Editorial: Something new in the body politic
Whether you agree with what its members say or not, you have to admit that the Tea Party movement brings something unique to the political conversation today.
Unlike the two established political parties that spend their time and energy fighting over matters of nuance, Tea Party adherents appear ready to tear down the entire existing framework to return to what they see as the founding principles of this country. Principles, they claim, that call for placing drastic limits on the federal government, and especially federal spending.
They aren’t interested in the small victories. Compromise, to them, is indefensible. In the past, the two parties were content to meet in the middle; neither side was particularly happy, but each got something for its constituencies.
Simple legislative acts, such as raising the debt ceiling or passing a bill to keep the government solvent, have now become Congressional games of chicken, as Tea Party representatives and their allies in the Republican Party have taken these opportunities to attach extreme budget cuts designed to fundamentally reshape the way government works … or doesn’t.
They seem to have no qualms about placing the nation’s credit rating at risk or temporarily cutting off government services relied upon by millions of Americans. They see their struggle in terms of black and white, and a little collateral damage is to be expected along the way. Clausewitz once said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. The Tea Party has turned that axiom on its head—adapting the mentality of war to the political arena.
But in the battlefield of political discourse, there has to be room for give and take. One side cannot set out to crush the opposition … because, unlike in a war, we are arrayed on both sides. It’s been 150 years since we’ve been in such a fight, and that one took a century to recover from.
The passion and energy that the Tea Party brings to the debate are admirable. And its concern over the nation’s mounting debt has brought that problem to the fore.
But in the zeal of the fray, its members have shown themselves time and again apparently willing to shut down the government in the process. And that’s too high a price to pay.