Dave Weigel has a discussion of the history and beliefs of the Tea Party here:


The list of goals is interesting, though it mostly comes down to “stop government spending”.  But where the rubber meets the road is here:

The politician who’s rightly seen as the ideological vessel of the tea party movement is Sen. Jim DeMint. I’d argue that he’s more important to the movement than its bigger star, Sarah Palin, because DeMint has actually gotten specific about what he wants to do in power and why he thinks tea party activists can help him do it. He thinks that Congress needs to reckon with popular entitlements and spending programs, and it needs to cut them even though this has been, consistently, politically disastrous. His theory is that things are bad enough that Americans understand what needs to be cut. They are ready to give up benefits and programs that, in the past, they’ve supported, because they realize how bad things are.

If DeMint really thinks that, he’s crazy… he’s misread his own movement.  The Tea Party is not going to fight to reduce government spending. 

A few reminders:

  • One of the most effective Repub strategies against health care reform was to confuse people about Medicare.  Tea Partiers were led to think Medicare wasn’t actually a government program.  More importantly, their zeal was not at all to reduce Medicare, but to oppose any cuts to it.
  • They’re against extending health care to the uninsured, but they didn’t seem to grasp that the program was designed to be revenue-neutral at worst, money-saving at best.  In other words, they opposed a large-scale effort to reduce government spending.
  • None of these people were in the streets for eight years of George Bush.  They had a balanced budget in 2001.  They hated it and had to get rid of it as fast as possible.  (Quick: how did they get rid of it?  If you answered “by cutting spending”, bzzzzzt wrong.)
  • Look at the breakdown of federal spending helpfully provided in your tax instructions.  Add up law enforcement, Social Security, Medicare, defense, and interest payments.  Total: 71%.  In other words, those are overwhelmingly  the major components of federal spending, and if you actually want to reduce government substantially, that’s where you must cut.  Now look me in the eye and tell me that Tea Partiers will fight to reduce these things. 

Here’s a simpler theory for you, Jim: the Tea Party just objects to new Democratic programs… whatever they are, whatever their effect on the deficit, whatever their effect on the country.  Like most Americans, they love old Democratic programs that benefit the middle class and will fight to keep them.

What would they do in power?  What Republicans always do in power from Reagan on: make the deficit skyrocket.  They still have a childlike faith in the Laffer curve; despite years of contrary evidence, they think reducing government income somehow decreases the deficit.