Tea party Republicans in the House of Representatives joined with liberal Democrats to vote down the Patriot Act, which gives the government wide powers to investigate potential terrorists, some say at the expense of civil liberties. The Obama administration wanted to extend the bill, which is set to expire, and mainstream Republicans were on board with that.
The surprise defeat of the bill has lots of pundits confused. Aren’t the tea partiers right wing extremists? Aren’t they the type that want to lock up foreigners and clamp down on everyone’s freedom? How could these conservatives vote against this conservative bill?
As I keep trying to explain to my liberal friends, there are many different kinds of conservatives. This vote makes perfect sense and is in exact accord, for better or worse, with the Tea Party ideology, which is most emphatically not liberal, even though on this issue they voted with liberal civil libertarians.
The Tea Party has a high view of the Constitution, which it insists on interpreting literally and applying to the letter. That means that Tea Partiers will be zealous defenders of the Bill of Rights. Therefore, they can be expected to oppose the Patriot Act, which arguably violates some of those rights. But by this same thinking, they will also oppose gun control measures, which also go against the Bill of Rights.
See how that works?