Monday, January 18, 2010

Fooling the Tea Parties

With the special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat approaching, there is a lot of speculation that Republican Scott Brown’s potential victory in the Bay State may be a sign of things to come for the GOP. Brown, who spouts conservative-sounding rhetoric in the liberal commonwealth, is even being presented as proof that the Tea Party movement is making real strides, nudging the Republican Party to the Right, even in states like Massachusetts where the candidate of the Right might just prevail.

Browsing Scott Brown’s campaign website shows that the candidate doesn’t deviate from safe GOP positions. He’s for tax cuts but says little about spending cuts. He is wishy-washy on abortion, but On the Issues records that as of 2002, Brown felt that “abortions should always be legally available.” His policy positions on Israel and Iran fall in line with those of the Israel Lobby and should make Dick Cheney and the rest of the gang at the American Enterprise Institute happy that a Senator Brown would represent the Republican status quo on foreign policy. As bloggers Carla Howell and Michael Cloud discovered, Scott Brown in practice has proven himself to be the archetypal big government Republican in a blue state.

This makes Scott Brown January 2010’s Doug Hoffman. Hoffman, who ran on the Conservative Party of New York ticket in the special election for New York’s 23rd district in November 2009, was the unofficial Tea Party candidate and generated mounds of enthusiasm among the Tea Partiers, even though he was vague on issues and the ones he did articulate upon were well within the GOP mainstream.

So despite polls showing the Tea Party Movement more favorable than the Republicans, the Tea Party Express’ endorsement of Brown is proof-positive that no matter how bitter they may appear to be at Republicans, the Tea Parties are expected to return to the Republican fold on Election Day. Their support for Brown over the much more libertarian (and unrelated) Joe Kennedy also demonstrates that, so far, the Tea Party movement is not serious about challenging the Republican Party, even from the inside out.

Here’s why. On his Friday radio program, Rush Limbaugh addressed the issue of a third party, an issue that arose during the 2008 presidential campaign, while conservatives were dragging their feet for John McCain:

“[A] Third party, in my view, is the only effort that will derail all the progress and energy and early victories that we've seen in recent months. A third party of the Ross Perot type, the Ron Paul type, bleeds voters away from the Republican Party, not the Democrat Party. . . . The fact that every single Republican senator votes consistently against government-run health care should be a clear indication that we are being heard. The fact that all but one Republican in the House voted against it, does this mean conservatives run the GOP? No. Not yet. But it means we're making progress. It means we're in an ascendancy. . . . And we've gotta stop this third-party temptation. It will only bleed votes from our side.”

“Bleed votes from our side.”

Beneath the surface, this means that despite pleas to the contrary, Rush Limbaugh is a Republican first and a conservative last. A Republican Party that does not have its conservative act together is better than a third party that does. This is why the conservatives who compose the Tea Party movement must finally reject the Republican Party and their faux conservative hand servants or else overhaul them all.

Not doing so is like saying, “Look, I know the Republican Party isn’t perfect, but if we don’t elect Republicans, it’ll be worse. Plus, now that they’re in the minority, they’re voting the right way! I’m sure this means that when the Democrats are voted out of office, these Republicans will vote exactly the same way because they’re principled conservatives now and there’s no way they could simply be partisans voting against their opposition!”

Scott Brown is the latest big government wolf the party and its sycophants are trying to stuff into small government clothing. If he wins on Tuesday, the Republicans will know they can pull the wool over the eyes of the Tea Parties and will gear up for the fall.

Then all of Rush's cited "progress" will truly be lost.


Update: Over at The Humble Libertarian, Wes has a piece up about how conservatives and libertarians are stunningly fawning over Scott Brown, Establishment Republican. Check it out.

Also see the essays by Sean Scallon and William Upton at The American Conservative blog about some inconvenient truths about Scott Brown.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Opportunity only Conservatives Can Miss

Only a year into the Obama presidency and Republicans are poised to make gains in 2010. This is heartening news for a party that was pronounced dead only a year ago.

With President Obama’s poll numbers slipping, 30-year Senator Chris Dodd choosing retirement over electoral humiliation and with the Tea Party Movement not going away, the Republicans smell enough blood in the water to already entertain dreams of regaining the majority. Maybe 2009 wasn’t so awful for the GOP after all.

For all of the rhetorical improvements Republicans have made in the wilderness, the party is proving that they can still take conservatives for another wild ride.

The Tea Parties, after Obama’s inauguration, were probably the biggest force in American politics last year.

Demonstrations on Tax Day were passionate, very well attended, and Tea Partiers made perpetual turn-coat Arlen Specter sweat through more than just the heat during the August recess. Talk of constitutional fidelity is up and tolerance for big government is down.

With such a force as the Tea Parties even outpolling the favorability of Republicans, limited government conservatives might finally have reason to hope for their cause. Since the Tea Parties could be such a force, maybe the Republicans can be trusted this time to responsibly administer the levers of power and actually cut spending, take their noses out of Americans’ private lives and balance the budget.

Then came the Christmas bomber.

All the hope for reducing spending and cutting government may still be lost.

While the vigor and passion exerted against Obama’s intrusive administration is laudable, the conservatives who make up the Tea Party Movement still have another hurdle to climb for theirs to be a serious limited government movement.

The deficit will not be reduced, the dollar will not be strengthened, and tax increases will not become an afterthought if ObamaCare is the only big government swindle that is eliminated. The limited government patriots of the Tea Parties will do only half their job if the issue of military spending is ignored. And that is why the Christmas bomber may be secretly celebrated by a Republican Party establishment that would not think twice about pulling another heist on their limited government conservatives.

If the Republican Party can continue justifying excessive military spending once they are back in power, the bait will be in for them to continue the domestic spending that made George W. Bush the LBJ of the Republicans.

That’s why this may be the perfect opportunity for conservatives to discover that fulfilling their mission of limiting government is incomplete unless military spending is addressed.

It’s been common among conservatives, during and since the Cold War, that any suggestion of reducing spending on the military is tantamount to surrender or appeasement of the enemy. But conservatives don’t believe this way about all the other types of government spending.

When a bleeding heart liberal pleas that there needs to be more money allocated for education, health care or poverty reduction, rank-and-file conservatives have usually responded that the more money that gets applied to those programs, the worse the problem gets. American children haven’t gotten smarter because money was given to them by the federal government and health care costs have simply increased as the government has involved itself. The same skepticism needs to apply to defense spending.

Even with President Obama allegedly “gutting our military,” the U.S. still spends as much on defense than the rest of the world combined. Should we ever ask ourselves how the rest of the world expects to be safe when they don’t spend nearly as much as we do? Is it possible for us to get by with less?

This also highlights the gravest contradiction in modern American conservatism. The mantra has always been to cut spending and cut taxes but there can be no contemplation of limiting the spending that could be given to the military.

This is a time to ask whether it’s in the national security interests of the U.S. to have troops in 130 countries of the world.

This is a time to ask whether the government, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, has exploited the patriotism of Americans by scaring them into acquiescing to their imperial ambitions.

This is a time to ask whether the maxim that more spending does not guarantee better results should also be applied to the military, a government institution.

This is a time to ask whether the network of terrorists responsible for 9/11, now down to perhaps 100, is worth hundreds of thousands of American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps Pakistan or Yemen, or whether there might be a more fiscally prudent solution.

This is the challenge conservatives of the Tea Parties must overcome to retake their party.