Today’s column is logic-challenged to a degree even unusual for Dionne. Because he has apparently not investigated anything substantive about the constitutional and governance visions that the various state Tea Party organizations espouse, he bases his entire argument on a false premise.
And that premise is embarrassingly laughable. “[O]ur friends in the Tea Party,” he offers, “have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor.”
Whether they intend it or not, their name suggests they believe that the current elected government in Washington is as illegitimate as was a distant, unelected monarchy. It implies something fundamentally wrong with taxes themselves or, at the least, that current levels of taxation (the lowest in decades) are dangerously oppressive. And it hints that methods outside the normal political channels are justified in confronting such oppression.The alert reader (which of course includes everyone reading the Recovering Bureaucrat) notes that Mr. Dionne gives the game away up front. “Whether they intend it or not” means that Mr. Dionne believes he knows better what Tea Party activists mean than they themselves do. This is the kind of silly drivel that our Left Coast elites have been reduced to peddling. Because some of us refuse to accept the faith-based progressive project to reinvent America’s founding principles to excuse leftwing ideology, Mr. Dionne and his fellow clerics must denounce us and explain in tones best used for two-year olds our “misunderstanding of our founding document.”
The straw man that Mr. Dionne erects is the charge that members of the Tea Party and, by extension, those that sympathize with them, are against any government at all (and thus are anarchists), and that they will employ “methods outside the normal political channels” to defeat those that disagree with them.
This appears to the RB to be pure projection. Leaving aside that fact that Mr. Dionne offers not a shred of evidence to prove the accuracy of this interpretation, his dark tones and hints of revolution are better understood as dimensions of his own desires and attitudes.
It has been the American New Left, since its McGovernite vanquishing of the industrial labor-based Old Left in the 1970s, that has consistently sought to circumvent and distort the political system to achieve its ends. Its use of courts to undermine and overturn legislative and popular will since the days of the Warren Court is notorious. Liberal championing of the “card check” method of organizing labor unions is a direct slap against the secret ballot. The recent mobocracy in Wisconsin and the disgraceful flight of the state’s Senate Democratic minority to Illinois in a futile attempt to overturn the results of last year’s election is just the latest example of the left’s disdain for our founding principles.
(The RB will refrain from pointing out the hypocrisies lacing these various activities and the creed that informs them, although he notes gratefully that these would provide subjects for blog posts in saecula saeculorum.)
So from the outset Mr. Dionne jousts with his own shadow, not the Tea Party. Let us examine some more of the howlers in his screed, which should evoke pity in the reader, since, as he asserts, it is necessary for us all “to recognize the deep flaws in this vision of our present and our past.”
Contrary to his assertions, the Tea Party—like its 18th century namesake—is not protesting taxes per se. It is protesting the usurpation of power by the Church of the All-Powerful State and its willingness to use the machinery of government to extend its control over the most mundane of private activities. Mr. Dionne notes with an “ah-ha!” that in the enumeration of grievances against George III that comprises the bulk of the text of the Declaration, the mere mention of taxes doesn’t occur until the seventeenth item.
Oh ho, he goes on to say, au contraire,
The very first item on their list condemned the king because he “refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” Note that the signers wanted to pass laws, not repeal them, and they began by speaking of “the public good,” not about individuals or “the private sector.” They knew that it takes public action — including effective and responsive government — to secure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” [Italics in the original]Having drunk the progressive Kool-Aid, Mr. Dionne—like most of his elitist colleagues—cannot conceive of any other way to promote “the public good” except by passing laws and expanding government. He conflates the concept of “public” with the expectations of “government.”
We wouldn’t know from this essay that the founding fathers were deeply concerned with the human tendency to tolerate in government what today we call “mission creep.” They wrote a constitution to severely and explicitly restrict what government could do, because they believed, unlike Mr. Dionne and his fellow clergy, that all power stems from the people and that their power exists prior to and above the institution of government.
And so of course Mr. Dionne has to attack Texas Governor Rick Perry as some 21st century Jefferson Davis by attributing to him a policy determination to destroy the federal government. It is not clear to the RB whether Mr. Dionne has read anything Gov. Perry has said on the question of federalism, but here is the full quote of the Governor's from which Mr. Dionne has constructed his straw man:
Folks in Washington should take a closer look at the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states the preeminence of states’ rights in the structure of our country. The time has come to assert those rights, and remind the federal government that it was created to serve states, not the other way around. Left unchecked, Washington will continue digging our country into a hole of debt, increased government intrusion and the loss of personal liberty.Mr. Dionne states as a direct quote what is actually a paraphrase, designed to make Gov. Perry seem ignorant of American and constitutional history. Well, as a matter of historic record, the Constitution was ratified by the states, not by popular vote. The political relationship between the states and the federal government was designed to be fluid, and despite the triumph of the North in the Civil War, and the subsequent passage of the 14th Amendment, the constitution still restricts federal power in matters better left to the purview of the states—and thus the 10th Amendment that Mr. Dionne so carelessly derides.
What Gov. Perry actually is saying is that federal government overreach and hubris are the cause of our fiscal and moral deficits, something that Mr. Dionne ascribes instead to the unwashed illiterati of the Tea Parties.
He concludes his attack on his own shadow thus:
We praise our Founders annually for revolting against royal rule and for creating an exceptionally durable system of self-government. We can wreck that system if we forget our Founders’ purpose of creating a representative form of national authority robust enough to secure the public good. It is still perfectly capable of doing that. But if we pretend we are living in Boston in 1773, we will draw all the wrong conclusions and make some remarkably foolish choices.The RB squinted carefully at the text, because he was convinced that Mr. Dionne meant to write, “if we pretend we are living in Washington in 1973,” the year of the apotheosis of the Johnson-Nixon Great Society/Keynesian ideology. Mr. Dionne, as spokesman for the Church of the All-Powerful State and the perfect representative of its mindset, surely will continue to draw all the wrong conclusions and make some remarkably foolish choices. This is the sorry path of our imploding elites.
This is precisely why the Tea Parties and other groupings of Americans—including the Recovering Bureaucrat and his allies—will continue their efforts to defeat the Church and reinvigorate our democratic republic with a return to our founding principles. Not just because their approach does not yield the world they want, but because what the world needs now is free people applying their talents and ideas to use the unbelievable technologies available today to create the future.
As our world is enjoying—in fits and starts, it is all too true—transformation into the Information Age, and its promise of abundance as an organizing principle rather than scarcity, the Bourbons of the old elites—the self-appointed guardians of Liberalism 4.0—will in their denial of this fact continue to defend a system of government that is de facto bankrupt.
As Mr. Dionne notes, “this is, well, crazy.”