The Tea Party and the Revival of Liberty


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Among the cautionary tales here is that of the transcontinental railroad, subsidized by “massive loans” from the U.S. government that led to “massive fraud.”  The whole thing, argues Leahy, could have been accomplished more efficiently, and with far less corruption, had it been privately financed.  We all learned in school about the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869.  But did you know that “as much as a third of the $100 million in federal loans” that had made that day possible “had been siphoned off into…private hands”?  Or that “the workmanship and quality of materials used during the mad dash across the country” was so poor “that within four years almost every inch of track from Council Bluffs to Sacramento had to be pulled up and rebuilt”?  Such was the consequence of “federal government involvement in the selection of winners and losers in business.”

After Wilson, it was all downhill.  Herbert Hoover, who as Wilson’s “Food Administrator” imposed draconian rules on small farmers and as Harding’s Commerce Secretary asserted the government’s ownership of the airwaves and its power to license them to private broadcasters (a fascinating, maddening story), as president responded to the 1929 crash with extra-constitutional actions – wage controls, loans, subsidies, public-works programs, etc. – that only plunged the country deeper into Depression.

FDR, needless to say, was a watershed: “where Hoover stopped short of the last step toward economic fascism, Roosevelt boldly took it.” Leahy tells horror stories about small businessmen and farmers destroyed by New Deal bureaucrats.  From FDR, he jumps to LBJ and the spectacular failure of the Great Society.  But he underscores that this isn’t a strict Democrat vs. Republican issue.  From Wilson onward, “Democratic administrations expanded government, and Republican administrations confirmed the expansion, despite political rhetoric to the contrary.”  Ike consolidated FDR’s and Truman’s government expansion; Nixon did the same for Johnson’s.  Indeed, Nixon did LBJ one better, introducing the EPA and imposing wage and price controls.  Moreover, as Leahy reminds us, it was George W. Bush who signed the legislation establishing TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which squandered taxpayer money on bank bailouts.

Leahy’s book culminates in the passage of ObamaCare, the Stimulus Bill, and other laws epitomizing government overreach – and in the birth of the Tea Party, in which Leahy played a pivotal role, largely owing to his highly influential Twitter list.  Those who have been convinced by the mainstream media that the Tea Party is a nest of racists and of people obsessed with social issues will be edified to learn that as far as Leahy and his Twitter followers are concerned, the movement is united around four ideas: limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and strong national defense.  Period.  (Leahy and company have deliberately left “traditional values” off their list because they differ among themselves on that topic.)

A few months ago, at a Florida town hall where the purported subject was jobs, Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson instructed her constituents: “Let us all remember who the real enemy is.  The real enemy is the Tea Party!”  Well, that clarifies things.  Why not just come out with it, and admit that the real enemy – not only for Wilson, but for all other true believers in the legacy of the Great Society – is the Constitution?

Tea Party members who want to know more about the history of the ideas that inform their movement could not do better than Leahy’s book.  As for those who don’t belong to the Tea Party – especially those who only “know” about it what the mainstream media have told them about it – they are hereby encouraged to open their minds and give Leahy’s book a chance.  For many of them, I suspect, it will be an eye-opening lesson – not only in what the Tea Party is really about, but in the simple, straightforward, and still precious (if oft-violated) principles on which the United States of America was founded.

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  • crackerjack

    The teaparty was created and funded by billionairs, logical that it created and now "supports" a billionaire candidate.

    • ProgDestroyer

      CJ you are a certifiable moron. How many billionaires support A-hole in the White House? Let me help your dumbass out: Buffet, Soros, Lewis, Gates, Zuckerburg, Cuban, Bloomberg. And these are just a quick list. If we expanded the conversation to millionaires the list would be pages long with some of the most insufferable narcissistic idiots around. Starting with the most destructive generation (born between 1930-1950) the left has been in love with the filthy rich and have since the sixties enriched themselves through the tyrannical use of government and wallstreet. Your side is the disease and the tea party is the cure. Assclown!

      • crackerjack

        Obama is Soro's puppet, the teaparty the Koch's puppet. In the end the taxpayer foots both bills. And can we expect anything will change under Romney exept that Obamacare would become Romneycare?

        …..and what exactly is the teaparty doing to end billionairs, wallstreet and cooperation's influence in lawmaking? Where are the bills agains lobbying (bribery) of senators ? How about a bill to keep big money out of political campaigning and out of political decision making? Instead, all the teaparty has achieved is to install a GOP big money candidate who will cater for big money interests and push Washington cronyism to new highs.

