Tea Parties & Environmentalism

Earlier this week, on April 15th, 2009, not coincidentally the day each year when tax returns are due from America’s workers, there were “tea parties” held throughout the United States – approximately 2,000 separate events, some drawing over 10,000 people. It is probably accurate to estimate several hundred thousand people participated.

In Sacramento, California, at what was reputed to be one of the biggest events, there were over 5,000 people in attendance at peak, but given the duration of the event, well over three hours, and the apparent turnover of people arriving and departing, probably closer to 10,000 people actually participated.

Looks like grass-roots to me.
(Photo: John Gewalt)

Press coverage of these events in mainstream media – apart from Fox News – was somewhat cursory. Part of the reason for this was the dubious fact that Fox News not only covered the event, but actively promoted the event for weeks prior, and sent many of their star correspondants to actually speak at some of the larger events. Is Fox reporting news or creating news? This is a fair question.

In the New York Times on April 16th, in a column entitled “Tea Parties Forever,” Paul Krugman leveled several observations and accusations, including these: Obama is NOT a socialist, these events were NOT grassroots events, and that these “tea parties have been the subject of considerable ridicule, and rightly so.”

Huffington Post commentator Drew Westen, also in an April 16th column entitled “The Five Strands of Conservatism, Why the GOP is Unraveling,” said “When you get caught gutting the regulations that had kept us for 70 years from another stock market crash like the crash of 1929 and another collapse of the banking system like the one that occurred during the Great Depression, and when your policies throw millions of people out of their homes, jobs, retirement, and doctors’ offices, the next bottle of elixir you sell is not likely to fly off the shelf…”

Despite the active role of Fox News in making this event happen, however, despite Paul Krugman’s scorn, or Drew Westen’s suggestion that only Republicans caused the economic mess we’re in today, the concerns of yesterday’s tea party protesters are valid. The United States is indeed at risk of overreacting to the current economic crisis by expanding the role of government when what has been at issue was never the size of government, but the quality of government.

No matter who caused this event to happen, and no matter who were there, in Sacramento the roars from the Tea Party being held on the west side of the Capitol could easily be heard on the grass to the east of the Capitol. And for the most part, along with Democrats and media professionals, California’s Republican politicians were nowhere to be found.

The aim of democratic politics is to strike a balance between legitimate but conflicting interests. It is therefore inaccurate and unhelpful when left of center commentators mock the notion that America might be drifting towards socialism, or that socialism isn’t so bad anyway. It is also innacurate and unhelpful to define one of the fundamental planks of the Republican Party, fiscal conservatism, as part of a totally discredited whole.

An editorial in the New Yorker on March 16th, 2009, made an observation somewhat representative of this leftist, triumphalist mentality, when it wrote “Republican jibes that the [U.S. 2009] budget was ‘socialist’ should be treated with the respect they deserve, which is to say none…”

A more constructive editorial in the April 2009 edition of Harper’s, in an editorial entitled “Shine, Perishing Republicans,” by Garret Keizer, includes this gem, “These two imperatives, that of self-reliance and social responsibility, of the Republican heart and the Democratic heart in their purest forms, are the crux of any sustainable community.” In recognizing that moral worth emanates from both sides of the political spectrum, Harper’s has credibility.

Socialism is real, it can creep into a society gradually, and when fully realized it is tyranny, orchestrated by credentialed opportunists and nomenklatura of all stripes, and it begins by embracing increasing sectors of the economy, and we all disagree only as to where one might identify the tipping point. One of the most insidious, to-date effectively invisible agents of socialism is environmentalism in general, and global warming fear in particular. It is absurd and only self-serving to suggest that socialism, fascism, communism, or any other authoritarian ‘ism might not be as likely to originate from the political left as from the right.

Self reliance and social responsibility, along with fiscal conservatism, are values that any party and any successful policy agenda can and should embrace. The value of environmentalism cannot be viewed apart from, in its application, compatibility with pluralistic economic growth, individual initiative and expression, and private property rights. The tea parties of April 15th, regardless of their provenance, reflected genuine values necessary for any sustainable community.

