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Will the Fringe Hijack the Tea Parties?

Posted on February 19 2010 3:15 pm
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When I was a junior communist living in 1960’s Canada, one of the few constants in my life was the unwelcome presence of Maoists at pretty much any gathering I attended. The cause de jour didn’t matter; it could have been “Get American Potatoes Out of Our Poutine!” It was all the same to them. As quick as you could say “re-education camp” they would be there with those dumb little red books and IMAX sized portraits of you-know-who.

Like their namesake the Maoists were deeply unpleasant and disruptive people, and, even by our standards, really, really crazy. We wanted to end the war and meet compliant women; they wanted show-trials and public executions for anyone who owned a checkbook.  There are some gulfs, even within the Proletariat, that can’t be bridged.

It is with a similarly jaundiced eye that I regard the tip-toed approach of certain groups, with views some might consider (um) unorthodox, towards the Tea Party movement.

For instance, while the movement believes in limiting the power of government, it probably doesn’t see that as a preamble to “so it won’t murder 3,000 of its own citizens like it did on 9/11.” Apart from the manifest improbabilities of the position, it is axiomatic that anything that makes sense to Rosie O’Donnell should probably be put into a containment vault.

But Glenn Beck’s Debra Medina interview, which was as much an exploding cigar for him as anyone else, indicates that some who bought the teaparty-shirt have chosen to ignore this sensible advice, and are determined to make metallurgists of us all.

Likewise, in the constellation of legitimate, actionable concerns about Barack Obama’s policies it is doubtful the movement wants to spend time and credibility on the Birther neverendum. I’ve already written elsewhere as to why this is a very bad idea that largely serves the Left. There is emerging evidence that not only is the Left the beneficiary of this particular fixation; they probably concocted the whole thing in the first place.

But, nevermind, here it is surfacing at the Tea Party Convention a few weeks ago.

Finally, there are also those who want to be king for a day (and I’m rounding up here) and form a third party. What can possibly go wrong here <cough>Ross Perot</cough>? Of the hundreds of Tea Party speeches I have heard I don’t recall one that brought us to our feet with the refrain “let’s form a splinter group so we can guarantee the election of some truly repellant Leftists.” Speaking just for myself, I am reasonably sure I didn’t stand in the pouring rain in Philly last April to make that happen.

Success has many fathers, but it also has its share of strangers claiming to be your long lost Uncle Ed. As the Tea Party movement increases in numbers and profile, especially in an election year, there will be an increasing number of folks wearing Groucho glasses yelling “No, this way!”

The standard refrain should be “this isn’t a free-speech issue; it’s a go-start-your-own-club issue.”

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