When Ron Paul won the straw poll at CPAC last week, a flood of memories from my early days of political involvement came rushing in. Back then, I was a teenage activist in the Nebraska Young Republicans for Goldwater, having grown up in staunchly conservative Omaha, with politically active parents (supposedly, my father had me, at the age of 6, waving a Taft for President placard in the lead-up to the 1952 nomination of Dwight Eisenhower), so I had followed politics and public affairs from a young age.
The echoes of those times almost half a century ago are haunting in their similarity to many elements of the current scene. It seemed that many of my intellectual wannabe friends were waving copies of Atlas Shrugged like some bloated Little Red Book, and there were John Birch Society sorts rambling on about getting out of the U.N., restoring the gold standard, nefarious conspiracies embedded in the Federal government, etc. And the biggest fight of all in the Republican Party was between the Rockefeller wing (aka Country Club Republicans) and the Western state Goldwater Conservative wing. Then there was this former Democrat/Actor’s Union representative talking about how he hadn’t left the Democrat Party, it had left him and about a “Time for Choosing.” Finally, there was a protégé of FDR’s who pushed through the largest expansion of the Federal government since the New Deal. All of this brought to a head a populist backlash which risen-from-the-dead Richard Nixon coalesced into the Silent Majority and the Presidency.
This brings me to the title of this column and a hope for the Tea Party Movement to have a better outcome than did the Silent Majority (although the first Carter term did open the door for a pretty good run in the 80s). The raw power and enthusiasm of the Tea Party Movement inevitably has attracted a variety of political opportunists, each hoping to garner the support of the Movement participants for their cause, not the least of which is the Libertarian Party. As I opined in a column entitled Libertarianism’s Libertine Underbelly, the self-absorbed emphasis by the Libertarians on absolute individual liberty is not in the Conservative mainstream of American culture. I want to rely upon my firm belief in the common sense of the American people and hope that the Tea Party Movement will resist the lure of the Libertarians.
Finally, I would like to express a hope that the Tea Party Movement can be an opportunity for a return to basics for the Republican Party (hat tip to Michael Zak). Instead of the Republican Party making a pitch for the Tea Party Movement to come to it, I would like to see the Republican Party come to the Tea Party Movement, shedding its current big government baggage and embracing the Constitution-loving ordered liberty of the conservative instincts of the American people.