Post Politics: The Tea Party revolution will likely be betrayed

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 1:00am

While many on the Right are energized by the level of engagement on display by grassroots libertarians and conservatives in last week's "Tea Party" protests, conservatives should fight the urge to get too excited about this impressive show of force by the Right for one simple reason: It's all happened before.

No, there has never been a one-day coordinated mass protest like this on the Right. That much is new. But that is all that is new about this. The symptom was a new one, but the disease remains the same.

The Right, in opposition, is always pure, populist and principled. Without hands on the levers of power, professional conservative activists and operatives always return to principle. The Tea Parties were just the most recent manifestation of what the Right always does when on the downslope of political influence. It is not unique and it is not surprising.

There has been much argument over exactly how grassroots these protests really were. Were they an authentic spontaneous reaction to the big government initiatives of Obama or were these protests manipulated by professional conservatives looking for an event to justify their opposition to the President?

Like many arguments there is a bit of truth on both sides. Top-down activist groups like Freedom Works and cheerleaders like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News clearly pulled strings and pushed buttons to get people out to their state capitols and town squares. It is also true that those people did in fact show up. Many of them average people angry that a culturally leftist President has seen fit to use the treasury to bailout those corporations and financial "masters of the universe" responsible for our economic predicament.

Critics point at this new display of anti-government sentiment and shout hypocrisy. They wonder where this outrage was when President Bush was raiding the treasury to pay for his compassionate conservatism and elective wars in the Middle East. Some authentic conservatives and libertarians at the tea parties retort that they have been consistent, that they opposed the big government Bush administration as much as they oppose the Obama administration.

And there's the rub. Some of these Tea Party conservatives, those of the Old Right and libertarian persuasion, did oppose the Bush administration. Indeed, these Tea Party protests look and feel very much like those Ron Paul rallies that sprung up organically during the campaign. This is not a coincidence.

The Paul movement started something on the Right. It tapped into an anger that had always been just below the surface. Now that economic conditions seem to have proved the angry ones correct, this movement has grown. The GOP and the professional conservative class, instead of trying to put out the fire on the Right to preserve their power, are stoking it. Now conservatives, who during the Bush administration were encouraged to be accommodating, are now being encouraged to release their true feelings about big government.

Professional conservatives are hoping that these grassroots conservatives and libertarians can be used, once again, as pawns against their political opponents and as foot soldiers in their eventual return to power.

It is, in essence, 1994 all over again. Just as Newt Gingrich melded the conservative movement with the Center-Right Perot populists to achieve power, today's professional conservatives will seek to ride this Tea Party wave of anger right back to power and promptly sell out that revolution, just as Gingrich and his cohorts did.

There is a difference between being anti-state and anti-Left. Anti-stateists believe that governments are essentially inefficient and encourage corruption. Their conservatism means to decentralize the power of the political elites — liberal and "conservative."

The professional conservative class is not anti-state. They want power. They want their hands on the levers of power in order to serve "conservative interests." But, in so doing, they leave in place government mechanisms that they oppose when controlled by their political opponents.

This Tea Party protest was, in its purest form, anti-state. It was a shot across the bow of a government who encouraged and then bailed out those corporate interests that left our economy in shambles.

For others, the protest was just an anti-Obama tantrum, a chance to throw bombs now that they no longer have to apologize for a President who called himself conservative.

So be enthusiastic about this "new" Rightist phenomenon if you want to, but if history is any guide, the professional conservatives will use and abuse these grassroots conservatives to get back into power, promptly sellout the principles of the movement, and then convince half of those they sold out that their betrayal is better than the alternative.

Perhaps this time will be different and authentic conservatives will throw off their professional conservative masters and show the country what true Old Right conservatism really is. However, if past is prelude, one should not hold their breath.

Kleinheider is's political blogger. Visit him at

19 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 4/20/09 at 2:43

Guess professional conservative is the new buzz/curse term for us anti-socialists. He used it 7 times and conservative more then that. (14) and use "master (s)" at least twice.

This guy is good enough to teach propaganda 101, to deflect from the rampart spending and social "CHANGE" they are makeing and "HOPE" we don't notice.

Someone told me a long time ago the way to know what they (the left) are up to is to lesten to what they are accusing others of. They not only want the power but have it and are spending like crazy to insure they keep it.

If someone used the terms socialist/communist marxist that many times they would be calling it hate speech, even if you just called them leftys or democraps.

(wow glad I copied that before I tried to post it as they asked for login again even though my name showed on the posting block) What is this that we have to log in everyday?

By: idgaf on 4/20/09 at 2:53

Before someone beats me to it he uses "Right" at least 10 times. (counted 11 the first time) so that makes an average of 2 what he considers a derrogatory term per paragraph.

By: pandabear on 4/20/09 at 6:34

Where were all these protesters when Bush was in office ?

Do they think their troubles all started on Jan 20 ?

Do they think ...?

