Hobbits seem to have taken center stage in budget debate — or at least a cameo. First, on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal made reference to hobbits – basically accusing tea-partiers of living in a Tolkien-like fantasy world. Here is what the Wall Street Journal’s editorial (The GOP’s Reality Test) said:
But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.
This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees. The reality is that the debt limit will be raised one way or another, and the only issue now is with how much fiscal reform and what political fallout.
Then yesterday Senator John McCain quoted those lines on the floor of the US Senate. Next, Senator Rand Paul (and others) shot back about how the Hobbits were the heroes of the story (see Politico and Washington Post – which has a video of McCain).
As far as misplaced cultural reference go, this one seems to be right up there. The tea-partiers are correct that the Hobbits are the heroes of the Tolkien mythology. But there is a catch. In general, Hobbits are portrayed by Tolkien as an insular people. Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are seen by their neighbors as strange because they are friends with elves and a wizard. Through the stories there are references to the hobbits desire to just return to the Shire and lock out the rest of the big bad world. Frodo and the others (like Bilbo earlier) only become heroes when they leave the comforts of the Shire and leave behind the insular thinking of their fellow countrymen. They become leaders in the outside world — but are still viewed with a little suspicion back home.
So if the tea-partiers are Hobbits, where is the Frodo Baggins? Where is the quiet leader willing to take up the quest and do the right thing — regardless of what his fellow Hobbits (tea-partiers) may think. Where is the tea-party leader willing to join with the others (as Fordo and friends joined with elves, dwarfs and men) to create a responsible solution to our economic and debt issues?
The tea-partiers may be Hobbits. But Frodo, Sam, Pippen and Merry, the heroes of the story, seem to be nowhere to be found.