They claim to be about "getting the government off of our backs." The problem here is that the Tea Party seems to be salivating at the opportunity to enact on the state level laws that prohibit equal rights for gays, women and even racial minorities. Listen past the opening salvos about big government and you realize that what the tea baggers really want is to replace federal government authority with state government authority. Their central assumption is that states have inherent rights but individuals do not.
Witness their reactions to last week's court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as applied to Massachusetts:
A spokeswoman for one of the biggest Tea Party umbrella organizations, Tea Party Patriots, said that social questions were not part of their mission.
“As far as an assertion of states’ rights goes, I believe it’s a good thing,” said Shelby Blakely, executive director of The New Patriot Journal, the group’s online publication. “The Constitution does not allow federal regulation of gay marriage just as it doesn’t allow for federal regulation of health care.”
“But I don’t want to come off saying I support gay marriage,” she added.
No of course not. In fact, the social gains of the past 50 years seem to be in the crosshairs of tea baggers from Rand Paul to Sarah Palin to Sharron Angle.
And then there's tea bagger heaven: Arizona, where "papers please" is not a line from a Nazi in a World War 2 movie but rather a populist mantra.
This is not libertarian. This is authoritarian.
Let's look at a definition of Libertarianism:
Libertarians believe that individuals should have complete freedom of action, provided their actions do not infringe on the freedom of others.
Libertarianism describes a range of political beliefs that advocate the maximization of an individual's ability to think and act with few constraints from large social structures, such as government, and the minimization or even abolition of the state.
An advocate of the doctrine of free will
The Tea Party, with it's stated goal of establishing greater authority to state governments, is not libertarian. In fact, when you look at the code words, off-the-record remarks, and actions of Tea Party leaders and supporters, it becomes clear that the Tea Party is actually about authoritarianism. To the Tea Party, the federal government's oppression is that it prevents them from oppressing gays, oppressing women (especially with regard to healthcare), and oppressing racial minorities.
And yet the Beltway crowd seems to buy into the claim that the Tea Party is libertarian.
E.J. Dione seems to think the Tea Party makes the common mistake:
The rise of the tea party movement is a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since the New Deal as unconstitutional. It typically perceives the most dangerous threats to freedom as the design of well-educated elitists out of touch with “American values.”
In a fascinating article analyzing the Tea Party — and the prevalence of women tea baggers — Ruth Rosen identifies some disturbing characteristics:
One important difference, however, is race. At Tea Party rallies you don’t see faces with dark complexions. Another important distinction is that men and women are drawn to this sprawling movement for a variety of overlapping but possibly different reasons. Both men and women seem to embrace an incoherent “ideology” which calls for freedom from government, no taxes, and an inchoate desire to “take back America,” which means restoring the nation to some moment when the country was white and “safe.”
She goes on to note how the conservative brand of "feminism" isn't quite the feminism that states that "Feminism is the radical idea that women are people." On the contrary:
Here is a great irony. Since 1980, when the backlash began attacking the women’s movement, young secular American women have resisted calling themselves feminists because the religious right-wing had so successfully created an unattractive image of a feminist as a hairy, man-hating, lesbian who spouted equality, but really wanted to kill babies. Now, Palin is forcing liberal feminists to debate whether these Christian feminists are diluting feminism or legitimizing it by making it possible to say that one is a feminist.
When I read what women write on Christian women’s web sites, I hear an echo from the late nineteenth century when female reformers sought to protect the family from “worldly dangers.” Frances Willard, leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, urged millions of women to enter the public sphere in order to protect their families, to address the decadent consequences and casualties of capitalism, to win suffrage, and to fight for prohibition, all in the name of protecting the purity of their homes and families.
For many contemporary evangelical Christian women, their motivations are similar. They want to enter the public sphere or even run for office to eliminate abortion, protect marriage, contain sexual relations, oppose gay marriage and clean up the mess made by the sexual revolution. [Emphasis added.]
This doesn't sound like liberty. It sounds like vesting greater freedom to state governments so they can oppress entire classes of people with impunity.
Am I wrong? If so, I'd love to see some proof.