I wrote what follows as an e-mail to a friend and former professor who wanted to know why I thought the Tea Partier groups were worth giving a fair hearing to–she admitted having some doubts about their arguments and motives. The summary I provided is pretty brief, but covers all the major points to the best of my memory, and as sympathetically as I could reconstruct them. (The whole thing could stand some revision and cleaning up, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway).
Update: Information Age indeed! The WST folks picked up on this post in no time, so I’ve made some proofreading edits. If there are any substantial shortcomings in my summary, I’m sure I can count on them to mention them in the comments section. For more official information, see We Surround Them Frederick’s official website and their blog.
I’ll try to summarize their main arguments as succinctly as I can, based on their articles and a discussion I had with Joshua Lyons, one of the co-founders of We Surround Them Frederick (WST):
1. Big Government Is Bad
It’s also worth noting that WST favors a couple aspects of health care reform that they believe would be in keeping with the Constitution. They call for tort reform and opening up health insurance programs to competition with those based in other states, which they believe falls under the commerce clause.
2. Big Government Is Dangerous
3. What It’s Up To
4. The Forgotten Man.
Now I’m probably leaving off a few other important points, but I thought this would suffice to give you a taste of what these guys are up to. Partly in response to questions I posed to them through their website and other places, they wrote up a nice explanation of why they do not discuss much in the way of specific policies under current debate
So what I find interesting in all of this is that their agenda is not what I expected at first when the tea parties started showing up on tv over the summer. They are not subtly rebranded Bush supporters or Republicans, nor are they in any way racist, as the mainstream media very unfairly entertained for weeks on end without substantiation (I’d never before bought into the “mainstream media bias” argument until I started communicating with WST. I can’t help but see that they’ve been pegged as a dumb mob and left at that. It wasn’t until a week ago that I even heard the word “libertarian” mentioned by a pundit on CNN. The media has done a pathetic job covering the content of these groups’ arguments, and it really bothers me, even though I’m not fully on board with them).
When it comes down to it, they are simply concerned that the government is becoming too powerful and too overbearing, and their response has been exactly what the Founder’s would have wanted from concerned citizens. There are some shaky aspects to their views that will put them at a major disadvantage to liberals, and they recognize that they come off as lacking compassion when they oppose well-intended legislation aimed at social justice—they reply that social justice should be achieved socially, however, rather than through laws that strip personal liberties even while claiming to do the opposite.
And that’s about as sympathetically as I can summarize their views at this point. What I came to see after talking with Lyons was that he had a very well realized set of principles from which he was able to draw his arguments effortlessly. As for me, on the other hand, I realized I could not articulate my principles nearly so well, either to him or to myself. I have a feeling that there are things about what he argues don’t sit well with me, but my political views aren’t so well developed that I can put my finger on the problem yet. I will continue to work on that.