The Tea Party may have "wings," but no one can clip them!

While I don't like divisiveness or schismatic memes, as a Tea Party supporter I at least try to keep abreast of emerging patterns, and any case I am hopelessly unable to ignore new political terminology when I see it.

So I leaped into "post mode" when I read that the Michigan Tea Party movement has two "wings" -- the so-called "Santellian" wing and the co-called "Beckian" wing.

The Tea Party nationally and in Michigan is not a unified movement. Some have called it a split between the Santellian and the Beckian (as in Rick Santelli and Glenn Beck) wings of the movement. It has both Santellian- Libertarian small-government, low tax believers and cultural conservative "Beckian" anti-abortion, anti-stem cell, and anti-gay rights roots. The two wings share opposition to taxes and to the Obama administration. As is the case nationally, the Tea Party movement in Michigan does not have centralized, coordinated state-wide leadership which means that it's positions differ somewhat around the state. Although the Tea Party is quite active in the GOP primaries, it's not clear what role the movement will take in the general election in November although its supporters are likely to support GOP nominees in nearly all cases.
I think it is accurate to say that the Tea Party events do attract both libertarians and social conservatives, but what prevents this from being a "schism" in the true sense is that there's no organizational hierarchy to impose top-down positions on these issues. As I've said repeatedly, there are only three principles I have been able to identify which all true Tea Party supporters embrace unanimously:

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

If libertarians and social conservatives can agree on those principles, it really does not matter how they come down on social issues, and the extent to which they disagree.

So while in the interests of disclosure I would have to admit to being a member of the "Santellian wing," I don't think it matters. The last thing I would ever advocate would be the clipping of the "Beckian" wing, and quite frankly, I think most of the "Beckians" would feel the same way about "Santellians" like me.

I am not showing up at those rallies to argue one way or another about social issues (and if anyone at a Tea Party really wanted to know what I think about social issues, I'd gently refer them to this blog rather than get into an argument).

I see the social issues not so much as divisive, but as diversionary. The divisions between libertarian and socially conservative Tea Partyers don't matter unless they cause people to divert their time from the agreed-upon principles of the Tea Party movement.

Fortunately, most of the Tea Party regulars I have seen personally know better:

What are the social issues? Abortion? Gay rights? Animal rights? People who are freaked out about the imminent collapse of the US economy have many different opinions about these issues, as I saw the last time I attended a Tea Party meeting. Two people were insisting that the local Tea Party get active in the fight against abortion, and this generated much grumbling and muttering. Finally it was pointed out that while many Tea Partiers are strongly in the pro-life camp, not all are, and that there are existing groups and organizations which are devoted to them full time. I do not doubt that there were a number of different opinions on gay rights and gay marriage in that room too.

So, it's not so much that Tea Partiers want to avoid talking about these issues or prohibit anyone from talking about them -- for anyone can talk about anything. It's just that they're savvy enough to know that if they attempt to stake out formal positions on issues which have never been Tea Party issues, they can expect raucous debates, and then no matter which side "wins," the people on the other side will no longer show up. According to the most basic math, that would mean fewer people supporting the Tea Party.

Which is probably why the left (and some on the right) promote these divisions.

If you can't control something, try to divide it.

Geez. I just realized that I referred to Tea Party supporters as both "Tea Partyers" and "Tea Partiers" in the same post. That may reflect a division in my brain!

Sigh.

Sometimes I wish I were too partyed partied out to care.

MORE: If I wanted to care even less I would probably need Vodka gummy bears.

(HT Glenn Reynolds, who didn't say whether he had actually tried out the recipe, much less whether they go with tea.)

posted by Eric on 07.30.10 at 10:31 AM










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