April 18, 2010
Braving a heavy thunderstorm, rising flood waters, and even a tornado several miles away, several dozen Tea Party Patriots made it to the gymnasium in Gypsy Hill Park here in Staunton on Saturday afternoon. It was the third annual such gathering, timed to coincide with the traditional April 15 tax filing deadline. It was the first time I had ever been to a Tea Party event, and I'm glad I went. I only recognized a few people and only talked with a few others, so my impressions don't necessarily mean that much. I remain convinced that the Tea Party phenomenon deserves serious, open-minded consideration by political observers.
The first speaker was Dr. Gerard Alexander, a professor at the University of Virginia and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He discussed the erroneous notion held by many that the Tea Party movement is a haven for closet racists. Last September he wrote a column on a similar topic in the Washington Post. (In February 2010 I cited a Washington Post opinion column in which he inquired into the origins of the condescending attitude toward conservatives that prevails among many liberal elites.) One of the main themes of his presentation was that contemporary liberals have become so hopelessly wedded to the idea that the government is the solution to most if not all social problems that anyone who questions their reliance upon government is castigated by them as being unsympathetic with the goals that they proclaim. It's an ugly, widespread syndrome of narrow-mindedness that I have often encountered. Dr. Alexander is enthusiastic about the prospects that Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) and Gov. Chris Christie (New Jersey) might become national leaders of the Republican Party. He also mentioned a Web site that promotes and encourages right-leaning student activism: conservatism101.org. In sum, Dr. Alexander provided ample and effective intellectual arguments in support of the cause of limited government, which is one of the core Tea Party principles.
Following Dr. Alexander were (in order): John Taylor, a lawyer who discussed the country's cultural heritage. Next came Delegate Dickie Bell, who discussed budget politics in Richmond, lamenting the unhelpful role played by the Virginia Senate, "where conservative bills go to die." I had to leave before Doug Larsen and Congressman Bob Goodlatte spoke. It turned out that Goodlatte arrived late because of the bad weather, which was understandable.
I plan to keep in touch with Tea Party activists in the future, but I don't plan on joining them. After all, I'm one of those old-fashioned people who thinks that tax increases are sometimes an essential (if regrettable) means to balance the budget.