Posted by Rojas @ 10:41 am on February 22nd 2010

Get the wedge!

Glenn Greenwald–as authentic a civil libertarian as you’ll find–points out that the Republican record of governance is incompatible with the small-government preferences of the Tea Party movement, and wonders why on earth Paulites in particular would consider an alliance of convenience with the neoconservative Republican establishment.

Two responses.

1. Greenwald makes the same mistake as a large portion of the media in considering the Tea Party movement as an ideological monolith. Of course, he makes the mistake in a different way; while the mainstream media sees them all as Palinites (and I suppose that from the ideological starting point of the media, everyone on the right might seem to be), Greenwald sees the movement as overwhelmingly Paulite. I only wish that were true. Ironically, it’s been observers on the right who’ve painted the most accurate picture of the internal divergences in the movement. Perhaps this is a function of the right-wing media having actually attempted to understand the story they’re reporting on instead of using it as a target for mockery. Which leads us to:

2. Greenwald forgets that, from its inception, the Tea Party movement has been the target of widespread mockery and resentment on the left. Its members have been accused of fanatacism and racism at every turn. To the extent that any effort has been made to understand the concerns of the Tea Partiers, it has been made by Republicans.

The truth be told, I strongly sympathize with Greenwald’s criticism; I’ve been outspoken in these pages about the need for the Tea Party (particularly the Paulite segment) to remain independent in their outlook and avoid being coopted by one party or the other. In point of fact I think that’s a necessary strategy for libertarians generally at this stage. But there isn’t much point in wondering why the Tea Party movement leans the way it does. As badly as Ron Paul and his sympathizers have been treated by the Republican mainstream–and at times they have been treated very, very badly indeed–it doesn’t hold a candle to the way the entire Tea Party movement has been ridiculed by the Obama faction and their media enablers.

No, most Tea Partiers don’t have an awful lot in common with the Republican establishment. No, they shouldn’t be signing up as that party’s footsoldiers. But the movement’s partisan lean didn’t drop into existence out of a clear blue sky, and civil libertarians like Greenwald ought to reflect upon its causes rather that gaze bewildered at its effects.


  1. I had just posted about this. I’ll take mine down, and distill it as a comment here.

    I take his point, to an extent.

    I had thought about writing a post fleshing out the Tea Party movement, Ron Paul’s legacy, libertarianism in modern politics, and all that it means, but I still can’t get my thoughts organized. But my baseline thesis is me coming around to the idea that libertarianism, in any form even approaching purity, is inherently and probably fatally oppositional. Meaning, I don’t believe it’ll ever stick to EITHER party, but will instead gravitate towards opposing whoever is in power (and thus, superficially, will ally themselves at various times with both parties). The Republicans are smarter about playing to that than the Democrats, who don’t seem to have the foggiest idea what to do with libertarians and aren’t even very sure they’re interested in having anything to do with them at all. The GOP has no such qualm, so the GOP wrings more support/assistance from libertarian factions, leading to the thought, common among liberal, that libertarianism is inherently right-wing, and that Libertarians are Republicans in sheep’s clothing. But, the GOP gets those votes and money and enthusiasm, and the Democrats do not. That doesn’t make the Republicans frauds, or at least it’s no more fraudulent than playing to any ideological interest group (certainly one could argue that Democrats are fraudulent on civil liberties). But it is something, I think, that Tea Partiers should keep in mind, and that Republicans should keep in mind about them. Republicans aren’t usually interested in translating small government rhetoric to practice while in power. But libertarians aren’t usually interested in WHATEVER practice they have in power (because ANY expression of power will be suspect)—they are not governors, their job is to stand aside and keep yelling stop.

    There is a significant chunk of the Paulian movement and the Tea Party movement that is just anti-establishment, period. That, in fact, may be its defining attribute. But…but there is also a significant chunk that is training a generation of Republicans to lean more libertarian and, while our interests align, they’re headhunting establishment Republicans and trying to replace them with more libertarian or at least anti-establishment candidates. Greenwald may think it’s horseshit that Republicans at CPAC are rubbing elbows with guys like Ron Paul and his supporters, but from where I’m sitting, the fact that the marquee conservative event of the year was packed with people who want to end the drug war, return to a conservative foreign policy, and hack and slash through the statist entitlement system/mentality, represents progress. It is a fraud, on some level, but in a practical sense, it means libertarianism has a more mainstream vehicle with which to find new converts and exert some actual real-world influence, and it means Republicans at least have to pretend to start defining themselves in more libertarian-friendly ways, that libertarian ideals are unmarginalized for a time, etc. which, even if undergone fraudulently, will rub off in some ways and on some people. In a weird but kind of cool way, the Republicans are helping to train a contingent of people who will wind up being their fiercest critics.

    Making my response to Greenwald, I guess: that’s politics.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 10:45 am

  2. Rojas,
    I think your points 1 & 2 sum it up quite well, but I would take minor exception to them from sort of a chicken or egg standpoint. In the early days, before the Tea Party movement settled into whatever non-monolithic Paulite-Palinite but sort of rational vaguely anti-establishment small government beast it is now, it was decidedly nuts. I think it has matured quickly, and I hope it continues to, but the left wing, both media and other, reacted to the early TPers exactly the way you would expect them to react given the truley screaming fringe element nature of too great a percentage of the key spokespeople and self appointed leaders, not to mention the colorful masses, in the early movement. Then they started to get coopted by the establishment Right, and now perhaps they are the ones doing the coopting. But to suggest that they turned to the traditional conservative mechanisms, such as CPAC, largely because they were mistreated by the left is a bridge way to far. They were NEVER going to turn to the liberal equivalents, because the TPers, both then and now, were decidedly opposed to liberalism in general, and much more comfortable with Conservatism as a whole, simply wanting a brand of it more to their liking.

