Tea Party‘s take on hot-button issues
By Ben Boychuk
What does Occupy Wall Street know? Judging from the manifestos, leaflets, banners and detritus left behind at Occupy camps from Manhattan to Los Angeles, the answer is too little about too much.
Perhaps Hanna Appel has the solution. The Columbia University anthropologist will give class credit to students who do "fieldwork" in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The idea, apparently, is to give young students a political education on the ground.
The Tea Party movement has already done its fieldwork. But in fairness, we might also ask what exactly does the Tea Party know? Enough to score a victory at the polls in 2010, certainly. But enough to save the country? It's safe to say the Tea Party is still a young movement in need of its own higher education.
Happily, a Tea Party alternative to Appel's pedagogical experiments does exist, and tuition runs noticeably less than Columbia's $51,866 a year. In a pungent series of booklets called Encounter Broadsides, readers have accessible and rigorous primers on the conservative mind, just in time for the 2012 election season, and priced around $6 a piece. Call it Tea Party 101.
"We aim not merely to comment on, but to intervene in the debate, bringing fresh perspectives to controversies that too often have been interred in the shallow grave of politically correct orthodoxy," said publisher Roger Kimball at the launch of the series in 2009.
So far, 27 pocket-sized Broadsides have revived the polemical spirit of "Common Sense" and "The Federalist Papers" and hit on hot-button issues from health care, government unions and tax policy to national security, immigration and radical Islam.
The central theme of the series is the growing chasm between progressive theory and hard reality. Richard Epstein boils the question down to its essence in "Why Progressive Institutions Are Unsustainable": "As the next election comes ever closer, this nation faces a fork in the road. Does it continue with the progressive policies of the past several years, dating back to the first years of the second Bush administration, or does it return to the classical liberal model?"
National defense looms large in the series, with pamphlets devoted to the current administration's mishandling of the nation's security and foreign policy. In three short years, President Barack Obama has alienated friends (Great Britain and Israel), emboldened enemies (Iran and North Korea), and signaled weakness and indecisiveness to rivals (China and Russia).
He is, as former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton writes in "How Barack Obama is Endangering Our National Sovereignty," "our first post-American president-someone who sees his role in our foreign policy less as an advocate for America's 'parochial' interests and more as 'a citizen of the world,' in his own phrase."
The bulk of the series zeroes in on domestic policies, some of which began under previous administrations but have been exacerbated since Obama took the helm. Health-care reform is Obama's signal accomplishment, and the Broadsides blow the lid off this leviathan of a bill many of us still only vaguely understand.
"Yes, there are too many uninsured Americans," writes David Gratzer in "Why Obama's Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster," "but insurance reform that would eventually see tens of millions of Americans shifted to a public program is not the answer. Yes, costs are rising, but rationing by bureaucracy is not the answer. Yes, more choices are needed, but a rigidly regulated health-insurance exchange designed to change everyone's plans is not the answer."
What is the answer? Betsey McCaughey argues in "Obama's Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It," that a 20-page bill to repeal and replace the misnamed Affordable Care Act would free consumers to buy insurance from other states; provide incentives for states to establish medical courts to weed out frivolous lawsuits and create subsidized high-risk insurance pools; and fix COBRA.
The three latest entries in the series ― Lance Izumi on the administration's disastrous effort to nationalize education; Richard Epstein on progressivism's invariable failure; and Peter Ferrara on the coming tidal wave of Obama taxes and regulations ― are precisely the arguments Americans need to have, and the issues their elected officials need to confront this election year.
Although the Broadsides are highly critical of the Obama administration, the writers conjure with ideas and policies, not ad hominem attacks. That's part of what makes this series so engaging and, ultimately, fair. They set the standard for serious partisan engagement. Any thinking Democrat can find common ground with the policies found in these pamphlets.
The hour is late, and the need for an educated citizenry, active and engaged, has never been more pressing. Class is in session. Now get to reading.
Ben Boychuk is a co-writer of Scripps Howard News Service's weekly RedBlueAmerica column and associate editor of City Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.