A tea party sounds so nice, so elegant. Savor the pagan flavors of India sipped from pretty matching porcelain tea sets. Or perhaps you might like the romantic American patriot version: dress up like American Indians and dump British, privately owned tea from India as a protest against a tax that explicitly was to pay to defend American colonists from American Indians.
Yesterday the world, or at least the few people who were not already sick of watching Republican presidential candidates debate, got to see a darker sort of tea party. The kind where you are sipping your tea, hoping to get to know your host and suddenly your host sprouts fangs and tears at your throat. Fade to black.
I did not listen to the debate. My wife heard about the incident on NPR and, as she related it, which may not exactly correspond to NPR's report, the entire Tea Party audience (about 1000 people) at the Tea Party sponsored debate demanded the death of a hypothetical working guy, following a question about medical insurance put to Ron Paul, to be known henceforth as Uncle Death.
I found a replay on the internet easily enough. As far as I could tell from the audio portion, only three or four audience members were screaming "let him die" or "death". Ron Paul had a weasel answer. If a working guy has no private medical insurance and needs prolonged hospitalization, Ron Paul strongly recommended that he retroactively buy medical insurance. Pressed, he talked about the freedom to take on risk. Asked if the man should just be turned away to die, after the four idiots in the audience did their death chant, he talked about religious charities dealing with such cases instead of the government. He never really answered the question.
I agree with Ron Paul on a thing or two, like bringing U.S. troops home from our imperialist adventures. His attachment to the Gold Standard, however, distinguishes him as a nutter who has been unable to adopt to industrial, much less post-industrial, reality. But I never knew he was as dead, as cold at heart as old General Franco himself.
As Adolf Hitler showed, it is not much of a leap from allowing people to die from lack of medical care to putting people in ovens and gas chambers to save on the cost of bullets.
What was scary about the moment was not that four extreme libertarians expressed such an extreme every-man-for-himself philosophy at a public, televised debate sponsored by the Tea Party.
What was scary is that no candidate took the opportunity to distinguish himself or herself by scolding the deathers. Not one. They are cowards individually, and cowards collectively. Let me name them, in no particular order:
Jon Huntsman, coward
Herman Cain, coward
Michele Bachmann, coward
Mitt Romney, coward
Rick Perry, coward
Newt Gingrich, coward
Rick Santorum, coward
In particular, if Mitt Romney had jumped in and scolded the deathers, I think that might have put a damper on dominance of the political debate by Tea Party extremism. Moderate Republicans don't want obvious nutters like Bachman, Perry or Paul to lose an election against a vulnerable Barack Obama. But when they see even Mitt molded like plastic by a few Tea Party thugs, moderates get intimidated.
Clearly the tail is wagging the dog now. The thugs are in charge of the Republican Party nomination process.