Karl Rove: Tea Partiers Aren’t “Sophisticated,” Haven’t Read Their Hayek

Of course, given the economic policies of the Bush administration, one wonders if Karl Rove has read any of Friedrich Hayek.

But it’s interesting that Rove suggests that tea partiers haven’t read Hayek. Sales of Hayek’s books during the rise of the tea party protests (among other similar works) would seem to indicate otherwise.

From an interview with Rove published in Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Are you convinced, then, that the Republican Party will be able to integrate the Tea Party without drifting too far to the right?

Rove: Sure. There have been movements like this before — the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement. All of them popped up, insistent, loud, and relatively unsophisticated. They wanted everything now and for politicians to be with them 100 percent of the time. And after an election or two, people wake up saying, our system produces mostly incremental progress and takes time and compromise. That’s exactly what’s going to happen here. I meet a lot of Tea Partiers as I go around the country, and they are amazing people. Most have never been involved in politics before. This is their first experience, and they have the enthusiasm of people who have never done it before.

SPIEGEL: Is the Tea Party movement a repeat of the Reagan Revolution?

Rove: It’s a little bit different because the Reagan Revolution was driven a lot by the persona of one man, Ronald Reagan, who had an optimistic and sunny view of what the nation could be. It was also a well-organized, coherent, ideologically motivated and conservative revolution. If you look underneath the surface of the Tea Party movement, on the other hand, you will find that it is not sophisticated. It’s not like these people have read the economist Friedrich August von Hayek. Rather, these are people who are deeply concerned about what they see happening to their country, particularly when it comes to spending, deficits, debt and health care.

Condescending comments to be sure. One could take them to mean that a lot of people in the tea party movement aren’t political professionals. They aren’t slick, polished, well-connected activists. They are people with jobs who don’t agitate professional. From that perspective Rove is right. Even so-called “tea party candidates” like Joe Miller and Sharon Angle suffer from this lack of polish.

But from another perspective, it seems as through Rove has bought into the media narrative about the tea parties which is that the protesters are ignorant rubes. The media sees the influence of these rubes on American politics as something to be marginalized and opposed. Rove, on the other hand, thinks the rubes are a movement to be exploited by traditional party insiders for electoral gain.

Both are wrong. The tea party is the electorate, or at least a big slice of it, and they’re tired of being manipulated by politicians and media elites. Thanks to the internet hey’re better informed than ever before and able to organize outside of the traditional top-down political structures.

Rove and others can continue to discount the movement, or underestimate it, at their own risk.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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