“Limited Government” and the Tea Party

If my modest education isn’t getting in the way of my understanding, Peter Berkowitz’s argument is that the reason liberals don’t understand the Tea Party is because we somehow haven’t been taught that the United States is all about limiting the size of government.

See, according to Berkowitz that’s all the Tea Party is about: limited government. And all that stuff liberals have written about how the Tea Party is bankrolled by billionaires or how the Tea Party doesn’t reflect the views of the majority of Americans? Well, that’s non-sense because all we really need to understand is that government is supposed to be limited.

Here’s a particularly interesting bit from the column:

Mr. Dionne follows in the footsteps of progressive historian Richard Hofstadter, whose influential 1964 book “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” argued that Barry Goldwater and his supporters displayed a “style of mind” characterized by “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.” Similarly, the “suspicion of government” that the tea party movement shares with the Anti-Federalists, Mr. Dionne maintained, “is not amenable to ‘facts'” because “opposing government is a matter of principle.”

Berkowitz of course is only proving Dionne’s point. Berkowitz isn’t interesting in boring shit like facts or economics. He’s only interested in the ideology of “limited government.”

And is that really all the Tea Party movement is about? It doesn’t appear to be so:

Based on exhaustive research, a new report “Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size Scope and Focus of it National Factions,” demonstrates that despite Tea Party claims that its solely concerned with budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government, Tea Party membership and actions are permeated with radical views about race, national identity and other so-called social issues.

Why, in a “limited government” ideology is there room to spend millions of federal dollars on a border fence? Or to spend state resources enforcing racial profiling laws? Or for the government to prohibit a religious group from practicing their religion on their own private property? Or telling private citizen who should and should not be allowed to get married.

I think some people don’t understand the Tea Party because it makes no sense, even on the subject of “limited government”:

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

What people like Berkowitz can’t understand is that people like me want limited government too. We want to limit the government’s ability to harass and detain racial minorities. We want to limit the government’s ability to prevent people from practicing their religion. But, like the Tea Party and like most Americans, we also want to the government to do a few things. Where we disagree with the Tea Party is what limits we want.

1 Comment

  1. Well said, Klint!

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