Newsweek has a piece on the coalition of disgruntled conservatives that have come to be called the Tea Party. Here’s the final paragraph:

The political volatility of the tea partiers also raises the question of how much staying power a movement based on “anti-incumbent, anti-Washington power” can have, particularly when such sentiments are so closely intertwined with the effects of the economic downturn. The current, near-unilateral opposition on the right to the Democrats’ legislative agenda has at least given focus and direction to the tea-party agitations, making alliances easier to come by. Compare such efforts to the current state of the grassroots left: having lost Bush as their primary target, liberal activists have oscillated between conducting pressure campaigns to pass Democratic bills and joining the right-wing opposition against the Democratic agenda when they feel it has fallen far short of the reforms they desire. Should the tea- party activists lose their own oppositional momentum—if the economy turns around, or if the Democrats quickly lose their grip in Washington—the absence of a more constructive platform and a stable infrastructure could mean that the insurgent network could evaporate as quickly as it came. “I don’t think you’re going to see a big third party movement come out of this,” says Erick Erickson, a prominent conservative activist and blogger. “If the big problems go away on spending and growing government, the tea-party movement may go away altogether.”

I wonder. Does the Tea Party have enough energy and coherence to give birth to a viable third party? Could such a party benefit the American system? Obviously leadership is key and if the Tea Party is anti-establishment, anti-incumbent, and anti-Washington, they will need to find leadership from their own. Sarah Palin is slated to speak at a the first national Tea Party Convention this weekend. Could she be the leader that will unite this disparate band? It will be interesting to see if this collection of concerned citizens develops into something more than a force organized to resist the Obama agenda (though that is no modest goal in itself). If Palin is going to lead this group, she’s going to need more than a handful of platitudes about freedom and disparaging remarks about elites. She can do better and the Tea Party deserves better.

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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell is the co-founder of Front Porch Republic. He is the Dean of Academic Affairs at Patrick Henry College and the author of several books including Plutocratic Socialism, Power and Purity, The Limits of Liberalism, The Politics of Gratitude, and Localism in Mass Age: A Front Porch Republic Manifesto (co-editor).


  1. I might be inclined to take the Tea Party movement serious, were it not for the fact that it seems (at least from my observations) to be comprised mainly of warmed-over Republicans.

    Case in point, the small town in which I grew up, and where my parents still live, is set up in a way that requires circling the county courthouse in order to get anywhere. Throughout much of 2003, the courthouse grounds were the site of protests for and against the invasion of Iraq. I remember circling the courthouse one Friday evening during this period and being confronted with a large banner that read, “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.” Because I found their message a bit grating, I took notice of the ten or so individuals who were present that day. Then late last fall, I was headed home to visit my folks, and as I rounded the courthouse I was once again confronted with banners, only this time they read, “TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY, and WE DON’T WANT NO SOCIALISM.” I quickly scanned the crowd, and as I drove on I realized that practically all of these Tea Partiers had also been at the pro-war rally back in 2003.

    Later during my visit I asked my mother if any of the healthcare protests had been larger, and she said, “no, it seems to be the same group every week.” I then asked her if she knew any of the protestors, because I didn’t recognize any of them. She said she didn’t know any of them, and she wasn’t for certain that they lived in the county.

  2. An Op-ed in todays N.Y. Times by Robert Zaretsky entitled “The Tea Party Last Time” is illuminating. He describes the Poujadists of post World War II France and how their best intentions amounted to zero….leading directly to DeGaulles authoritarian theater of French Stagnation. Identity Politics have a reputation for multiple personality disorder once the reigns of power are grasped.

  3. DW, don’t believe everything you read in the NYT, they’ll be lucky to be around in a year or so!
    Re: the TPers, I kinda see them as disaffected former GOPers/Ind. who wouldn’t vote for a commie-dem if he were the only candidate on the ballot.
    I’m sure you guys have noticed they kinda had an effect in Taxechewsetts. Re: the future who knows. My gut feeling is if the stupid party (GOP) selects NEocons the TPers will counter with real Americans. But the commie-dems have to go, they’re wrecking the gummint, no make that…country, which may have been the Enlightened One’s objective all along!

