The GOP’s “small government” tea party fraud

The core of the "tea party" movement and actual GOP policies are radically opposed

Topics: Tea Parties, Washington, D.C.,

There’s a major political fraud underway:  the GOP is once again donning their libertarian, limited-government masks in order to re-invent itself and, more important, to co-opt the energy and passion of the Ron-Paul-faction that spawned and sustains the ”tea party” movement.  The Party that spat contempt at Paul during the Bush years and was diametrically opposed to most of his platform now pretends to share his views.  Standard-issue Republicans and Ron Paul libertarians are as incompatible as two factions can be — recall that the most celebrated right-wing moment of the 2008 presidential campaign was when Rudy Giuliani all but accused Paul of being an America-hating Terrorist-lover for daring to suggest that America’s conduct might contribute to Islamic radicalism — yet the Republicans, aided by the media, are pretending that this is one unified, harmonious, “small government” political movement.

The Right is petrified that this fraud will be exposed and is thus bending over backwards to sustain the myth.  Paul was not only invited to be a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference but also won its presidential straw poll.  Sarah Palin endorsed Ron Paul’s son in the Kentucky Senate race.  National Review is lavishly praising Paul, while Ann Coulter “felt compelled [in her CPAC speech] to give a shout out to Paul-mania, saying she agreed with everything he stands for outside of foreign policy — a statement met with cheers.”  Glenn Beck — who literally cheered for the Wall Street bailout and Bush’s endlessly expanding surveillance state — now parades around as though he shares the libertarians’ contempt for them.  Red State’s Erick Erickson, defending the new so-called conservative “manifesto,” touts the need for Congress to be confined to the express powers of Article I, Section 8, all while lauding a GOP Congress that supported countless intrusive laws — from federalized restrictions on assisted suicide, marriage, gambling, abortion and drugs to intervention in Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life state court proceeding — nowhere to be found in that Constitutional clause.  With the GOP out of power, Fox News suddenly started featuring anti-government libertarians such as John Stossel and Reason Magazine commentators, whereas, when Bush was in power, there was no government power too expanded or limitless for Fox propagandists to praise.



This is what Republicans always do.  When in power, they massively expand the power of the state in every realm.  Deficit spending and the national debt skyrocket.  The National Security State is bloated beyond description through wars and occupations, while no limits are tolerated on the Surveillance State.  Then, when out of power, they suddenly pretend to re-discover their “small government principles.”  The very same Republicans who spent the 1990s vehemently opposing Bill Clinton’s Terrorism-justified attempts to expand government surveillance and executive authority then, once in power, presided over the largest expansion in history of those very same powers.  The last eight years of Republican rule was characterized by nothing other than endlessly expanded government power, even as they insisted — both before they were empowered and again now — that they are the standard-bearers of government restraint.

What makes this deceit particularly urgent for them now is that their only hope for re-branding and re-empowerment lies in a movement — the tea partiers — that has been (largely though not exclusively) dominated by libertarians, Paul followers, and other assorted idiosyncratic factions who are hostile to the GOP’s actual approach to governing.  This is a huge wedge waiting to be exposed — to explode — as the modern GOP establishment and the actual ”small-government” libertarians that fuel the tea party are fundamentally incompatible.  Right-wing mavens like Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin and National Review are suddenly feigning great respect for Ron Paul and like-minded activists because they’re eager that the sham will be maintained:  the blatant sham that the modern GOP and its movement conservatives are a coherent vehicle for those who believe in small government principles.  The only evidence of a passionate movement urging GOP resurgence is from people whose views are antithetical to that Party.  That’s the dirty secret which right-wing polemicists are desperately trying to keep suppressed. Credit to Mike Huckabee for acknowledging this core incompatibility by saying he would not attend CPAC because of its “increasing libertarianism.”

These fault lines began to emerge when Sarah Palin earlier this month delivered the keynote speech to the national tea party conference in Nashville, and stood there spitting out one platitude after the next which Paul-led libertarians despise:  from neoconservative war-loving dogma and veneration of Israel to glorification of “War on Terror” domestic powers and the need of the state to enforce Palin’s own religious and cultural values.  Neocons (who still overwhelmingly dominate the GOP) and Paul-led libertarians are arch enemies, and the social conservatives on whom the GOP depends are barely viewed with greater affection.  Sarah Palin and Ron Paul are about as far apart on most issues as one can get; the “tea party movement” can’t possibly be about supporting each of their worldviews.  Moreover, the GOP leadership is currently promising Wall Street even more loyal subservience than Democrats have given in exchange for support, thus bolstering the government/corporate axis which libertarians find so repugnant.  And Coulter’s manipulative claim that she “agrees with everything [Paul] stands for outside of foreign policy” is laughable; aside from the fact that “foreign policy” is a rather large issue in our political debates (Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia), they were on exactly the opposite sides of the most intense domestic controversies of the Bush era:  torture, military commissions, habeas corpus, Guantanamo, CIA secrecy, telecom immunity, and warrantless eavesdropping.  

Part of why this fraud has been sustainable thus far is that libertarians — like everyone who doesn’t view all politics through the mandated, distorting, suffocating Democrat v. GOP prism — are typically dismissed as loons and nuts, and are thus eager for any means of achieving mainstream acceptance.  Having the GOP embrace them is one way to achieve that (Karl Rove:  some ”see the tea party movement as a recruiting pool for volunteers for Ron Paul’s next presidential bid . . . . The Republican Party and the tea party movement have many common interests”).  Additionally, just as the Paul-faction of libertarians is in basic harmony with many progressives on issues of foreign policy and civil liberties, they do subscribe to the standard GOP rhetoric on domestic spending, social programs and the like.  

But that GOP limited government rhetoric is simply never matched by that Party’s conduct, especially when they wield power.  The very idea that a political party dominated by neocons, warmongers, surveillance fetishists, and privacy-hating social conservatives will be a party of “limited government” is absurd on its face.  There literally is no myth more transparent than the Republican Party’s claim to believe in restrained government power.  For that reason, it’s only a matter of time before the fundamental incompatibility of the “tea party movement” and the political party cynically exploiting it is exposed.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>