    Comment by Jack — 2/22/2010 @ 12:10 pm

  3. Let’s remember exactly where the roots of the tea partiers are before we go making assumptions about the mistakes the left made in approaching them.

    The phrase “tea party” had it’s modern usage coined by Rick Santelli, who was standing in a stock market that itself had been kept standing by tax payer largess, yelling at Obama about possible mortgage adjustment programs that were designed to help consumers… no wait, that wasn’t the word… what was it?.. Oh yeah LOSERS pay off their mortgages. That rant had a stock broker with balls big enough talk to speak into the microphone and lecture the CNBC audience, from his bailed out chair, about the dangers of moral hazard.
    The tea party raged against invented tax hikes and invented socialism and sucked into protests organized by Dick Armey for FOX News cameras. And when people interview the tea party people, they don’t hear the rational voices of meaningful objection, they hear the words of Glen Beck and Alex Jones and Hal Turner.
    These people are not a new movement. They are the resurfaceing of the old militia/patriot movements that happened under Clinton and culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing.

    They say they are afraid of big government and fiscal recklessness and yet… yet they were asleep under Bush, and awake under Clinton and Obama. If it was a movement based on rational concerns, it would have those concerns no matter what party ran the house. (with the exception of the Alex Jones crowd)

    But its not. Its concerns are not about rational and discrete issues that left and right can converge around; its concerns are about a cherished world view that has lost its place, and an enemy one has supplanted it. To them, the tax hikes that don’t exist, the socialism that never emerges, the death panels that are a work of fiction with the substance of someone’s tweet, these are just the stock answers to give when someone asks “why are you so angry?”. They exist to give the veneer of rationality to a problem much more primal.

    They want their country back. It was took, and it belongs to them. Someone stole their country and Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are telling them what the thief plans to do with it. He’s going to change it. It’s not going to be their country anymore.

    Makes one want to grab guns and display their 2nd amendment rights at a presidential function, now don’t it.

    I don’t consider the Ron Paulians tea partiers, willing to go out in the street with “Nazism you can believe in” and “Witch Doctor Will Your Government Recommend” posters, letting their fears get exploited by the Rove Dick Armey types for their political ends.

    There is a large difference between the character of Ron Paul, who works with Dennis Kuchnich and Alan Grayson:

    and the character of the Gleck Beck tea partiers who want to slash and burn the current government even when it does things they supposedly support such as tax cuts, spending freezes, and deficit reduction panels.

    To my mind, the tea bag movement are comprised of cynical political masters and paranoid deluded followers. And they both want their country back, even if it takes reducing it to scorched earth to make it happen.

    I have no need for dialog with people like that, and I don’t consider a Paulite part of that crowd. Not if they are following the example of Ron Paul, at any rate.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/22/2010 @ 1:06 pm

  4. thimbles, have you ever interacted directly with a tea party gathering at any point? I think you’d find people who confirm your image of Tea Partiers, but I think you might be suprised at the other sorts of people you’d meet.

    I understand the appearance of the TPs when filtered through various media lenses, but a large part of what we’ve been trying to do here is to seperate the reality of the TPs as experienced on the ground from the appearance of the TPs as seen through, for instance, broadcast interviews with individual members.

    Ron Paul’s self-described “tea parties” predated Santelli; there were organized gatherings of activists engaged in this sort of behavior throughout the Republican primaries, generally in opposition to the Republican frontrunners. At that time the movement was composed primarily of Paulites (of which the Alex Jones types are a significant but vocal minority). I will grant you that Fox News started COVERING the events following Obama’s elections, but that isn’t their origin. And I can tell you from experience that most of the TPs you see on television still contain a substantial Paulite element; indeed, many of the very same people I worked alongside.

    These are people who were anything but silent under Bush, and they have no illusions about “getting their country back” as they haven’t had their country in any meaningful sense since 1933.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/22/2010 @ 1:34 pm

  5. Yeah, I’m with Rojas. The nutty element bothered me about the Tea Partiers from the beginning—the smattering of racists, conspiracy theorists, birthers, etc.—and I’ve been very vocal about it, as I was when it was a smattering of racists, conspiracy theorists, and truthers among the Paulites. But one of the things that was, frankly, thrilling about running in those circles was the amazing breadth of people in them—I met as many old hippy progressive types as I did chamber of commerce Republican suits—and the only real singular things that separated them from your normal Republican voters were A. a willingness to expand their ideologies and perspectives well beyond the normal Republican paradigm of social conservative, fiscal conservative, and foreign policy hawks, and B. a belief in the power of people, when organized for a common purpose, to affect change.

    I’ll certainly grant you that there is an unpleasant element and at times unpleasant undercurrents, but if you ever roll with me to a Tea Party event, and there is certainly more-than-your-average amount of crazies and not very well socialized types, but I can promise you that you’d be exposed to some really fascinating people and a movement with a lot of positive things in it that even you would be taken aback into appreciating.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 1:57 pm

  6. I have found a new favorite phrase: “Not very well socialized types”. I hope that catches on. NVWSTs! Awesome.

    Comment by Cameron — 2/22/2010 @ 2:04 pm

  7. I couldn’t think of a better way to put it.

    It was actually a little startling when I went to my first Ron Paul meetings. I’m used to more mainstream political endeavors which are usually staffed by a few high level people that actually get paid and view everything as just a job, with 90% young kids in suits and ties trying to get resume-builders so they can go on to be an LA or something somewhere and old people who have been doing the same thing for every candidate or none at all for 40 years.

