by Gene Wisdom
Which is why I’m confused. I am perplexed over Rod’s recent decision to disavow the Tea Party label. We know he is a “disgruntled Republican” but apparently now also a disgruntled Tea Partier. The difference is that while he still considers himself a Republican he has left the Tea Party.
As a conservative I know that words mean things. It’s what allows us to converse with one another and to exist with our fellow human beings in society. It is a core assumption of Western civilization that is just one more reason for its success. Hopefully that notion will survive the postmodern assault on truth. On justice. And on the American way. And even though the word “conservative” includes many strains of thought and conservatives will argue with blue faces over who is truer, we as conservatives all know what the Tea Party is.
Yes, of course we’re smart enough to ignore the Left’s smears and attacks on that term and on Tea Partiers. We can ignore that because they do that to everyone on the Right, everyone who doesn’t agree with them. Because the Left is dominated by bullies who preach tolerance. Oh, they see an alternative, all right. There’s their way. And there’s the highway.
But we know. Taxed Enough Already. Ben Cunningham’s Nashville Tea Party best summarizes the core principles: (1) Constitutionally limited government, (2) fiscal responsibility, and (3) free markets. Anything else is extraneous. Though most Tea Partiers are social conservatives—and I would guess, vice verse—not all are. And foreign policy is almost irrelevant to the Tea Party vision. If you believe in those three things you are a “member” of the Tea Party. By definition.
In his column Rod bemoans at length the involvement in the Tea Party of members of the John Birch Society. I’ll here offer a brief opening defense of the JBS by way of a disclaimer: I was a member a long time ago, for a year. What attracted me to the organization was the education I received through JBS books and publications on the nature and menace of Communism, both nationally and around the world. As I read more, though, I began to learn of “the conspiracy”, the diffuse cabal going back, as Rod explained, to the formation of the Illuminati in 1776 down through the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States. I obtained from the CFR copies of some of their annual reports which included their membership list (not a very effective conspiracy, huh—they tell us who they are. But there wasn’t a picture of the secret handshake). A quick perusal of that list turned up some stalwart conservatives, including several who were in the Reagan Administration: Richard Allen, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Elliot Abrams and many others. It also included the godfather of the modern American conservative movement, William F. Buckley, Jr.
Thus ended my affiliation with the John Birch Society. I also began to learn, as I studied liberalism, that among its core elements is internationalism. They see things not through a prism of what is good for America or for the principles represented by America but they seek rather to advance international institutions, which is also rooted in their view of the “brotherhood of man” and a Rousseauian view of man’s nature as good. So I began to understand that what the JBS saw as a plot was often little more than liberals being liberals. That still makes them and their worldview dangerous but not the machinations of a secret society.
What Birchers have brought into the Tea Party is this misguided paradigm which skews the focus into chasing phantoms like, as Rod noted, Agenda 21. These issues distract the Tea Party from its identity of restoring fiscal sanity and limited government to the halls of power. While I suppose I remain a member of 9-12 despite my dampened enthusiastic two cheers, I disagree with them on such issues and perhaps with them, and others, on the nullificationist approach also detailed by Rod. There is a wide range of strong support for the Second Amendment short of arresting federal agents at the state line and stripping employers/property owners of the right to refuse to allow guns in the workplace and on their property.
One area where I tend to agree with them and greatly credit them for their efforts to educate the public is on the issue of radical Islam. While I believe that reasonable people can disagree on the issue of Governor Haslam’s hiring of a Muslim woman to his administration there can be no doubt of the dangers of a Muslim Brotherhood organized effort to ingratiate jihadism into American society. Including the building of a Wahhabist mosque in Murfreesboro. Though I respect Rod’s holding fast to First Amendment religious liberty, I disagree with my friend that this is a benign development in our community.
But again, I believe that Rod has allowed himself to be distracted by these agenda items of some local Tea Party organizations. Though I disagree with them on Agenda 21 and nullification and for the most part agree with them regarding radical Islam, neither is a part of what the Tea Party in general stands for.
And yes, the Tea Party has made some poor choices in politicians. On that I would just offer that (1) hey, nobody’s perfect. Some choices don’t pan out; and (2) hopefully the Tea Party will learn from these mistakes and perhaps do something that principle-based organizations and causes have a hard time doing, which is to learn to temper their enthusiasm with prudence. Don’t give up the principles but be wise. Sounds like something Rod Williams might say.
It is also true that such efforts, however misguided they might seem, especially in hindsight, are based in what I’m sure Rod knows is frustration that we all feel as conservatives. The liberal agenda has crammed some foul-tasting policies down America’s throat that have made our country sick and weak. We have truly become a nation of takers growing increasingly dependent on a welfare state that becomes bigger and gains political support—votes—from more people on the dole. Our culture is being pushed downward by a Hollywood hostile to traditional values and pulled by a culture already sunk into that pit. Personally, I wonder if America has reached a tipping point.
It is my hope, though, that Rod will decide not to leave the Tea party but will come to see that many there, including some fine organizations with some fine people, have allowed themselves to become disoriented. And maybe that’s not fair. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that some Tea Party organizations have other or additional objectives. Others, though, aren’t driven by JBS views, such as Americans for Prosperity. And some, like the Nashville Tea Party, are driven by the animating ideals of the Tea Party as originally conceived. Take your pick, Rod. Don’t let the disparate and even disagreeable agendas of a few groups push you out of what you know is your ideological home—commitment to sound government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise. Proudly don your “Don’t Tread on Me” shirt and come back. You know it fits.
Gene Wisdom is an Alabama native but has lived in the Nashville area since 2007. He, his wife Vicki, and their dog Savannah live near Nolensville. Gene is a conservative activist