Is Tea Party-ism ‘conservative’?

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives includes, left to right: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Iowa Rep. Steve King.

Words are tricky things. And words that label complicated political movements do not stand still.

Take, for example, the word “liberal.” As used in the United States, “liberal” means something completely different and almost the opposite of what it means in most  continental European political systems, where it generally refers to people and parties that favor less government (and thus have more in common with what we Americans call “libertarianism” — like the Ron Paul stuff).

“Conservative” has not gone through such a diametric change, but the style of “conservatism” practiced by the contemporary Tea Party movement represents a significant break with at least one important element of the traditional meaning of the term, specifically how it relates to the concept of change.

For most of my life, I would say that liberals were on the forefront of pushing various changes that were also often identified as “progressive.” (And, after Republican propagandists did a pretty good job of ridiculing the term “liberal,” many liberals actually dropped the word and started asking everyone to call them “progressives.” This transition may still be under way.)

But conservatives, when I was learning the meaning of terms on the political spectrum, were leery of change — or at least reluctant to embrace too much change, too far and too fast, perhaps for fear of unintended consequences.

The Tea Party movement seems to have taken that impulse to the next level, where a passionate aversion to the latest liberal ideas for making things better (and yes, for the moment we’re talking about the aversion of Obamacare) leads them to not only want to resist those changes when they are proposed but to repeal them after they have been duly enacted, and finally to be willing to adopt fairly radical and risky tactics (and yes, here we’re talking about shutting down the government and/or refusing to raise the debt ceiling) that risk a great many unintended consequences that some people worry will have horrid consequences for our system of government, for our economy and even for the political future of the Republican Party to which most Tea Partiers belong.

How radical can you be?

I thought of all this when reading the latest column by Thomas Edsall, the deep-thinker who currently writes a weekly online column for The New York Times. In his latest,  Edsall takes on the question of how radical you can be and still be considered “conservative.”

Commenting on the latest events, Edsall says:

Whatever you think of this strategy, the tactics are radical. How can Republicans, courting a full-fledged fiscal crisis, claim to be conservative?

Peter Wehner, who held key posts in the last three Republican presidential administrations, declares that they cannot:

“This is not conservatism either in terms of disposition or governing philosophy. It is, rather, the product of intemperate minds and fairly radical (and thoroughly unconservative) tendencies.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page, normally a principled advocate of belligerent conservatism, argues that House Republicans are on a path to defeat:

“Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots… We’ve often supported backbenchers who want to push G.O.P. leaders in a better policy direction, most recently on the farm bill. But it’s something else entirely to sabotage any plan with a chance of succeeding and pretend to have ‘leverage’ that exists only in the world of townhall applause lines and fundraising letters.”

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Edsall also has a dangerous tendency to read academic experts, and he found some who have been thinking about reactionary nature of some Tea Partyist ideas:

Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto, who teach political science at the University of Washington, recently published “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America.” They contend that there are two major strands of conservatism in America: what they call “non Tea Party,” “traditional” or “real” conservatism; and what they describe as “Tea Party,” “reactionary” or “pseudo-conservatism.”

In response to my inquiry, Parker wrote in an e-mail:

“Ultimately, a conservative — in the classical sense — wishes to preserve a stable society. Of course, this includes stable institutions and observing the rule of law. For these reasons (and several more), a conservative prefers evolutionary, more incremental change to revolutionary change: revolutionary change threatens the stability conservatives seek to conserve. Hence, conservatives reluctantly accept change — so long as it isn’t revolutionary. They do so for the sake of stability and order. Moreover, for the sake of order and stability, real conservatives are amenable to political compromise with their opponents.”

Conversely, according to Parker, reactionary conservatives are backwards looking, generally fearful of losing their way of life in a wave of social change. To preserve their group’s social status, they’re willing to undermine long-established norms and institutions — including the law. They see political differences as a war of good versus evil in which their opponents are their enemies. For them, compromise is commensurate with defeat — not political expediency. They believe social change is subversive to the America with which they’ve become familiar, i.e., white, mainly male, Protestant, native born, straight. “Real Americans,” in other words.

Differences identified

If you read the full Edsall piece, or the Parker and Barreto book, you’ll find that the two scholars used surveys to identify differences in the underlying beliefs of mainstream conservatives versus Tea Party adherents.

For example, one survey question (which is in the Edsall piece along with several others) asked if the respondents hope that, in general, President Obama’s policies will fail. (Not expect them to fail because the respondents disagree with the policy, but hope they will fail).

Among mainstream conservatives, 36 percent said they hoped Obama’s policies would fail. I find that kinda sad. But among those who identify with the Tea Party, 78 percent said they hoped Obama’s policies would fail.

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Comments (53)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2013 - 10:06 am.

