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September 29, 2010


Tom Friedman asks:

How can you take a movement seriously that says it wants to cut government spending by billions of dollars but won’t identify the specific defense programs, Social Security, Medicare or other services it’s ready to cut — let alone explain how this will make us more competitive and grow the economy?

And how can you take seriously a movement that sat largely silent while the Bush administration launched two wars and a new entitlement, Medicare prescription drugs — while cutting taxes — but is now, suddenly, mad as hell about the deficit and won’t take it anymore from President Obama? Say what? Where were you folks for eight years?

I guess Friedman's right. I mean, how could you take the civil rights movement seriously when it put up with Jim Crow for almost a hundred years before coalescing into a movement? Where was the anti-Vietnam War movement when Kennedy was sending "advisors" to Vietnam and Johnson was gradually increasing the number of troops there? How could you take seriously the anti-global warming movement when it failed to identify the specific ways in which the problem could be solved (NB: Al Gore's entreaty to change your light bulbs doesn't count as a solution)?

Friedman divines that the "real" Tea Party movement "is looking for a leader" who puts country over party, has a plan to make America successful and has the ability to lead. That's a Tea Party Tom Friedman can get behind. No need for a specific plan from the "real" Tea Party Friedman conjures; that's a criticism leveled only at the Tea Party Friedman dismisses. All that's needed for Frieman's mythical Tea Party are two things: a man and a large white horse.

Poppycock. The Tea Party movement is as legitimate a movement as other movements that have shaped American attitudes over the last fifty years. Whether it will have much staying power is anybody's guess. You don't hear much anymore about the Zero Population Growth movement of the 1970's (all the yuppie couples were on board while they had zero, one or two children, but dropped out when they decided to have their third), and the civil rights and women's liberation movements largely petered out after early objectives were achieved.

But for now, the Tea Partiers are here, they're sincere, get used to it. And to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we don't go to election with the Tea Party we want, we go to election with the Tea Party we have.

I'm not a Tom Friedman fan—his predictions about Iraq have been mocked far and wide—but he is not far off the mark on the Tea Party. Who cares what their ideals are? Democrats or Republicans would be a lot better party if they were closer to their ideals.

But the truth is the Tea Party candidates are not-ready-for-prime-time (Christine O'Donnell should have scrubbed the internet, and hard!) and show a lot of small time players who are looking to hit the big time but haven't thought through issues pass November 2.

The Tea Party is as relevant as the Reform Party, remember them? Ventura won, they had some small victories. But I can guarantee you will not get all of these big fish Tea Party people out of their small ponds to unite for a larger cause.

To be a United States Senator, you have to pay your taxes, not lie about where you went to school and not misspend your campaign money. You have to appear to be honest first before being corrupt later. And the Tea Party doesn't seem to understand that.

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