Monday, April 9, 2018
Tea Party Abandons Principles, Values to Follow "The King of Debt"
Tonight, there will be another meeting of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party. I began going to these monthly meetings a few years ago. I have always thought the Tea Party had gotten a bad rap in the media. While there is no comprehensive set of beliefs that people who join local tea parties hold, there is some commonality. Tea Party people shared (note the use of the past tense) a revulsion to big government, deficits, wasteful spending and corruption in government. Members of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party I attended also had a decided (albeit secondary) bent toward criminal justice reform, i.e. an opposition to things like civil forfeiture and the War on Drugs.
I liked that. My fervent support of those issues (barely) allowed me to sit through cringe-inducing, xenophobic comments from Tea Party members about immigration (both legal and illegal), a lack of tolerance for America’s tradition of religious freedom (how dare Muslims think they have the same right of religious freedom as Christians?), and members’ opposition to free trade agreements and support for protectionist measures like tariffs, protectionist positions that undeniably have proven to greatly hurt the American economy and consumers in particular. Those secondary political positions were certainly NEVER a part of the conservative agenda I had supported and fought for since I came of political age as a sophomore at Ball State University in 1980.
Returning to the core mission of the Tea Party – an opposition to deficits and wasteful spending – I always greatly appreciated the Tea Party members’ dedication to the cause, even while I believed they often had unrealistic views of how to accomplish those objectives given the limits of our democratic institutions. But, unfortunately my view that Tea Party members were committed, overly principled fighters for core conservative fiscal positions and good government has proven to be dead wrong.
In 2015, New Yorker Donald J. Trump, a lifelong, liberal Democrat entered the political scene as a newly-minted Republican. Trump had led his businesses into six bankruptcies and had credit so bad American banks would not lend him money. But, it was not just banks. Trump was well well-known as a deadbeat who would not pay his bills, trying at every turn to stiff employees and the small Mom and Pop businesses with whom he contracted. (So much for the Trumpian claim he is for the little guy.) Trump embraced the reputation he earned, calling himself "The King of Debt.”
One would think someone sporting the moniker “The King of Debt” would be the last candidate a fiscally-conservative group like the Tea Party would be embrace. But embrace him they did. Perhaps Tea Party members simply did not know Trump’s checkered history as a businessman or simply hoped he would exhibit better fiscal habits as a politician.
But in 15 months, Donald J. Trump as President has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will govern the same way he conducted himself as a businessman, spending taxpayer money recklessly and running up huge, unprecedented deficits. (This includes a tax cut funded by deficit spending and the President signing a $1.3 trillion budget that increased spending on virtually every budgetary item. Deficit spending to stimulate the economy while in a recession is arguable strategy, doing so when the economy is at full employment and growing at a 3% rate is insane.
On a personal level, the Trump cabinet and top officials are no more restrained fiscally. Several have been exposed grossly wasting taxpayer money on lavish and unnecessary expenditures. Of course, no one is more guilty of that than President Trump, who virtually every weekend has the American taxpayer fly him to Florida and then he sticks those same taxpayers with the bill for the Secret Service to rent carts to follow him around the golf course. Then, you have the issue of the President, who has refused to put his assets in a blind trust, continually (ab)using his position to enrich himself, including via the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which caters to foreign dignitaries who are more than willing to combine their need for accommodations with a desire to curry favor with the President by stuffing money in his pocket.
Corruption within the Trump administration is easily the worst of any President in my lifetime. And we have 32 months to go. So much for the nonsense about Trump “draining the swamp.”
Given the principles on which it was founded, one would think Tea Party members would rebel against a President who has proven to be the biggest deficit spender of any President in history. One would think they would object strongly to the personal waste of tax dollars by the President and top officials in his administration, new revelations of which are exposed every day. Nope. Tea Partiers continue to drink the Trump Kool-Aid, enthusiastically supporting the President despite his running an administration that is completely counter to Tea Party fiscal conservativism.
If those issues were not bad enough, we have a President who has made a mockery of other conservative values. A key element of the success of the conservative movement has been social issues, primarily “family values.” It is hard to hold true to those views, critical to evangelicals, when your chief proponent of the concept is a man who is a serial adulterer who brags about sexually assaulting women. Of course, on this point, the evangelicals have proven to be the Tea Party equivalent when it comes to abandoning principles for political power.
Tea Party members like to call themselves “patriots.” Yet they, in the next breath, express support for Trump’s attacks on American values like the rule of law, freedom of speech and his support for thuggish dictators over democratically-elected leaders. The President and the Tea Party members who worship him as some sort of deity have given aid and comfort to the United States No. 1 enemy, Russia, by attacking the legitimacy of an investigation into that country’s meddling into the 2016 election, seeking to blame the American intelligence community and law enforcement instead, despite overwhelming evidence that that that meddling happened. When I hear the “patriots” reference, I think back to my childhood when Jane Fonda was photographed on a North Vietnamese tank. Although Vietnam was a huge mistake, Fonda was hardly a “patriot.” Given their attacks on American values and traditions. neither President Trump or Tea Party members deserve to be call “patriots.”
Imagine for a second if a President named “Obama” or “Hillary Clinton” had done any of the aforementioned things Trump has done since he has taken office. The Tea Party members would be screaming for his/her impeachment. Perhaps at tonight’s meeting it would be worthwhile to discuss the meaning of “hypocrisy” and how it relates to the Tea Party’s blind and unquestioning support for Present Trump.
Of course, I overgeneralize in this piece. No doubt that there are several Tea Party members who have refused to abandon their principles to drink the Trump Kool-Aid. To them I applaud and apologize…profusely.
Needless to say, I will not be at the Tea Party meeting tonight.