Campaign For Liberty
Saturday, Dec 26th, 2009
The Tea Party movement has reconnected the cooperation between conservatives and libertarians that harks back to their mutual opposition to FDR’s big government days. But a host of these newly forged alliances have failed to take hold. There is an undercurrent of ill-fitting philosophies and anti-intellectual clashes that suggest freedom is not always brewing in many Tea Parties. One example of a Tea Party divorcing its libertarian brethren recently occurred in Monterey California.
I helped create a nine-member board for the Monterey County Tea Party after an April 15 demonstration that attracted 600 sign-carrying protestors. The match seemed perfect. We all agreed on a mission statement that supported smaller government, lower taxes, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The libertarians wanted to include a non-interventionist plank, but, under pressure, were willing to forgo it for the sake of a peaceful alliance.
But after a successful 4^th of July Tea Party parade and Freedom Rally in Monterey, the cracks in the alliance split wide open. I was accused of belonging to too many leftist organizations. In fact, I am co-chair of the local Libertarians for Peace, which joined the 27-member Monterey County Peace Coalition to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Libertarians for Peace is neither Left nor Right.
Looking back, the fur first hit the fan when Monterey CodePink asked to be one of the co-sponsors of the Tea Party Freedom Rally. I loved the idea of bringing together the anti-war and anti-tax crowds. But this possible alliance alarmed the conservatives. The Left and Right dehumanize each other daily on talk radio and cable news; so I should not have been surprised by their fierce determination to share no common ground with any leftist organization. To calm their fears I tried to put the issue in perspective. Nationwide, CodePink follows a socialist agenda; no argument there. But the Monterey branch of CodePink has worked with libertarians on both anti-war and anti-tax issues for years. In fact, the local Monterey CodePink leader was one of the most active signature-gathers in an attempt to abolish the utility tax in Seaside.
Next, I was accused of being too involved with the Libertarian Party, as if the Libertarians were somehow responsible for the financial meltdown, bailouts and stimulus packages. To their credit, the conservative flock wanted no association with Republicans or Democrats either, saying that both political parties had caused our current problems. But somehow they were upset with the Tea Party Board members who held leadership roles in the Libertarian Party. It did not seem to matter to them that libertarians were heavily involved in starting the Tea Party movement back in 2008, nor that the original 1773 tea partiers at Boston Harbor were classical liberals (libertarians), not Tories or conservatives.
Obviously, the Tea Party conservatives were neophytes; never before had they been involved in political activism. Some had never heard of Congressman Ron Paul. Prof. David R. Henderson, one of the libertarian Tea Party Board members, described this curious phenomenon as “activism without ideals.” I thought my phrase captured it best: “a cause without a rebel.” In fact, as demands to purge the libertarians intensified, we got the distinct feeling that the purgers fit the category of “reactionary” since they seemed to know only what they were against, not what they were for. Amazingly, they never pointed out any philosophical differences that they found objectionable. It was as if they were devoid of ideas, marooned with empty rhetoric and no real solutions.
One of my major crimes was passing out several copies of my book — /Facets of Liberty/. This occurred at a Tea Party event billed as a “mixer.” A few days later I was told that I should have neither passed out educational material nor mixed with the crowd. The libertarians soon labeled this misnamed event the non-mixer mixer.
In retrospect, it did not help our case when we asked these rookies embarrassing questions. We asked them why they had done nothing when President Bush bailed out the banks and auto companies, spent money like a drunken sailor, bashed civil liberties and advanced socialized medicine with Medicare Prescription Drug law, a program that some in Congress estimated will have a price tag of $1.2 trillion by 2016. I suppose our questioning merely rubbed their noises too deeply in their ignorance.
Whatever the reasons, the Monterey County Tea Party purged the libertarians by dissolving the entire organization. That failed to stop us. The libertarians quickly formed the Liberty Tea Party and, in an effort to set up a large tent, invited everyone to join a more enlightened Tea Party.
This article was posted: Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 5:05 am