Republicans Violate Their Tradition by Embracing Tea Party
I like to think I am a reasonably rational individual — politically unaffiliated, fiscally conservative (there are no free lunches), socially liberal (we have an obligation to “promote the general welfare”). In each of these respects, I find much to question in the disingenuousness of both the Democratic and Republican parties as they practice their professed ideologies.
With respect to the Republicans, the spread between ideology and practice has never been clearer than in their broad embrace of the “Tea Party” movement. In their search for votes, they have associated themselves with organizations whose aims and threatened actions are the antithesis of an ordered society committed to the rule of law. They have sat silent amid organizations that would, under a cry of “saving the Constitution,” destroy it.
The Tea Party movement is composed of a disparate group of organizations sharing one common bond — an often aimless rage at the federal government for alleged violations of the Constitution. While the Congress is condemned en masse, most of the charges are aimed at a conjured up vast conspiracy whose center resides in the Obama White House.
The moderate wings of the movement share an understandable, if often overblown, concern with wasteful federal spending, undeserved bailouts, endless deficits and a growing federal encroachment in areas they deem best left in state, local or individual hands.
But from the right-fringe groups of the movement come alarms that their guns are in imminent danger of confiscation, internment camps are being built for dissidents, rampant immigration is being planned, engagement in foreign intrigues is undermining the nation’s sovereignty and, in various other respects, their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — the very foundation stone of our Declaration of Independence — is under attack.
Just as the right of rebellion was justified by that document, so do they assert the right today. Consequently, militia camps are being formed to train the cadres for action against the federal government’s unconstitutional encroachments “when the call comes.”
Even from the more moderate elements of the Tea Party comes the cry of “unconstitutional.” It is a cry based on allegations of tyranny, socialism, Muslimism, birthism and a host of similar pejoratives whose only aim is to discredit and illegitimatize the Obama presidency — and whose foundations are either fictional or rest on nothing more than philosophical disputes over policies and programs.
The fringe group’s threats are condemnable, the moderate’s claims of unconstitutional conduct laughable. To countenance for political gains either the threats or the claims is unbecoming of a major political party. In the case of the threats, it is more than just unbecoming from a party that frequently lays claim to a unique quality of patriotism — a patriotism that should rest solidly on the sanctity of the Constitution and a determination to denounce those who would take up arms in contravention of it.
The Tea Partiers’ claims of Obama’s march to socialism confuses Marxism with social cohesion. I cannot believe that many of us seriously believe the government has assumed part ownership of GM and Chrysler as the first step in a conspiracy to seize ultimately all of this nation’s means of production.
There are arguable grounds for opposing social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and, now more broadly, universal health-care coverage, but “socialism” is not one of them. The preference for an alternative program based upon private, or more limited, public charity is a position properly available to all citizens, but that position should be openly espoused rather than shrouded by inflammatory verbiage.
We have in this country an economy based on free-market principles. We also have a long-standing tradition of governmental intervention whenever necessary to address imperfections in market operations (bank bailouts being the extreme example).
There is always a balance to be struck in any decision to intervene such as that now being considered for the health-care market. But no responsible political figure is disputing the need for some kind of intervention. So if intervention per se is the test for “socialism,” they are all Marxists.
It is time to clear the air, face the issues and replace rhetoric with intelligence. There are clearly unsustainable problems embedded in this nation’s health-care system, and it is time to start addressing them.
J. Thomas Tidd is a retired attorney living in Pinehurst.
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