The Patriot Act And Understanding The Tea Party

by Jonathan Chait | February 7, 2011

Tea Party Republicans are not making a fuss about extending the Patriot Act:

The Patriot Act, one of most prominent expansions of federal authority in the past decade, received overwhelming Republican backing in 2006 when it was first up for renewal. This year, even as the surge of the tea party brought to Washington a new legion of lawmakers suspicious of government power, the law again has a good chance of being reauthorized.

The fact that this is considered surprising or even newsworthy suggests a widespread misunderstanding of the Tea Party movement. It is not an anti-government movement per se. Tea partiers do castigate Republican leaders for spending too much, but so do Republican leaders. (That is the cycle of GOP fiscal policy: 1) pass a bunch of tax cuts while promising it won't lead to deficits, 2) Deficits appear, 3) Blame excessive spending and promise more tax cuts.)

The Tea Party movement represents an intensification of the ideological forces within the Republican Party, not a change. Its anti-government impulses are focused almost entirely on those functions of government that involve redistribution of resources from the fortunate to the unfortunate. Civil liberties were not and are not on the radar.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/82942/the-patriot-act-and-understanding-the-tea-party