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Zakaria cuts heart out of Tea Party

October 19, 2013 - Harry Eagar
In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria has an outstanding commentary on "The dark side of conservatism." The title is controversial, since the piece is aimed primarily at Tea Partiers, who are not, in any meaningful sense, conservatives.

Worth reading all but here are the nut grafs:

"The current fear derives from Obamacare, but that is only the most recent cause for alarm. Modern American conservatism was founded on a diet of despair. In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. began the movement with a famous first editorial in National Review declaring that the magazine 'stands athwart history, yelling Stop.' John Boehner tries to tie into this tradition of opposition when he says in exasperation, 'The federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!'

"But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and — along the way — ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known."

I don't agree that the US destroyed the Soviet Union; it destroyed itself by failing to have a workable agriculture. But the general statement is correct; there's just no satisfying some people.

Now, why are Tea Partiers not conservatives? They say they are conservatives. But a conservative has to conserve something. The Tea Party vision embraces something that never was.

So they are not reactionaries either.

They are radical revolutionaries.

If "tea party" can be reduced to two words, they would be "small government."

Is it necessary to state the obvious: the men who wrote the Constitution were not interested in small government. If they had been, they would have returned to the situation before the Revolution, when they were governed by 13 separate jurisdictions, each with its own history, customs, constitutions, legislatures and courts.

What they were interested in was representative and effective government. The Tea Party, as it just proved, is not interested in effective government; and the evangelical wing of the Republican Party is not interested in representative government.

The two threads, which sometimes seem to be separate, are braided together by the ideology of Cleon Skousen, a Bircher (and, according to Mitt Romney, the most influential teacher he had at BYU -- so much for Romney representing moderate Republicanism).

Skousen wrote the text that informs teahadism, but while the teahadists tend to venerate the parts that celebrate small government, his books (such as "The 5000 Year Leap") equally demand an exclusively Christian polity.

The Constitution does not demand an exclusively Christian polity. It is secular and national, with national courts, a national army and a national navy, a national legislature and executive and national elections.

While it was firmly national, it was not, in 1789, comprehensive. It was written for white men.

Today, women and all races have been included. That made our government more national, not less.


Article Comments



Oct-22-13 5:16 PM

Well done, Harry! The Tea Party is delusional. I've never seen people so hell-bent on voting against their financial and social best interest. The only motivator is fear. Which is driven by ignorance, usually religious-based, which makes them susceptible to the kind of snake-oil salesmen that are leading this revolution. They really are terrorists, holding our country hostage. It's sickening.


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