  4. Cheeks,
    everytime somebody uses the phrase “real Americans”, I git a strong hankerin to reach fo my knife.

    One should always approach the august pages of the New Yawk Times with extreme sensitivity to the charms of inadvertent satire.

    I have found myself softening my initial gut reaction to the Tea Partyers but should they become elected, I wonder if the same old inconsistencies would govern the day. No, I don’t wonder, methinks they would. But then, as you well know, I have a bad attitude, not the least of which has been somewhat magnified as a result of some malefactor hacking into my rig and re-setting my preferences thus forwarding my many fulminations to their desired ends. Should any of you desire to pass the hat around in order gather a collection so that these reprobates can sensor me again…much to your collective benefit, let me know and I’ll forward their address with glee.

    Frankly, I can think of no better Half-Time show than dragging a couple hackers out onto the top of the steps of the Capitol before beating their brains out with a stone mallet and tossing their carcasses down the steps in recreation of the Aztec Superbowl. I know, to some, they serve important functions…like my censorship.

  5. Dear Olde Palsy,
    I am greatly peeved that you were hacked!
    And, I know why…..! You’ve become famous, you blog at FPR and the O’bama commie-dems monitor this site and they’ve read your slightly/greatly anti-gummint stuff, though you are greatly discombobulated when you say “they’re both the same!”
    Please clarify this: “…as a result of some malefactor hacking into my rig and re-setting my preferences thus forwarding my many fulminations to their desired ends.” Do you mean those scallywags were sending your private stuff tither and yon or what? You have their address?
    Death to Hackers, though I worked with a Don Hacker and wouldn’t want any harm to befall him!
    I’ll send some money…check your mail…you must continue to write…btw, great blog and did you see The Book of Eli?

  6. Dick Armey is now called the “de facto leader” of the Tea party. This tells us all we need to know: the Tea Party is just another front business for the Wall Street Mafia. (Which was already obvious from the smell, but not quite explicit.)

  7. I think it would be interesting if they could form a third party, though my suspicions are that they can’t. They were funded to serve a specific purpose, and that is gone. In fact, their backers may already regret funding them. The idea was to flex some muscle and pressure Obama on Health Care, namely to get rid of the public option. But the insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals want the health care plan, as it will be a big source of subsidies without in any way interfering with their freedom of action. They didn’t want to kill it; they wanted to own it.

  8. Medaille,
    You may very well be on to something there, the Corporations are constantly pulling out the old Brer Rabbit Briar Patch Routine before adjourning for beers and guffaws on the back nine. But then, it seems the malcontents are growing. Even Lefty NPR is actually mentioning the inflammatory idea that the government cannot afford to keep doing what it is doing…kind of like discovering a house fire after the back roof already collapsed.

    My gut hunch is that the Tea Partyers will enter the mosh pit and add a Fight Club atmosphere in the manner of what Albert referenced. Distraction and entertainment being the default as it is. They will be the lightening rod for extremist opinion so the other two clueless twit partys can tut tut at them. They are still very much a wild card….and at least, for now, a wild card is a good thing….until demagoguery kicks in.

  9. I think I’ll join the Tea PArty here in Columbiana County ‘cept they just joined with the county commissioners in approving the “piggyback” tax, a tax that I’ve always opposed.
    And, DW, you listen to NPR?????????Good grief!!!!!!!!!! That’s like watching the PBS News Hour!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BTW, either Dear Leader is dumber than a bag of rocks or he’s a commie-rat determined to bring down the country….why don’t you blog on that?

