Earlier this year with the revolution in Tunisia underway, I noticed a curious phenomenon, one that stuck out for me particularly as a self-described libertarian* -the Associated Press and other news sources were referring to the protesters there as “anti-government” forces, but they weren’t using the term as a pejorative. There was even a marked tone of admiration for the “anti-government” forces in Tunisia and later in Egypt. As these anti-government revolutions have spread throughout Central Asia to Libya, Iran, and even as far away as China where we are now hearing reports of a “Jasmine Revolution” beginning to spread, I have watched with curiousity and amazement as establishment news sources and self-described progressives like Paul Krugman give their blessing to these anti-government revolutions.
Many of these voices who are now giving their praise- whether cautious or unreserved- to the anti-government forces in the Middle East, spent the last two years maligning the anti-government forces in America that call themselves the Tea Party. If it’s heroic and inspiring for people in the Middle East to stand up against a corrupt and out-of-touch government, why is it simply partisan, “kooky,” or even somehow racist for people in the United States of America to do the same?
When I posed the question to a self-described liberal friend of mine, a member of the Democratic Party and avid supporter of President Obama, he answered:
Get back to me when there’s an American president in office for 30 years straight (with martial law in effect the whole time), who’s stolen tens of billions of dollars, and prevented any attempts for free and fair elections.
Tens of billions you say? Our government has stolen tens of billions from us to give to [now-deposed Egyptian President] Mubarak alone. The money they’ve stolen to give to other corrupt dictators and to wealthy banks and corporations is numbered in the trillions! If Mubarak’s government was evil, what about the government that propped his up while pretending to some aura of legitimacy and benevolence?
And that strikes to the heart of the matter. The malfeasance and corruption of the government in Washington is systemic and rampant. The most important political issue for Americans today is something that goes beyond apparent partisan divisions and fierce ideological disagreements. Republican or Democrat, libertarian or communist, Christian or atheist, Michael Savage or Michael Moore- whatever your views about government in general happen to be, everyone should be able to see that this government, the one in Washington DC, is corrupt and broken in much the same way the governments in The Middle East are.
To be anti-government when your government is Washington, is to be a true patriot. In Egypt, they riot because food prices are so high. In America, they hold signs saying “END THE FED” and warn that if Washington continues to run such high deficits, that dollar inflation and devaluation will drive up the prices of food here too (they’re already beginning to). In Egypt, they riot because the government takes so much money from its hard-working people and amasses it in the hands of the wealthy and well-connected. In America, they protested the TARP bailouts which transfered so many hundreds of billions of dollars from poor and middle-class workers to irresponsible Wall Street bankers. In Egypt, they clamored for true democracy. In America, they bewailed the closed-door, back-room politics used to conslidate the government’s control over the health insurance industry against the wishes of a majority of the American people. In Egypt, the anti-government forces were praised for their courage by American media. In America, the anti-government forces were ignored, ridiculed, and libeled by American media.
Taking a broad, historical view, I believe that future generations will look back on this era in world history and group all of the unrest against repressive and corrupt governments- including the Tea Party- together as a single event. It will have been a time when the fully-realized power of the Internet helped spark multiple grassroots revolutions around the world. While Paul Krugman may not, history will smile on the Tea Party.
* Author clarification- Please note the lower-case “L” above. I am not a registered member of any political party, but describe my political views as “libertarian,” meaning that I believe human liberty is the most important criterion to consider in matters of public policy.