Because Freedom. Or Something.

Yesterday, Emmis Communication joined Freedom Indiana, the growing coalition opposed to HJR 6, the proposal to constitutionalize Indiana’s ban on same sex marriage and civil unions.

Also yesterday,  a northern Indiana Tea Party group joined the homophobes agitating for passage of that constitutional amendment. Because Tea Party folks are all about limited government.


Listen up, Tea Party people: limited government means limited. Not just low-tax, not just no pesky government interference when your business dumps toxic waste into the local river. Limited. As in “government doesn’t belong in my boardroom or my bedroom.” As in, “government doesn’t get to decide who or how I love, how many children I have, whether I use contraceptives, or even whether I carry a pregnancy to term. Government doesn’t get to dictate my religious beliefs or observances, doesn’t get to tell me what political positions to endorse, doesn’t get to prescribe my reading materials, and doesn’t get to choose the people with whom I associate.”

As George Bush Senior might say, read my lips: you are either genuinely for limited government or you aren’t. If you are truly a limited government advocate, you’re required to be at least moderately consistent. At the very least, you have to refrain from demanding that government impose your religious beliefs on your fellow citizens.

If you just want to “limit” government’s ability to tax you, you aren’t an advocate of limited government. You just don’t want to pay for the services government delivers.

You’re just one of those assholes who doesn’t want to pay his dues.


A Possible Parallel?

It’s always dangerous to draw parallels between past phenomenons and current ones–contrary to the old saying, the past really doesn’t repeat itself.

But still.

I was intrigued by an article examining the rise and demise of the Know Nothing Party in the most recent issue of “Religion and Politics,” a political science journal. The Know Nothing Party (KNP) was launched in 1851, and it was dead by 1862. It was rooted in the Nativist movement, and was profoundly anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and xenophobic.

The authors propose three theories for the sudden rise of the KNP: moral panic (a collective response to social change–a spontaneous “panic” propelled by social stress);  a conflictual cultural cycle (persistent cultural patterns that emerge periodically in response to the sudden visibility of ‘out groups’); and something with which I was previously unfamiliar–Revitalization Theory (religiously motivated movements of discontented persons who want to change the culture.)

The authors concluded that there were elements of all three at work. They noted that–as with all such movements–the KNP looked to a (fantasized) pristine past that they wanted to restore.

Shades of “I want my country back.”

About those parallels….a recent Bloomberg poll found that Tea Party Republicans are “more likely to be male, less financially secure, more pessimistic about the direction of the country and much more antagonistic to President Obama.” The poll notes “anger and alienation” by the GOP rank-and-file, based in part on considerable amounts of misinformation. (Thanks, Faux News…) For example

Two thirds of regular Republicans believe the federal deficit has grown this year, and 93 percent of Tea Party Republicans agree. Both are wrong: the budget deficit is projected to fall this year from 1.1 trillion to 642 billion.

To the extent that we can draw parallels between the KNP and the GOP fringe today, the more pertinent question addressed by the article is: what happened? Why did the KNP have such a short life span?

The article pointed to several factors: internal dissension, newly recruited political figures who were inexperienced and incompetent, rowdyism and sporadic violence by some of the “fringe of the fringe” and ultimately, a recognition that their objectives were simply unachievable.

Food for thought. And hope….


In Which I AGREE with a Tea Partier

Maybe we really are in the “End Times.” I entirely agree with what a Tea Party Senator has just said.

Utah Senator Mike Lee was arm-in-arm with crazy Ted Cruz during the recent shenanigans that shut down the government. But in the wake of that fiasco, he has made a speech that at the very least shows a self-awareness we are not accustomed to seeing from Tea Party folks, and in places sounds positively progressive!

“Especially in the wake of recent controversies, many conservatives are more frustrated with the establishment than ever before,” Lee said. “And we have every reason to be. But however justified, frustration is not a platform. Anger is not an agenda. And outrage, as a habit, is not even conservative.”

Instead of “outrage, resentment, and intolerance,” the party should project a message—and more than a message, a principle—of “optimism,” he said.

“American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude, and cooperation, and trust, and above all hope,” Lee said. “It is also about inclusion. Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics.”

 But the paragraph that most struck me was one in which Lee actually seems to occupy reality, and to see what most Tea Party folks resolutely refuse to acknowledge:

“This opportunity crisis,” he continued, “presents itself in three principal ways: immobility among the poor, trapped in poverty; insecurity in the middle class, where families just can’t seem to get ahead; and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic elites unfairly profit at everyone else’s expense. The Republican Party should tackle these three crises head on.”

Actually, I’d settle for a GOP that wasn’t insistent on making them worse.

That said, if this speech actually represents Mike Lee’s current perspective, it is immensely welcome–if considerably overdue. Maybe we could get him to talk to several members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation.

I’m especially looking at you, Todd Rokita and  Marlin Stutzman.


Just Think How Happy They’d Be if the Weather Were Better….

Or maybe not. I had a Canadian colleague who insisted that cold weather encourages development of social cooperation and interdependence, and that’s why places like Canada develop better social safety nets.

Recently, Denmark–a cold country with high taxes and one of those “socialist, nanny-state” governments– was ranked the happiest nation on earth.

Of course, being prosperous (not to mention healthy and virtuous) didn’t hurt.

The six factors for a happy nation split evenly between concerns on a government- and on a human-scale. The happiest countries have in common a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership. But also essential were three things over which individual citizens have a bit more control: A sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

There’s a fair amount of evidence that strong social safety nets correlate with socially healthier societies–less gun violence, lower divorce rates, less discord, etc. (In all fairness, there’s also evidence suggesting that feelings of mutual obligation/collective responsibility also correlate with high levels of homogeneity. It’s easier to care about the elderly when they all look like grandma…)

The report notes that Danes have “a sense of stewardship” and are massively engaged in political and civil life. During the last election, in 2011,  87.7 voted. Over 40% volunteer in NGOs, social and political organizations, etc.

Denmark may not be everyone’s idea of the ideal society, but life there sure beats the “vision” espoused by Paul Ryan and the Tea Party–a dog eat dog society in which the privileged deny any obligation to the less fortunate, where basic health care is a consumer good available to those who can afford it, and social security is “charity.”

And if we’re talking about happiness, folks in states like Mississippi and Texas–where Tea Party principles are the order of the day and efforts to create a “culture of generosity” would bring catcalls and derision– don’t look all that happy to me.


Ignorant? Or Venal?

Question of the day: are the Tea Party zealots venal? Or are they simply ignorant?

As the nation struggles to emerge from the latest unforced error by the Keystone Kop wannabes we inexplicably elected, I have one small request: let’s retire the loudmouths demanding ever more cuts to programs that don’t personally benefit them.

And yes, Marlin Stutzman, I’m looking at you.

Stutzman wants to cut food stamps that benefit poor children, but not the 200,000+ he gets each year in farm subsidies.

I guess we can categorize Stutzman as “venal”–or at least selfish and hypocritical. But what can we say about Idaho Tea Partier Tedd Collett, who ran for office demanding that government discontinue any and all involvement with medical care–and whose ten children are on Medicaid?

Shades of the idiot who attended a Town Hall a couple of years ago with the now-famous sign demanding that government “keep its hands off my Medicare!”

Okay, I suppose the two categories aren’t mutually exclusive.