How I Fell Away from the Tea Party

The anger at what is happening to the United States is palpable. Debt rising, gas prices rising, bailouts to banks “too big to fail” who then have employees earning ten times more than middle-class houses cost, getting taxed to pay for out of control boondoggle waste and “entitlement” spending, caring more for illegal aliens than the safety of citizens. Can this craziness be stopped or is Egypt the new normal?

All of these problems ignited a firestorm. A large group of the voting public gathered together to form the un-organized Tea Party (Taxed Enough Already) movement. In 2010 the fruits of this tireless venture came in the form of taking over the House and coming close to doing the same in the Senate. Critics call them “obstructionists,” and true followers wouldn’t doubt that for a minute. They are proud of blocking the government from doing anything more at every possible turn. If it can be slowed down to a crawl, or outright stopped, then the next step would be turning back the economic doomsday clock.

Then something happened during the Republican fight for the right to run for the Presidency. They imploded and became insufferable. Instead of fielding the best and brightest, all the good ones stayed out of the fray. What remained was the B team. Instead of turning inward and asking why no one of respectable stature wanted in (a question that is hard to answer), they fought like Berserkers against the shadow enemy of Romney and the Republican establishment. Early claims aside, Obama and the Democrats became a second thought. They seemed to have lost their minds and in the process me as well.

That isn’t to say that the original reasons for existing are no longer desired. Fiscal responsibility is still high priority. Its just that the Tea Party masses and recognizable leadership lost their moorings and disturbing colors came forward. As the libertarian leaning Pajama Media once warned, social conservatives would take over and put the original grievances aside. It happened and in the process high ideals were replaced with hypocrisy.

Nothing proved this more than the ABR (anybody but Romney) group. As I stated elsewhere, Romney was not my first choice. That belonged to Michelle Bachmann with Herman Cain second until he proved rather incompetent. The first sign of a crack was when the only consistent Tea Party representative, Bachmann, lost decisively to everyone. The top ticket winners? Romney who wasn’t Tea Party and Santorum who others would claim belonged.

South Carolina sealed the deal of my Tea Party dissatisfaction, although I didn’t realize this until later. How in the world could an insufferable, womanizing, government establishment (no matter if out of favor), liberal Democrat hugging, talking head win a blowout? The answer was not hard to figure out, but depressing. It was official. The Tea Party had been taken over by the Religious Right. This was confirmed when Santorum was pretty much coronated by Evangelical Christians and their leadership. He then went on a rampage about morality and contraceptives (important topics to be sure), while economic issues were placed as secondary and only used to beat over Romney’s head. Obama’s bad record was attacked so far as Romney could get hit in the process.

Once Bachmann and Cain dropped out, Romney became my first choice by sheer chance. Santorum had an opportunity to impress me, but his attacks against Romney were tinged by anti-Mormon dog whistle language and hiding his past. The Tea Party refused to acknowledge that the two main rivals against Romney were themselves fakes who flipped flopped on major issues. The come back was that at least they didn’t “as much” as Romney. On top of that was that Romney was “a Washington insider” while the other two, who happened to have had years actually inside Washington, were not. The lack of logic pushed me over the edge into Apostasy from the movement as a movement.

Utah Tea Party representatives may be far more religiously tolerant, but one incident comes as an example of the Tea Party mentality that needs to be controlled. It is true, as reported by Michelle Malking, that calling Mia Love a “token” representative isn’t in good taste. That said, the response by Republican National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen is no less reprehensible. When Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asked a perfectly legitimate question why the appeal for Mia Love if it wasn’t just a shallow pick, she “lost it” according to her own words. That about sums it up for me. Your a RINO for asking a good and reasonable question about the candidates and deserve derision and not actual explanations. When there is a RINO in every closet and under every bed, it becomes hard to fight the real battles. When anger is all you have and can prove, then those of us who are in it for the ideals have second thoughts.