        • ProgDestroyer

          My apology. I thought you were giving the leftist argument. I

        • ProgDestroyer

          I don't have a problem with folks making tons of money or billions of it as long as they do so within the framework of what is moral, ethical and legal. I agree with your sentiment that those who enrich themselves and their cronies by manipulating the political system in order to stack the deck in their favor are the problem, a huge problem to be fair. I completely concur with your criticism of the alluded to crony capitalist (fascists) in both parties and agree that at this point not much has been done to stem the tide of the fascists. But, we have only started and the only way the movement will stay true is by our contined vigilence and participation. I prefer the strategy that sees constitutional conservatives taking over the republican party thereby inheriting the infrastructure but putting it to nobel uses vice starting a third party which I think is doomed to failure given the history of third parties in our country. Even though the Republican party was the third party option in the 1850's but that was the exception not the rule.

      • Asher

        Speaker Boehner said with total conviction: "If you have a government big enought to give you everything you want, they can also take away everything you got!" (This is Obama's road to European Socialism.)

    • UCSPanther

      So what if the Tea party was "supported" by the Koch brothers. As far as I am concerned, they are a counter-balance to George Soros, who has allegedly thrown his money behind the "Occupy" movement.

    • Rosine Ghawji

      Respectfully disagree.. As the co chair of the Memphis tea party, we started with 3 or 4 people . Nobody had money. . we just happened to share some basic ideas…. our focus was on the corrupted elected officials… Tennessee is number one in the country for jailed or arrested elected officials………..We got involved in local elections.. We have a watch team… that is watching our new elected officials are behaving. …..
      As far as supporting a billionaire , the state of Tennessee went for Santorum. Sure … like everywhere else ,some people supported Romney….
      and now do we have a choice… Obama or Romney….. looking at Obama 's records ,,,, we don't have a choice.

    • zap glomer

      Obamacare will survive because one out of seven blacks, one out of ten Hispanics and one out of twelve Italians (thank Fumento) have HIV/AIDS. Do you really want them biting you on the street corner if you refuse to donate?

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

        Obama care won't survive.

        Either it will be overturned or it will collapse the economy. In any event it won't survive.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

    Quite an interesting book but it sounds like Leahy may exaggerate for effect. Jefferson wasn't the complete constitutionalist as President (as Bawer points out) but failing to live up to his aspirations merely makes him human. Jefferson didn't abolish the central bank or pay down the national debt–Andrew Jackson did those things. Jefferson established the anti-Federalist tradition; Jackson pushed it further. No one President today will get the Tea Party agenda established. However, we must maintain our principles and demand progress from each of our next Republican Presidents.

    One other minor flaw. It sounds as if Leahy holds wartime measures against past Presidents. It was always understood that (declared) war makes for exceptions. Washington suspended many rights during the Revolutionary War. While Adams was wrong to do this without a declaration, Lincoln and Wilson had their declaration. Their peacetime policies may be questionable but the exception of war is a tradition that goes back to the Roman Republic–which the founders studied over and over again.

    • wctaqiyya

      Good reply Jason. To your point that wars make for exceptions, I agree. Unfortunately, after WW2, for the first time, many if not most of the war time powers were not rescinded. The federal government kept many of them and here we are. We then slid into undeclared wars, unfinished wars and more and more centralized power. Now, we have Obama publicly declaring that he will bypass Congress, not consult with them on matters of war and peace and telling the Supreme Court what they can and can't do. It's out of control.

      Much as I like this article and the tea party, I'm afraid they are not organized enough or motivated enough to get the job done. I don't see it as a matter of the next few presidents changing things back, I see it as the people forcing the president and Congress to change it back. And I don't see the tea party doing much at all right now. We have another big government republican running for office and he will surely do nothing but affirm the bloated power of Washington. If he wins. If Obama wins, we will still vote, but only for one candidate. Here's to the tea party getting off their collective asses.

      • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

        Excellent points (here and in your other comment) including the comments on defense, war, and the military.

        While I respect the spirit of the Tea Party, they didn't have what it takes to continue the battle. They didn't have a viable leader to rally around in the primary.

