Ed Driscoll

Wishing for a Tea Party of the Left, Part XXXVII

Geoffrey Norman of the Weekly Standard spots Bill Scher of Politico dreaming “of a day when the left can mobilize like the Tea Party did.  Interesting notion and perhaps he will get back to us when the progressives have, in a couple of mid-term blowouts, changed the nation’s political map.” In the meantime, Scher writes:

Even as they publicly condemn Tea Party Republicans as hostage-taking legislative thugs, the truth is that some Democrats are quietly jealous of them. Think of it: The Tea Party gang gets to intimidate party leaders, threaten legislation, block nominees, shut down the government and default on the debt if they don’t get their way. They cause major trouble.

Boy, does that sound good.

Haven’t we all seen this movie before? In 2011, the Washington Post was asking “Can Liberals Start Their Own Tea Party?” To which Glenn Reynolds responded:

Well, we’ve had the Coffee Party, the Brownbaggers, The Other 95%, A New Way Forward, the One Nation Movement — am I leaving any out? I can’t remember — and none of them has gone much beyond a spot of initial positive coverage from the NYT. So, probably not. But apparently, Van Jones is going to try again with the “The American Dream Movement.” I hear he’s got a catchy slogan, too: From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs. Or maybe it’s Death to the Kulaks! I’m not sure . . . .

Of course, these days, the self-admitted Communist would likely call his movement, “Can I Kiss You? Can I Kiss You Here Against Your Will?”, but that’s another story entirely.

But the Tea Party’s goals are ultimately simple: cut taxes, reduce spending, shrink the size of government, and have it leave people the hell alone. What would a leftwing Tea Party oppose in Washington? As Jonah Goldberg noted in July, “To the extent mainstream liberals complain about Obama it is almost entirely about tactics and competence:”

When was the last time you heard a really serious ideological complaint about Obama from, say, EJ Dionne or the editorial board of the New York Times? I’ll go further. When was the last time you heard liberals have a really good, public, ideological fight about anything? I’m sure there have been some interesting arguments between bloggers and the like. But I can’t think of anything – on domestic policy at least – that has spilled out onto the airwaves and op-ed pages in a sustained way. The Democratic Leadership Council – once committed to moving the Democratic Party rightward — closed up shop in 2011. They muttered something about accomplishing their mission, but that was basically sad office talk over cake and packing crates. Al Gore was once considered a conservative Democrat, but he moved to the left and has stayed there. Hillary Clinton was once a committed leftist. She moved toward the center for entirely mercenary reasons. But by the time she got there, the tide of her party receded leftward leaving her on a lonely atoll with her pile of Wall Street lucre.  John Kerry was the most liberal (or progressive) member of the senate in 2004, and he was his party’s nominee for president. In 2008, the same could be said about Obama and, well, you know how that story goes.

The best way to get the measure and value of ideological distinctions is to see what the ideologues are willing to fight for, in public, at some reputational risk. On the right today, those metrics are on full display. Not so on the left. Everyone gets along, all oars pull in the same direction. And what disagreements there are – between liberals and leftists or liberals and progressives – they’re overwhelmingly about tactics or insufficient zeal toward “common goals” and they are kept to a dull roar.

At the Politico, Scher wrote that the a leftwing equivalent of the Tea Party causing “major trouble” for the centrist-GOP establishment sure sounds good. What trouble did Occupy wish to cause Obama, aka “President Goldman-Sachs?” Where were the anti-war protesters when Obama saber-rattled against Syria and ISIS? What trouble do the Ferguson and Eric Garner-related protesters want to cause him? Tough to have a sustained protest movement when it seems like it will be kabuki right from the start.

On the other hand, don’t count the negative impact of what the left are currently seething about: