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Ron Paul vs. Sarah Palin for the Soul of the Tea Parties

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There's trouble brewing between the Ron Paul libertarians who staged the the first modern tea party in 2007 by dumping tea into Boston Harbor, and the neocon war hawks led by Sarah Palin who are furiously trying to hijack their message.

After I appeared on MSNBC talking about Sarah Palin's appearance at the Nashville tea party convention, several libertarians told me they were unhappy with the exchange.

I said that Sarah Palin's hawkish message on Iran was oddly out of place in a group whose roots belong to the Ron Paul libertarians, particularly as the anti-interventionist Rand Paul is looking strong in the Kentucky Senate Senate race -- and Palin just endorsed him. The woman who appeared with me representing the tea partiers disagreed with that premise, and claimed she was very much an interventionist.

My libertarian friends couldn't imagine what she was doing on TV representing the tea parties in the first place, and thought it was a sad day when the opposition stated their position more fairly than their supposed allies.

But it underscores a rift between the anti-tax, pro-civil rights libertarians who started the tea parties and the corporatist neocon grifters of the GOP who are now trying to swoop in and capitalize on all of the hype. And in the irony of ironies, tea party-identified candidates are now trying to oust Ron Paul from his Texas House seat.

Paul appeared on Rachel Maddow last night to speak about it. Rachel asked him about his relationship to the tea parties, and he said:

I think the message gets a little bit diluted when a lot of people come in and the Republican party wants to make sure that maybe there's a Neocon type of influence.

Ron Paul was reluctant to reject Sarah Palin's endorsement of his son, and mostly tried to change the subject. But this morning Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for Liberty, has a piece denouncing the Daniel Pipes foolishness (echoed by Sarah Palin last weekend) which says Obama would help himself politically by bombing the bejesus out of Iran:

There are no good solutions in Iran. The world will be a better place if Iran becomes democratic and abandons any nuclear weapons program. But initiating war likely would inhibit reform in Iraq while making the world a more dangerous place. The disastrous experience of Iraq should teach us many lessons, the most important of which is that war always should be a last resort. That standard is no where close to being met in Iran.

One of FDL's reporters was at the Nashville tea party convention, and said there was a promo booth set up by ConAgra. ConAgra. Agricultural subsidies are one of the biggest forms of corporate welfare around, and there's a big corporate push underway to convince the tea party activists that they're not. They are. Red State has endorsed Stephen Fincher for John Tanner's seat, despite the fact that he's taken over $300,000 in campaign contributions from families who have received over $80 million in farm subsidies. The mid-south tea party did an impressive investigation into the donations and called Fincher out for it. In the report, they rely heavily on the work of the progressive environmental organization EWG.

Despite our disagreements on immigration, unions and host of other issues, I have respect for libertarians like Bruce Fein and Ron Paul who took a lot of arrows in the back from fellow Republicans during the Bush years for opposing FISA, domestic spying, warrentless wiretapping, the wars and the bank bailout. It was a principled thing to do and it wasn't easy.

As a result, Ron Paul was denied the ability to speak at the Republican convention in St. Paul, and held his own convention across town. Glenn Greenwald and I attended. While we disagree with the libertarians about more things than we probably agree on, it's usually centered on an honest disagreement about the appropriate role of government. The GOP establishment, on the other hand, struck a bargain for power with corporate America that is totally at odds with everything the libertarians stand for.

The independent libertarians in the tea party movement probably have more points of honest intersection with progressives on the war, civil liberties, accountability and transparency than with the GOP and the "For Sale" sign they've affixed to the taxpayer trough. Alan Grayson and Ron Paul worked closely together to pass the bill to Audit the Fed in the House, and both opposed the reconfirmation of Ben Bernanke. It was nothing the establishment GOP had any interest in, who lined up right behind Bernanke.

Ron Paul has been tireless in taking his message to college campuses, and he has tremendous support among younger people who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives but are uncomfortable with fundies and their gay-bashing. But as the libertarian message is gaining traction, it is being hijacked by the Neocons -- and Sarah "bridge to nowhere" Palin leads the parade. Ron Paul supporters were outraged by Palin's speech and the whopping fee she charged for her appearance at the Nashville convention.

It's completely incoherent that there are now tea party-identified candidates trying to oust Ron Paul himself from his seat. I hope the libertarians lay down markers and come down on the side of ending the war and ConAgra's corporate welfare, and showing Palin -- and her many bombs -- to the door.

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