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Tea Party reactions

By Scott Tibbs, April 24, 2009

The "tea parties" to protest Barack Obama's plans for massive increases in government spending and government control over the economy continue to generate controversy and criticism, both of the Bloomington event and nationwide.

Some have criticized the "tea party" activists because they were not vocal during the Bush Administration's expansion of the budget deficit and the national debt. It is true that the Republican Party has been the party of big government over the last 8 years, despite the encouraging commitment to shrinking government that came with the election of the Republican Congress in 1994. For the most part, Republicans lost their way under Bush, and did not protest Bush's big government programs nearly enough.

Look at what George W. Bush gave us. We had a brand new federal entitlement program, a significant expansion of the federal government's role into primary and secondary education, a massive increase in government spending, a law regulating the content of political speech, and an attempt to give amnesty to illegal aliens. I've been critical of the big-government leanings of the Bush Administration for a while, criticizing Republicans for embracing big government in a 2006 letter to the editor.

However, the lack of objection by too many Republicans to Bush's big government leanings is a poor excuse for Obama's massive increase in government spending and government control of the economy. That is a "tu quoque" logical fallacy, attempting to justify one's own behavior by saying "you do it too." If Obama's policies are justifiable, then Obama's supporters should argue the policies on their merits rather than resorting to childish finger-pointing.

Some have criticized the "partisanship" of the tea parties. This argument is a copout, an ad hominem argument meant to distract from the arguments presented against Obama's economic plan. Blind partisanship that casts aside principle is corrosive in politics at all levels, but as I explained last year, genuine philosophical differences on various issues is not partisanship. In fact, partisanship has been good for our system of government by forcing deeper examination of issues that often leads to a better solution. Partisanship can stop bad legislation from becoming law, because a bill that gets rushed through the legislative process often brings bad results. Had the Democrats been a little more partisan in the fall of 2001, perhaps we the "Patriot Act" never would have been passed. This is why our system of government was designed to slow things down and force more deliberation before decisions have made. Partisanship is an aid to good legislation, not a hindrance.

Deke Hager whined about the tea party in his Herald-Times column, complaining that the protest was composed if old white people. Hager obviously didn't pay much attention, considering the protest had a wide age range, from young children to a group of College Republicans to people in their 20's, 30's and 40's as well as older folks. The protest was mostly white, but that is representative of a community that is was 87% white as of the last census, higher than the national average. Furthermore, protests against I-69 and the war in Iraq draw a sea of white faces too, as did the "Critical Mass" bike rides several years ago. I wonder why Hager hasn't complained about the racial makeup of those protests?

Most of Hager's column was childish name calling as silly fantasies which do not deserve a serious response. If Hager was trying to get some "amens" from other Leftists, he may have succeeded. If he was trying to blow off steam by throwing a written tantrum, he succeeded. If he was trying to convince anyone that the tea parties were a bad idea and that Obama's economic policy is wise and prudent, he failed. Really, fantasizing about Rush Limbaugh eating his children and calling the tea party protesters racists and Nazis? The Herald-Times has long fallen far short of proper journalistic ethics, but this uncivil column is one of the worst I have seen. Bob Zaltsberg should have rejected this editorial and forced Hager to submit something worthy of a newspaper representing a university community.