Liberals never seem to understand 
real reasons for tea-party movement

It’s been a confusing week for people interested in the term “tea party.” That’s because I’ve recently seen competing theorems from our friends on the left regarding the collection of ideas that encompass the “tea party” movement.

On the one hand I have been reading breathless accounts about the demise of this collection of ideas and the voters who support them. At the same time, I have been receiving emails from progressive fundraising organizations that are terrified of the movement and feel it to be the largest threat to America since, perhaps, Calvin Coolidge.

Tuesday, I received an email from Christopher Ott, the treasurer of Colorado’s state Democratic Party, who thinks the movement in Colorado is definitely on the ropes. That’s significant when Colorado is one of the leading states, if not the main one, where voters involved with the conservative tea-party ideas are often identified with the movement.

In his email, Ott pointed out a couple of things, one funny and the other representative. The first is that he identifies Amy Stephens, state representative from the Colorado Springs area and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, both running as Republicans to replace Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, as tea party candidates.

That’s the funny one, because Stephens is the author of the state’s health care exchange, referred to as “Amycare.” Although she has taken some conservative positions in the past and easily survived a primary, Stevens is hardly identified with the rock-ribbed conservatives that Ott is so worried about.

Don’t fret, though. Ott has a solution for dealing with both candidates, and that’s the illustrative part. His email says that “every dollar we raise now will help to increase Democratic turnout this November” and “help Colorado Democrats win in 2014 by sponsoring a field organizer.” It’s nice to see someone on the left come straight out and say that money and field organizers are the key to progressive turnout, not, apparently, ideas.

I’m not sure why state party bosses are so concerned, since when I read an article at this week by Raymond Smith, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and, naturally, a professor at Columbia and New York University, I learned that the tea-party movement is practically laid out on the slab.

He pointed this out brilliantly, by discussing it in terms of British, Greek, French and Polish political movements. If any of you tea-party-identifying types wonder how this is happening, it is due to “reciprocal relegitimization.” I’m not making that term up, although I think someone else might have.

Once again, the point of this movement is missed altogether. It’s a uniquely American expression.

Attempts to explain it in terms of multi-faction European and Mediterranean political systems that, no matter what their position on certain issues, continue to compose themselves as collectivist machinery, completely overlooks the driving force of the tea party movement: individual liberty.

There’s good reason for this. Most of these other countries that the political scientists like to study have seldom had much liberty, at least certainly not to the extent America has been fortunate enough to experience.

Many Americans think, and they’re right, that the Constitution’s most abiding principle is that they should, for the most part, be left alone by government.

It’s for this reason that progressive diagnosticians never understand the impulsive and reactive nature of many American political movements. Americans have the most sensitive feet in the political world and are very sensitive to politicians and bureaucrats standing on their toes.

Galvanizing actions are often the hallmark of these movements. Passing a health care act in the dark of night on Christmas Eve with legislative sleight-of-hand, while attempting to nationalize one-sixth of the economy and unleash tax collectors on the populace, is what created the tea-party movement. The symbolism is plain to see when you think the entire movement is named after a reactive event in 1773.

Events that electrify this portion of the American electorate don’t do it just because they’re irritating or expensive but because they are non-representative.

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Americans still insist on at least some semblance of bottom-up government representation. Otherwise, actions are deemed illegitimate and all the “reciprocal relegitimization” in the world won’t change that.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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I understand the single most identifying characteristic of those claiming tea party affiliation is opposition to abortion. Exactly how does government mandated childbirth fit in with the concepts of individual liberty and small government?

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