42 thoughts on “How I Fell Away from the Tea Party

  1. Jettboy,

    And this is why I’ve been aloof of them for an even longer period of time. When they tried to attack decently conservative Republicans, or selected idiots and witches to run in Nevada and elsewhere, I knew they were just an emotional group akin to the liberal anti-Wall Street group.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that this nation is getting more and more stupid, and we cannot easily find wise and good people to run it, when we’re either looking for someone of the right gender, race, or religious status.

  2. Apart from the rhetoric, how different was the Tea Party from the Religious Right to begin with, as far as who it attracted? Isn’t the pure Tea Party ideology more libertarian based? It seems to me the Religious Right mobilized around the Tea Party during the midterms because the socialist threat at the time seemed more pressing than the secular values threat. But the religious zealotry was still there. Worshiping of Jesus and the Bible was replaced with worshiping George Washington and the Constitution. Glen Beck was the great prophet of that movement. But where is he now?

  3. Nate, you have a point, but I thought (hoped) two things. First, that them coalescing around Glen Beck represented a change of heart in recognising they were not alone in wanting to return to basic American values both economically and morally. Then I thought that the libertarians would keep them in check because so many of them voiced concerns about the Religious Right co-opting the movement. Yes, I fully admit as this post indicates that I was wrong. Even Sarah Palin who I admire, and still do for what she accomplished, seemed to go off on the rails each passing day of the primaries. What worries me about Mia Love is that, frankly, she hasn’ been vetted past her own rhetoric. Getting angry for asking why someone should vote for her was astonishing. I fully support voting out Hatch, but not without making sure the right person gets put in. So far with Lee and Chaffets the Utah Tea Party picks have been good. How long is that going to last if anger and paranoia are the guideposts?

  4. “Instead of fielding the best and brightest, all the good ones stayed out of the fray.”

    Jettboy, who in your opinion are all the good ones?

    Also, I have *always* felt that the Tea Party’s message was confused(Spelled out well in the “Keep the Govmt’s hands off my Medicare” signs). I guess the name indicates that it started out as a backlash to the bailouts, followed by the Obama proposed health care bill – which would end in tax increases to cover the bill. So, why didn’t they mobilize against Bush – with his own bailout and little known *raise spending/cut taxes* policy? If this truly was a libertarian movement, why no outrage over the two wars that we engaged in under his watch? If you remember, Ron Paul was one of the lone voices against the flimsy evidence that led us into Iraq. I don’t remember a lot of “true conservatives” lining up behind him (or many Dems either). Would you call Bachmann a libertarian? I wouldn’t. Palin? Not even close.

    Mostly, I just see the Tea Party as full-fat Republicans. That is, they’re main critique of establishment Republicans is moderation and cooperating with Democrats. The same old Republican philosophy is in tact, just more of it.

    I agree that the Occupy movement is very similar – somewhat clear message, but confused about who the real enemies are.

  5. I have in my hands a copy of the original Millenial Star from the 1860s. I google “Millenial Star”, and what do I find? This right-wing blog? As a space to pick on other people, and in particular other LDS? Seriously guys, I feel you’re desecrating the name of the Millenial Star. Stop it.

  6. Luke, that’s funny. If you’ve read all the issues of the original M*, you would find that Joseph Smith and other writers were sometimes impudent towards other religions and beliefs.
    That Joseph Smith ran for president and was very political also seems to escape you.

    Not everyone on this blog are right wingers. Several of us are libertarians. You’ll find articles on family development, religious belief, and a lot of tolerant concepts as well. That Jettboy is discussing the intolerance of the Tea Party suggests that he isn’t as right wing as you protest him to be.

    This seems to be your only post, so you likely have not read anything else here, but just had your liberal bent bent by reading one post here.

    That said, we offer just a small set of LDS viewpoints at this blog. There are also some very liberal ones to be had, as well (try FMH as an example). And there are some very right wing ones, as well. This one has more voices than that.

