17 March 2009

What are Tea Parties?

The following is a white paper of The Jacksonian Party.

What are Tea Parties?

Well, this is pretty simple: Tea Parties are gatherings of Americans to protest high government spending and the impoverishment of the American people to get through a minor economic recession.

A look at the signs being held up by the protesters reveals an interesting panorama of thought going on behind them, here at the recent Cincinnati Tea Party as seen by pictures sent into Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit:

From a linked article at the Cincinnati Enquirer on 15 MAR 2009 we have this:

The group wants Congress to repeal the $787 billion stimulus package that President Barack Obama has championed as a way to create jobs and give the economy a boost.

“The thought of all this spending makes me angry,” Frost said. “I’m tired of being angry.”

Other protesters wore Revolutionary-era costumes, sported “Got Tea?” shirts and raised signs with messages like, “Give us Liberty, not debt” and “No more bailouts.”

“There is a movement going on in this country,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot. “You can see it here today.”

Sean Lynch of Colerain Township brought his children . His 8-year-old, Isabel, held a “Stop spending my allowance” sign, and 5-year-old Kate raised one that read “Stay out of my piggy bank.”

“I’m frustrated with the way things are going in Congress. They need to remember that they work for us, and right now, we don’t approve,” Lynch said as he propped up a sign for his son Charlie, 2.

“This is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing,” he said. “It’s a government thing.”

I have highlighted the parts I think important by bolding them.

This is not an ideological based movement, then: it is not tied to a party, nor class, nor to any single sub-part of America.

From a previous Rochester Tea Party on 11 MAR 2009 we have this from Chuck Simmins:


And from the Sarasota Tea Party on 28 FEB 2009 we get these images featuring Frances Rice:

Tea Party - Frances Rice web

This is not a standard politically backed, demographically centered demonstration as this happens in more than just 'hot bed' campuses, more than just a 'disenfranchised' group, and more than one geographic area.  Looking at Instapundit and searching with 'tea party' the hits and images demonstrate that this is not a top-down, activist led effort.  There are some trying to advise the Tea Parties on what they should do next, but this is not a centralized effort: it cannot be led although it can find advocates and spokesmen.  By having no dividing line of class, gender, race, politics or any other things save being aggrieved Americans this can be called an organic outgrowth of society.  This is a natural expression of society that is now moving forward via individuals who adhere to a set of common principles that they rarely feel the need to state.

This does have scholarship behind it, in the writings of Walter Russell Mead (article cache by Steven Den Beste):

A principal explanation of why Jacksonian politics are so poorly understood is that Jacksonianism is less an intellectual or political movement than an expression of the social, cultural and religious values of a large portion of the American public. And it is doubly obscure because it happens to be rooted in one of the portions of the public least represented in the media and the professoriat. Jacksonian America is a folk community with a strong sense of common values and common destiny; though periodically led by intellectually brilliant men—like Andrew Jackson himself—it is neither an ideology nor a self-conscious movement with a clear historical direction or political table of organization. Nevertheless, Jacksonian America has produced—and looks set to continue to produce—one political leader and movement after another, and it is likely to continue to enjoy major influence over both foreign and domestic policy in the United States for the foreseeable future.

By being unaligned to the elite class and centering on a societal based value set, the Tea Party movement is a description of how Jacksonian America manifests itself.  This is not a party of a 'vision' based movement but one that is inherently based on the individual, individualism and seeking to have government accountable to society, not dictate to it.

Mr. Den Beste would examine this in regards to how law and international law are two different things, but have similar needs due to what they are:

The rule of law works within our nation because it is enforced by police and the courts. The rule of international law works because we're willing to fight when others ignore it if we think the issues involved are sufficiently important.

By Jacksonian lights, no rule of law works without the threat of force, and if the threat of force is removed then lawbreakers will come out of the woodwork. And sometimes they'll appear anyway, which is why war will always be with us and why good Jacksonians make sure that their nation always remains militarily strong.