    The Republicans left the conservative reservation long ago

    This is legislative terrorism, it is by definition extremist and therefore places itself in the “reactionary” column of political activism rather than the “conservative” column. Reactionary is where the Tea Party and Libertarians live, and have always lived in the United States.

    True conservatives would respect the constitutional process that requires laws passed by votes and signed by presidents rather than legislative terrorism. These reactionaries can’t get the votes to pass their law and this is an attempt to circumvent that fact with blackmail and extreme political tactics. It’s the equivalent of a legislative terror attack. These are fundamentalist who are incapable of thinking outside of their own circular ideology, hence, a refusal to vote for their law is a refusal to negotiate. Failure to pass their law isn’t simply a political defeat, it’s an existential crises to be met with intransigent extremism.

    The problem is that Americans have elected fundamentalist who are immune to public pressure, they are in congress to promote their “truths” and ideology, not to represent constituents. And of course a government shut down is the logical conclusion for representative who don’t believe in running governments. The only question that matters now is how impervious are these fundamentalists, and whether or not there are enough of them to stall the the government indefinitely?

    • Submitted by Richard Steuland on 10/04/2013 - 12:46 am.

      Bachmann is a perfect example

      Bachman was elected to be a voice of the people. All strata of society live in her district. Yet ,she dismisses those who aren’t of her ideology. She pushes her narrow views as if it’s the only way. She took an oath to uphold the Constitution but clearly fails to follow the rule of the law that all are created equal. Her beliefs are similar to to extreme fascists of the old south in that only people that agree with her are to be represented. The district that she represents should be shamed as they betray democratic ideals yet reap the benefit of democracy.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/03/2013 - 10:36 am.

    TPism Isn’t a “Philosophy,” It’s A Constellation of Dysfunctions

    What unites TP’ers, who can be found in all areas of the country, but who tend to be clumped in certain areas, is that the ways they were treated by the people who raised them have wounded them in a specific collection of ways,…

    causing their own psyches to lock up in internal exile a collection of the natural aspects in their original personalities,…

    after which they no longer have access to the abilities which reside in those personality aspects.

    Chief among their missing abilities is the ability to experience or express compassion (although there are, many other individual deficits, as well).

    There are three main side effects to these deficits: 1) whenever life bumps you into situations similar to the one which resulted in an aspect of your personality being beaten out of you (literally or figuratively) you cannot respond in a normal way, but feel massive discomfort, perhaps even flashing to rage. This means that when someone tries to point out to you that there are people in legitimate need through no fault or misdeeds of their own, you can’t respond with normal human compassion and empathy but can only respond with anger at those who are bringing those needy people to your attention and anger at those needy people for existing (often including the desire to punish them – i.e. cuts to SNAP, Social Security, Medicare, and resistance to providing health care).

    2) The aspects of your personality which are locked away within you, since you cannot express them in a normal way, tend to come out in “shadow” form, convincing you that what you must do in response to the “problems” you see in the world, the ONLY “solutions” to those problems you find acceptable, are those which, will, when put into practice, create even more of the “problem” you believe yourself to be trying to create less of. You will often see things as “problems” which are not problems at all while completely ignoring much more serious problems that threaten to do you (and the rest of us) tremendous damage.

    3) When faced with ideas which do not fit into the shadowed worldview your dysfunctions cause you to hold, your discomfort is so severe that you are completely unable to allow them to enter your awareness, and thus are you unable to consider them, nor find acceptable any compromise which includes anything which is not in complete agreement with that shadowed worldview.

    For these reasons, those suffering from the TP’er dysfunctions are continuously (and unconsciously) bent on destruction of the world and the society around them, completely blind to the problems we actually face, and completely irrational when it comes to finding fact and evidence-based solutions to those problems. They cannot be reasoned with or educated into greater functionality. For the safety of the rest of society they can only be removed from any and all positions of power and responsibility they hold for their dysfunctions render them unable ever to have a positive impact on anything.

    They can be healed of their wounds, of course, but that would require that they have some interest in becoming healthier, and the ability to trust those seeking to help them, both of which their dysfunctions render very unlikely.

    There is a mirror image set of dysfunctions among those on the very far end of the “liberal” perspective, specifically those expressing the idea that love and acting lovingly were the only needed and acceptable solutions to every problem, and that demonstrations of strength or force were NEVER acceptable, but those suffering from those dysfunctions, who gained some traction in the 60s and 70s have been relegated to irrelevance (except, of course for President Obama who seems to have expressed those exact dysfunctions in his first term, but has since recovered a healthier, more balanced perspective).

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2013 - 10:56 am.


    This whole thing confirms my thesis that these Republicans, Teas Party, Libertarian etc. don’t actually believe in democracy on a fundamental level. If they did they would the respect the democratic process, not try to distort it towards their own ends. Instead of respecting electoral outcomes they consider all votes and elections that they lose to be illegitimate elections and votes. This trend emerged in the 90s under Gingrich.