        • wctaqiyya

          Thank you brother. Yeah, I never understood why so many of the Tea Party 'non-leader' organizers insisted so strenuously that it was a leaderless grass roots thing. There's nothing inherently wrong with leadership and they sounded eerily like the commie hippies of OWS.

          I don't see any national figure filling the leadership role at the moment, but I also don't see what's stopping the regional groups from each electing a few representatives and holding a convention someplace. Or something along those lines. They can build a national platform from which they can spin regional and even local platforms. We need to push back against the raging mobs of entitlement parasites who are being stoked up by the left. We need the people who pay the bills to say enough is enough. And mean it.

          Just had a random, but related, thought. It appears as though Romney, judging by his recent staff moves and speech noises, intends to run a campaign straight down the left center lane. I think he believes he can pull votes from Obama's base and leave the Tea Party behind. If so, Romney is just the tone deaf, amoral opportunist with no emotional connection to the people, he appears to be.
          And he will lose.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

            While both of you are having fun chatting in the mutual agreement society, none of that matches reality.

  • StephenD

    After all the talk from the Left, can any of you tell me what bothers you concerning the four ideas the TEA Party is united around: " limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and strong national defense. Period." ???

    If you have a problem with this…you have a problem.

    • Spider

      StephenD you missed the fifth and most important Tea-Party doctrine – Vote Obama out in November – because he is the complete antitithis of the first four doctrines…

  • Asher

    Believe me, Freedom and Liberty will never go out of style or be forgotten…We the People are Uniting!

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      No wonder the elite are nervous.

  • clarespark

    I was surprised to see Jefferson elevated and Hamilton put down in this article. Jeffersonian democracy is the darling of the history establishment, which has gone far left. I wrote about it here: http://clarespark.com/2011/10/30/collectivism-in-…. Also, for the Jeffersonian-Jacksonian legacy see this piece on Claude Bowers's instructions, so reminiscence of Saul Alinsky: http://clarespark.com/2011/12/10/before-saul-alin….

  • tagalog

    How do the people who today support government intrustion into our private lives square that desire with the obvious fact that the Constitution was intended to be, and was written as, a limitation of the powers of the central government?

    I mean, I know that the Constitution is largely ignored as a political document and has taken on the stature of some sort of sacred scroll, something like the Ten Commandments or something, that we can just put on display somewhere for the people to look at without actually following its law, but what about that government of limited powers thing?

  • AntiSharia

    It's a common libertarian narrative: Jefferson good, Hamilton bad. Sadly there really isn't much factual history behind it, just political propaganda. Hamilton was hardly the godfather of progressivism. If we want to rightly blame someone for the massive federal government lets blame FDR, and FDR was hardly a disciple of Hamilton. He was a disciple of Croley and the Progressive movement. But back to Jefferson. Jefferson, the patron saint of constitutional government, was actually against the constitution. He worked through his protege, James Monroe, to defeat the constitution in Virginia. Only when ratification was inevitable did he switch to his other protege, James Madison to back the constitution, and use his influence on Madison to bring him over to his side.

    Jefferson was also the father of the idea of nullification. If we, as conservatives, are supposed to love the constitution then we should love the people who loved it. Not the people who try to erase it. Nullification is blatantly unconstitutional as it goes against the supremacy clause. Of course he dropped his support for nullification once he became President. I guess you could say he was for nullification before he was against it.
    Jefferson was hardly the small government guy that the propagandists want us to believe. Upon taking office he greatly expanded the powers of the Presidency, beyond anything Hamilton of the Federalists advocated.

    As conservatives we're supposed to be in favor of free markets, but was Jefferson? Jefferson imposed embargoes, and forbade Americans from trading overseas, both crippled the American economy. These policies were mostly deliberate attempts to weaken the northern economy and the Federalist party that was dominant there.

    As conservatives we're supposed to be in favor of an independent judiciary, Jefferson was not. Upon taking office he abolished many of the federal courts, and attempted to impeach the Supreme Court, impeaching associate justice Samuel Chase, who committed no other crime than disagreeing with the President.

    As conservatives we favor a strong military, Jefferson gutted the military(a tradition that virtually every Democratic President has followed up on) to just 1,000 men in the army and reduced our navy to just three real warships. The debacle of 1812 can be laid squarely at his feet.

    Mr. Leahy needs to get his historical facts straight. Jefferson was hardly the champion of individual liberty and the little man that most make him out to be, Hamilton was hardly the monster with blood dripping off his fangs that he's made out to be. If we lived under the federal government as the Federalists ran it, we'd be ecstatic.

