The powerless rise

The danger of the unfocused anger of the Tea Party
By AL DIAMON  |  May 19, 2010

I’m an even-tempered guy. I don’t lose my cool more than, maybe, once or twice a day.

Assuming I don’t turn on the television.

Or read a newspaper.

Or log onto a Web site.

As long as I confine myself to drinking beer, playing with the dogs, and making fun of gubernatorial candidates (Q: How many Bruce Poliquin supporters does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Trick question. There aren’t any Bruce Poliquin supporters, which is why he’s stumbling around in the dark), I only blow my top when my insurance company decides I’m not covered for much of anything that might actually happen to me, or when Red Sox pitching melts down.

The point is, when I get angry, it’s because of something specific. The more amorphous the annoyance (the Portland City Council, for instance), the less likely I am to go nuclear.

In this way, I differ significantly from the Tea Party movement. If the actions of these malcontents at the recent Republican state convention are any indication, they prefer their enemies on the vague side. The party platform the Tea Partiers foisted on the GOP refers to the bad guys only as “factions detrimental to the core principles of this nation.”

Who might that be?

According to the document, proponents of “Localism and Diversity.”

-Supporters of United Nations treaties.
-People who register to vote when renewing their drivers licenses.
-Anyone who doesn’t like having religious beliefs imposed on them.
-Economists. Except for Austrian economists.

To save us from these fiends, the Tea Party’s platform calls for sealing the country’s borders. Presumably, Austrian economists would still be permitted to enter, although they might not want to. That school of economics, which advocates almost no government role in trade or commerce, calls for open borders and unfettered movement between countries. It also doesn’t seem to have occurred to the TP (someone please turn off the unfortunate-acronym alarm) that making it tougher to cross the frontier between the US and Canada would cripple the economy of northern Maine.

The Tea Partiers want to return to the constitutional principle of locally controlled education. Setting aside the platform’s stated opposition to “Localism,” it’s worth noting that there’s nothing in the Constitution mandating local oversight of schools. (There’s also the matter of Knox County Republicans, the platform’s drafters, criticizing — and possibly stealing — materials they found in a Portland middle school classroom, where they held their caucus. According to their erroneous interpretation of the Constitution, it seems like that should be none of their business.)

The TP platform calls for term limits on Congress and requiring all laws passed by our senators and representatives to apply to them as well as us. The former has been found by several courts to be unconstitutional. The latter is a violation of the Constitution’s separation-of-powers clause. Based on these planks, it would appear the evil forces the platform claims are “undermin[ing] the education of Constitutional principles vital to the survival of the republic” have already accomplished their task.

The Tea Partiers’ unfocused anger is dangerous. Their scattershot attempts at solutions to problems that don’t exist (threats to their religious freedom), problems that have always existed (illegal aliens), and problems that can’t be solved without sacrificing the political liberty they claim to revere (dissenting views on the appropriate roles of the state and federal governments) lend themselves to scapegoating.

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