    The Ron Paul movement was like a D & D convention in comparison. But once you kind of get passed that, there’s a lot of cool and very bright people to be found too. You’ll see a picture of the one guy holding up some sign about Africa or the guy dressed up in colonial garb and you’ll automatically make those associations. For people like Rojas and myself, I think of guys like Jim Forsythe and Adam Kokesh and Trevor Lyman and the like, although really the people that first come to mind are people like my law student buddy who voted lockstep Republican every day of his life and never really had an ideology beyond partisan allegiance, who was literally activated by seeing Paul in a debate, and everything in his brain just clicked and he became a passionate defender of non-interventionism and civil libertarianism overnight, or the Russian immigrant from Pittsburgh who didn’t speak very good English and grew up under communism but come January, was standing outside at the main intersection in Concord New Hampshire for 12 hours a day in a foot of snow and 20 degree weather holding a sign that just said “Freedom”, or the old hippy who had been a Naderite and had volunteered for every fringey liberal campaign in PA you could name, who had never voted for a Republican in his life but could get down with Ron Paul, and deciding to eschew Democratic politics that year entirely, or the IT guy for Pitt by day who by night was the suit-wearing ponytailed-having head of the Pittsburgh LP, and who had spend his entire political life trying to figure out how to draw crowds receptive to the message and, almost literally overnight, went from a smattering of regular LP activists to standing in front of 3,000 screaming citizens who thought of him as a rock star as he introduced Dr. Paul at an event. Most of these people were just as normal as anybody, but something about Paul spoke to them at some point, and they were hooked.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 2:17 pm

  8. Do the rational Paulites comprise the majority of these events? You know, the ones where they stand around disrupting town hall meets while silencing views via outshouting those they disagree with?
    The ones where they cheer secession and pull out chalkboards to show how every evil in the world is connected to ACORN?
    The ones where the buses and doughnuts are provided by Freedom Works and they demand purity or primary tests of their republican candidates?
    (Purity being measured in how much you publicly support Obama for doing things you support. For instance, the stimulus, which near every republican has accepted and accepted credit for in their districts, though they claim the stimulus is completely worthless and they voted against it in front of the nation. Mark Rubio is scoring his primary points against Crist because he told the truth about the money he took, instead of the other republicans who just took the money.
    Contrast: )

    There is more Breitbart to this crowd now than there is Brad Porter.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/22/2010 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Do the rational Paulites comprise the majority of these events? You know, the ones where they stand around disrupting town hall meets while silencing views via outshouting those they disagree with?

    I was referring to the big organized tea bag events in Rojas post before Brad snuck his two posts in. That’ll teach me to get distracted.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/22/2010 @ 2:23 pm

  10. Do the rational Paulites comprise the majority of these events? You know, the ones where they stand around disrupting town hall meets while silencing views via outshouting those they disagree with?
    The ones where they cheer secession and pull out chalkboards to show how every evil in the world is connected to ACORN? The ones where the buses and doughnuts are provided by Freedom Works and they demand purity or primary tests of their republican candidates?


    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 2:24 pm

  11. Trying to find an approximation you’d understand, my guess would be that the makeup/social type of the people at your average Tea Party rally or Paul event would most closely resemble the Nader crowds circa 2000. Just more, and magnified, but not nearly as different as you’d imagine.

    It really is different than what you’d guess it is based on your very limited exposure, very wide brush, and very strong partisan desire to see the worst in them. You show up looking for crazies, you will find them. You show up looking for really bright and inspiring people moved to democratic activism based on a foundational thesis most of which I’d even bet you could agree with, you will find them too. It really matters what pair of eyes you show up with.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 2:26 pm

  12. Do the rational Paulites comprise the majority of these events? You know, the ones where they stand around disrupting town hall meets while silencing views via outshouting those they disagree with?
    The ones where they cheer secession and pull out chalkboards to show how every evil in the world is connected to ACORN? The ones where the buses and doughnuts are provided by Freedom Works and they demand purity or primary tests of their republican candidates?


    Then the rational Paulites are goddamned unthinking rude thugs. That’s what the people who did the things I listed above are and I believed the Paulian Libertarian movement was above that crap.
    I had believed that the Fox News crowd had grabbed a shiny new protest medium and made it their own, similar in tactic and message but very different in purpose and character. I thought maybe you could draw a contrast between tea partier and tea bagger.
    It disappoints me to find out different.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/22/2010 @ 2:33 pm

  13. No, my contention is those people you laundry listed are NOT the majority at these events. Not that the majority of those people are Paulites.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 2:42 pm

  14. Some of them are surely irrational Paulites.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/22/2010 @ 2:46 pm

  15. Of which there are a few also, no doubt.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 2:48 pm

  16. No, my contention is those people you laundry listed are NOT the majority at these events

    Sorry, but that’s the dominant view I get from the friendly footage.

    And I find it hard to believe that the followers of the Ron Paul lecture circuit outnumber those summoned by the Fox News bullhorn… or redstate and Michelle Malkin for that matter. I like the Paul tea partiers, I am disgusted by the Erik Erickson’s and the Malkin’s and the rest, and in the past they have been disgusted by you:

    Now that they are taking the stage on the tea party road show I hoped that the schism between Ron Paul and them would be preserved. It’s okay to be a minority if the choice is to be a majority with a crowd like redstate and breitbart. There’s honor in being that minority.
    There’s none in giving these awful demagogues credibility through the use of your stage. If the stage really belongs to the paulites, kick the pricks off.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/22/2010 @ 3:19 pm

  17. I don’t think it works like that. Understand too there are no real “organizers” or “leaders” of the movement (though they are moving in that direction, and the self-appointed leaders, as you say, are douchey)—it quiet literally began almost entirely as “we’re throwing a big rally protesting how much big government socialism sucks!” and then whoever showed up being anointed “Tea Partiers”. I went to one very early on, and there were plenty of people there I wanted nothing to do with, at a much higher percentage than was true of the Paul crowds. But there were also a lot of good folks.