By: carleydale on 4/20/09 at 6:55

It wasn't just the Right at that rally....there were those of us (Progressive Democrats) who were there with our little kids in tow, and we were toting signs and yelling just as loudly as the Conservative Right attendants. And happily, we were the ones who yelled at Congress the minute they voted to invade Iraq.... but does the extreme Left ever mention that point? Of course not. That rally had NOTHING to do with party affiliation, but with drunken government spending that is unlike any other ever committed in history.... total combined. Even the Wall Street Journal (mostly non-political rag) is tossing its cookies over the whoring and drunken spending our gov't is doing these days. As one doctor put it on Friday, "See this $1000 bill? It's from my home country, the Philippines, and it now has no value. We did the same thing back then."

By: carleydale on 4/20/09 at 7:30

Bush wasn't a drunken whore on a spending spree from hell.... lol He was many other things, but at least he didn't spend us into oblivion.

By: TRHJR on 4/20/09 at 7:33

1 St... who is kienlndeir ? how ever u spell this cats name... JUst another socialist, commie, no leg shaveing , or a leg shaver... sounds like he or she fell out of N. peol-ise dress... U so called reporter... U know I would rather put my hand in a krorcker scak full of rattle snakes... than speak to a so called " journalist " cause I know what the rattle snakes will do. NOW FOOL these tea gatherings were formed from the grassroots so take ur stateiest butt off to new york

By: Idahoser on 4/20/09 at 10:39

Tea parties might make you feel better but the communists have had "public education" making little demcrat voters for too many years. This is not going to be fixed, America is doomed. Which is a damn shame, there will never be another free country, there's no place to start over.

By: Richard E. Reed on 4/20/09 at 11:10

I paid considerable attention to the tax day Tea Party and lack of coverage by the press. I did not attend. I spoke with someone that did to get a feel for who attended and what their grievances were. He informed me that people voting for and against President Obama attended, and that all were strongly opposed to the massive bailout and spending by the government.

Mr. Kleinheider refers to relatively recent political history that has impacted the political right extensively in his article. I do not see the relevance and took that as a distraction from the main issue that provoked the Tea Parties. I will grant Mr. Kleinheider there were “professional conservatives” involved in getting the word out about the Tea Parties. The protestors took off from work, arranged baby sitters, and changed their normal schedule to demonstrate. Isn’t this what is meant by grass roots? From the account given me, the protestors were not all Libertarians, Conservative, nor even Republicans. I challenge Mr. Kleinheider to join me at the next event and let’s take a count. Maybe then the Tea Party will get the same coverage as other protests.

I don’t believe Mr. Kleinheider has missed the point of the Tea Party. However, I took Mr. Kleinheider’s assertion that the Republican Party would betray protestors as an attempt to impact reader’s thinking in such a way as to discourage future participation. This is not partisan politics. There is something more important at issue.

King George likewise attempted to squash opposition after the Boston Tea Party of 1773. He didn’t care to understand the grievances of the public. The king knew best what was needed for the future of this country. King George made broad sweeping changes in the lives of his subjects with out their consent and was sure the common man would eventually do what they were told. The colonists were not originally anti King, nor are present day protestors anti-state as Mr. Kleinheider claims. They simply intend to exercise their GOD given right of self determination.

Our constitution was written to prevent a belligerent government from coming to power and abusing those God given rights. To accomplish that end, the principal of Separation of Powers is fundamental in the Constitution by limiting the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights went further to limit interference. These fundamental rights are being exercised every time a Tea Party takes place. Why then are numerous people and organizations speaking out against the lawful exercising of these rights? King George’s immediate response to the Boston Tea Party was the Intolerable Acts. If the Tea Parties don’t just fade away, what will President Obama do?

Richard E. Reed

Nashville, TN 37211

By: Captain Nemo on 4/20/09 at 1:02


By: Captain Nemo on 4/20/09 at 1:07

I think the right wing is now the wrong.

Oh BTW: hello

By: Karenina on 4/20/09 at 1:42

Mr. Kleinheider. Seems you are singing a different tune these days! I noticed in this piece you talk of "Tea Partiers" whereas on your other blog you have, for weeks and weeks, referred to us in a more homophobic and sexually explicit "Teabaggers". What made you change? Was it the higher standards at the City Paper Editors forced upon you? Or is it possible that you, yourself have finally caught on to some standards and manners?

I'll be interested to see how we are described in your next piece (probably back on that other blog) and I guess I will get my answer.

By: Karenina on 4/20/09 at 2:20

Pandabear, I'll tell you like I tell every other dem that I meet who has the audacity to ask why "we didn't protest Bush" and I think you might get our point. The tea parties were to protest all the spending. The stimulus Bush enacted was 4 mos before the end of his term, and the fact is, it’s not all Bush's fault. He had to pass that bank stimulus.

If anyone knows anything about The Great Depression, you would know that the banks failing was a large part of why it was so bad, and lasted so long. Private small businesses could no longer make payroll, obtain loans for the day-to-day operations, etc., and the economy tanked.