Having police and courts doesn't prevent crime, but it does give us the ability to deal with it. By the same token having a strong military doesn't prevent the need for war, but it does give us a better chance of winning when the time comes. Nobody wants a war, but if you have to fight one it's much better to win it than to lose it.

And the police do deter some crime, and having a strong military does prevent some threats of war. Jacksonians are deeply practical; perfect solutions aren't possible and this one is the best available to us.

While it's true that some degree of international regulation is required in order for trade and other international dealings to take place, Jacksonians are always suspicious of such regulations because they want to make sure that the regulators don't have an ulterior motive, and to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules. The situation works because it is subject to constant scrutiny and because we don't go overboard relying on it.

This object of scrutiny of the law and law makers to ensure that regulation is not putting forth a partisan 'cause' but serving all of society is at the sense of fair play for Jacksonians.  A bit further on Mr. Den Beste examines this:

Jacksonians don't have any interest in spreading their philosophy around the world. It isn't evangelistic; indeed, the entire concept of trying to actively spread that or any other philosophy around the world is deeply repugnant to pure Jacksonians. Jacksonians are anti-imperialistic.

The whole point of Jacksonianism is "You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. You play fair with me and I'll play fair with you. But if you fuck with me, I'll kill you."

To Jacksonians, it is entirely possible to create an adequate world framework of consistent and fair behavior, sufficient to support trade, through vigilance and the threat of reprisal (military or otherwise). Going beyond that to a world government as such is neither necessary, desirable nor even possible, and the best case is where there is as little international framework and governance as can be: only the bare minimum required but no more. Anything beyond that will eventually be abused by someone, so it's better to do without it.

Famously Jacksonians will put up with a lot on the civil side of things, but once the idea of fair play is tossed out the window by a government (foreign or domestic) the retribution is definitively *not* proportional.  A minor final ill will bring you conflict if the ills before that have not been addressed and built up without redress.  Mead addresses this in the international law area, but due to the way Jacksonians view all law, what is seen for that venue holds true for the national part, too:

Given the moral gap between the folk community and the rest of the world—and given that other countries are believed to have patriotic and communal feelings of their own, feelings that similarly harden once the boundary of the folk community is reached—Jacksonians believe that international life is and will remain both anarchic and violent. The United States must be vigilant and strongly armed. Our diplomacy must be cunning, forceful and no more scrupulous than anybody else’s. At times, we must fight pre-emptive wars. There is absolutely nothing wrong with subverting foreign governments or assassinating foreign leaders whose bad intentions are clear. Thus, Jacksonians are more likely to tax political leaders with a failure to employ vigorous measures than to worry about the niceties of international law.

Political leaders, then, are those who must address the problems faced by society without putting society in jeopardy by its actions.  This is, at its base, how Jacksonians view the common effort of representative government - it is to be held to account for those things it does, expected to protect society and secure our livelihood without becoming deeply entrenched in intrusive means to 'guide' society.  Society needs no guidance, free people will guide themselves perfectly well with a minimum of overhead.  Politicians have been both seen at Tea Parties and been the pointed object of Tea Parties.  The reason that no politician can step up to LEAD Tea Parties, as a whole, is that attending them is a survival instinct: this is a movement that when it gets a pointy end to it, that end will be pointed at those in power.  In the old '60s radicalist parlance, politicians realize they are part of the problem... and the radicals realize that, to this movement, so are they. 

That is also why we do not see puppets, people on stilts or effigies being burnt.  A movement of aggrieved society does not waste its time on showmanship and if things have to be burnt or put up in a noose, it is better to do so to the source of the problem, not some paper representation of it.  It is deeply offensive to strike at a home-made symbol until you are actually ready to do something about it, then you don't need the symbol any more as it is the thing, itself, that is now the object of ire and you are now prepared with your fellow citizens to remove it.  In a sense of fair play if you really mean to bring down the system, then bring it down and then society can judge you for your actions.  Don't waste time and energy on the frivolity of being outraged until that outrage can gain an outlet that is productive in its work.  Jacksonians realize that 'burn, baby, burn' is a call to destroy our heritage, ancestry and the good works of our forefathers and foremothers.  That is sickening, and shows only appreciation for your petty beliefs and no honor to the hard work that has gotten you to where you can have them.