  10. Gee Cheeks, I’d listen to Rush but I tried that for a while and within a few weeks, my blood pressure was back to 170 over 90 even without Single Malt Freebasing , the dashboard looked like it had been attacked by a herd of teething puppies, the inside of the windshield was slathered with foamy expectorant laced with assorted soggy chewed ends of the cheroot giving it the faint cast of an Anselm Keifer canvas and I couldn’t properly text no more because my middle finger was constantly in distracted salute like that picture of my Uncle Walter over on Deneen’s latest. Road Resentiment is the term I believe. Only a Rush Limbaugh could actually make Foucault make sense.

    Mostly though, I listen to Mingus and Coltrane, Tom Waits or the alter kacker croonings of Dylan. The cell phones batteries are mysteriously permanently dead.

  11. DW, dude, I gave my entire Dylan collection (LP’s) to my pony-tailed, former dope smokin’ hippie, Democrat brother! But I still love the man…I remember, up in my room in Chicago, fall of 64 listening to the Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan..or maybe ’65! But this old republican still has that commie-lass, Joanie’s LP’s, and the beloved socialist Woody’s!

  12. The tea partiers may form a third party – but I can’t imagine why I would wish to support them. It was well demonstrated that much of the funding for the initial tea party activity came from either health insurance companies or FOX. Not exactly populist organizations. I would have considerable mistrust for people who allow themselves to be so thoroughly manipulated by big business.

  13. Cheeks and Sabin,

    DYLAN! To use my grandchildrens’ acronym, OMYG! Can’t think, can’t sing, can’t play, too much Village, not enough Hibbing, morals of a left-wing alleycat, as Joanie Baez once said, “You morons, Dylan NEVER comes!”

    About Tea Parties: I used to like them when my girls invited me (they were 3-6 years old then) because the conversation was intelligent and the behavior civil. The one in Massachusetts in 1773 was the planned response of a society that had established families, churches, and neighborhoods that would also produce Paul Revere’s ride (read David Hackett Fischer on this). The only reason Rush doesn’t like the present Tea Party is that he doesn’t control it. They all sound the same.

  14. Willson,
    Re: Dylan, the voice was the voice of the unwashed, the ruck of mankind. “Hey,hey Woody Gutherie but I know that you’d know…”
    Actually, his guitar riffs and chord progressions were the stuff of genius.
    His songs provided an analysis of modernity or the drama of humanity or of a metalepsis predicated on the symbols that expressed the insights of noesis about the structure of participatory reality. And, while he spent to much time on dope, lost in the sundry perversions both intellectual and moral, proffered by modernity there were, from time to time, brilliant noetic/pneumatic insights that in time led to his “Jesus” period. It was during this period that he was able to overcome the derailment that describes the loss of the transcendent ground within the immanent hierarchy of being and entered into a period described as a tension toward transcendent Reason that quite accurately reveals the nature of man and moves toward the possibility of a relationship with God, metalepsis.
    In a recent PBS telecast I heard Joanie admit to being “promiscuous.” Oh well another adolescent dream destroyed.

    RE: Tea parties, I’m rather surprised that you don’t take some succor from them. The events that I’ve been to are not sponsored by the GOP, RINO or otherwise while I would agree that they are (rightfully) anti-Left (librul, commie, statist, etc).

    Willson/Sabin: Now just “exactly” what is it you don’t like about Rush?

  15. “His songs provided an analysis of modernity or the drama of humanity or of a metalepsis predicated on the symbols that expressed the insights of noesis about the structure of participatory reality.”

    Huh? Actually, Dylan not only gave up “Place. Limits. liberty.” he rejected them out of hand. I’ve read his “Chronicles.” Disgusting

    Actually, I’m amazed that Rush doesn’t like Tea Parties. Like him, they are loud, angry, pseudo-patriotic, ad hominem, and usually without a clear idea of what they are for. They all hurt my ears. I keep saying, I’m not a Republican (or a Tea Partyer), I’m a conservative. What is it that Rush wants to conserve?

  16. Cheeks,
    Rush is entirely about the Theatre of Agida . Whipping everyone into a Frenzy on the basis that he has an inside take on the truth. All the man really is can be summed up by watching a Junkyard Dog barking through the chain link. Conservatism once had thinking people grounded in history and a love for the institutions of a right-ordered society. Rush, like the culture he inhabits is a cage-fighter.

