Glenn Reynolds today pens an op-ed hailing the "tea-party" "movement" as a post-partisan, spontaneous uprising of ordinary folks against the establishment of both parties. He makes no mention of Pajamas Media's heavy investment in the events, nor Fox News' endless touting and endorsement of them, but he does point to FreedomWorks' coordinating website. I'm sure, of course, that it's a mix of both: some grass roots enthusiasm, coopted in some part by Republican party operators. But it seems odd to describe this as anything but a first stab at creating opposition to the Obama administration's spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush's. The tea-parties are as post-partisan as Reynolds, one of the most relentlessly partisan bloggers on the web. When you see them holding up effigies of Bush, who was, unlike Obama, supposed to be the fiscal conservative, let me know.
But the substantive critique must remain the primary one. Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you'd cut.
If you favor no bailouts, then say so. If you want to see the banking system collapse, then say so. If you think the recession demands no fiscal stimulus, then say so. If you favor big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, social security and defense, then say so. I keep waiting for Reynolds to tell us what these protests are for; and he can only spin what they they are against.
All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.