Friday, November 12, 2010

Tea Party isolationism?

Scott McConnell of the anti-interventionist American Conservative writes about Tea Party Republican foreign policy in Standard Operating Procedures: How the Neocons Are Co-opting the Tea Party Right Web 11/09/2010. Some of the hard right groups whose profile has been raised by the Tea Party marketing blitz on behalf of the Republican Party have Old Right isolationist ideas about foreign policy. Will this mean, as Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham recently suggested, a fight within the GOP over foreign policy? McConnell:

... by 2010, few national GOP officials spoke enthusiastically about the Iraq venture. Why is it then that the neoconservative wing within the party has seemingly emerged unscathed?

Add to this mix the Tea Party, an amorphous, populist, ideologically diverse explosion of anti-Obama activism, permeated with libertarian and quasi-isolationist sentiments. Could the Republicans be on the verge of a battle over foreign policy as divisive as the one Democrats experienced in the 1960s and 1970s? And will the neoconservatives emerge substantially weaker? Many on the paleoconservative and libertarian right hope so.

This battle has not broken out, and there is little reason to think it will soon. Neoconservative tactical flexibility and ingenuity is unmatched by their rivals within the conservative movement. And they have deployed a number of familiar tactics in their efforts to blunt the Tea Party challenge.

These tactics can be grouped into several categories: strategic flattery from national media platforms; offers of technical advice (speechwriting, debate preparation); prominent placement of op-eds; appearances at Tea Party gatherings; subtle and not so subtle encouragements of anti-Muslim bigotry; and advocacy efforts such as circulating petitions to put congressmen on record as supporting a "strong America." In addition, neocons are busy influencing the congressional staffing process and networking operations on Capitol Hill—both areas they excel at—to help shape the new class of politically inexperienced Tea Party lawmakers.
McConnell discusses in some detail how the neocons are approaching this, with the foreign policy education of Sarah Palin being a prime example. "Palin has become the neoconservatism's [sic] reliable vector into the Tea Party world."

While some of the Old Right isolationists types have produced some serious and meaningful criticisms of some of the current interventionist policies - The American Conservative itself and the Old Right Web site provides examples - Old Right isolationism is really based on the same narrow nationalism which drove neocon allies like Dick Cheney and Rummy during the Cheney-Bush Administration.

When a foreign policy issue like the invasion of Iran becomes an acute issue, most of the Old Right isolationist-nationalist crew are going to line up with their fellow jingoists, neo-Confederates, nativists and gun nuts against the libruls and the tree-huggers and the DFH hippie bloggers.

McConnell describes the efforts by prominent neocons Newt Gingrich and Frank Gaffney to promote anti-Muslim bigotry over the phony issue of Islamic law (shariah, the foreign-sounding name they prefer to use) taking over in the US. He also points to the precedent of the Christian Right:

During the Reagan era, neoconservatives warily watched the rise of the Christian Right, whose Christian Zionist theology had strong anti-semitic overtones. However, Irving Kristol (father of the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol) tried to reassure his fellow Jewish readers of Commentary about points of compatibility between themselves and the Christian Right in their support of Israel. Kristol said succinctly, "Well, it’s their theology but it's our Israel."

In fact, neoconservatism accommodated itself quite well to the Christian Right—a movement that has failed to achieve any of its programmatic aims, despite being an essential part of the conservative electoral coalition. [my emphasis]
As polls and voting patterns have shown, members of the public who identify with the "Tea Party" label are basically loyal Republicans and are generally down with Christian Right ideology. Most of them are already fine with the belligerent, nationalistic Republican foreign policy. Deviations from the general Republican Party line on major foreign policy issues among new members of Congress identified with the Tea Party are likely to be rare, and of little political significance.

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