Arnold Kling  

Jonah Goldberg on the Tea Party

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I enjoyed this dialog between Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg argues that conservatives are legitimately skeptical of mass movements, but that as things have evolved, the tea party is looking better and better.

This echoes my own evolution. I started out highly skeptical about it, but I have come around to where I think of the tea party movement as the last best hope for America. If they fail to elect a Congress and a President who truly are committed to shrinking deficits and shrinking the government, then those of us with a libertarian bent will be reduced to dreaming about seasteads or somesuch.

I was intellectually prepared for the outcome on health care reform. I was thinking all along that it would be a "dessert now, spinach later" bill. I was thinking all along that it was impossible for Democrats not to pass a bill, given their majorities in Congress.

But when it finally happened I admit that I felt a great deal of frustration and rage. I wrote an op-ed expressing that, which I'm guessing will never see the light of day. If it does, I will link to it in a subsequent post.


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The author at The Distributed Republic in a related article titled Quote of the Day writes:
    This echoes my own evolution. I started out highly skeptical about it, but I have come around to where I think of the tea party movement as the last best hope for America. If they fail to elect a Congress and a President who truly are committed to shrinki [Tracked on March 26, 2010 12:09 AM]
COMMENTS (15 to date)
James D. Miller writes:

The other hope is for an early technological singularity.

roo writes:

This is a quote from your post "Tea and Sympathy" from back in September:

'Do they fit the stereotype of being white, small-town, uneducated racists? Not much racism, but otherwise I would say they fit the stereotype enough to make me skeptical that this is an important political movement. This country is becoming more urban, less white, and more educated. At most, this movement could turn out to be the right-wing equivalent of MoveOn--a mailing list to be tapped when somebody wants to try to mobilize activists. But it may not even achieve that before it splinters and shrivels into insignificance.'

With your attitude toward the Tea Party movement becoming more sympathetic, has your take on its potency also changed?

Corey S. writes:

At first I was angry. Then I got angrier when I read the FB status updates of my friends. Then I got angriest when a friend of mine lovingly posted a picture of Obama signing a bill. Shortly thereafter I stopped caring.

I'd like to echo Don Boudreaux and say that these people don't deserve to be called adults.

They'll need lawyers on the seasteads, right?

Mogden writes:

You know, I was kind of pissed off as well, but then I took comfort in the fact that I might easily be wrong about what I believe.

David R. Henderson writes:

Arnold,
Thanks. This dialogue was very refreshing.
Best,
David

Troy Camplin writes:

I had the same experience. My wife has been fretting over the passage of the bill, asking me over and over if it would pass. I kept telling her that, yes, it is going to pass. I told her that we had to expect it to pass. I thought I was prepared for it to pass -- but then, when it actually did, I could not believe how deeply outraged I was. To see people actually cheering and happy that they passed something that violates economic laws and violates the Constitution and was passed with such a large majority opposed to it (not that that is typically enough, or even sufficient, for me -- but when it's combined with the other two, it's far too much). If the Congress and President passed this thing actually thinking it will benefit anyone, they are too ignorant and stupid to have power; if they passed it actually knowing what it will do, they are evil and have to be removed. November cannot come fast enough.

SydB writes:

49% of Americans, at last look, are happy that the bill passed. I suspect the numbers will increase as we go forward. My wife, a breast cancer survivor, is happy, because it will allow her to no longer fear the insurance companies throwing her off or refusing to cover her because of a "pre-existing condition." As if she has one at this point.

It is unfortunate that libertarians, proponents of an ethical system that I concur with in quite a few ways, are thinking about jumping into bed with the Tea Party movement, for it will set the libertarian movement further back than has already happened because of its association with the GOP.

Glenn Beck. Sarah Palin. And yes, Jonah Goldberg. They will weaken the GOP further, drive more people into the Democratic camp (of which I am not a member), and guarantee us a one party state. Just look at what is happening right now in Nevada.

Adam writes:

Everybody gets all the health care they want just by passing a law? How's that work out with demand and supply in a country where people are free?

MernaMoose writes:

but I have come around to where I think of the tea party movement as the last best hope for America.

Then you're hanging by a very thin thread. Which is more than I'm hanging by.

There is potential in the Tea Party. But that potential depends entirely on a leader coming to the fore. Someone who's a lot more like a Reagan and a lot less like a Palin. The anarchists who babble about how the movement should remain leader-less, are in fact clue-less. To remain leader-less is to remain impotent, a vague threat hanging in the background.

Palin matters on the national stage only because, the Right has no one that matters on the national stage. She'll never turn the Tea Part potential into a real, actual political force.

What the Left fears about the Tea Party movement, is that it's possible a leader could arise. Given that more people are independents than they are democrats or republicans, and given that the Tea Party is (probably) mostly independents, the potential Tea Party power block scares the crap out of the Left. The Right isn't scared, because they assume that they could just absorb it into their own ranks if the Tea Party ever did come to life.

It's not impossible that a leader could arise. But the odds don't seem high.


those of us with a libertarian bent will be reduced to dreaming about seasteads or somesuch.

When was the last time you had anything else?


Steve S writes:

Go Paul Ryan! (Not necassarily as the leader of the Tea Party but as the next President of the United States)

8 writes:

Don't you have a big pile of gold to comfort you?

Yancey Ward writes:

MernaMoose is correct. The Tea Party movement lacks leadership, and without leadership it cannot succeed politically. However, I am a bit more confident that a leader will arise- such movements rarely lack for them for very long. The question is what kind of leader steps forward.

Steve M. writes:

the correct name of Maier's book is "From Resistance to Revolution"

PrometheeFeu writes:

Come on... The Tea Party are uninformed and lead by opportunistic populists. They think Obama is like Hitler and Staline for heaven's sake! They're the people who don't realize their Medicare is paid for by the government! And don't get me started on how they feel about things like civil liberties... And even on the economic side, they are the kind of people who are more likely to give in to nationalistic protectionism than the Democrats and the Republicans put together. Let's look past historical associations and we'll see that libertarians are a whole lot closer ideologically to democrats than republicans or god forbid the tea partyers.

Mark Bahner writes:

"The other hope is for an early technological singularity."

Ray Kurzweil predicts Singularity before 2050.

The highest single-year increase in world per-capita GDP, according to Angus Maddison, was 5.1% in 1964. Arnold and I both predict that annual world per-capita GDP increases will AVERAGE above that by 2030:

Economic growth in the 21st century

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