In Search Of Tea Party Jeffersonians

Daniel Larison doubts whether tea-partiers will ever apply their small government rhetoric to foriegn policy and national defense:

It would be interesting and encouraging if Tea Partiers saw the threats to liberty and the Constitution from an unchecked, expansive national security state and a political establishment dedicated to perpetual war, but when it comes to the politicians who have identified with Tea Partiers there is remarkably little evidence of this. Looking at the House members connected with the House Tea Party Caucus, we see a lot of very conventional hawks. That doesn’t prove that most Tea Partiers are strongly supportive of the national security state, but it also suggests that it is not a major concern for most of them. Presumably, most of them haven’t given it a lot of thought. I don’t intend that as an accusation. It would be surprising if a lot of voters were particularly riled up about U.S. foreign policy at a time when domestic and economic issues dominate the scene, and it would be even more surprising if a lot of Republican voters suddenly started agreeing with a radical Jeffersonian critique of Bush-era foreign policy excesses when most of them reliably voted for Republican candidates throughout the Bush years.

There is actually some evidence that the conservative movement is aware of the contradiction here. Why else trot out John Yoo, Marc Thiessen, and others to make the case that extreme executive power, torture, and every other excess of the Bush Administration are actually perfectly in line with what the Founders imagined? Arguments about small government and originalism do retain power on the Tea Party right. The problem is that so many of its members are overly credulous in the arguments they credit.