  7. Interesting thoughts, Jettboy.

    As I heard it from someone who was at the convention, it was the context that made Mark Shurtleff’s question unacceptable. Apparently Mia Love had given an extremely impressive speech at the convention not long before his comment. As I hear it the speech and it’s delivery were so impressive that even those who had planned on voting for someone else were tempted to change their votes to her. She displayed more charisma, and passion for conservative principles than all of the other candidates.

    So she had already proven to many of the participants (even many who had not planned to vote for her) that she was not a just “novelty” candidate, but a serious candidate with not only the principles, but the political skills, to defeat Matheson in the general election.

    So when Shurtleff made his ‘novelty’ question it was viewed as a purposeful slight and not as an honest question.

    That is what the delegate I talked to said.

  8. While I was sympathetic with much of the position of the early Tea Party, I was never really “on board.” As a government drone who designs weapons of mass destruction at a location not nearly as far way as one might wish, I wouldn’t have quite fit in. There are definitely some things governments needs to do, and needs to do well, and I feared a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel.

    But nothing that has happened since then has improved my opinion of the Tea Party. You mentioned the hypocrisy already. Though I’m not a Utah voter, the eagerness to show Hatch the hatch also troubles me.

    I am much more a Russell Kirk style conservative than anything (though I part with Russell Kirk on some aspects of foreign policy.) Conservatism is a temperament, not an ideology; indeed, conservatism as originally understood is the rejection of ideology. Curiously, that makes it inconsistent with the philosophy of libertarianism, if not necessarily with the actual policy conclusions often reached by libertarians — the overlap between libertarians and conservatives here is, in my opinion, a historical fluke.

  9. I’ll stand up for the tea party. I actually have been to several tea party protests and I will continue to participate in them. The tea party is a pressure group with a basic message: decrease government spending and lower taxes. To the extent that certain groups have deviated from that message, I think they do more harm than good. To the extent that the tea party organizes to prevent more government and to keep pressure on to lower taxes, they do a very good and important thing.

    The Orrin Hatches of the world must go. He has been completely corrupted by DC and eager to “get along” by increasing the size of government and agreeing to raise taxes. He is not the worst of the moderate RINOS (Lugar in Indiana is considerably worse, just to name one example), but he is bad enough. Mike Lee is a significantly better senator (and more respected btw) than Bennett. He is a real powerhouse in DC and has influence that Bennett never would have had.

    I don’t care if you call it “tea party” or “small government movement” or “independent libertarians.” I am not excited by the title “tea party.” But I am excited by the idea of a truly grass-roots small-government movement. If it weren’t for the tea party, people like me would leave the Republican party altogether. So, you Russell Kirk and neocon conservatives, good luck ever getting elected without small government people. You should be thankful we are trying to save a very corrupt and useless Republican party from itself.

  10. Geoff B.,

    Any references on Mike Lee being respected? In the local press we mostly hear bad things about him. This might be a perception issue due to my more liberal leanings. But it seems that only the tea party wanted him, and if Bennett had run in the general he would have won. Utah has a screwed up nomination process, and the fact that it produced Mike Lee is seen by many as the reason for the huge push for participation this year.

  11. Arj, I send he was respected and a powerhouse. The attached discusses that. I don’t care if he is respected by the Orrin Hatches of the world or the Dems. Those are the people who have to go.

  12. I occurs to me that with certain commenters you have to actually point out exactly the phrases you are referring to or they will nit and pick you until they get all of their future comments blocked. From the story: “Lee quickly established himself as a rising star, regularly appearing on cable news shows, and before long under-the-radar Congressional candidates started reaching out to him for his support. To date, Lee has met with 10 candidates who seek his endorsement for the 2012 election.” That was written in August 2011. I understand more than 30 candidates have asked for his endorsement now.

  13. I do find it interesting that the LDS church has pushed for more caucus participation in Utah this year. I’m obviously not certain, but I’d be willing to bet money that this increased focus is due to the fact that two fairly extreme candidates pushed out a less extreme candidate (Bennett) two years ago. I think the church would rather those who represent Utah be less extreme and more willing to work with other people in the Senate. The outcome this year? Hatch (somehow the less extreme candidate) wins almost 60% of the vote in the caucus, almost enough to skip the primaries altogether.

