role of government, the real causes of this economic calamity, the people who truly pull the strings of government and our economy? Have we really, just now, realized the disastrous implications of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy? Do we see a difference between Bush's attack on the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments and Obama's attack on the 2nd, or do we now view them all as one and the same?

I know where my heart lies. Where does yours?