    Gingrich was on Leno last night in full display. You could clearly see the circular reasoning. On one hand he’s all about everyone having their own opinions blah blah. But then when asked why they shut the government down he claims a majority of Republicans are against it. Well, THAT’s not how our democracy works. You don’t repeal laws because one party or another doesn’t like a law, you repeal laws with votes and presidential signatures. The question isn’t whether or not Republicans “like” Obamacare, the question if whether or not they have the votes to change… they don’t. Living in a democracy means we sometimes have to live with laws we don’t like, that fact doesn’t obliterate our liberties. These guys are extremist who believe believe any law they don’t like is an instrument of government oppression. This is how they convert differences of opinion and political defeat into existential crises.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/03/2013 - 11:01 am.

    Liberal vs. progressive

    My understanding of the meaning of “liberal” in the U.S, at least in the last twenty years, was that it more or less defines the Democratic party, which is to say, no fear of government but also very pro-corporate. “Progressive” has an air of populism in it, which is why back in the good old days we could have progressive Republicans.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2013 - 12:05 pm.

      20 years….

      You have to go back a lot further than 20 years in order to understand the differences between liberals, conservatives, and progressives. The last time we had a progressive Republican was Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) although Eisenhower had his moments. Democrats started diverging from the liberal agenda with their adoption of Friedman’s free market principles which eventually formed the backbone of the Neo-Liberal economic principles that the New Democrats like the Clinton’s championed in the 90s. It was during this period, the late 80s and early 90s, that liberal liberals like Paul Wellstone started using the term “progressive” to distinguish themselves from the conservatism i.e. Republican-Lite tendencies of the New Democrats like Clinton.

      It’s also important to not confuse populist with progressive. Reagan can be accused of populism, but in no way was he progressive.

      In point of fact our main political parties in this country represent an artificially narrow political landscape that excludes both liberal and conservative viewpoints but it technically located to the right of the ideological median. Although one can say that the extreme right has gained a disproportionate level of political power for the moment.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/03/2013 - 11:43 am.

    “Sad” is too mild a word

    Yes, 36 percent is sad. 78 percent represents something else, and Paul comes as close as any commentator to nailing it: That 78 percent represents a fundamental distrust or disbelief in the democratic process that Tea Partiers pretend to revere.

    The last italicized paragraph in Eric’s piece, quoting Parker, is as good a brief description as any I’ve come across, and even if you leave out the descriptors in the final sentence (“white, mainly male, Protestant, native-born, straight”) the paragraph is still an accurate description of how most of the right wing approaches political issues in recent years. There’s nothing “conservative” about rolling back not only contemporary issues like gay marriage, but working simultaneously to do away with programs and laws that have been on the books, and operating successfully, for half a century and more. Progressive income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, the right to form unions, and a host of other items in the right-wing crosshairs are settled law and policy.

    What just as sad as those percentages responding to survey questions, is that so many people who profess to value democracy don’t seem to understand the difference between ruling and governing, much less the difference between being conservative and being reactionary.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2013 - 02:59 pm.


      These are scared little people who are afraid that they will lose their ‘God-given’ privileges to people who are not only different from them, but more capable than they are.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/03/2013 - 12:04 pm.

    Any source that supports or intensifies their existing beliefs is accepted as the truth, regardless of how dubious it is. The natural direction of that is less connection to the subtleties of how the way the world actually works because every new conspiracy theory adds thrilling new gossip to one’s repertoire. The further one moves into that world, the less attractive it is to back-out and abandon the shiny illusions of the Tea Party world.

  7. Submitted by Cindy Oberg-Hauser on 10/03/2013 - 12:06 pm.


    But wasn’t what we now know as the “Tea Party” pockets of politically disenchanted people who were spurred on by a very intentional effort to create mostly mindless hysteria? Sure brought out very ugly racist sentiment. It seems like the Koch Brothers, et. al. bankrolled the construction of the Tea Party and can now sit back and watch our democratic systems implode with nothing substantive to take their place. Perfect scenario if you’re a plutocrat wannabe.

  8. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 10/03/2013 - 12:11 pm.

    Tea Party and Rand

    The problem with the Tea Party is not that they would prefer a smaller government, and more power to the individual – both good things in my book, but that they have aligned with Ayn Rand, and her fluffy Objectivism.

    This co-mingling of a political ideology and the pseudo philosophy espoused by Rand is dangerous. Altruism is not a dirty word, and the idea that if you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps means a life of destitution and poverty is wrong. But, that is the sentiment of the Tea Party.

