Split Developing in the Tea Party Coalition?

I am beginning to sense that a split is beginning to form within the Tea Party coalition.  During the election cycle, while sometimes evident, it was subsumed by their common determination to change the course of the political debate in the country.

The split, actually it appears to be a three way split breaks down as follows:

  1. Fiscal conservatives and social conservatives; e.g. wants to rein in spending but on the other hand wants also to tell others how to live their lives.  Their answer is the cut all the Federal Government except those agencies that support National Security.
  2. Constitutionalists; those favor a strict interpretation of the Constitution, want to role back many of the social programs, believe in nullification of federal laws, and take the words of the founders as literally from the hands of god.  Their answer to is to radically reduce the size of the Federal Government reducing the number of executive departments and programs substantially, cut spending except for the Department of Defense.
  3. Libertarians; they would shut down all except the essential elements of the government, would pursue a isolationists foreign policy, reduce the size of the standing military, sell off such things as the National Parks and Forest as not supporting the free market.

There are some variation to each of these but these are the essential splits; the question which I have, Will these three sides be able to work towards common goals or will they end fighting each other over the direction of the Tea-Party coalition?  That will be answered in the coming months.

Federal Government

In recent weeks, the employees of the Federal Government have become the favorite target of Republicans.  They argued they are overpaid, underworked; represent the bloated bureaucracy of the Government etc etc etc.  Among the ideas of floated include laying off a percentage of the Federal work force; cutting their salaries; forcing two weeks of unpaid leave.

First of all politicians have been running against the Federal employees for years.  We have a Civil Service system because during much of the 19th Century each time there was a change in the Presidency, the new administration would replace a great majority of the Federal Workers with their followers and cronies.  A permanent bureaucracy is a necessary evil of government; an evil, which must be closely watched, so as not to grow bloated, lazy, and overbearing.

So who are the Federal Workers; they range from the GS4 Police Officer at a DoD installation, the GS5 Postal Clerk in the Department of Agriculture, to include all who work in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security, work for the National Park Service etc.  Is our bureaucracy too big, that depends, if you are a politician then yes; if you are however someone wanting to file a Social Security Claim and it take a whole day just to see a clerk then no.  It is easy to blame the Federal Workers as they are prevented from actively participating in politics—as it should be; likewise politicians should refrain from using Federal employees as pawns in an ideological debate.

As we think about the size of the Federal Government, I would suggest that the new members of Congress think about the 2nd and 3rd order effects of any significant downsizing of government.  Who is it going to effect most of all, it will be lower grade federal employees; What impact will it have on unemployment?;  How many will it effect in your district?; How many more foreclosures and bankruptcies will this result in?

I am not saying don’t downsize government, what I am saying is do it wisely, do it prudently, otherwise the results will only reinforce the notion that Congress is more interested in partisan sound bites that ensuring government works.

Lead by Example

A continuation of my rant from above, but if Congress wants to downsize the Federal Government, they need to start with themselves.  If they want to freeze worker salaries or reduce salaries, they need to start with theirs and also with the employees of the legislative branch.  If they are going to downsize government, they need to downsize first, the size of the legislative branch, which means their personnel staffs, committee staffs, and other employees of the legislative branch.  One thing I learned from thirty-three years in the military, leaders must lead by example.  If they say “do as I say do, not as I do,” the new republican majority in the house will be short lived.



One thought on “Random Observation

  1. I need to meet an thoughtful Tea-Partier.
    And, by that, I mean a college-educated person who reads widely, bothers to check facts, and has been politically involved long enough to understand that compromise is how one “makes sausage”. The ones I’ve met largely have nothing more than a high-school education, uncritically believe most of what they see on TV or hear on the radio, and largely let others do their thinking for them.
    They’re also my age or older. Most of my students look at the Tea Party and go “huh?” (although the history majors tend to ask “These folks DO know that the original tea party wasn’t primarily about taxes and has nothing to do with small government—-right??”).

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