    And anyone who votes against a judge for his own state, even though he respects that judge, just to make political points, is not worthy to be a U.S. Senator.

  14. Utah voters can vote for whomever they want. There are really only two senators that I personally respect in the Senate, and they are Mike Lee and Rand Paul. There are some who are OK on some issues (Rubio, Demint, Johnson, a few others). Most of them — Republicans and Dems — are just big government hacks. Both of my senators in Colorado are horrible. I wish we had somebody as good as Mike Lee in our state.

  15. And I would point out to all you liberals out there who love Obama, our campaigner-in-chief signed the Patriot Act by autopen while Mike Lee voted against it. Nice job being principled, liberals.

  16. Geoff,

    Having voted in Utah several times, I can tell you that only two candidates are placed on the ballot for the Republican primaries. Those two candidates are chosen at caucus meetings. Caucus meetings two years ago did not have a lot of attendance, and most who did attend were extremists; as a result, Bennett was not on the primary ballot. This year the LDS church, among others, pushed for a bigger turnout at caucus meeting, resulting in more ever day, less extreme types at the meetings. The result? Hatch got almost 60% of the vote, assuring he’d be placed on the primary ballot.

    Of course, write-ins are possible, but candidates who want to be a write-in are at a huge disadvantage.

  17. Geoff: wasn’t the Patriot act passed under Bush?

    Are you talking about when Obama signed the renewal of the Patriot Act?

  18. Geoff, its true – liberals seem to be fine with a lot of stuff under Obama – that they demonized Bush for. They all do it though – the so-called small-government/libertarian/tea-partiers stood on their hands during the Bush years – apparently totally fine with trillion dollar wars along with massive domestic spending – with nothing to pay for it. Where were your small gov principles then?

  19. I can only speak for myself, but i complained about Medicare and no child left behind. I should have complained more about the wars and the Patroit Act. Lesson learned. Books, yes obama renewed the patriot act.

  20. Frankly, I didn’t complained because I supported the wars. My disagreement came later with the bailouts. How you can save money by giving it away never made any sense to me. Other thing were problematic, but that broke the camel’s back how seriously beyond redemption both parties had become. As I stated with my OP, it ended up the Tea Party wasn’t very serious either. Not only that, but they partly proved to be impractical and religious bigots, along with hypocrites in who they supported.

  21. I don’t know the numbers. How much has been spent on the wars, and how much on the bailouts?

    “Not everyone on this blog are right wingers. Several of us are libertarians.”

    No left-wingers? At all?

  22. A few more points to consider for any right-leaning people reading this (again, I could care less what left-leaners think of the tea party):

    1)The tea party is not a monolith. It is mostly about small government and low taxes, but there are tea partiers who have joined with the religious right. These are not true tea party people and don’t represent what the group espouses. Just to give an example, Mike Huckabee, a statist, big govt “conservative,” has nothing to do with the tea party. When you think tea party, think Rand Paul, not Mike Huckabee. They are very different kinds of politicians.

    2)Some tea parties favored the “anybody but Romney” camp because they truly thought Romney is too moderate on cutting spending. And, yes, he is WAY too moderate on cutting spending. This is not religious bigotry, this is simply an honest difference of opinion.

    3)Some tea partiers are bigots. Yes, this is true. 10 percent, 15 percent? As I said elsewhere, 15 percent of people thought the moon landing was faked. Don’t concentrate on the 15 percent.

    4)Tea partiers are rallying around Romney because he will be slightly better than Obama on the Supreme Court, on energy policy and on the economy. Tea partiers want spending dealt with, and if Obama has shown anything he is a complete joke when it comes to the budget.