    Absent the influence of Rand, the Tea Party might be a different animal, but as it is, selfishness will rule supreme among those who identify as members, and society is worse off because of it.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 10/03/2013 - 01:42 pm.

      Not so sure

      That they took the time to read those big books

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2013 - 03:02 pm.

        The classic comics version

        can sum up all of the philosophical and theological content in five illustrated pages.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2013 - 12:00 pm.

      Government Size

      I don’t agree with the premise that small government is good and big government is bad. You’re trying to force society into a “one size fits all” solution. What’s better: a small rock or a big rock? If you’re building a road, small rocks are good. But if you’re building a damn, then you want large boulders. It’s the same with government and its programs. Sometimes the proper solution is a small light local government. At other times though, you have big problems that need big solutions, such as natural disasters, Social Security, and health care.

      And I have a feeling many people would agree, although they may differ on exactly which problems fit into which category. Case in point: try to build a highway system using just “individual power,” as Kurt Nelson put it. My guess is he would agree that an individual operating under his own initiative would be hard pressed to put in anything more involved than a small section of sidewalk, let alone thousands of miles of four lane concrete freeways.

      The objective here isn’t to force all of society to accept one solution for all situations, but rather to take a more sensible and pragmatic approach. The best solution may be big or small, capitalist or socialist. Most often though it’s going to be a combination of all of the above.

      Don’t let yourself get railroaded into ideology.

  9. Submitted by jason myron on 10/03/2013 - 12:17 pm.

    The above photo says it all…

    I don’t know that I’ve ever viewed a single photograph that better illustrates why the GOP is hurtling towards irrelevance.

  10. Submitted by chuck holtman on 10/03/2013 - 12:18 pm.

    Of course the Tea Party is not “conservative.”

    Nor would I call it “reactionary.” Just the opposite. Though I don’t at first blush follow the entirety of Mr. Kapphahn’s hypothesis above, I do agree that the Tea Party is a political expression of an unhealthy psychological condition – a personality that has not learned to manage the existential uncertainty at the core of human awareness and processes that uncertainty (and the consequent self-loathing about which Kierkegaard wrote) into a hatred for all that is “other,” which matures into nihilism (which though typically projected onto the “other,” peeks thru in things like end-time eschatology but moreso in the desire to wholly dismantle carefully built mechanisms for human cooperation and social/environmental sustainability in favor of the chaos of God’s will).

    Since the Southern strategy, the Republican party has sought to cultivate this unhealthy phenomenon for electoral gain and so it is no surprise that it has come to this. Nihilism of course is not the backward-looking of conservatism and reaction: it is a headlong plunge forward into the abyss.

    I do not use any of the conventional political descriptors because I think they all are incoherent. I would be placed well on the left of the conventional spectrum but I consider my views deeply conservative: work by small, thoughtful steps to strengthen bonds and trust across the profoundly diverse human community in order to gradually aggregate and strengthen collective values & institutions that advance a human freedom accessible by all.

    What we call liberalism is the deal made by concentrated wealth in the early 20th Century to head off rising class conflict: modest redistribution of wealth by government and an expansion of social liberties in order to deflect demands for more fundamental structural changes toward political and economic democracy. To my mind this is much different from progressivism or leftism, which are concerned with actually making those structural changes in order to create a “level playing field” in private society. This in turn would vastly reduce the size of government in its two chief functions: rent-giving to the powerful and regulating/redistributing to ameliorate the condition of the rest of us. So I guess I’m a conservative, small-government leftist.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/03/2013 - 01:53 pm.

      Actyually Chuck,

      ” To my mind this is much different from progressivism or leftism, which are concerned with actually making those structural changes in order to create a “level playing field” in private society. This in turn would vastly reduce the size of government in its two chief functions: rent-giving to the powerful and regulating/redistributing to ameliorate the condition of the rest of us. So I guess I’m a conservative, small-government leftist.”

      You would appear to be a Social Anarchist. In theory the coercive power of the state is unnecessary (small government) but only when the conditions of economic and social security and justice are met.

      You should read: “The ABCs of Anarchism” by Alexander Berkman.

      • Submitted by chuck holtman on 10/03/2013 - 06:17 pm.

        Thanks, Paul.

        Sounds like something to read with my daughter at bedtime. I like lots of pictures.

        I can’t say that under my view the coercive power of the state ever would become unnecessary, but the activity of government would shift decisively from taxing and spending to the non-fiscal (setting the framework for societal economic and political activity and policing the “playing field” for undue tilt). In other words, much social spending is to mitigate (but very inefficiently) the externalized social costs of the private economy. In my view, folks that are obsessed with the level of government spending ought to support a strong non-fiscal government role of this sort. But I can’t say I’ve heard the Tea Party clamor for the return of Glass-Steagall.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2013 - 07:14 pm.