    But by and large, this isn’t like an army. Entry cannot be denied or accepted. This isn’t even really an interest group as there’s no organizing agenda, just a few (very broad) tenets. And for now, there’s no real reason to cleave, but a decent incentive to just throw open the doors and let anyone in. My guess is where we start to see the wedge is when the Republican primaries start shaping up, and suddenly these groups splinter off into different, explicit, and readily identifiable factions (Palinites, Paulites, etc.). There won’t be a “Tea Party” candidate, I promise you that, despite the fact that the media will look hard for one and, not finding a clear line of demarcation, probably wind up inventing one to serve a narrative if they can.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 3:27 pm

  18. Has anyone noticed that sundry Clear Channel national talk jocks and other kindred in the past few years have taken the mantle “libertarian” while continuing to advocate neocon wars? I don’t know why Libertarian Party members and other independents don’t verbally assault them regularly for confusing the public and diluting, possibly the ideology. (Although I myself am closer to what used to be called a “Buchananite.”)

    Comment by truthteller — 2/22/2010 @ 6:21 pm

  19. Well Democrats haven’t exactly done anything on the neocon war front.

    Anyway, the question is the one that always plagues Libertarians (big or little L): do you get in bed with people who are All Wrong For You? Rojas and I usually, to some extent, say “yes”—it is better to be able to move the goalposts than demand, to no avail, the right to repaint the lines. To put that another way of course the Republican party, is wrong on 75% of the things that libertarians care about. But the Tea Partiers have been fairly effective at refocusing the conversation on the 25% they agree on. You don’t hear much drum-banging on the war or national security much anymore (save the usual mewling)—you hear it a lot on small government fiscal responsibility. It ain’t perfect, but it’s progress.

    But like I said, I think where it gets interested in the primaries. Right now the Tea Partiers aren’t being asked to sacrifice a whole lot. They have to share the stage, sure, but mostly the GOP is just letting them roil along and trying to stay out of their way and/or ride the wave. But I can’t wait for the moment where Gary Johnson (or whoever) gets on the stage and starts arguing national security or civil liberties with Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin. I have a feeling that’s where we’ll see who is a Paulite and who is just angry. If somebody starts banging on about a federal marriage amendment, that’ll be a nice dividing line too.

    Btw, I would describe myself as a Buchananite (and have), save I am 100% not with him on immigration, which is pretty integral to his philosophy. It was nice to see American Conservative (his magazine) run a big cover story this month called “His-panic”, bashing what he used to be the torch-bearer for, hysteria over illegals and the implicit racism that usually goes with it. But on most else, I tend to be with him, and he’s pretty amusing, and sharp, although not always both at the same time.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 6:33 pm

  20. Has anyone noticed that sundry Clear Channel national talk jocks and other kindred in the past few years have taken the mantle “libertarian” while continuing to advocate neocon wars?

    As have a few anti-internationalist who haven’t the slightest interest in shrinking the state in any other sphere. I’m looking at you, Bill Maher.

    And Brad, you’re not with Buchanan on trade. You are cynical about the extent to which specific bilateral agreements are truly free trade deals, whereas Buchanan opposes the concept of free trade more or less in its entirety.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/22/2010 @ 6:55 pm

  21. Yeah. I’ve softened a bit towards his position on trade (which is, funny enough, the one thing about Buchanan I bet Thimbles can get down with)—I’d also add to the skepticism you mentioned that I do think the United States ought to try to wring a certain amount of advantage in their trade agreements, and it also strikes me as one of the best if not only ways to actually export labor and environmental standards. So I’ve come a long way from the free trader I was at 18. But I don’t disagree with your characterization. I am, at heart, a globalist and a capitalist.

    Comment by Brad — 2/22/2010 @ 8:20 pm

  22. Man I freaking love this blog. The discussion/debates/arguments that take place here have it all over on the overwhelming majority of even brightest stars in the blogosphere. Why are we not HUGE?!

    In any case, tone down some of the rhetoric, particularly the absurd direct responsibility link to Oklahoma City, and Thimbles pretty much describe my thoughts on the early Tea Partiers (and by this I mean the movement that developed following Obama’s victory, not the primary era Ron Paul rallies.

    And I find it hard to believe that the followers of the Ron Paul lecture circuit outnumber those summoned by the Fox News bullhorn… or redstate and Michelle Malkin for that matter. I like the Paul tea partiers, I am disgusted by the Erik Erickson’s and the Malkin’s and the rest, and in the past they have been disgusted by you…

    That pretty much sums me up entirely. Especially the disgust for Erickson and Malkin. My sense is that the movement has come a long way and is deeply influencing the conservative and GOP debate in both domestic and foreign policy, but much more so in the former. I am not particularly disturbed by the mere presense of wackjobs and fringe elements, my concern has to do with their leadership roles and influence. I nice measuring stick would be those invited or allowed to speak, and in what position of prominance. In this regard, early TP sucks, but its getting more rational, I hope.