    5)Tea partiers have brought us some loser candidates (O’Donnell, Buck, Angle) but have also brought some very good ones, including some great Mormon candidates like Raul Labrador in Idaho, Jason Chaffetz, Justin Amash and now Mia Love, who has a great chance to knock off Matheson in Utah. You win some, you lose some.

    Again, a warning to neocon and cultural conservatives: if you offend small government conservatives and become the Mike Huckabee big government party, you will lose at least 25 percent and probably more of your potential support. Don’t do it. Small government people like myself are sticking with the Republican party because there still is a chance to save the country from the statists. The moment that Republicans become the part of the statists, we will bolt. You read it here first.

  23. “Tea partiers are rallying around Romney because he will be slightly better than Obama on the Supreme Court, on energy policy and on the economy.”


    See, that’s my problem with the Tea Party. Any movement that sees little difference between, say, Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, is not a movement I can really get on board with.

  24. “The moment that Republicans become the part of the statists, we will bolt.”

    Too late.

  25. Vader: Romney has not proposed any significant cuts in spending. He is slowing the rate of increase compared to Obama, but that means we go over the cliff at 85 mph rather than 100. We need somebody to slam on the breaks. All supposed conservatives talk a good fiscal game and then when it is there time in office we get Bush with No Child Left Behind and Medicare part D. It is basic common sense to want somebody who will walk the talk. I am actually very hopeful we will get better federal judges under Romney, and that is a significant difference and enough of a reason for me to vote for him.

  26. “See, that’s my problem with the Tea Party. Any movement that sees little difference between, say, Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, is not a movement I can really get on board with.”

    Excellent point, Vader. I’m a libertarian-leaning conservative like Geoff and Romney definitely wasn’t my first choice, but I can’t quite accept the going over the cliff at 85 vs. 100 mph analogy. There are other factors at play. The guy doing 100 wants to go off the cliff. He whole-heartedly believes that’s what’s needed for a better world. So do his passengers. In fact, they’re demanding he throw the hammer down and speed up.

    The guy doing 85 doesn’t want or intend to drive off the cliff (though he may be naive to the consequences of his current trajectory). The passengers in his car are screaming at him to slow down and change course (or they’ll shove him aside and take the wheel themselves).

    Orrin Hatch ain’t Ted Kennedy, and Mitt Romney sure as heck ain’t Barack Obama. Anybody that doesn’t consider this race in context is destined to be on the losing side.

  27. Tossman, that is exactly what everybody said about Bush, ie, he’s not a conservative but he’s better than Gore/Kerry. He WAS better than Gore/Kerry, but shouldn’t we expect better than that?

  28. Geoff, we should expect better than that. We should strive for, even demand better. Problem is we don’t have better than that right now, and we’re stupid to, to use a Dennis Millerism, crash this thing on the carrier deck just to make a point.

  29. I see major differences between GWBush and Romney. GWBush continually spoke of “compassionate conservatism” and had no good experience in business (just look at how he almost ran his baseball team into the ground).

    Massachusetts had a Billion $+ deficit, and he balanced it in less than 4 years. He provided balanced budgets each year. He cut regulation.

    When it came to the Olympics, he had a Billion $+ deficit and corruption that he turned around, having a surplus afterward.

    When it came to Bain Capitol, when he had to make the tough choices, he did. He created lots of jobs in companies like Dominos and Staples.

    His past suggests that he will make the tough choices. Will he slam on the brakes and make the bus come to a complete halt all at once? No. It took decades to get where we are, and it can’t easily be changed overnight. However, he can slow it down enough to steer clear of the cliffs, until we can bring the vehicle to a halt.

    Already, he’s been overheard talking about eliminating Dept of Education or combining it with other agencies. Sounds like he got that idea from Ron Paul.

  30. 1. That might very well be the problem. I know that there has been infighting among who is the real Tea Party and who just a front for establishment Republicans. Disorganisation is not always the best way to fight considering how easy it is to divide and conquer. At first there was a united front, but it quickly disintegrated into talking heads chaos. Take over became easy and distrust just as pervasive.

