What is the Tea Party’s foreign policy? It’s a difficult question on two counts. There is no Tea Party foreign policy as far as I can tell, and, on inspection, there is no Tea Party. There are, of course, any number of Tea Party Coalition groups across the country. But these mix and mingle, cooperate, compete, debate, merge, and overlap with countless other groups grouped together as the “Tea Party movement” in the public mind (or the public commentator mind).
Some of these organizations have staffs and salaries and offices, and some—according to the time left over for blogging after job and children—have memberships numbering between one and none. Various domestic policy foundations such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and the Independence Institute have had their influence, as have associations of people with a frame of mind about policy that’s more antinomian, such as FedUpUSA. Then there is the 9/12 Project, promoted by Glenn Beck, which seeks a return to the best of what Americans thought and felt after 9/11 and which is more concerned with values than policy per se. A variety of social conservatives with similar concerns about values—if diverse ideas of what those values are—also have been lumped with the Tea Party movement. Sometimes they’ve lumped themselves.
Disaggregation and multifariousness make it hard to take any policy measure of the Tea Party. But the tougher problem is definitional. “Movement” implies a destination. When you move you’re headed somewhere. Political movements have a place they want government to go. The Tea Party movement has a place it wants government to go—and rot. That’s different. The Tea Party has a political attitude rather than a political ideology.
Nonetheless, every political concept has foreign policy implications. George Washington warned against foreign entanglements. But the friends, enemies, and neighbors of that new concept, the United States, soon found themselves entangled in American foreign policy, even before America knew it had one.
Continued here (World Affairs, dated September/October 2010)