Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Revolution of Idiots

By David G. Young

Washington, DC, August 31, 2010 --  

The Tea Party movement lacks the thoughtful leadership needed to turn populist anger into productive action.

The throngs of Americans who marched to the Mall on Saturday to a massive Tea Party rally by the Lincoln Memorial had unmistakable populist credentials. Activists carried homemade signs, and dressed in either the Middle American summer uniform of shorts and t-shirts, or in the red, white and blue colors popularized during the American Revolution. But while the first patriots had leaders like Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin -- men of intellect, vision, and ideas -- the Tea Party activists must to settle for TV talk show host Glenn Beck and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Palin, with her grammatically-challenged Tweets and shallow analysis of current events, has proven herself an idiot. And as most educated people who have seen the Glen Beck show can attest, Beck’s thoughts regularly stray into similarly idiotic territory, with an ample dose of crazy thrown in to boot. Meanwhile, the established Republican politicians who could most benefit from the movement, House Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), are visionless, uncharismatic drones, who wouldn’t know a fresh idea if one hit them in the face.

Compare this leadership with that which was present the last two times there was a populist backslash against big government. In 1994, Newt Gingrich had a brilliant 8-point "Contract With America," a substantive plan which successfully nationalized the mid-term election, converted a general anti-Democrat sentiment into a Republican takeover of both houses of congress, and elevated Gingrich to be Speaker of the House. 14 years earlier, the future President Ronald Regan did something similar when he declared his intention to roll back big government and cut taxes. While Reagan’s pledges may sound stale today, in 1980 these ideas were truly revolutionary -- not the tired bromides we hear now.

By contrast, this year’s Tea Party movement is absolutely devoid of any unified plan or vision other than opposition to President Obama and his agenda. And a populist movement without thoughtful leadership is little more than a bunch of angry peasants with pitchforks. Why on earth have no intelligent, thoughtful leaders picked up the mantle of the Tea Party, and converted it into something useful? While Newt Gingrich has been very much in the mix during the rise of the movement, his focus has been on exploiting populist nonsense (like the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center) instead of addressing substantive issues. Not only has Gingrich failed to lead the movement, it appears his normally thoughtful and substantive nature has been co-opted by this revolution of idiots.

While it is arguable that Republican politicians’ avoidance of substance is simply a calculated political plan orchestrated by back-room strategists who are driving the Tea Party, scant evidence exists to support this theory. By all accounts, the Tea Party movement actually is a completely headless entity.

Before you dismiss my observations as those of an elitist East Coast liberal, consider that my formative years were in one of the reddest of the square states in the middle (Nebraska), and that I served as Chairman of the College Republicans at Iowa State University. I firmly believe that America is in great need of a libertarian-oriented right-wing revival, one that turns its back on the hideous big government Republicanism of George W. Bush and the even bigger government agenda of Barak Obama. This revival needs to tear down the sweeping government expansions into the mortgage, auto, and financial industries that were made in the depths of the financial crisis after White House Chief of Staff Rahm Imanuel cynically declared, "Never allow a crisis to go to waste."1

Yet the Tea Party movement, as currently formed, offers no hope of achieving this goal. While there are certainly a number of anti-government Republican House and Senate candidates who will be elected to office as a result of the movement, the absence of strong idea-oriented Republican leaders in congress creates a nearly insurmountable problem. If Republicans manage to capture the House of Representatives (likely2) and the Senate (possible, but less likely3), who will lead them? A House and Senate led by Boehner and McConnell may do plenty to reward lobbyists seeking big government Republican handouts, but it will not serve the ideals of the Tea Party. The simple truth is that today’s congress has no equivalent of Gingrich (as he was in 1994) who can take lead a revolution in an effective way.

As a result, the Tea Party movement may prove ultimately destructive to America’s right wing. By channeling the right’s political energy into an idiotic fringe with no hope of implementing meaningful reform will merely discredit right-leaning Americans who actually have the intellect, vision, and thoughtfulness to move the country forward.

Related Web Columns:

The Redneck Club, October 3, 2006

He’s No Gipper, April 27, 2004


1. The New York Times, Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy, November 9, 200

2. Wall Street Journal, Why Political Sage Sees GOP Romp in November, July 20, 2010

3. The Christian Science Monitor, Senate Races 101: Is the Democratic Majority in Jeopardy? August 26, 2010