One of the striking things about David Barstow's excellent 4,500-word story on the tea party movement that appeared in the New York Times last weekend was the perspective it gave on the participants. In the typical tea party story, you get a couple of comments from people at rallies, a quote from Dick Armey, some speculation about how this will all play out in November, and maybe, just maybe, an aside saying that there's some radicalism around the fringes of this movement. But since Barstow took the time -- months of time, actually -- he got a much deeper view of who the participants are and what they believe.
When an incident like that of the man in Austin who flew his plane into an IRS building happens, it's tempting to use it to bash the hell out of one's opponents. And frankly, in this case it's not unreasonable to do so. When conservatives incessantly portray taxes as the theft of a tyrannical government from hard-working people, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that some start to take that argument seriously.
As this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) opens, we're seeing an interesting new phase in the evolution of the American right. While political movements usually have internal debates about where they should position themselves ideologically, the right has become the "big tent" the GOP always claimed to be. Worried about the Bilderberg Group imposing a one-world government? Want to go back to the gold standard? Spend a good portion of your time painting Hitler mustaches on pictures of President Obama? Don't feel fully dressed unless you're wearing colonial-era garb? Then come on in -- we couldn't be happier to have you.
Today, a group of movement right muckety-mucks released "The Mount Vernon Statement," meant to be a guiding document for their side. You've got the heavyweights -- Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform -- and a few lesser lights, such as professional gay-basherElaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness. The document itself is about as vague as it could be. There isn't a single policy issue mentioned; just a lot of repetitions of phrases like "founding principles" and "limited government."
Feeling the need to pretend they actually have a desire to reform health care, Republicans have seized on two things they can repeat: 1) We should have "tort reform," which when Republicans design it means making it almost impossible to recover reasonable damages for medical errors, and 2) We should "let people buy insurance across state lines."