Sunday, February 14, 2010

Whose party is it?

Imagine yourself as being keenly involved with a charitable activity that you strongly believe in , say, sponsoring college education for underprivileged high-school students in your town. You put your time and money behind it, talk your friends into supporting it too, and are generally seen as a champion for the cause.

Then, one day, it suddenly comes to light that all the kids your sponsored were actually from rich families who just milked their scholarships to support their crack addictions. Imagine the emotions you would be overwhelmed with - betrayal at the hands of your benefactees, shame at your own judgment, and a general feeling of wtfness at the situation.

All that went through my mind, when I discovered that the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, intended to invite Sarah Palin to be the keynote speaker. It kept getting worse as the national media descended on Nashville, implicitly equating the Tea Party movement for everything that Palin stood for, and culminated with her well-delivered (but obnoxious nonetheless) speech.

So, you might ask, what is so pissy about Sarah Palin at the Tea Party Convention? Isn't conservativeness, Republicanism, the Tea Party movement, and Sarah Palin all the same thing? To answer that, a some background is in order:

The so-called Tea Party movement started in 2009, right after the election of Barrack Obama. The objective of the movement was, essentially, to oppose socialism and the sudden expansion of government power that the Obama administration was expected to usher in. The movement vehemently opposes taxes, which is where it gets its name from (i.e., the protests against taxes leading to the Boston Tea Party). The movement was, and remains, organic in its institutional structure without central organization of any kind.

I always found the timing of this spawning a bit odd; the Bush era was one of immense growth in the federal government's powers and the national debt - where were the protests then? Liberal commentators were quick to point this out, and they also insinuated that the prime mover for the movement was the president's race. All that notwithstanding, I must admit to having being excited by the very fact a small-government movement of this scale existed.

Tracking the evolution of the movement has been a bittersweet experience. By virtue of the movement being headless and rudderless, it seems everyone right of center has jumped on it and claims it their own. The most vocal and moneyed subset of the bandwagon is that of the fiscally and socially conservative neocons, the group that Sarah Palin represents.

This is unfortunate; I don't believe neocons are true small-government conservatives...they are anti-tax, but not against the evils that taxes lead to. For example, in her speech, Palin advocated lesser taxes, smaller government and continuing a stepped-up war effort in Afghanistan. What kind of math makes it possible to tax less and conduct expensive nation-building on the other side of the globe at the same time?!

After the Nashville tamasha, I was seriously considering if this should be the last straw that marked my disengagement from the Tea Party movement. However, after reading a few other opinions here and there from other small-government advocates who were also disillusioned with Nashville, it occurred to me that withdrawing would mean giving it away to "them". So I stay...with the neocons, with the war-mongers, with the racists...I stay.

As the Sacramento Bee said:
"It wasn't Sarah Palin's party."

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