    Jefferson against the constitution, against free markets, against an independent judiciary, against a reasonable military, and against the rule of law(he was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Reign of terror however) . Jefferson is a poor choice for the face of liberty, he was a man of the mob, not liberty. We should look to Washington, not the "sage" of Monticello.

    • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

      It is a common libertarian narrative. Before that it was a common Whig narrative and our nation was founded by [old-style] Whigs. You distort their position and leave out context.

      Jefferson was against the constitution? Yes, but because he worried that the “more perfect union” was too much of a consolidated government that threatened the sovereignty of the states and rights of the individuals. Thanks to the anti-federalists we got a Bill of Rights. That’s the constitution we on the right love.

      Jefferson and Madison were for nullification? Yes, but as good Lockeans they saw the “social contract” as null and void when it violated natural rights (as it did with Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts). Madison would back Jackson when Calhoun wanted South Carolina to succeed from the union. Thus, it wasn’t nullification for “light and transient” causes …

      Jefferson embargoes? True, but he was trying to avoid being dragged into a war with England. Give a little context, please.

      Independent judiciary? Jefferson saw the Marshall Court as advanced a “living constitution”. He (and Jackson) believed they swore an oath to the constitution, not to the court. Obviously a problematic position since there has to be some final authority — but not a dishonorable position.

      A strong military? Let’s remember that the revolutionaries went to war in part because of the “standing army” that they found threatening to our liberties. A little thing called the American Revolution was the “reality” that “mugged” a few of our founding fathers into a more realistic position. By the time of Jackson (who had no trouble fighting the British, Spanish, and Indians) that all changed. Let’s respect the context of history.

      • wctaqiyya

        Nice piece of work Mr. Pappas. Might I suggest a smaller military for America? Maybe 9 carriers instead of 12? And perhaps a robust, well trained and equipped, reserve component with a 30 to 40% reduction in active duty units? I so dislike the idea of invading every damn nation on earth. Except Cuba. I really think it's about time we liberated Cuba. What's the hold up? We wouldn't even have to invade, just tell them it's over.

  • clarespark

    The history establishment continues to confuse readers about the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. See http://clarespark.com/2011/10/30/collectivism-in-….

  • oldtimer

    Divide and conquer. Jesus said in Mat.12:25 …any kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against itself shall not stand." Lincoln also repeated these words.

  • stevefraser

    Individual liberty is meaningless in a tribal society. The DEMS are commited to supporting tribalism with the hope their white elites can control it from "above". See Ken Wilber's "Up From Eden" for an explanation of the evolution from tribalism to the birth of the private self (yes, private property is directly correlated with this advance in human development.).

  • Schlomotion

    Tea Partiers look silly with their ready-made Revolution II flags and their Rove-Approved franchise protesting. It's the same as Anonymous buying their Guy Fawkes masks from Newbury Comics. Rent-a-Revolution! ¢ha ¢he!

    • wctaqiyya

      Somebody here is just havin too much fun. Shame on you Schlomotion. Tisk, Tisk

    • mlcblog

      are you a bit jealous, bubbie?

  • Whos_John_Galt

    What does "Liberty" mean to drunks like, John Boehner?

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      It depends who he's golfing with.

  • popseal

    First they ignore you, next they misrepresent you, then you're slandered, and finally they threaten you…at the last when you don't quit, you win! Don't Tread On Me !

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The govenment is only as good as the people put into it and due to the moral failure of the American
    character in so many dimensions we cater to one scam artist and snake oil salesman after another.
    It is common here to see the term District of Criminals. Until caught all of the Washington darlings
    pose as our deliverers and as I have observed over the decades money has become the God of
    all there and if the constituents back home knew what was going on we would pick our government
    representatives out of the local phone book. The tea party wants to return normal everyday people
    to government that will not sell them out and truly do what is best and honest and it is and uphill
    battle and an ongoing effort that must prevail this November, failure ends a good future for all
    of our posterity…………………………………..William

    • wctaqiyya

      Poetry to my ears. I read it like it was one sentence and I'm still out of breath.

    • mlcblog

      Hear hear!!

  • Albert8184

    No mention of the word “God” anywhere in this article. Therefore, it’s all just an issue of which people have the most guns and money to determine what rights we have.