The Tea Party movement in the United States is probably the most significant new North American conservative movement in decades, and although I question its long-term significance, it does seem to be off to a fast start.
In about a year of existence, the movement already has two notches on its belt to mark its relevance on the national stage: the highly successful September 12 demonstration in Washington and Scott Brown’s upset Senate win in Massachusetts. These, many believe, will be followed soon by another major coup: the defeating of President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan.
I, however, remain a skeptic. Sure, as a political movement, Tea Partiers have found a seam of discontent in American society and are mining it effectively. They seem to be for smaller government and by extension lower taxes, stronger state’s rights, individual liberty, national security and better management of state affairs, especially management of tax dollars. But what conservative is not? That’s the motherhood and apple pie of conservatism.
What I want to hear is how those fundamentals will translate into government policies. Scorning bipartisanship as “Koombaya politics” isn’t good enough for me. Protectionism also does not resonate—I’m a supporter of free trade. And, although I’m appalled by the more egregious elements of current immigration policies and practices, I’d like to hear less xenophobia in their denouncements and more practical solutions that demonstrate an understanding of how important immigration is and always has been to America.
I may not believe Barack Obama has all the answers, but neither do not I see him as the devil incarnate. In fact, I don’t even see him as a socialist. There is a world of distance between his moderately left-of-centre tendencies and those practiced in truly socialist countries such as we’ve seen in Europe or in the pre-Thatcher United Kingdom.
We’ll have to wait until a leader emerges who can more clearly and definitively articulate what America will look like if Tea Partiers get their way. Meanwhile, their increasing political influence will act to counterbalance the unhealthy tilt to the left.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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