    Comment by Jack — 2/22/2010 @ 8:26 pm

  23. Some highlights from a topical Economist/YouGov poll:

    Tea partiers are much more concerned about government spending than are other Americans. The budget deficit is their number two issue, behind only the economy (38% say the economy is their most important issue, 23% name the deficit). Forty percent of Americans overall cite the economy, 17% name health care (mentioned by only 11% of tea partiers), and only 8% say the deficit is the country’s most important issue

    43% of Americans agree that “abortion is murder”, but two thirds of Republicans (and 78% of tea-party identifiers) think this.

    Tea partiers give their highest approval—from a list of possibilities—to two national figures: Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. More than 60% of tea-party identifiers have a favourable view of each of them.

    If you’re feeling bored, here a pdf with the entire results of the poll.

    Comment by Cameron — 2/23/2010 @ 7:29 am

  24. Man I freaking love this blog. The discussion/debates/arguments that take place here have it all over on the overwhelming majority of even brightest stars in the blogosphere. Why are we not HUGE?!

    We don’t get pimped enough. :(

    Also, my lazy so-and-so co-bloggers don’t post enough.

    Comment by Brad — 2/23/2010 @ 6:56 pm

  25. Sadly, the main reason we’re not bigger is that we’re just not good enough.

    The second reason we’re not bigger is that we really don’t have a political niche; we don’t serve the desired function of being a community where people can come to nod their heads at things they read. We briefly had a niche readership related to Ron Paul, but then we foolishly broadened our commentary to include other subjects, including criticism of Ron Paul, and it sort of disintegrated from there.

    Our third reason for not being bigger is that we go six and seven days at a time without thinking of anything worthwhile to say, which sort of kills us as a “daily read” for people.

    Our fourth reason for not being bigger is a prevelance of boring anglo-saxon first names adopted by those posting, and a relative absence of dashing Latino pseudonyms.

    Our fifth reason for not being bigger is that The Bee Conspiracy is keeping us down.

    Our thirteen readers have a good time here, and we somehow maintain a slot in Kip’s “elite eleven” despite having done nothing to merit it since mid-2008. That ought to be enough.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/23/2010 @ 7:20 pm

  26. I think the third reason is the big one, with a little of the second thrown in. But the third being the only one we can change.

    Really, this is me saying Liz Cameron and Jack should feel awful for keeping us down.

    Comment by Brad — 2/23/2010 @ 7:22 pm

  27. This was a bit of a brutal read on some nvwsp:
    Some interesting tidbits:

    “Bushmaster bolt action rifle is a serious weapon. The model that Pvt. 1st Class Lee Pray is saving up for has a 2,500-yard range and comes with a Mark IV scope and an easy-load magazine… he considers the Bushmaster essential in his preparations to take on the US government when it declares martial law.

    His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called Oath Keepers, one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right. Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

    There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government…

    Most of the men’s gripes revolve around policies that began under President Bush but didn’t scare them so much at the time. “Too many conservatives relied on Bush’s character and didn’t pay attention,” founder Rhodes told me. “Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists. But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, ‘I think you are a threat to the nation?'”…

    Now Pray is both a Birther and a Truther. He believes he is following an illegitimate, foreign-born president in a war on terror launched by a government plot—9/11. He admires soldiers like Army reservist Major Stefan Frederick Cook, who volunteered for a deployment last May and then sued to avoid it—claiming that Obama is not a natural-born citizen and is thus unfit for command…”

    Enough about Pray who tries to keep anonymous by using his middle name while letting the magazine print his pose photo. Let’s move on to the Paulite.

    “Rhodes, 44, is a constitutional lawyer—his 2004 Yale Law School paper, “Solving the Puzzle of Enemy Combatant Status,” won the school’s award for best paper on the Bill of Rights…

    He enrolled at the University of Nevada and in 1998, after graduating, landed a job supervising interns for Congressman Ron Paul…

    It was while volunteering for Ron Paul’s doomed presidential bid that Rhodes decided to abandon electoral politics in favor of grassroots organizing. As an undergrad, he had been fascinated by the notion that if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could have been stopped. Then, in early 2008, SWAT received a letter from a retired colonel declaring that “the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered” and that service members, veterans, and police “is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!”

    Rhodes responded with a breathless column starring a despotic president, “Hitlery” Clinton, in her “Chairman Mao signature pantsuit.” Would readers, he asked, obey orders from this “dominatrix-in-chief” to hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters? If “a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands,” he warned. You had better “resolve to not let it happen on your watch.”…

    “You need to be alert and aware to the reality of how close we are to having our constitutional republic destroyed,” he said. “Every dictatorship in the history of mankind, whether it is fascist, communist, or whatever, has always set aside normal procedures of due process under times of emergency…We can’t let that happen here. We need to wake up!”

    He laid out 10 orders an Oath Keeper should not obey, including conducting warrantless searches, holding American citizens as enemy combatants or subjecting them to military tribunals (a true Oath Keeper would have refused to hold José Padilla in a military brig), imposing martial law, blockading US cities, forcing citizens into detention camps (“tyrannical governments eventually and invariably put people in camps”), and cooperating with foreign troops should the government ask them to intervene on US soil. In Rhodes’ view, each individual Oath Keeper must determine where to draw the line…

    Rhodes has become a darling of right-wing pundits. In a column last October, Pat Buchanan predicted that “Brother Rhodes is headed for cable stardom.” Glenn Beck has cited the group as a “phenomenal” example of the “patriot revival movement,” while Lou Dobbs declared that its platform “should give solace and comfort to the left in this country.” Conspiracy-radio king Alex Jones even put an Oath Keepers segment, including footage of the Lexington speech, on his hit DVD Fall of the Republic. “I can’t stress enough how much your organization is scaring the globalists,” he told Rhodes on his show…

    Rhodes’ vision is simple—”It’s the Constitution, stupid.” He views the founding blueprint the way fundamentalist Christians view the Bible. In Rhodes’ America, sovereign states—”like little labs of freedom”—would have their own militias and zero gun restrictions. He would limit federal power to what’s stated explicitly in the Constitution and Bill of Rights; any new federal law affecting the states would require a constitutional amendment. “If your state goes retarded,” he says, “you can move to another state and vote with your feet.” The president would be stripped of emergency powers that allow him to seize property, restrict travel, institute martial law, and otherwise (as the Congressional Research Service has put it) “control the lives of United States citizens.” The Constitution, Rhodes explains, “was created to check us in times of emergency when we are freaking out.”

