This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice
The Tea Party movement is a nebulous mass of citizenry, uncoordinated, not centrally directed, with no discernible “leadership,” and actually rejects the hierarchical organizational model for a fierce, unbridled independence.
If recent events in Delaware as well as the growing electoral involvement of the tea party movement tells us anything, it is that an identifiable tea party establishment has emerged to make war on those they suspect of ideological impurity while mindlessly defending their candidates from attacks no matter how flawed, or how ridiculous those candidates may be.
In short, the tea party establishment has become what they profess to hate the most; a self identified elite who are more interested in maintaining their position at the top of the tea party ziggurat than in stopping the far left agenda of the Obama administration or in promoting conservative principles in their candidates.
I hasten to add that the vast majority of tea party folk are sincerely interested in reform, are probably a little more pragmatic on the whole than their elites, and have acted as a spur to getting good conservatives (in many cases) to run for office. It is not their fault that a certain segment of the conservative punditocracy now purports to speak for them in the shrill tones of the ideological purist who protects their position at the top of the tea party pyramid by trashing other conservatives who don’t agree with them 100% of the time as “RINO’s or worse, “ruling class” or “establishment” Republicans.
Now, they may have talked about it, but it certainly isn’t reported. What’s reported is that these guys are going, “Oh, woe is us, oh, woe is us. Coulda had a Castle seat, coulda won it, coulda been a contender.” And Scott Brown going on and on and on, “There’s no more room for moderates.” Mr. Brown, let me tell you something. Look around you in the Senate. You are surrounded by moderate Republicans, Mr. Brown. You’re surrounded by ‘em. Not only where you live but in the Senate, surrounded by ‘em. You got moderate Republicans in Maine. After this election you’re still going to be surrounded by moderate Republicans in the Senate. What are you talking about? No more room for moderate Republicans in the Senate? The question is whether there is room for Reagan conservatives anymore in the Republican Party. That’s the question. That’s what this is all about.
Fascinating. Limbaugh isn’t the only establishment tea party leader to raise the spectre of poor little conservatives being “surrounded by moderates” in the senate. This is utter nonsense - a shibboleth that goes to the heart of the meme that “moderates” lost the 2008 election (independents, scared off by the radical social cons, gave the election to Obama). There might be 7 “moderate” senators in the GOP caucus. And that’s using the tea party establishment’s definition. When 80% of the caucus is made up of conservatives far to the right of Ronald Reagan, one begins to wonder why Limbaugh and other tea party elites have to create an enemy to destroy. Isn’t Obama and the Democrats enough of a foe on which to concentrate their firepower?
The next time a tea party elitist talks about the GOP senate being lousy with RINO’s, I demand they name names. Who do they think is a “moderate” besides the obvious targets? There better be a lot more than 6 or 7 in order to make good on their observation about the senate being full of moderates. I’m sure we will be surprised to learn who they believe doesn’t measure up to their ever narrowing definition of conservative. More than likely, many senators they believe are RINO’s would hold views to the right of Reagan.
Indeed, it is not that these senators are necessarily moderate that upsets the tea party establishment. It is that they dare work with the Democrats to craft legislation and assist in governing the country - as their constituents demand that they do. I find it endlessly fascinating to compare the reactions of the hard right and hard left to members of their respective parties who take to heart the definition of “public service” and try to work with the other side to get things done for the country. The very act of compromise is enough to brand the lawmaker as one who has “no principles.” Both excessively ideological camps scream “betrayal” and “traitor” if a member dare defy their strictures against fraternizing with the enemy. The fruit of any such compromise is to be rejected out of hand.
Obviously, to even the most simple minded adolescent, this is not how to run a country of 300 million people made up of every race, creed, religion, and special interest on the planet. Not everyone can support one faction’s idea of how a piece of legislation should work, or who it should cover, or how much it should cost. The essence of governing in a democracy is compromise and adults interested in the welfare of the United States recognize that singular fact. In the process of compromising, political deals are made, backs are scratched, favors called in, and threats and cajoling are used to pass an imperfect, flawed piece of legislation that the president may or may not sign.
It is childish to believe that all of this rigmarole is somehow “corrupt” or the means used by the “ruling class” to oppress us. It is messy, inefficient, unsatisfying, and irredeemably venal. But it works - mostly. And it used to work a lot better. We all better pray that we reacquire the ability to craft livable compromises considering the stupendous challenges this country faces with regard to the debt, the budget, our security, and the security of the planet. Otherwise, we simply won’t survive.
But none of this matters to the tea party establishment. We know who they are. Limbaugh, Levin, Malkin, Erickson,, Riehl, Stacy McCain, and several other prominent conservatives who have abandoned their principles by supporting the fatally flawed, radically unconservative Christine O’Donnell.
It seems as if every revelation about O’Donnell’s past that trickles out, the tea party elites become even more enraged at conservatives who point to her shortcomings, more defensive, more dismissive of critics. They have a lot invested in O’Donnell - the narrative of tea party success must be maintained at all costs, even to the point that their own conservative principles regarding excellence, character, honesty, wisdom, prudence, and prescription are tossed aside lest their criminal candidate be seen as less than a champion of the cause.
Charges about “the ruling class” being against O’Donnell ring particularly hollow. Conservatives don’t do “class” in any way, shape or form. To bring any kind of class argument into the picture demonstrates an abandonment of conservative principles in the name of political expediency. And the even more fantastical argument that O’Donnell is no more flawed than any other candidate is wrong on its face, but particularly revealing of the tea party establishment’s desperation.
Conservatism is a way of living and of organizing society - not a political ideology, although in the real world, it is impossible to separate the two. The danger in being excessively ideological is that it becomes necessary to abandon principle in service to maintaining ideological purity. Hence, we have the spectacle of so-called tea party conservative elites railing against “class,” demonstrating imprudence in advocating against reasonable governance, wildly exaggerating criticisms of people who agree with them 90% of the time, and holding to the false notion that they are “standing on principle” in desperately defending an indefensible candidate.
Praytell what “principle” is served by supporting someone who actually believes in the radically unconstitutional notion that you can legislate morality? Or who steals from her own campaign war chest to personally enrich herself? Besides the “principle” of trying to maintain an establishment position in the internet tea party hierarchy, there doesn’t seem to be much left to consider.