The honored symbol of this spirit is the rattle snake and 'Don't Tread On Me'.  Like the rattlesnake you get one, final warning before it strikes and that warning is for you to back off, move away, don't bother it any more or you shall pay the price.  When you hear that sound you freeze in your tracks and your next step should be one of the most wary of your life as you know it can lead to an automatic reaction faster than you can ever move.  To get to this point in US society we have seen government used to push private, partisan and splintering causes into the 'mainstream' via law.  The deep intrusion into what the individual must have to determine what is right for themselves is not only deeply offensive, but builds up grievances over time.  The most supreme right one can have is to scandalize the neighbors and to be scandalized by them: when government steps in to tell you that you may not judge that behavior and, indeed, must support it as a 'minority' of one class or another, then that is seen as striking against society.  Individual attacks may be minor, but their cumulative effect is major.  To now see a cohort in society that is making society broke to fund ill-founded 'good things' that should be the province of the individual ALONE is not something that builds up over night, but over decades.  With more and more power vested in those that we do not know being used to  crony and crooked ends to satisfy slim parts of society, the mass of society examines this and slowly builds its level of disagreement.

President Jackson quite clearly stated why such distrust comes to the forefront the Bank Veto Message of 10 JUL 1832:

The Government of the United States have no constitutional power to purchase lands within the States except "for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings," and even for these objects only "by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be." By making themselves stockholders in the bank and granting to the corporation the power to purchase lands for other purposes they assume a power not granted in the Constitution and grant to others what they do not themselves possess. It is not necessary to the receiving, safe-keeping, or transmission of the funds of the Government that the bank should possess this power, and it is not proper that Congress should thus enlarge the powers delegated to them in the Constitution.

When the American people see Congress using money to support ill-use of taxpayer funds to back loans to those who cannot repay them, and then get into a crony support system with those banks and offices backing them, we see a deep chasm between what government is told it CAN do and what it CAN'T do.  He clearly states the case of why having government support such an institution (in this case the National Bank) is not a good thing:

Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little to bind it to our country? The president of the bank has told us that most of the State banks exist by its forbearance. Should its influence become concentered, as it may under the operation of such an act as this, in the hands of a self-elected directory whose interests are identified with those of the foreign stockholders, will there not be cause to tremble for the purity of our elections in peace and for the independence of our country in war? Their power would be great whenever they might choose to exert it; but if this monopoly were regularly renewed every fifteen or twenty years on terms proposed by themselves, they might seldom in peace put forth their strength to influence elections or control the affairs of the nation. But if any private citizen or public functionary should interpose to curtail its powers or prevent a renewal of its privileges, it can not be doubted that he would be made to feel its influence.

This brings out the basic level of distrust that the American people have with such powerful institutions run by and for government ends:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.

In hearing people say they are working from 'just principles' they should state them clearly, succinctly and not assume they are understood by another.  The just principles of government are to treat all equally under the law and to play no favorites in enriching one class or group over another, nor to bring down one or another by taxation as that is also destructive to society.  Society can put up with inequality of results so long as there is equality at the starting point of all men being mortal and gaining no titles or privileges beyond what they can garner from family or make themselves.  Equality of talent or outcome assures an impoverishment of society and its individuals as no one is allowed to achieve and demonstrate excellence in ability.

That deep sense of fairness amongst the American people has been pushed hard by 'minority rights' when, as given in the Constitution, all rights not given to government are held by the States and the people and need NO backing save to curb the abuses of them.  When a 'positivist' right is asserted by a small group and is then expected to be accepted by the entirety of society without having shown just cause as to why those rights are good and why they should be upheld beyond what the individual can do, society is then subject to injustice of support for some rights over others.  Pushing that through by law or legislation is not the same as having it be an organically recognized outgrowth of society but an appendage to it that has not passed the trials and tribulations of internal review by society before it can even reach the level of government.