        It’s getting from A to B

        that’s the trick.

  11. Submitted by Roy Everson on 10/03/2013 - 03:11 pm.

    To clarify a point, don’t confuse European liberalism with Ron Paul libertarianism. There is no European equivalent to the uniquely American, anti-democratic naivete found in the Pauls’ ideology.

    And yes, yes, yes to Ray and Paul above. The Tea Party is fundamentally opposed to the American notion of representative democracy. Minority rule is no problem to them, just as it was no problem to the antidemocratic communists who seized control of the Russian revolution in 1918.. Maybe it is the only way they can preserve what they believe is their fading way of life, the only way to counteract their fear of change. Thus the gun nut culture, the oppression of women, and other manifestations of reactionary politics.

  12. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 10/03/2013 - 03:48 pm.

    Who is in the political center?

    I would be interested to see Eric Black analyze the political spectrum on the Left sometime. My experience with Democrats and people who call themselves Progressives is that they all consider themselves moderates and in the political center. No one is on the Left, especially the Far Left. It’s kind of like the children at Lake Woebegon. They are all above average.
    If you were to ask, ” Who in Congress is Far Left?,” Democrats look at you blankly. They wouldn’t be able to name a single one. However, if you asked “Who is on the Far Right?” The list would be almost endless.
    7th District Congressman Colin Peterson is the only Democrat I can think of who is close to the center. Who do the Democrats consider to be Far Left?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/03/2013 - 05:01 pm.

      The Left

      I don’t consider myself a Democrat, and I despise the word “moderate (I refuse to use a term that is so devoid of meaning)”

      How do you want to define “far left?” If you want left-of-center, I would certainly say Senators Klobuchar and Franken meet that definition (although not as “far” to the left as Senator Sanders). Likewise, in the House, I would put Rep. Ellison, maybe Reps. McCollum and Nolan.

      What’s the point of your question, beyond the usual right-wing huffiness about “what about someone else altogether?”

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/03/2013 - 05:58 pm.

      Virtually every Democrat is centrist to slightly left of center.

      Show me someone who votes 42 time to overturn funding for the Pentagon and I’ll show you a far left person. Show me someone who will shut down the government to stop a war, shut down government unless there is a firm plan to bring down carbon emissions below 350 ppm, shut down the government until there is single payer health care system, shut down the government until a living wage is written into law, etc., etc, then we can discuss the far left. Otherwise, they’re all somewhat left or centrists who will compromise and compromise and compromise.

      And that is how sausage is made.

  13. Submitted by jason myron on 10/03/2013 - 04:48 pm.


    your party has swung so far to the right that everything looks far left to you. The answer is always in the middle…and that concept is something that your party has completely disavowed.

    Let’s put it this way…I vote mostly Dem, but I voted for Arnie Carlson for Governor and I’d do it again…would you?

  14. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/03/2013 - 06:30 pm.

    If you really wanted to know the answer to your question, Eric

    why would you consult a liberal journalist and two partisan college professors playing amateur psychologist? I wrote earlier this week that most people reading this don’t understand conservatism, and boy, was I right.

    It was amusing to read tenured professors and unionists claim that conservatives are the ones afraid of change, when risk-aversion is the foundation of the collectivist ideology. We’re not the hoplophobes in this society, we believe in self defense. We didn’t pass helmet laws and ban cigarettes and insist that everyone have health insurance. We believe in individual freedom.

    You’re the ones who embrace the Nanny State as a surrogate mother, strive for the holy grail of tenure and insist on taking mass transit to hunker down within the safety of your unaccountable union job. If I wanted to play amateur psychologist, I would say that this difference in risk aversion can be boiled down to, conservatives are men, and women who think like men. Whereas liberals are women, and men who think like women.

    Conservatives are traditionalists. We wish to *conserve* our constitutional form of government and the traditional values most of us grew up with. The only change we *fear* is a societal devolution away from a culture of decency and self-reliance, away from a republican form of government and towards a totalitarian one that attempts to control every aspect of our lives.

    Tea Partiers are conservatives who’ve paid their dues. A New York Times/CBS News poll found that Tea Partiers are better educated, with higher incomes than the average citizen. We’re the volunteers and charitable givers in this society. A high percentage are military veterans, male and over 45. We built this nation’s companies, created its jobs, fought its wars and pay most of its taxes. And we’ve finally decided to get heard.

    It’s true most conservatives consider democracy “mob rule.” It’s because the young and the clueless are allowed, no *encouraged*, to place inexperienced and incompetent politicians into the nation’s leadership roles because they’ve been promised things paid for by someone else. We’ve reached the tipping point. It really has become tyranny of the majority. We’re seeing the Founding Fathers’ warning come to pass. That democracy can only exist until the people discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. Because from that moment on, the great experiment in self-governance will be over. Well excuse me, but the primary thing Tea Partiers have in common is that we don’t want it to be over. And as you’re seeing, we’re going to do whatever it takes to preserve the republic.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2013 - 07:19 pm.

