Tea Party, Vocal on Domestic Issues, Lacks Foreign Policy Platform

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010 at 6:00 am

freedomworks.org

Since mid-May, a grinning Glenn Beck has popped up to greet visitors to the FreedomWorks website. Standing in front of his trademark chalkboard, the conservative host is the official face of FreedomWorks’ newest free offering: the “Take America Back! Action Kit.”

[GOP1] Together with a souvenir Gadsden Flag, the Tea Party starter-kit includes an informational DVD explaining the proper “pro-freedom” positions across the wide range of issues on which FreedomWorks is active. This menu of burning concerns, also found on freedomworks.org’s “Issues” page, includes primers on School Choice, Red Tape and Regulation, and even Asbestos Lawsuit Reform. While largely focused with domestic issues, the list also includes subjects of broader scope, such as International Trade and Global Warming.

There is, however, a striking omission in FreedomWorks’ otherwise expansive public agenda: It says nothing about national security or foreign policy. FreedomWorks, the organization most often credited with organizing the revival of an activist conservative grassroots, studiously avoids mention of the country’s two wars, its ballooning defense budget, arms control or the tangle of legal controversy that has outlived the previous administration’s “war on terror”—from Guantanamo to torture.

There is a simple explanation for why FreedomWorks fails to offer a bold new foreign policy agenda alongside its ambitious domestic one. The Tea Party movement for which it claims to speak, despite its sweeping rhetoric of renewal and reclamation, does not appear to have one. Where the Tea Party legions and its spokesmen raucously decry profligacy in domestic spending, they fall silent on the defense budget’s role in fueling deficits in recent years. While the highest-profile Tea Party-approved candidates and politicians agitate for radical redirection on social spending, taxes and the deficit, this boldness stops abruptly at water’s edge.

“My understanding from talking to Tea Party leaders who contact us regularly is that the overriding concerns at this time focus on spending, mounting debt and expanding role of government,” said Bridgett Wagner, Director of Coalition Relations at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates for a strong defense and an internationalist foreign policy. “The [Tea Party activists] are definitely patriotic and concerned about security and foreign policy issues, but these are not top-tier issues for them at this time.”

To the extent that the diffuse Tea Party movement has a foreign policy vision, there is little to distinguish it from the mainstream Republicanism of the last decade it claims so heartily to disdain.

The campaign platform of Pat Toomey, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania backed by local Tea Partiers, offers the homiletic belief that America “must have the strongest defensive capabilities in the world.” Without mentioning Iraq or Afghanistan, it goes on to state, “We should not hesitate to take action in defense of our freedom and our American way of life.”

That’s more than interested voters will find in the public platform of Tea Party darling and Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, which lacks even a perfunctory section on foreign policy or national security.

“There’s no question that the most pressing issues right now are domestic,” said Alex Burgos, a Rubio spokesman. “We’re talking to an electorate with a 12 percent unemployment rate, so the most dominant topics are going to be jobs, debt and the deficit.” Burgos noted that this does not mean that Rubio does not take foreign policy seriously. “Marco has spoken out on the issues,” added Burgos. “He supported the surge in Afghanistan, opposed canceling missile defense installations in Eastern Europe and supports Israel, as well as tough action against Iran.”

The foreign policy platform of Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul likewise reflects the conventional wisdom of strong-defense conservatism, and fails to approach the radicalism of his domestic policy suggestions. In Arizona, Tea Party-supported Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth offers a hawkish foreign policy line that could have been written by Dick Cheney. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Glenn Beck’s favorite senator, is yet another new-breed conservative who argues for breaking with the recent Republican past on domestic and economic issues, but on foreign policy sounds like any Bush-boosting Republican senator circa 2005.

When Tea Party heroes do wade into foreign policy issues, they do so at risk of exposing rifts within the ranks. After Sarah Palin began giving speeches under the Tea Party banner that smacked of Cheneyism, many of the Tea Party old guard felt betrayed. The Tea Party activist-theorist A.C. Kleinheider, who had joined the nascent movement as it first began coalescing in the Ron Paul campaign, was just one of those to resign from the movement in disgust.

“The tea party movement is dead, and Sarah Palin drove a stake right through its heart,” Kleinheider wrote following Palin’s keynote to the National Tea Party convention. “The tea party I’m familiar with was concerned more about the collusion of big business and big government than the War in Iraq. The tea party I’m familiar with was more concerned about rejecting the bailout of Wall Street while looking for ways reinvigorate the economy of Main Street than looking for Al-Qaeda. The tea party I’m familiar with seemed more concerned about restoring the Republic at home than Democracy abroad.”

No wonder, then, that groups like FreedomWorks prefer to avoid the subject altogether.

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28 Comments

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youmustbejoking
Comment posted June 9, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

So Paylin is responsible for killing something else! Why am I not surprised. I wonder how many of those who paid mega bucks to have her speak are regretting it now?


monkey99
Comment posted June 9, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

Well now, a snippet of the stance the baggers support. In all this time, after all the whining and complaining, we get to see just where the baggers stand.

Nutcases like Paul, Palin, Beck, Malkin and the like have NEVER said HOW they will do what they claim, until Paul opened his trap and rammed his foot in it. Let corporations do as they will? Tell that to the residents in the Gulf mired in tar and oil. Do away with the Fourteenth Amendment, and they say they respect the Constitution? Revise or rescind the Civil Rights Act of 1964? No, they're not racist. Then there are the cranks at the edges- Ol' “chickens for checkups” Lowden gave the American people a taste of just exactly how ignorant and regressive these people really are. Do away with Social Security? Does the rest of your “higher educated than the average” followers on that very program know that?

Complain all you want, baggers, about the deficit and spending. Your movement is something this country can't afford.


Vivan Pegues
Comment posted June 9, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

Matt Damon tried to explain that Sarah Palin was not qualified to be the Vice-President during the McCain/Palin campaign. He stated that he did not know what to think of her other than she was very detrimental to our country and that she was a very “strange and scary” individual who was not going to go away after McCain lost his Presidential campaign. He was right. Her major goal is to incite hate and racial violence for racist Rupert Murdock and her husband Todd Palin. She is only capable of working gor the good old boys because she has a strong sense of greed.


youmustbejoking
Comment posted June 9, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

Why do you think I refer to her as Paylin? She is, and always has been, divisive and just all around bad news. I knew it from the minute she won the mayoral office in Wasilla. She is a fool and a hypocrite of the highest order. The woman lies every time she opens her mouth. She should do the country a huge favor and just go away.


marya
Comment posted June 9, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Of course the Tea Party has no “foreign policy”. They think Puerto Rico is a country. Better to send them a very large map of the world with countries of the world labeled in large print and with countries in different, bright, contrasting colors. No, wait. First, send them a dvd teaching them how to read a map first, then the map.. Better to light one candle……


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