Barack Obama Economics Politics The Opinionsphere

These Protests Aren’t Against Big Government, But About Liberals Running the Government

[digg-reddit-me]Andrew Sullivan postulates that there is a “silver lining” to the “right’s apoplexy” in that it has moved the Republican Party away from its christianist social policies to a focus on economic libertarianism.

I’m far from convinced by this argument however – as my impression is that the real impetus behind the opposition to Obama isn’t economic as much as cultural. Concern about the size of government and the deficits don’t seem to be strongly related to either the size of government or deficits, but about who is in power. Ronald Reagan ballooned the size of the deficit and enlarged the size of government, yet is beloved by those who now (and in 1992) claimed to be very concerned about the role of government and deficits. George W. Bush had strong support from the right during his term, and I don’t recall any Tea Party Protests during his watch – yet he presided over ridiculous deficits and an expansion of the government in every direction, from national security matters to health care (Medicare Part D) to the financial and automotive sectors to the tens of thousands of small pork projects.

Yet suddenly, a liberal becomes president – a moderate, pragmatic liberal who seems genuinely focused on reducing the mid- and long-term deficits – and Tea Parties erupt to protest all the programs he’s running (which he inherited). It seems outright naive to attribute these protests to a rejuvenation of economic conservatism – especially given the “hot button” issues that arise: government-sponsored (and maybe forced!) abortion and euthanasia and illegal immigrants getting health care. I know that Sullivan isn’t this naive – he’s just looking for the silver lining. But I don’t think one is there.

The protests aren’t about the size of government or its role; they are a viceral response to the fact that a liberal now runs the government. That frustration is rooted in cultural and social issues, rather than economic ones. Which is why deficit politics only becomes powerful when Democrats are in control of the White House.

[Image by Steve Rhodes licensed under Creative Commons.]

8 replies on “These Protests Aren’t Against Big Government, But About Liberals Running the Government”

What’s torn it wide open is that Mr. Obama ran on a platform of literally “Hope and Change”, while in the background the TEA party movement has been pressuring up during the Bush years of extreme spending. The left was already rightly protesting how expensive the war was, and when Mr. Obama finally became president and had to start actually making real policy, he discovered that it was much harder than making campaign slogans. The economy was taking a dive, his solution, right or wrong, was to invest massive amounts of money into it at a rate that far outstripped the current wars. So, at this point, having had economically disaffected liberals and then having Obama suddenly creating the conditions for a large group of economically disaffected conservatives (we already had highh debt and he went and bailed out wall street to the tune of BILLIONS) and adding in the perpetually disaffected 3rd party types, and you have a recipe for the tea parties.
Some politicians and pundits on the right think they can control the TEA party movement, but they are discovering that won’t work, it’s a beast with two many heads. No doubt some do take their marching orders from the Replublican party, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh, but most of the TEA partiers I’ve met tent to regard those people as part of the establishment that is part of the problem.
The real problem seems to be a general disaffectation with all of government, both parties. Casting it as a Republican movement against a Liberal or Democrat government misses the point.

A moderate liberal? Mr. Obama’s own words were to the effect that you can see his policies by the people he surrounds himself with. Need more be said? If you believe him to be moderate then Jack the Ripper was a petty criminal. You use the same lame excuse as all frustrated socialists “it’s because he’s a black man” that the tea parties are a growing, conservative grass-roots concern. Conservatism simply stands for small fiscally responsible government. I don’t need a government nanny to look after me. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. That’s what is at the heart of the Tea Parties. By the way, President Reagan actually balanced the budget while in office. You may want to check some facts.

“Need more be said? If you believe him to be moderate then Jack the Ripper was a petty criminal”

Now I believe you to be a moron!

” You use the same lame excuse as all frustrated socialists”

Nah, I’m a democrat. Clearly you should stop rubbing yourself on that copy of “Atlas shrugged” so much!

I can always tell the frustrated right. They are the first ones to call names. They are frustrated because, like spoiled children, when things don’t go their way they resort to name calling. It would be different, Chris, if you actually gave an honest opinion but all i saw was declarations of ignorance. I challenge you Chris. Get through one day without being a socialist. Dont drive on socialists roads or walk on socialists side walks. Dont use socialists water or electricity. Dont complain about socialists government (all government is socialist). Don,t drive a car or buy gas (both heavily subsidized by the socialized gov., meaning socialist). Chris. You were born in a socialized hospital. The doctors and nurses went to federally assisted universities (socialist) and are guided by socialistic rules and regulations. The internet that you are calling names on was provided (with the help of a certain senator when he cosponsored a bill to get the money to take the army’s arpa net and turn it into the internet, Sen. Gore!) by socialism. Am i a frustrated socialist? No Chris. I am a realist. There is only one reality and you are so far from it that your opinions make you sound childish.

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