    Much of this is familiar rhetoric, part of a continuous strain in American politics that reemerged most recently during the 1990s. Back then, a similar combination of recession and Democratic rule led to the rise of citizen militias, the Posse Comitatus movement, and Oath Keepers-type groups like Police & Military Against the New World Order. But those groups had little reach. Nowadays, through the power of YouTube and social networking, and with a boost from the cable punditry, Oath Keepers can reach millions and make its message part of the national conversation—furthering the notion that citizens can simply disregard a government they loathe. “The underlying sentiment is an attack on government dating back to the New Deal and before,” says author Neiwert. “Ron Paul has been a significant conduit in recent years, but nothing like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin—all of whom share that innate animus.”…

    Rhodes is wary of “old-party asshole RINOs” (Republicans in name only)—he mentions Dick Armey, the former House majority leader turned Tea Party sponsor—who in his view are merely out to hijack the grassroots.”

    But the group’s ideas also appeal to extremists like Daniel Knight Hayden, whose inflammatory tweets last April (“START THE KILLING NOW!”) signaled his intent to wreak havoc at a Tax Day protest…

    Rhodes vigorously denounced Hayden, but the episode hinted at the power of the group’s language. Rhetoric like Rhodes’ (“Do you want them to kick down your door in body armor?”) can have “an unhinging effect” on people inclined toward violent action, Neiwert explains. “It puts them in a state of mind of fearfulness and paranoia, creating so much anger and hatred that eventually that stuff boils over.”

    In the months I’ve spent getting to know the Oath Keepers, I’ve toggled between viewing them either as potentially dangerous conspiracy theorists or as crafty intellectuals with the savvy to rally politicians to their side. The answer, I came to realize, is that they cover the whole spectrum…

    Oath Keepers is officially nonpartisan, in part to make it easier for active-duty soldiers to participate, but its rightward bent is undeniable, and liberals are viewed with suspicion. At lunch, when I questioned my tablemates about the Obama-Hitler comparisons I’d heard at the conference, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the president’s socialized medicine agenda would beget a Nazi-style regime.

    I learned that bringing guns to Tea Party protests was a reminder of our constitutional rights, was introduced to the notion that the founding fathers modeled their governing documents on the Bible, and debated whether being Muslim meant an inability to believe in and abide by—and thus be protected by—the Constitution. I was schooled on the treachery of the Federal Reserve and why America needs a gold standard, and at dinner one night, Nighta Davis, national organizer for the National 912 Project, explained how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics program targeting Christians…

    From the podium, ex-sheriff Mack told the crowd that he wished he’d been the officer ordered to escort Rosa Parks off the bus, because not only would he have refused, he would have helped her home and stood guard there. These days, he said, it’s not African Americans who are under attack, but Christians, constitutionalists, and people who uphold family values: This time “it’s going to be Rosa Parks the gun owner, Rosa Parks the tax evader, or Rosa Parks the home-schooler.”…

    Chip Berlet, of the watchdog group Political Research Associates, who has studied right-wing populist movements for 25 years, equates Rhodes’ rhetoric to yelling fire in a crowded theater. “Promoting these conspiracy theories is very dangerous right now because there are people who will assume that a hero will stop at nothing.” What will happen, he adds, “is not just disobeying orders but harming and killing.””

    There’s a lot to chew on there and I recommend you read the full article. As people from the reasonable Paullygots (coined it here first)what is your take?

    And you can see the Rhodes scholar here if you like (5 minute O’reilly video)

    Comment by thimbles — 2/27/2010 @ 1:56 pm

  28. PS. I was aware about the Oath Keeper thread,
    but what I wanted to discuss was less the content of the oath and more the motivations, beliefs, and rhetoric of the group.

    That, I think, will become a more significant measure of this group, and the tea party whole, then the clean worded declarations of one’s ideals.

    And that is why, if you really care about your ideals, you have to clear the authoritarians and conspiracy addicted “patriots” of your stage. They will corrupt your audience if you let their message represent you.

    Comment by thimbles — 2/27/2010 @ 2:05 pm

  29. Our fourth reason for not being bigger is a prevelance of boring anglo-saxon first names adopted by those posting, and a relative absence of dashing Latino pseudonyms.

    OK, I virtually begged for a different, not so boring, not so anglo-saxon name when I started. I encountered STAUNCH resistance.

    As for not posting enough, guilty as charged. I think perhaps the couple-few of us who don’t post enough might benefit from a mutual agreement in which we each pick a different day of the week and make that “our day” that we must post or face ridicule.

    Comment by Jack — 2/27/2010 @ 9:14 pm

  30. The New York Times does a profile of the Tea Partiers.

    Pam Stout has not always lived in fear of her government…

    But all that was before the Great Recession and the bank bailouts, before Barack Obama took the White House by promising sweeping change on multiple fronts, before her son lost his job and his house. Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated — even manufactured — by both parties to grab power.