      Nice work

      of fiction!

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/03/2013 - 07:43 pm.

      Continue on, Mr. Tester…

      Your last paragraph is revealing of your true regard for democracy— Only certain people deserve to vote—-Democracy is “mob rule”—Elections and constitutional process mean nothing because “we’re going to do whatever it takes to preserve the republic.”. Your goals justify your means, in other wordx.

      When that happens, as you say, “the great experiment in self-governance will be over”.

      Because democracy apparently only works and is valid only when your viewpoint wins the election.

      I remember a phrase, “destroying the village to save it”.

      By the way, I wouldn’t exactly take a self-reporting telephone poll as an accurate means of determining the demographics of any group, including self-reporting Tea Party members. It’s clear that delusions run rampant in this country.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/03/2013 - 09:00 pm.

      And your real problem is

      that most people DO understand Conservatives.

    • Submitted by Dale Torgerson on 10/03/2013 - 10:56 pm.

      Young & Clueless

      Individual Freedom: Smoke outside because cigarettes stink. It’s a good law and bar and restaurant owners know it. You’re perfectly free in Minnesota to die in a 5 mph motorcycle crash because you weren’t forced to wear your helmet; that law is on your personal choice side. The earlier nanny state law saving you was rescinded.

      Risk aversion: generally taught to children by parents who believed that if they worked hard enough at their day job, and were honest, dedicated, and loyal, to their employer, their employer in turn would appreciate what the employee offered and give them a fair shake. I don’t shop at places that cut their employees’ hours or coach them on how to take advantage of government programs in lieu of paying a decent wage.

      Devolution from Decency: it’s the Pill and the ability to have that 2nd Automobile that made America econimcally “great” and made the wife “want” to work out of the house. It’s the TV and air conditioning and appliances that made people complacent in their apartments watching Lucy and The Honeymooners. It’s also that 2nd income that made it so baby boomer children, and their children, could go to college to make America better. Good luck stopping the train towards further “indecency” as though it were part of a party platform. Much less watching FOX for decency.

      Paid their dues: is it even remotely possible that someone outside the Tea Party could indeed be a patriot? Like say, my father and his 4 democrat brothers who served, and some fought, in foreign wars for America, and never once considered themselves patriots but rather just Americans. Please have someone from the Tea Party explain how these men are unpatriotic because some upstarts declared themselves the arbiters of who is, and who is not, a patriot?

      Young and clueless: that the young and uninformed are somehow being duped or being intellectually lazy and thereby put incompetent people in office is quite a joke. You just don’t like how they are tending to vote. The GOP would win more elections if they weren’t so technologically inferior to the Dems. Add to that the GOP donors are as cheap with the campaign donations as they are with paying the staff: if they aren’t going to win, they spend zero.

      Largesse from the public treasury: every check Michelle Bachmann deposits comes from the Government she rails against. She now has more money than a Stillwater housewife married to a clinical psychologist, who may or may not be even licensed in Minnesota, who is married to a lawyer whose college no longer exists as a law school, could ever hope to make. Good on her, but she would do well to just be quiet and stay out of election trouble, and if that doesn’t work, move to Switzerland and exercise her rights there.

      Preserving the Republic: it’s way beyond the grand experiment. If it’s bad enough, the American people will correct it as they always have. And in Minnesota, even more so.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/04/2013 - 07:35 am.

      ….conservatives are men, and women who think like men. Whereas liberals are women, and men who think like women…..

      Gee, the last time I heard something along those lines was back in 7th grade.

      Most people dropped that sort of line when they figured out girls didn’t have cooties.

  15. Submitted by jason myron on 10/03/2013 - 07:26 pm.


    the very fact that you can utter a statement like ” I would say that this difference in risk aversion can be boiled down to, conservatives are men, and women who think like men. Whereas liberals are women, and men who think like women.” illustrates how hopelessly out of touch with contemporary society you are.

  16. Submitted by Roy Everson on 10/04/2013 - 12:47 am.

    Why does the Tea Party hate our form of government?

    Dennis, your definition of mob rule is what for two centuries American soldiers have been told they are fighting for. Is that any way to treat a vet?

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 10/04/2013 - 08:38 am.

      His essence

      No one can match. Answer to your question – absolutely not. Would not even dawn on him.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/04/2013 - 11:25 am.

      I don’t know about you,

      but I’m a veteran. I was a submarine navigator who’s mission was to incinerate the soviets upon receipt of the order from the president. I wasn’t there so you could vote. I was there so you could continue to be a free man living under our constitutional form of government. The word “democracy” doesn’t even appear in the constitution.