For this concept Jacksonians go to the heart of the American Revolution as it was most clearly stated just before the Declaration, and which fully backs it.  The entry lines to that work:

Some writers have so confounded society with government,
as to leave little or no distinction between them
whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
The first a patron, the last a punisher.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense (via the Gutenberg Project).

Pushing government to do more than ensure that your rights are not infringed upon is contrary to building society.  To build society one must demonstrate the use and utility of what you are pushing, that it does not seek to alter society and that such changes do not need the backing of society, just toleration by it.  As individuals we are a tolerant people, and can be scandalized by  much so long as no lives are lost and there is no cost incurred to society or individual liberty put at threat.  Equal protection under the law is the foundation of how society has determined it wishes to work.  Via government some few positive aspects of society are given shelter by government and protection, so as to allow individuals to support themselves.  When the law goes beyond that, to uphold that some rights are better than others, some people better than others for things that are perfectly allowable in civil society, such as bias, the law goes too far.  We agree to equal treatment for all citizens in our common endeavors in the market place and set up rules to ensure that mere bias does not become discrimination and bar to that market place.  When individuals don't want to be offended by other individuals, that is asking far too much of the law and far too little of yourself to understand those who have bias and either confront it or not as the case may be.  When only your sensitivities are offended, your recourse is to either suck it up or pass it off, not to make it a legal argument that people may not have ANY bias in their lives.  Bias is a natural outcome of the human condition: acting on it to remove the rights of others is an action that cannot be tolerated for those things society holds in common.  Seeking to make government take the money of the people to pay for the sensitivities of the few then starts building up, in a step-wise approach, the movement towards the rattlesnake.

Once that one more step in the wrong direction is taken, then the all-out confrontation begins.  Any time society feels at threat and those that govern it feel free to put down things contrary to society that enriches themselves and their brown-nosed cohort, you rarely get a chance to step back.  The sense of fair play when pushed to breaking is brittle, and while the last offense can be tiny, the reaction to it is huge and overwhelming.  When pushed to that limit, society then reacts via those within it seeking to preserve society and recognize that government must act in accord TO society, not society TO government.  In WWII the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and got the timing of their Declaration of War wrong by just a bit, so that it arrived *after* the bombing, which is then seen as a sneak attack.  Timing is everything, and even a minute before is better than a minute after as the time after is now null and void of meaning in diplomacy.  As these interactions are seen as 'scale free' by Jacksonians, that is they do not have different measuring sticks at different sizes of analysis, then Nations are judged just the same as individuals and governments.  By not following established norm, protocol and giving fair warning, the attacker that does so is seen as dishonorable.  It does not matter if this is in a bar fight, sending police to go after politicians, or an attack on one Nation by another without first declaring war.  The response is the same: fight, fight all out, fight with everything you have and win or die trying.

The rattlesnake is a very social animal, as snakes go, keeping to dens that harbor many of their kin, especially when the winds blow cold.  The worry when hearing a rattlesnake is not just in the one you hear, but in its kin that are nearby that are not to be disturbed.  The famous saying of the US soldier at war is simple, plain and direct:

"We did not start this war.  But we sure, as hell, will end it."

The Tea Parties are the rattle of the rattlesnake, the warning that you have gotten far too close for comfort and now need to back off and make amends and show that you are, indeed, backing off.

If Congress rescinds the bailouts, removes the CRA and asinine 'regulations' that mandate that private lenders must give to those who cannot repay such loans, and divests itself of these corrupt organs that have caused so much woe, then the positive step away from the rattlesnake will be done.  Unfortunately those that feel so brave to 'help' society don't know when they are about to get the fury of it.  And yet they have been warned.

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