James Bovard visited a Tea Party rally in Maryland and came away wondering just how anti-government the movement really is:
At a Tax Day tea party in Rockville, Md., the speaking venue was draped with a huge banner: “Tired of Big Government?” Members of the “Tyranny Response Team” stood near the front of the rally with their official blue T-shirts. Giant American flags and ones with “Don’t Tread on Me” (with a coiled rattlesnake) were carried around by men with tri-corn hats. Political campaigns busily sold “9/11 Remembrance” bracelets.
And yet, the crowd of 300 seemed most outraged that the US government is not being sufficiently aggressive in using its power.
Ken Timmerman, the author of “Preachers of Hate: Islam and the War on America” and other hawkish books, declaimed that the US government must take every step to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Mr. Timmerman denounced the Obama administration for being soft on Tehran and urged support for legislation to impose harsh sanctions on Iran. Timmerman previously advocated a US naval blockade of Iran, which he claimed was planning a nuclear attack on the United States.
Running through a litany of President Obama’s greatest failings, Timmerman denounced him for forcing US agents to “stop using enhanced interrogation methods. Has that made us safer?”
“No!” the crowd hollered indignantly.
Jeffrey Kuhner, a local talk-show host, sneered that Obama “has found his inner Muslim” and raged against his bowing to foreign leaders and kings. He complained that Obama has “taken over college loans,” and warned that illegal immigrants could be “the shock troops of Obama’s socialist revolution.” The crowd ate it up.
But wait, it gets worse:
None of the speakers criticized the warrantless wiretaps that the National Security Agency began during the Bush administration. The feds’ vacuuming up thousands of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a warrant seems to be a nonissue for these folks. Perhaps some tea party leaders hope that Republicans will soon be in position to use such powers to surveil the left.
There are many decent Americans who understandably feel that the government has become too powerful and oppressive. Yet, seeking enlightenment from most tea party speakers is like searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.
America needs real champions of freedom – not poorly informed Republican accomplices. Either tea partyers should become more principled or they should ditch their Gadsden flags and wear T-shirts of the lobbying group that organizes the rally they attend.
This isn’t entirely surprising, of course, as I noted yesterday, the Arizona Tea Party rallied in favor of an immigration bill that increases the power of the state and is, most likely, unconstitutional. And, as Radley Balko notes, they’ve asked Maricopa County Joe Arpaio to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming convention:
Dear Tea Partiers,
Ask Joe Arpaio to be your keynote speaker, and you’ve lost me.
He’s a power-mad thug with a badge, the walking, mouth-breathing antithesis of the phrase “limited government.”
Yes, this is but one state chapter in your movement. So distance yourself from them.
It’s one thing to have a few idiots and nutjobs show up at your rallies.
It’s quite another to invite one to speak.
PS: Hating immigrants? Not a winning issue. Or, for that matter, a limited government issue.
As I noted last week, there have been increasing signs that the Tea Party movement is made up of very different groups; libertarians who are serious about cutting back the size, scope, and power of government in all areas and at all levels, and Social Conservatives/Populists who have an very different agenda. When I read stories like these, it makes me think that the populists are winning, in which case the Tea Party Movement itself will amount to nothing when it comes to the fight for freedom.