Cliff May

Tea Partiers are fiscal conservatives. They see excessive taxation as harmful to economic health -- as did Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, no slouch when it comes to such matters. They would halt the burgeoning of a privileged, unaccountable and increasingly powerful government bureaucracy. They want elected officials to view themselves as civil servants -- not rulers. They would remind them that they are not in high office primarily so they can be philanthropic with taxpayers’ money.

When it comes to foreign policy, the Tea Party seems less focused – though all the members I’ve met agree that defending America from her enemies should be near the top of any president’s to-do list. They oppose surrendering American sovereignty to transnational organizations. They think that if the United States goes to war, it’s essential that the United States wins. They prefer a proud America to an apologetic America because they believe that, for all its faults, America remains the last, best hope of mankind.

They grasp, too, that the most serious threats to America’s security in the 21st century come from those whose fundamentalist reading of Islam encourages the use of violence to establish the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims. And they are bewildered by all the clever people who are willfully blind to this reality.

One example: Among the performers at comedian/commentator Jon Stewart’s pre-election “Rally to Restore Sanity” – designed as a response to the Tea Party rally to “restore honor” -- was Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. Is it possible that Stewart did not know that the singer supported the death sentence pronounced by Ayatollah Khomeini against author Salman Rushdie for the crime of having written a novel that the Iranian Islamist revolutionary deemed blasphemous?

Rushdie contacted Stewart to ask that question. Stewart told Rushdie he “was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.” Yes, and not sane – not if sanity means showing judgment and good sense. But like most Tea Party members and most Americans, I’m not angry about it. Not even a teensy-weensy bit.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.