In the 90s, dems passed legislation to force banks and mortgage companies to make risky loans to risky people. By force, mind you. This was the initial cause of the banks failing this time. With last summers high gas prices (again, not Bush’s fault) and these faulty loans, and then still, the dems stood in everyone’s way when they had hearings about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and Barney Frank is telling everyone they were fine and these mortgages would not have any dire consequences which, only months later, turned out to be crap.

And let’s not forget the spending is controlled by the house and congress, whom, as I know you know, have been in the majority of both houses since 2006 while all this spending has taken place.

But Barry? He’s spending willy nilly! There is NO NEED to bail out the automakers who, for the last 30 years, have sat on their hands manufacturing the same junk they had been for years, in addition to not knowing the market. You do not continue to manufacture SUV’s when gas hits $4.00 a gallon, you idiots! Bush’s bailout was to the banks. Barry’s is to the automakers and anyone else that he and the dems wanted to siphon money to (Acorn, etc.). The PORK in Barry's stimulus package is criminal! But, with the House and Senate (and now Presidency) in dem control, that's all we're gonna get! They’re using our tax money to make a butterfly sanctuary in Fl. We are spending billions on nonsense projects all across the country only now is NOT THE TIME for that type of spending!

So, the next time Pandabear or one of these fools ask “why didn’t you protest Bush”, this should be the standard response. When they bring up Iraq (which they will), they might have to be reminded that that’s what the President is elected to do! Foreign affairs! Keeping us safe! And he had every right to do what he had to do to keep us safe.

Also, the whole “95% of all Americans saw an instant tax cut on their payroll taxes” is just a bunch of hooey! They will find THAT OUT when they go to file their 2009 tax return and find out all those checks where the extra $12.29 was added will have to be paid back at the end of the year, since this was only a tax cut on the taxes we already pay. We’ll still have to pay the amount back, plus the $12.29 that has been added to our checks.

By: shenanigan on 4/20/09 at 3:20

sorry to see such expense pour out by the Republican party of NO. it look like they right wing went out and bought a packett of tea to throw in a bucket (only one per person and what a bunch of " Cheap O") Who took the buckett home.

By: frankg on 4/20/09 at 3:32

I think the '94 revolution fizzled when many lawmakers elected in that wave went home after two terms, and in '95 newt lost in the debacle of a government strike/protest when he tried to cut the size of government, if I recall.
After 2000 it was pretty much farm bills, highway pork, redistricting...stuff dems were nailed for in '94. Compassionate conservatism just got gop accused of being spending whores. Try to not spend, they're accused of starving children. Dems and media won't give you any breaks.
I think there's just a some republicans in leadership who gave up a long time ago, but didn't leave their positions. Money/perks.
A common thread I've seen during these tax protests, and I've wondered since 2006, is "where are republican leaders?". I think much of our leadership is just tired of standing for true conservative principles. Some fatigue may be understandable after daily beating in the democratic media, year after year, which does not hold the left to the same standard. Witness the culture of corruption since '06 and '09. Investigations anyone?

By: Captain Nemo on 4/20/09 at 3:38

I think that these tea baggers are being used.

By: idgaf on 4/20/09 at 4:11

Ther 62 cent cigerette tax hurt the poor the most, (lied to the people) those that can least afford it to pay for health care for some that have it already and makeing up to $60 K. Does that make sense. You voted in a little kid that has no concept of money when we needed a man.

Would you believe today 3 months later was his first cabinet meeting? Yet he is on tv almost every single day. Its like he thinks the is a rock star or the job is a tv show.

By: Brian_McMurphy on 4/20/09 at 6:30

Dear Mr. Klanheider,

What is up with this concern troll post, exactly? You've been calling the half a million or so people who attended these Tea Party protests faggots and cocksucking homosexuals for the last month or so at the City Paper's sister site, The Nashville Post.

Why the sudden change of heart? You're suddenly concerned that these ballsucking homos are being taken advantage of?

Let's see your history over the last month.

It's obvious that The Nashville Scene-ification of The City Paper with Del Favero and ratboy Chris Ferrell think they've pulled a fast one with their new editorial policy.

We're either to assume that The Scene,er, I mean The City Paper doesn't read the work of the people they hire; or, that they edited it for public consumption; or, that they don't pay attention.

Maybe next time you can hire David Duke to cover an annual meeting of the Jewish Community Center.

By: Vicki Buchanan on 4/20/09 at 10:42

I purpose that all of us who are tired of high taxes and wasteful government spending start wearing green every Wed. as a sign that we want to spend more of our own money not less, particularly in this economy. Democrats and Republicans can surely agree that we are more careful than Congress with our dollars. Futhermore, most of us do not want to put future generations at risk. Perhaps if this movement caught on (Green Weds.), it would capture the attention of the media and Congress more than one-time tea parties. We have to let these people know that we are fighting mad. If they still don't pay attention, we must vote them out of office. Socialism doesn't work!

By: pandabear on 4/21/09 at 6:37


Sorry I didn't get a chance to respond to your post yesterday.

You're an idiot.