      If I had my way, you wouldn’t be able to vote until you were 40 and no one couldn’t hold public office until they were 50. But that’s just me.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/04/2013 - 11:46 am.

        The US is a “constitutional democracy”. Look it up.

        If what you are opposing has been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court and has been supported by multiple democratic votes, you are saying that “constitutional democracy” has failed and both constitution and democracy must be overturned.

        Hardly a “conserving” outlook on anything.

        Go ahead, invent your own world to live in.

        It’s a popular thing to do these days.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/04/2013 - 01:07 pm.

          They have elections

          in China and Cuba too. Democracy only means you have the right to choose your own leadership. It doesn’t mean you get to live in a free society. Which would you prefer? I think I already know.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/04/2013 - 04:38 pm.

            It’s time for a mirror check, Mr. Tester

            In China and Cuba, the people who can vote are carefully vetted by a small group of people. In Cuba and China, elections mean little if the small group in power want something else. China and Cuba both have constitutions until a small group of leaders decides it means something else. In Cuba and China the goals of a small group of people justify any means.

            You are the one advocating for a more exclusive electorate .

            You are the one who is advocating for a small group to overturn votes.

            You are the one who thinks that the beliefs of a small group of people outweigh the Supreme Court decision.

            You are the person who says that the goals of a small group justify the means to achieve them.

            It’s time for a mirror check.

            Or a step out of the time warp.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/04/2013 - 03:27 pm.

        Maybe you’d better come up for air.

        And the Soviet Union was never a real threat to American security.
        It’s military numbers were badly inflated by the CIA (they counted trees as missiles) to justify asking for increased military appropriations.

        And the Constitution -assumes- the existence of free white male landowners — it doesn’t define or guarantee individual freedom.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/04/2013 - 10:29 am.

    Echo chambers….

    One thing I’ve noticed about guys like Tester who call themselves conservatives is they tend to be much more reliant on stereotypes when it comes to organizing their world views. Not that liberals don’t engage in stereotypical thinking, but they tend to be more suspicious of stereotypical thinking. It’s kind of interesting to see stereotypical conservative thinking attempting to engage liberals in debate or dialogue. My experience has been that it’s frequently impossible to have a coherent dialogue because I’m a real liberal, not stereotypical liberal that exists nowhere but Rush Limbaugh’s imagination. It’s like that book by Anne Coulter a few years, how to talk to a liberal, the liberals she describes simply don’t exist in the real world, they’re a figment of her imagination.

    What’s funny is that the construction of stereotypes is not limited to descriptions of liberals, they’ve also created a stereotype of conservatives and placed themselves within it!

    At any rate this collision with real liberals is kind of interesting to watch at times. You can almost hear the brains short circuit when real liberals like Dayton and Franken win elections. Likewise when real liberals defeated attempts to restrict voting and marriage rights these Republicans were just stunned. And then of course there was Romney’s collision with reality, and the spectacle of Karl Rove’s denial on Fox news.

    I suppose in a way the shut down is another example of the conservative collision with real rather imaginary liberals. The Democrats are actually acting like liberals for a change and this was obviously not predicted by the Republican leadership. Whenever Obama actually behaves like a liberal the Republicans seem to be caught flat footed while guys like Tester bounce around in an echo chamber of stereotypes.

    The other thing that’s interesting is the fact that soooooo many of these stereotypical thinkers believe themselves to be independent thinkers! They don’t seem to realize that the inability to escape stereotypical thinking is NOT a characteristic of intellectual independence. And there seems to be an inverse relationship, the more tighter the ideological straight jacket, the more “independent” these people seem to THINK they are. The closer you get to the core of Tea Party, Libertarian, etc. the more difficult it is to find anyone who is really capable of independent thought yet they proclaim themselves to be the most independent thinkers in the country! The lack of any real independent or original thought was likewise the hallmark of Ayn Rand’s pseudo philosophy by the way. Rand mistook isolation for independence and in the end was about as independent as your average lemming. Her followers likewise are hamstrung by her incoherent regurgitation’s of other peoples mostly bad ideas.

    I guess is can all be summed up by the simple observation that echo chambers cannot produce independent or original thought.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/04/2013 - 12:05 pm.

      And That Echo Chamber

      Is the creation and primary symptom of the psychological dysfunctions I described in my earlier post,…

      dysfunctions which will not allow TP’ers, such as one of our commentators here, to EVEN CONSIDER ideas which they do not already hold,…

      such ideas are so threatening that they are not even allowed to enter the awareness of TP’ers.

      In this way, they maintain their “true beliefs” in spite of all evidence to the contrary – they never actually consider any of that evidence (generally finding reasons to dismiss it because the “believe” the sources of that evidence are biased against “conservatives”).

