Medea Benjamin of Code Pink reports an informal survey she conducted of Tea Partiers at a Tax Day rally. The survey included six questions on foreign policy, including ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, cutting the military budget, and closing overseas military bases. Attendees split 70-30 in favor of an activist foreign policy. Even asking the question got Code Pink called “communists, leftists and idiots.”
“One woman spat at me and shouted, ‘Don’t you know that Muslims are trying to take over the world? If it weren’t for our military fighting in Afghanistan you wouldn’t be standing here asking those stupid questions.’ Another woman got so hysterical about the question on aid to Israel that she tore up the survey.”
Jim Bovard, in a newspaper op-ed piece, threw out this gauntlet: “Many ‘tea party’ activists staunchly oppose big government, except when it is warring, wiretapping, or waterboarding. A movement that started out denouncing government power apparently has no beef with some of the worst abuses of modern times.” Aside from support for wiretapping and waterboarding, common sentiments expressed by Tea Partiers included demands that Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions be thwarted and that the tide of “illegal aliens” be stemmed. One woman carried a sign reading “Proud to be a Military SUPERPOWER.”
This last was apparently a riff on the Palin-Obama controversy over his statement that, “like it or not,” we are a military superpower.
If the Tea Party divide is framed as a split between Palinistas and Paulistas, as Reason Magazine’s Jesse Walker puts it, the movement is overwhelmingly pro-Palin.
Tea Partier comments at the Yahoo News posting of Bovard’s piece referred to Bovard—to Bovard!—using such words as “far LEFT,” “a truly socialist article,” “liberal,” “HOW VERY COMMUNIST OF YOU,” “your beloved Obama,” “The Demacrats, Liberal Demacrats, Progressives, Socialists, whatever you call yourselves,” “a pile of leftist BS,” etc. Not to mention some reaffirmations of wiretaps and waterboarding, and dismissals of anyone who objected to them as a “liberal idiot.”
You have to wonder just what the word “freedom” means to these people. Probably the same thing the copiously used “Freiheit” meant to the brownshirts. Apparently, as Matt Yglesias recently suggested, the word “freedom” is devoid of content on the authoritarian Right:
“…talk about ‘freedom’ is just talk about conservatism. Conservatives side with business over unions and environmentalists, with police and prosecutors over criminal defendants, with nationalists against cosmopolitans, with majoritarian ethnic and religious groups against annoying weirdos, and with the military against peaceniks. Ideas about freedom and small government are totally irrelevant to the actual political agenda and the Tea Party is no different from any other conservative movement in this regard.”
When Palin celebrates America’s status as a military superpower, you have to wonder whether she thinks the armed forces are part of the government, or maybe whether she just thinks Acton’s Law has been suspended outside America’s borders. Does she think national security policy is made by a different set of human beings than the ones that make “big government” domestic policy? Or to put it in Madisonian terms, do men become angels at the water’s edge? Sarah Palin must be singularly ignorant of history.
Unfortunately, when Palin appears at a Tea Party event she could well be the smartest one in the room.