    She was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first Tea Party rally, then to a meeting of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots.

    And who did she meet there?

    Worried about hyperinflation, social unrest or even martial law, she and her Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement.

    When Friends for Liberty held its first public event, Mrs. Stout listened as Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, brought 1,400 people to their feet with a speech about confronting a despotic federal government. Mrs. Stout said she felt as if she had been handed a road map to rebellion. Members of her family, she said, think she has disappeared down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. But Mrs. Stout said she has never felt so engaged.

    “I can’t go on being the shy, quiet me,” she said. “I need to stand up.”

    The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.

    These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the Tea Party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement, a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.

    Urged on by conservative commentators, waves of newly minted activists are turning to once-obscure books and Web sites and discovering a set of ideas long dismissed as the preserve of conspiracy theorists, interviews conducted across the country over several months show.

    They’re turning into more aggressive, less hinged versions of 9-11 truth.

    Loose alliances like Friends for Liberty are popping up in many cities, forming hybrid entities of Tea Parties and groups rooted in the Patriot ethos. These coalitions are not content with simply making the Republican Party more conservative. They have a larger goal — a political reordering that would drastically shrink the federal government and sweep away not just Mr. Obama, but much of the Republican establishment, starting with Senator John McCain.

    In many regions, including here in the inland Northwest, tense struggles have erupted over whether the Republican apparatus will co-opt these new coalitions or vice versa. Tea Party supporters are already singling out Republican candidates who they claim have “aided and abetted” what they call the slide to tyranny: Mark Steven Kirk, a candidate for the Senate from Illinois, for supporting global warming legislation; Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is seeking a Senate seat, for supporting stimulus spending; and Meg Whitman, a candidate for governor in California, for saying she was a “big fan” of Van Jones, once Mr. Obama’s “green jobs czar.” …

    The ebbs and flows of the Tea Party ferment are hardly uniform. It is an amorphous, factionalized uprising with no clear leadership and no centralized structure. Not everyone flocking to the Tea Party movement is worried about dictatorship. Some have a basic aversion to big government, or Mr. Obama, or progressives in general. What’s more, some Tea Party groups are essentially appendages of the local Republican Party.

    But most are not. They are frequently led by political neophytes who prize independence and tell strikingly similar stories of having been awakened by the recession. Their families upended by lost jobs, foreclosed homes and depleted retirement funds, they said they wanted to know why it happened and whom to blame.

    That is often the point when Tea Party supporters say they began listening to Glenn Beck. With his guidance, they explored the Federalist Papers, exposés on the Federal Reserve, the work of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Some went to constitutional seminars. Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like (“Home of the Patriotic Resistance”) and (“Because there is a war on for your mind.”).

    Many describe emerging from their research as if reborn to a new reality…

    The Tea Party movement defies easy definition, largely because there is no single Tea Party.

    At the grass-roots level, it consists of hundreds of autonomous Tea Party groups, widely varying in size and priorities, each influenced by the peculiarities of local history.

    In the inland Northwest, the Tea Party movement has been shaped by the growing popularity in eastern Washington of Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas, and by a legacy of anti-government activism in northern Idaho. Outside Sandpoint, federal agents laid siege to Randy Weaver’s compound on Ruby Ridge in 1992, resulting in the deaths of a marshal and Mr. Weaver’s wife and son. To the south, Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations, preached white separatism from a compound near Coeur d’Alene until he was shut down.

    Local Tea Party groups are often loosely affiliated with one of several competing national Tea Party organizations. In the background, offering advice and organizational muscle, are an array of conservative lobbying groups, most notably FreedomWorks. Further complicating matters, Tea Party events have become a magnet for other groups and causes — including gun rights activists, anti-tax crusaders, libertarians, militia organizers, the “birthers” who doubt President Obama’s citizenship, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and proponents of the sovereign states movement.

    It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny. This narrative permeates Tea Party Web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos. It is a prominent theme of their favored media outlets and commentators, and it connects the disparate issues that preoccupy many Tea Party supporters — from the concern that the community organization Acorn is stealing elections to the belief that Mr. Obama is trying to control the Internet and restrict gun ownership…

    Most of the people there had paid only passing attention to national politics in years past. “I voted twice and I failed political science twice,” said Darin Stevens, leader of the Spokane 9/12 Project.

    Until the recession, Mr. Stevens, 33, had poured his energies into his family and his business installing wireless networks. He had to lay off employees, and he struggled to pay credit cards, a home equity loan, even his taxes. “It hits you physically when you start getting the calls,” he said.

    He discovered Glenn Beck, and began to think of Washington as a conspiracy to fleece the little guy. “I had no clue that my country was being taken from me,” Mr. Stevens explained. He could not understand why his progressive friends did not see what he saw.

    He felt compelled to do something, so he decided to start a chapter of Mr. Beck’s 9/12 Project. He reserved a room at a pizza parlor for a Glenn Beck viewing party and posted the event on Craigslist. “We had 110 people there,” Mr. Stevens said. He recalled looking around the room and thinking, “All these people — they agree with me.”…

    Pam Stout wakes each morning, turns on Fox News, grabs coffee and an Atkins bar, and hits the computer. She is the hub of a rapidly expanding and highly viral political network, keeping a running correspondence with her 400 members in Sandpoint, state and national Tea Party leaders and other conservative activists…

    Yet for all her efforts, Mrs. Stout is gripped by a sense that it may be too little too late. Yes, there have been victories — including polls showing support for the Tea Party movement — but in her view none of it has diminished the fundamental threat of tyranny, a point underscored by Mr. Obama’s drive to pass a health care overhaul…

    Mrs. Stout said she has begun to contemplate the possibility of “another civil war.” It is her deepest fear, she said. Yet she believes the stakes are that high. Basic freedoms are threatened, she said. Economic collapse, food shortages and civil unrest all seem imminent.

