Tea Partiers: True Patriots, Misguided Zealots, or Just Plain Idiots

Dear reader, as much as I am loathe to pay attention to anything having to do with politics, economics, etc. (i.e. anything that has practical/real implications for life), the media won’t let me ignore this whole “Tea Party” movement, which to this point I have associated with [shudder] Sarah Palin-ites, grumpy old white people, and ignorant loudmouths.

Social suicide is not an American value

But now it’s come to my attention that a Republican primary candidate for California’s 30th State Senate District (which includes La Mirada, where I live) named Warren Willis has attached himself to the Tea Party movement.  This would not make a lot of difference to me if I didn’t know that Willis was running an organization (the California School Project–CSP) which promotes and empowers on-campus Christian evangelism by students.  I know a number of very thoughtful and intelligent people who work for CSP and who think highly of Willis, so I am left to wonder about his association with this group.

I have run across a few articles of late which have reinforced my predisposition to see the flaws of this movement.  I’d be happy to encounter other perspectives if you can send them my way…

Some quotes from the articles I mentioned:

The movement is not yet united on a single platform or agenda…The lack of specifics allows anyone who is just existentially fed up (and who isn’t, on some days?) to feel right at home. No one will demand to know what he or she is fed up with…

The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of The New York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.

First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming…

Some people think that what unites the Tea Party Patriots is simple racism. I doubt that. But the Tea Party movement is not the solution to what ails America. It is an illustration of what ails America. Not because it is right-wing or because it is sometimes susceptible to crazed conspiracy theories, and not because of racism, but because of the movement’s self-indulgent premise that none of our challenges and difficulties are our own fault.

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

Principled libertarianism is an interesting and even tempting idea. If we wanted to, we could radically reduce the scope of government—defend the country, give poor people enough money to live decently, and leave it at that. But this isn’t the TPP vision. The TPP vision is that you can keep your Medicare benefits and balance the budget by ending congressional earmarks, and perhaps the National Endowment for the Arts. (quotes above from an essay in The Atlantic magazine)

Jim Wallis points out 5 contentions between Christianity and the Tea Party/Libertarian movement in a recent Sojourners online post:

  1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue.
  2. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical.
  3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.
  4. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian.
  5. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white.

What are your thoughts on this movement?