5 Responses to “Tea Parties & Environmentalism”
  1. Eric Wesoff says:

    I think it is fair to want to limit government’s control in our lives.
    But the US economy has long been a mixed economy – combining free market arenas with absolute socialist entities like Medicare. Most people of a certain age, such as yourself, do not want Medicare to disappear. And yet can you deny that this is a state-administered socialist enterprise?
    The jingoistic, bumper-sticker platitudes sponsored and promulgated by Fox News for the Teabaggers invalidates their shrinking credibility as a news source. And it turns the alleged grass roots nature of this protest into an astroturf event populated by all that remains of the Republican party – the dessicated fringe. This mindless cry of “Socialism” is as mindless and uninformed as the McCarthyite cries of Communism in the 1950s. And to then throw environmentalism into the mix as you have done, painting environmentalism with another broad brush is more jingoism and bumper sticker thinking. I know how bright you are Ed and these sentiments always surprise me. How would your team of MaCain and Palin handled this crisis?

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Eric – a fair question, notwithstanding your “most people of a certain age, including yourself…” jibe – because we all should care about these issues of sustainability, whether it is with respect to eventual retirement security, or energy, or environment.

    Still – how would McCain/Palin handle this is a fair question, given EcoWorld actually waited until it was obvious Obama would win, to go on record endorsing, with reluctance, the McCain/Palin team.

    Maybe we just wanted to hope McCain, who was never our ideal candidate – for example, he co-authored the McCain Feingold act – would see global warming alarm for what it is – an incredibly regressive scheme to raise the cost of living for billions of emergent peoples with little or no relation to rational cost/benefit analysis.

    Regrettably, I must stand by every word. Having been there, I don’t think the people at Sacramento’s “tea party” were insincere, nor do I think they were on the fringe. Our position is to take to task the unwarranted, triumphalist, demonizing demogaugery of environmentalists, with their allegedly nonpartisan nonprofits whose directorships are populated with trial lawyers making rain for their firms with extortionate lawsuits. We take to task the complicit public officials who participate in the shakedown, and the public contractors and over-credentialed consultants who ride the gravy train of diluvian fears begetting fees. And we take to task the once noble entrepreneurs turned into fawning beggars at the public trough.

    Our position is the sky is not falling, resources are not on the verge of exhaustion, the climate is not about to “tip,” and the caution we fail to exercise, the fear we fail to indulge, is what may happen to our freedoms in the name of green.

    Finally, you might note that we are not in any way suggesting goverment hasn’t a legitimate – albiet hopefully limited – role in the economy.

  3. James Staunton says:

    I don’t have any comment on the teaparty deal, since I didn’t attempt an analysis of it. But I don’t see MOST of what Obama is doing with the stimulus bill as anything but positive. It IS time to fix the highways and power grid, it IS a good idea to promote renewable electricity generation, it IS absolutely necessary to rework our health care system. And all this work will employ more people as an added benefit.

    What I don’t understand is how such an obviously intelligent man as Obama could have been so convinced about global warming/climate catastrophy! When I read about Gore meeting with Obama just after he was elected, I had a sinking feeling. Then Obama started talking up climate change/CO2 regulation. Anyway…

    Ed. I just read on another sight about some Phanerozoic chart featured in Wikipedia that supposedly shows CO2 levels much higher in the past without the climate terror we are supposed to suffer as a result. Another writer refuted the claim (that CO2 levels are actually at a 500M year LOW today), so once again the layman like myself has no way to sort out the truth. This is, to me, the biggest problem with the whole issue: its so damn complex one has to decide who he believes, rather than try to make some judgment based on my own research/analysis.

    I like the way you think, so I am tending to believe you. How lame is that?

  4. James Staunton says:

    That last comment was tongue in cheek. I like your arguments over climate change and have done a fair amount of research. I especially find convincing the arguments of Bob Carter of Australia.

  5. Forget, please, “conservatism.” It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    “[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth.”

    Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
    Recovering Republican

    PS – And “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” Rush Limbaugh never made a bigger ass of himself than at CPAC where he told that blasphemous “joke” about himself and God.


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