Thursday, August 30, 2012

Teaparty components

There are a number of political strands that make up the Teaparty. If you ask them, what they share is a distaste for "too much government” but they don't have to agree on all the details. I figure them as making up a sort of conspiracy of outsiders, each group of whom previously held less respect and authority in the Republican Party than they thought they deserved. That is why they are often described as "angry"-- it is directed at other Republicans. They are mad at what seemed like getting lip-service and not enough laws. Later on, I will get into more about what they have received. I think that the Party did give them more actual concessions than they yet recognize – There are at least 3 Justices of the Supreme Court who were chosen from the furthest fringe that could win confirmation; unconfirmed nominee Bork was beyond the fringe.

The largest man-in-the-street component of the Teaparty comprises fundamentalist Christians. Their first issues are abortion and Creationism, which readily expand to include opposition to birth control and hostility to public schools. They don't care fervently about corporate taxes, income taxes, estate taxes. They don't care fervently about regulation of corporations, whether for air pollution or Wall Street speculation. They sometimes care about homosexuals, though many may recognize that as a lost issue by today. They sometimes pledge almost as much faith in their readings of the Constitution as their readings of the Bible.

The big-money component of the Teaparty is dominated by a small number of billionaires. That contrasts to the old-line GOP alignment with Chamber of Commerce major industrial lobby groups … thus reducing the influence of reason and argument. The biggest influences on policy up to now are reputedly the Koch brothers (gas and oil) and Rupert Murdoch (Wall Street Journal, Fox tv networks). Murdoch promoted the development of the Teaparty on his stations; his agenda seems to be taxes but he was not pleased with candidate Romney. Though they down-talk the connections, the Koch brothers are said to have provided seed money in small amounts to each of thousands of local groups, thus winning an early and persistent allegiance. The Koches are concerned especially with preserving profits for their industry – low taxes; and getting rid of regulations relevant to oil, gas, and chemical exploitation. I don't know that they care at all about the principle issues of the fundamentalists.

 The closest thing to an intellectual side of the Teaparty is probably the anarchist, nihilistic politicians that make up Libertarianism (Ron Paul) and Objectivism. Paul Ryan, VP candidate, has lately disowned Objectivism and its founder, Ayn Rand. She was a Russian emigre who was firmly atheistic and pro-abortion, in addition to adoring hero-led-capitalism. I will say a little more about each of these.

Libertarians in 1980 celebrated with the slogan, "Taxation is theft." That slogan was invented about the same time that the Libertarian Party was formed, 1972. This was not an ironic reflection of Proudhon's 1840 anarchist/ socialist slogan, "Property is theft." I sometimes do like to muse on the latter, but what I find more useful is a pertinent quotation from Justice Holmes, 1908, "Taxes are the price that we pay for civilization." I wondered about Libertarianism back in the 1970s; I concluded that it was impossible to accept its weakness in preserving rights and justice, because it depended on individuals suing in courts. But in the sarcastic sentiment of Anatole France, "Sure, the law is even-handed. It prohibits both rich men and poor men from sleeping under bridges and begging in the street." I don't know if Libertarians dropped their recipe for preserving rights because it was too unlikely, or if they buried that argument as a price for peace with the George W. Bush's platform goal of "tort reform".

On Objectivism – Alan Freedman was once an acolyte of Rand's. Finally as leader of the Federal Reserve, he preached Free Markets to a wide audience, for decades. I wished that the media had made more of it when he announced (more or less) that the 2008 market crash had cured him of 40 years of error, in imagining that "free markets" could do no evil. He now recognizes that regulation is, indeed, necessary. His apostasy should have been bigger news. On other issues: Libertarians have been traditionally in favor of abortion and no rules on sex, including homosexual behavior – I thought – but this year's campaigner Ron Paul took relevant stands compliant with the Teaparty fundamentalists.

 Libertarians and Objectivists seem united in opposing active roles of government in almost anything except Defense.

There are other smaller strands of the Teaparty. I will mention just one more, the National Rifle Association. This group, as a group, does not seem to speak on other issues besides the wide distribution of guns and ammunition, but they pioneered the narrow-focus intimidation of politicians, especially in GOP primaries, that is coming to define the whole party.

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