Tea Party Dissected in Washington Post Guest Editorial

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A few years ago when the Tea Party was rising to become a major force in American politics, you couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing some liberal blowhard fret about what it could mean. They attacked this conservative movement from every angle. It wasn’t a true grassroots movement, they said. It’s nothing but spoiled white people, they said. They’re a bunch of racists, they insisted.

The waters have calmed since then, but a new guest editorial in the Washington Post proves the storm isn’t over yet. Political scientist Erin K. Jenne of Central European University took to the pages of the newspaper this week to deliver an in-depth analysis of the Tea Party movement. Somehow in doing so, she came back around to all the old arguments once again.

If you need help sleeping tonight, you can read the article for yourself, but a brief summary might be in order if you have to operate heavy machinery. Jenne analyzed the speeches of Republican presidential candidates in 2008 and 2012 and came to the conclusion that their rhetoric had moved to the right. In a nutshell, that’s what she came up with. She fails to make a point, but she manages to present the question: is this shift to the right because of the Tea Party or is it because of the same political atmosphere that gave rise to the Tea Party?

What’s interesting is that she never considers what I believe to be the truth of the matter. This shift to the right, if such a thing can even be quantified by election-year blatherings, comes in response to an equal and dramatic shift to the left from Democrats. We’d never seen a mainstream presidential candidate like Barack Obama. Someone with no qualms at all about his socialist roots, his Muslim background, and his disdain for traditional American values. Someone with a background shrouded in mystery.

Jenne asserts that many of these policy shifts represent a party now displaying open disdain for the federal government, in contrast with traditional Republicans who were willing to work with the existing infrastructure. But that’s not a shift to the “right.” Americans have been complaining about the federal government since George Washington was in office. That it should take center stage at election time would only be natural in 2008 and 2012. We’d just wrapped up an abysmal four years of Bush in one scenario and we wrapped up an even worse four years of Obama in the other. Smack in the middle, we dumped billions to help save ostensibly private companies. Why wouldn’t mainstream Republican candidates offer voters another philosophy?

I think it’s a healthy thing for America to produce candidates willing to speak out against the establishment. For too long, the concept of “small government” has become a pat phrase for Republicans to pay lip service to. Tea Party candidates walk the walk. Even if we never elect a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul, these gentlemen add a much-needed alternative voice to the national debate and our political atmosphere is improved because of them.

Oh, and they really scare liberals. You have to like that.