    Come now, Dylan, the debauched alter kacker is a veteran. In his latest CD’s, his voice gone, he makes poetic stories, always freely borrowing from history and weaving stories about where the furrows are long, the cotton hangs full and imperfect people confront the rich story of this life. As a fellow alter kacker who was once athletically debauched, I like him far more now than when his voice was clear. There his a heart-cracking weariness to his work now. He also assembles great musicians and does not over-produce his albums. In the end, he is a flaneur of sorts, grazing the popular culture and subject to its tawdry allures but lately , his output is wonderfully bittersweet. He sings an awful lot of songs deep in the heart of small town lives now. Junior, a drummer, listens to his older stuff and derides me for listening to Bobby croak like he does now but when he sings “I’m going to where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog”, I am in the black dirt deep time Delta with him. The young Turk shakes his head and I just reply “you wait, just you wait”.

    Incidentally, as much as we deride modernity, there is a hugely rich stream of independent modern music now…just as there is a fantastic independent film. The youngsters are hard at work creating the art of life this nation hads produced with abundance. Given the job market is so raw, Junior is now employed in a family business and this quiet place jumps along more energetically now. La Cave de la Obstreperepi hums with All Kinds of Music. I’m teaching him how to draw and construct and he is about to teach me Auto Cad….a damnably sorrowful development. Every day…something new. What a Country we still have! To their credit, the Tea Partiers will stand on freezing corners on their own time and agitate to keep what we are losing. Do I wish there was more to their resentments? Surely but at least they have decided to act on their dissatisfaction. I already expended my early poor judgement of them and now wish more of them and hope they build something true.

  17. Ain’t deridin’ modernity music, Sabin, just Dylan. When his voice was clear? When were that? Even his harmonica hurt my ears. And please tell me what the Tea Partiers–agitating sure they are–are wanting to keep. Dan Oliver’s review of Sarah Palin’s book almost makes me want to like her (actually, I LIKE her, but what does that have to do with statesmanship?) but, to get back to the point Mark was making, there ain’t no such thing as a third party in American History.

  18. Willson/Sabin: I dunno but Rush may not have saved us for that rare strain of “pure” conservatism you boys yearn for but he sure as hell saved us from the likes of any number of maladroit leftist, statist administrations (Algore, Kerry, etc). Without El Rushbo in particular and “talk radio” in general all we’d hear is the statist bs from that little tart Katie Couric and the state sponsored media, the lies and distortions from the Peoples Broadcasting System, and the perfervid, adolescent meanderings of the NYT, Boston Globe, and LA Times…there would be no voice from the right..!!!!!
    Simply put, whatever it is that we have left, and indeed its damned little, is due to the resistance to a pernicious statism that begins with ‘talk radio,’ and Rush Limbaugh is NO. 1.
    Does Rush have faults? Oh, hell yes! First, he’s a RINO. He backs the GOP in toto and is a thorn in the side of Paleos everywhere. What I truly like about Rush and his coevals is the tapes they play of Dear Leader’s administration hacks explaining their radical agenda or their latest screw-up. Time and time again ‘talk radio’ in general reports the words of their own mouth!

    Power’s back from the snow storm (God’s judgment on Dear Leader/Washington) and I just heard excerpts from Sarah’s puerile speech before the TPers….Oh, Lord!…..I dunno, sometmes ya just wanna cry!

    Nobody wrote music/poems like Dylan:

    “Where are you goin’ my blue-eyed son, where are you goin’ my darlin’ young one?

    “Come you Masters of War, you that build to destroy…”

    “My name it is nothing, my age it means less, the country I come from is called the midwest…”

    “…like the stillness in the wind, ‘for the hurricane begins, the hour when the ship comes in.”

    “…Spanish boots of Spanish leather.”

    “Down the street the dogs are barkin,’ the day is growin’ short, as night comes on t’ fallin’ the dogs will loose their bark.”