      Even in the current shutdown, the TP’ers truly believe that the public is on their side and will reward them for sticking to their guns (no matter what the damage to the country),..

      even though polls consistently show that the public, even though it may be lukewarm to Obamacare because, of all the B.S. the “conservatives” have spread all over the country about it,

      is massively opposed to the methods the TP’ers are forcing the GOP to pursue and WILL punish the Republican Party in the next election.

      The TP’ers “truly believe” that they are going to win this “fight.” The results of their current dysfonic actions will come as a complete shock to them.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/04/2013 - 12:29 pm.

    Speaking of psychology…

    When look this Tea Party/Republican/Randian behavior it’s a classic example of projection but on a massive and collective scale.

  19. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 10/04/2013 - 09:28 pm.

    Your shoes untied

    Mr. Tester,
    I also spent time in the Navy 4 years 69-73 hunting submarines (P3s) ~ 40 or so folks have very or not so very eloquently explained to you in many different ways your shoe is untied, no matter how hard you try to claim it isn’t until you actually take the time and the conscious effort you will for the rest of your life walk around with untied shoes! It is what it is and you can’t argue the fact away.
    Take some time to tie your shoe and you will find an entirely different world out here. (Even if you wear slip-ons)
    Nothing invented here, invented in the Navy, when the ship is on fire (its on fire, no matter how hard we don’t want it to be)

  20. Submitted by Joe Musich on 10/04/2013 - 09:30 pm.

    Munch on this as you ….

    consider political position definitions. It’s about not the philosophy and behavior but the end game :

  21. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/05/2013 - 10:59 am.

    Nouns vs. adjectives

    Dennis does have a minor point:
    Technically, we have a republic (delegated authority); not a democracy (direct rule). In a true democracy (such as classic Athens), every issue would be decided by plebiscite. Obviously this is not practical on the scale of the modern United States, even if a federal union allowed it.

    However, the descriptor ‘democratic’
    (from Merriam-Webster:
    “of, relating to, or favoring a political system in which the supreme power is held and exercised by the people “)
    our system certainly, if imperfectly, qualifies.

    Of course, due to legal decision such as Citizens United, more power is exercised by some people than by others. I assume that Dennis is happy with it as long as he is the one doing the exercising.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2013 - 11:53 am.

    Heard that before…

    Nothing demonstrates conservative disdain for democracy better than they claim the United isn’t actually a democracy. This business of splitting hairs between “republics” and “democracies” is simply creating differences in search of a distinction. Republican government is a variation of democracy, not something completely different from democracy or “not” democracy. One is representative democracy, the other is direct democracy, but they’re both democracies.

    Tea Party folks are no more anamoured of direct democracy than they are of representative democracy anyways. Whether a law is passed by plebiscite or legislation reactionaries and libertarians are just as likely to see it as a violation of their liberties if they don’t like it. At the end of the day it all come back to the fact that they just don’t believe in democracy, in any form.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/06/2013 - 05:35 pm.

      The distinction, which seems to be lost

      on people here, is that democracy is nothing more than the right to choose your own leadership. That does not automatically translate into a free society, which is the only priority of conservatives and libertarians. They had the right to vote in Egypt too. That turned out well. Seems to me that Putin was elected too.

      The real measure of a free society is *economic freedom* – the right to own private property, the right to choose how you will spend your own earnings, and the freedom of choice in the marketplace.

      I know that’s not the priorities of the Left. I only offer it as an explanation as to why some people here don’t know the difference between democracy and freedom. But I don’t blame them. I blame the teachers union. They should sue the government school they attended for educational malpractice.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2013 - 08:27 am.

        The old five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. Mentioned in the first amendment, but just a smoke screen for the founding ideal of the US—it’s all about paying little or no taxes.

        Thanks for the civics lesson.

  23. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 10/07/2013 - 04:48 pm.

    Hilarity ensues.

    When ever I hear of leftists (“progressives”) complain about those evil conservatives (see comments and attacks, generally, ante) and use words to describe conservatives such as “terrorism”, “extremist”, “reactionary”, I ask an obvious question:

    When will the left apologize for the tens of millions of dead in the 20th century that were murdered by left wing governments?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/08/2013 - 07:47 am.


      That will probably happen right about the time right wing people apologize for the tens of millions killed under fascist governments in the 20th century.

      Hilarity, indeed.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/07/2013 - 05:02 pm.

    Well actually Dennis

    You happen to live not only in a democracy, but specifically you live in a “liberal” democracy, one of the first. Liberal democracies not only select leaders via elections, but they also guarantee basic rights and liberties. That’s why we have a bill of rights etc. At any rate thanks for confirming that you don’t actually believe in democracy. You do realize however that this makes any comments you might make about the constitution basically incoherent right?

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