November 03, 2010
If I may strain a strained analogy, how many "legs" are under the Tea Party "stool"?
As I've said before, if conservatism is a "three-legged stool" (as Robert Knight claimed not long ago), then I don't have a reliable conservative stool to sit on, because I don't like the traditional values "leg."
But what I'm trying to figure out is where it says I have to have this alleged stool. Assume conservatism is a stool and I don't like that leg. Where do I go with that? Not sit on the stool? I don't really call myself a conservative, but if liberals want to call me that I'll accept it as an insult, and attempt to defend myself even though it isn't my label.
Yet still, I want to know more about the leg I don't like. What are its elements?
As I have explained in innumerable posts, I don't believe in those things. And not only I have never claimed to be a conservative, I have said a number of times that if those things constitute conservatism, then I am not.
What are the consequences of that? Is it like, there's a rule that says "No stool for you, you bad bad libertarian?"
As I say, it's not a huge deal for me if I am not allowed to call myself a conservative.
But I think I can fairly call myself a libertarian (if a small-l one), as the various political tests show that's the best label for me. And in addition to being a libertarian, I am also a supporter of the Tea Party movement.
The other day, I saw a post Glenn linked which was titled "The Tea Party Needs to Stick Together." That's a sentiment I agree with wholeheartedly, and I even said so recently in a post about attempts to ban certain dog breeds:
There are plenty of nuts on the right who libertarians think are nuts, and plenty of libertarians who think those who think libertarians are nuts are nuts. And there are plenty more people on the left who think that not only are the former and the latter both nuts, but they are nuts who should be demonized.So, not only do I have absolutely no problem with an alliance between libertarians and social conservatives, I think that what makes the Tea Party movement so powerful and dangerous to the rulers is that it has been able to bring together a broad coalition of people who might disagree with each other (and in some cases even hate each other), but who find common ground on three basic issues:
Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.
But I have been to plenty of Tea Party meetings and events, and found plenty of libertarians like myself, plenty of social conservatives with whom I know I would disagree if I wanted to waste time debating social issues, as well as an impressive number of Ron Paul anti-war type libertarians with whom I would also probably disagree on defense issues if I wanted to waste time on them.
It never occurred to me to worry about the three-legged conservative "stool" in the context of the Tea Party, because the Tea Party is not a stool, but a coalition.
If I had to depict it, it might take the form of Venn diagram of at least four rings, overlapping to various degrees, the overlapping area being of course the above Tea Party principles.
So, while I agree with Wendy Wright's assertion that "The Tea Party Needs to Stick Together," I think the best way to do that is to stress the common areas of overlapping agreement, rather than insist upon making a strained analogy between this broad and decentralized movement and the conservative stool (itself a strained analogy):
Tea Partiers are not much different from the foot soldiers of the Reagan Revolution, who were not driven by political party as much as by concern that our own government was causing our country to deteriorate by weakening our military, economy, families and standing in the world.A coalition is by definition agreement upon a common goal, which in the case of Ronald Reagan was the election of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan did not demand that the component members of his coalition agree with each other, nor did their mutual presence in a coalition supporting him mean that the issues were necessarily interrelated.
Any more than it means that an anti-gay Tea Partier has to agree with a pro-gay Tea Partier, that a Ron Paul anti-war Tea Partier has to agree with a conservative Tea Partier he would call a "Neocon," that an anti-drug war Tea Partier has to agree with a pro-drug war Tea Partier, or a pro-abortion Tea Partier has to agree with an anti-abortion Tea Partier. The point of the coalition is mutual agreement on Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. Those who want to do things like picket Planned Parenthood and adult bookstores, or protest the military-industrial complex, Neocon war machine, cannot reasonably expect to see their protests become Tea Party events, and to the extent they do, they diminish the effectiveness of the coalition.
In the case of the Tea Party, then, it strikes me as simple logic that if divergent views in a coalition have to be seen as analogous to legs on a stool, then the Tea Party stool has a number of legs -- legs which might be incompatible, even contradictory, but which agree on the common goal of supporting the stool.
So, while I am not sure the stool analogy is a good one, if there is a Tea Party stool, it has a lot of legs, and the more the better. But it would be foolish to claim that these legs are philosophically interconnected beyond their common goal. If I work with someone who favors the drug war because we agree on the Tea Party principles, does that mean that my opposition to the drug war has to somehow be philosophically interconnected with his favoring of it? Why? As long as he doesn't have to agree with me, and I don't have to agree with him, I don't see a major problem.
There is one thing that I think is an emerging problem for the Tea Party movement, though. In the recent election, some of the Tea Party candidates had views which -- rightly or wrongly -- were widely perceived as going beyond Tea Party principles, and those candidates lost.
I think if they had done a better job of sticking to Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets, they might have won.
(I'd say that some legs seem to think they're more important than the stool, except I much prefer the Venn diagram to the stool analogy. And if we must speak in terms of stools, how do we know there is only one? Might it be worth asking how many stools are sitting on the Tea Party's legs?)
UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.
BTW, I like the email Glenn quoted that said "Our stool only has one big stake driven deep into the bedrock -- Quit spending all the money!" That analogy forces me to ask another question: "how many 'legs' does a flagpole need?"
Comments appreciated, agree or disagree. (Likewise, conspiracy theories are cordially entertained....)
If only we libertarians could campaign the way we complain, the world would be a better place!
posted by Eric on 11.03.10 at 02:23 PM
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