    “…and everybody’s waking up on Desolation Row!”

    “When you’re down in Juarez and its Eastertime too,
    and your gravity fails and negativity won’t pull ya through
    Don’t put on any airs when you’re down on Rue Morgue Ave.
    They got some hungry women there
    and they really make a mess outta you!”

  19. The Newsweek article fails to mention that Tea-Baggers should be mindful that even so-called “small government” Libertarians like Thatcher and Reagan continued to increase government expenditure as a proportion of GDP. Accordingly, the Tea-Baggers might improve their credibility if they identified exactly what government expenditure should consist of rather than continue their vituperative but inarticulate “two legs bad; four legs good” psychological projecting. At least the rest of us could then see exactly what their “value-set” actually is. I think though this is their whole point “rage without substance”, perfectly illustrated by the Tea and Carpet-Bagger Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin does her Lightning Rod routine for all those individuals who don’t do “complexity” and turn all their resentment against one simple target, “the Government.” So to give an example recently given me by a Tea Bagger; the high cost of health care is due to “the government” allowing free-loading by immigrants. In the end it is pretty obvious that the Tea-Baggers core “value-set” is getting dangerously close to “if you don’t have money, tough luck, your needs won’t get met” or “No Money; No Need.” Wouldn’t Sarah Palin have given us all a break including the Tea Baggers themselves by declaring at their Nashville conference that the true aspiration of Tea-Baggers is to be this kind of Tea Party of No? I wish! Here’s a New York Time’s reader’s response to their article on Sarah’s speech at the conference:-

    “Ah, the Tea-Baggers. The epitomy of Americans who resolutely know what they’re against, but don’t have a clue as to what they are for.”

  20. From the New York Times:-

    “Ms. Palin, while aligning herself firmly with the Tea Party, nevertheless urged the 1,100 delegates who had gathered in a hotel ballroom not to let the movement be defined by any one leader.

    “This is about the people, and it’s bigger than any one king or queen of a tea party, and it’s a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter,” she said.”

    From the Huffington Post:-

  21. Notice that they will never specify the budget cuts they want, and certainly not in enough detail to actually balance the budget, either now or in ten years. Ronald Reagan perfected the technique of convincing the electorate that taxes could be cut by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” alone. And of course health care costs are the immagrants fault, and not, say, the Medicare the tea-baggers are receiving. Everybody wants somebody else’s budget cut, but never their own.

  22. meanwhile – Sarah had her talking points written on her hand – but ah – SHE doesn’t use a teleprompter. If that and birth certificates are the best they can come up with – not looking promising. Given that Ms. Palin advocates war against Iran – I fail to see how exactly we’ll get to small government or reduced deficits.

    If “real Americans” is the tea party platform – think I’ll pass. We have been there – and it didn’t look so good. Besides which – what will the tea partiers do with all the fake Americans? Send us to Guantanamo?

  23. As far as I can see the Tea-Baggers specialize in disparagement with Sarah Palin being their Queen of Snark. Sarah is good at snarking anything that moves and especially Big Government. Both she and the Tea-Baggers think like narcissistic teenagers believing the so called “free” market is the only servo-mechanism we human beings require to meet our needs. This is despite the Financial Crash and the thirty years of Libertarian inspired deregulation which caused it. They are completely oblivious to understanding that representative and participative democracy ideally utilized at all levels of human association is the missing chunk of feed-back loop that might have prevented the Financial Crash and other ills of society. Of course, this particular missing piece of servo-mechanism needs its own corruption filter as we are only too aware. I guess I could at least feel more positive towards the Tea-Baggers and Palin if they were recommending clearly thought through ideas to prevent corruption in politics but as you might expect they aren’t. For them snarking not thinking is the main deal!

  24. Cheeks,
    Do you really think that Dylan wrote that stuff? At least four of the ones you quote are old traditional ballads. The man is a creep, and won’t take responsibility for anything he started.