    “I don’t see us being the ones to start it, but I would give up my life for my country,” Mrs. Stout said.

    She paused, considering her next words.

    “Peaceful means,” she continued, “are the best way of going about it. But sometimes you are not given a choice.”

    This is dangerous stuff. I saw and heard fringy stuff at the height of the Bush administration, when it was earned honestly, but I never saw widespread talk of armed revolutions and the kind of radical speech that begets terrorism….

    On broadcast TV.

    This is dangerous. You have a population which is politically ignorant and economically dislocated. Into the void of ignorance flows Glen Beck and the Patriots of Clintonian past.
    Obama has not been a tyrant, he’s been hardly a leader, and the tea party want to lay down their lives to stop the tyranny of a health care overhaul.

    We had leaders during the WORST excesses of the Bush Administration calling upon us to be measured and careful. Move on couldn’t even use the words Betray-us or do a Bush in a minute contest without controversy and condemnation for lack of moderation.

    Where are the goddamn voices of moderation and reason in your goddamn tea party! This is not acceptable! This is mainstreamed radicalism and it requires reining in by thoughtful people who make thoughtful speech presenting a thoughtful basis for protest.

    Why have so many in the Paul movement abdicated that role, preferring to let Glen Beck define the contours of unreasonable protest? Letting him demonize half the country and the government that represents them as infidels who seek to assault the sacred constitution.

    You are letting the masses flow with repugnant movements and if you don’t start defining a sane current for them to follow, your movement will be swept by waves of insanity.

    There has to be a way for a tea party to set out a set of defining principles without defining those who don’t share them as the anti-christ.

    If you can’t, your tea party will become increasingly dangerous. That’s my prediction. Take from it what you will.

    Comment by thimbles — 3/1/2010 @ 12:20 pm

  31. Got my self so worked up, I forgot the damn link.

    Comment by thimbles — 3/1/2010 @ 12:23 pm

  32. The phrase “tea party” had it’s modern usage coined by Rick Santelli, who was standing in a stock market that itself had been kept standing by tax payer largess, yelling at Obama about possible mortgage adjustment programs that were designed to help consumers… no wait, that wasn’t the word… what was it?.. Oh yeah LOSERS pay off their mortgages. That rant had a stock broker with balls big enough talk to speak into the microphone and lecture the CNBC audience, from his bailed out chair, about the dangers of moral hazard.

    I hate these people.

    Comment by thimbles — 3/4/2010 @ 9:10 pm

  33. Matt Taibbi on people I hate and other stuff in a good link. Excerpt:

    I seem to be getting a lot of mail from Ron Paul supporters about this, claiming that I’m overlooking the early Ron Paul tea parties and suppressing his message. I actually like Ron Paul and have said nothing but nice things about him. I talk to people in his office regularly. But the Ron Paul tea parties and these post Feb-2009 Tea Parties are two different things. Certainly the current Tea Partiers see it that way. While these folks may have lifted some of the Paulian themes, they’re just physically different people. They’re mainstream Palin supporters, and the reason I find them ridiculous is because I was covering these people while the bailouts were happening and remember what was actually on their minds back then. Does anyone remember what the cause of the day was when the AIG bailout took place? It was the uproar from Palin supporters about Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment.

    The reason I’ve always respected the Ron Paul people is that, even though I don’t always agree with them, they’re intellectually consistent and motivated by actual policy issues. These Teabagger types on the other hand are just a giant herd of video sheep being jerked around by snickering DC-New York types, who are very skillfully playing on their cultural paranoia and their economic and racial frustrations. When they were told to flip out about Obama’s “lipstick” comment, they did. When they were told to flip out about the bailouts, they did. I’m not saying that some of these people weren’t frustrated about the bailouts, to the extent that they even knew about them, before Obama got elected. But they did not coalesce into a mass movement against them until part II of the bailout was passed under Obama’s watch, and one should note also that their keynote speaker in Nashville a few weeks ago, Palin, was a bailout supporter.

    The Paul people were upset about deficit spending and Fed corruption throughout and ardently opposed Bush’s policies throughout his presidency. These Teabaggers did not. They were the people inside the rope-lines at McCain and Romney and Rudy events, complaining about “those people” consuming social services money, while the Paul people with their protest placards were physically barred from coming near the events. I must have seen that dynamic a dozen times during the campaign. So to all those Paul people, I hear you. I’m not trying to say you weren’t on these issues beforehand. What I’m saying is, this new Tea Party thing, it’s different from your protests, not necessarily because the message is so different, but because of two things. One, it was inspired by major-network media figures. Two, the people at the protests are overwhelmingly different people. They’re dupes; the Paul movement is more like a real grass-roots organization.

    Comment by thimbles — 3/9/2010 @ 2:24 am

  34. I feel dirty for wanting to side with thimbles.

    Comment by Eric — 3/9/2010 @ 8:28 am

  35. Wow, Pam stout made her way onto David Letterman. I haven’t watched the interview (for the reason that “Your country of residence is DENIED”) but the digby take is here:

    And in other news, though some think my allusion to Oklahoma was absurd, Shawn Hannity is perfectly fine with it.

    In fact, 7:45 into this video
    he characterizes the tea party movement as Timothy McVeigh wanna-be’s as a compliment.

    When is way too far called way too far these days?

    Comment by thimbles — 4/3/2010 @ 12:01 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.