    2. Although I agree, there was still too much hiding behind that criticism when the real reason was bigotry toward Romney and Mormonism. Again it caused trust issues. To turn a criticism about Romney on its head, who were the REAL Tea Party members? Everyone had an opinion. See number one above.

    3.Don’t concentrate on the 15 percent is not good advice. That is still a sizable number who can cause problems. No one was either calling them out or even, like you said, expressing that they should be ignored. When the bigotry was brought to attention, it became YOUR FAULT for bringing up the issue. You were the trouble maker trying to stifle Romney criticisms.

    4. I think he is WAY better than Obama, but still not Tea Party to be sure. That is why he was my third choice. Santorum could have been, but turned religiously nasty and hid from his past. Gingrich was never a good choice.

    5. I agree with you after the fact, but Mia Love is still a question mark for me. She hasn’t been vetted enough yet. She may have had great rhetoric, but so did Obama. Some of the few past records I have heard about indicate she might be riding on the Tea Party coattails more than having a consistent anti-tax and spend record. She had tax filing flubs and budget fiascos. Of course she has excuses, but I thought the Tea Party was about not making excuses. I said nothing about her, by the way, just her record.

    “if you offend small government conservatives and become the Mike Huckabee big government party, you will lose at least 25 percent and probably more of your potential support.”

    I have a warning back, and its one this post was meant to be about; if you small government conservatives (and I am one) don’t live up to the expectations that were set up, then more people might reconsider what are your true motives.

  31. I think the problem is that most Republicans aren’t really as “small-government” as they think they are. When push comes to shove, they’re in favor of all kinds of government intrusion into our lives. The Santorums of the world resonated with the Tea Party, b/c a large portion actually agree (and always have) with his crazy theocratic views. To say that the Religious Right “took over” portions of the Tea Party I think is incorrect. Again, the Tea Party never equaled – libertarian – but GOP ideology on steroids.

  32. Geoff,

    At least we can agree on the greatness of the Talking Heads.

    I would be shocked if Mike Lee doesn’t face a primary challenge in 4 years. If the caucus and convention makeup are anything like what they were this year there is no way he’ll get 60% of the vote and then he’ll face a primary (if he’s lucky) which I am not sure he can win.

    That said, if Romney gets elected and Lee becomes more than a principled obstructionist and gets things done over the next for years he might have a chance. But I think both aspects of that scenario are unlikely.

  33. Dollars to donuts that Mike Lee gets reelected. The GOP establishment, to the extent there is such a thing, isn’t holding paper on him.

  34. Huh? It seems to me that this is, if anything, a tribute to Lee’s honesty. Many politicians (Joe Biden, Harry Reid) get richer when they get to the Senate. Lee got poorer and was forced to sell his house. How will that not help his reelection?

  35. Geoff B.,

    You seriously need this explained to you? Even though this is one of your two favorite people in the senate I am sure that you could build a plausible line of attack based on this.

  36. arJ, I am not getting it. You are a relatively smart guy, so I must be missing something. Guy buys a house at the top of the market. House loses value, he sells it in a short sale (which millions of people have done). What is wrong with that? This is not about defending Mike Lee. I just can’t see what could possibly be wrong with it.

  37. Geoff,

    Here’s a guy who is preaching for fiscal restraint who in his personal life has jumped out of a financial airplane without a parachute.

    Lots of people have had their houses underwater recently (I am one) and have continued to pay their mortgage. To take a job that will not allow you to pay a mortgage on a house that you cannot sell for what you owe on it is fiscally irresponsible. I can assure you that in my neighborhood the people that did short sales for reasons of personal choice are resented, as it has hurt the rest of us.

    Put another way, it is hard to complain about bailouts and profligate spending when you’ve spent beyond your means and got bailed out.

    I should probably add a disclaimer that I know people who’ve gone through short sales and foreclosures due to unforeseen circumstances. Such circumstances do not include “I took a different job that made it so I can’t make my payments.”

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