    And again to get back to Mark’s original point, there ain’t been a third party in American history worth talking about. And populism buggers things up, but never gets anywhere. My wife, who really likes Sarah, said today that she should cut her hair, she’s beginning to look like Barbie.

  25. Willson,

    I like you because you’re a true conservative. With that being said we’re going to have agree to disagree re: Bob. And yes, Bob wrote those lines and yes, he was influenced not only by old ballads/folk songs but by contemporary artists as well…such is the art and craft of poetry.

    Re: third parties you and Mark are correct, historically. The problem is the Democrats are statist and the (neocon) GOP are statist. So if we wish a return to some sort of republicanism, and I do, then I’m going to have to support a third party. I don’t think the country has that much more time! I think the TPers will force the GOP to the right and if they don’t accede to their demands they’ll run independents and I’ll happily vote for an independent conservative over a neocon Republican any day and my guess is you will too!

    I don’t have a clue how this TP thing will work out but I sure ain’t going to vote for a neocon anymore than a baby-killin’ Democrat.

    Sarah needs to study history, philosophy, and theology but my, my she is an eyeful!

  26. Cheeks,

    Yes, we will have to disagree. My son-in-law’s father, about a year before he died, decided to tell people who meant something to him, “I love you.” Well, that goes for me to you. Now here is a thing I have never published but wrote one night in a white heat. It might explain why I keep on Dylan’s behind and why I don’t like the average person’s normal populism.

    Best, John


  27. Willson,

    Yes dude, I love you too!
    The link doesn’t work so I’ll look it up at Chronicles (a favorite mag) or maybe you can send it along correctly this time! BTW, you and I have both been published in The University Bookman and I was wondering if we’d been published anywhere else? Global Spiral, Philosophy Now?
    I’m no populist…I’m a republican, like George, Tom, John Adams, et al and each was a variation of the theme.
    So make sure I get the link, I want to read that which makes you “keep on Dylan’s behind!”


  28. Sarah Palin and the Invisible Hand.

    There will be many jokes forthcoming about Sarah Palin’s attempts to denigrate Obama’s ability to speak extempore whilst being a Calamity Jane in not hiding her similar inability. However, given the way she plays up to the Tea-Baggers cultish and simple minded Libertarian fetish of “Market Good, Government Bad” it would be salutary for her to write the following question on her hand before she next ponders making a speech. This question relates to hands it asks very simply:-

    “Why doesn’t the Invisible Hand produce Public Goods directly?”

    Inside that simple question lies a whole mess of complexity about the purposes of an economy, democracy and the use of money. Can we expect Sarah to answer it when the Parties of No, No Hope and No Change, show no ability to answer it and why if she can’t should she consider herself worthy of running for President?

  29. Palin’s hand tells a story of its own. She had written “budget cuts” and then crossed out “budget” and written “Tax.” This gets to the heart of the problem I laid out in “The Politics of Ingratitude.” Cut taxes, but not the budget; take the services, but shift the cost to the next generation. It is the sign of the “gimme” generation.

    It is by now a time-honored tradition. Reagan assured us that we could finance the tax cuts by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse.” He knew instinctively that if he specified any actual cuts, he could not be elected, and if he attempted to make any substantive cuts, he could not be re-elected.

  30. Getting rid of the fetishism of market versus state arguments has got to be a step in the right direction towards healthier budgeting. Part of that process is understanding that the bureaucrat who makes mistakes over investment under state capitalism ( Soviet Union’s Gosplan) is no different than the bureaucrat who makes investment mistakes in socialized private capitalism (Wall Street banks). If we recognize that the economy is there to serve us all with regard to the provision of private and public goods and services we can pay more level-headed attention to the quantity and balance of investment by both private and state sectors and the role of the agents in that decision making.

  31. My prediction is that most of the Tea Partiers will be absorbed back into the GOP from whence they came. Some of the libertarian types have made contact with some like minded people, so they’ll be bolstered but if it amounts to much it will be in spite of the mainline Republican neocons, which Palin is one of, not because of them.

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