Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on a Thursday Night

(Super-condensed Stupid.)

I'm a little surprised at the amount of press The Tea-Baggers are getting. They've proven to be a rich vein of spectacle, so I suppose this is not really to be wondered at. But I can't help thinking this spectacle-begets-coverage paradigm gives a patina of legitimacy to what on closer inspection proves to be merely a faux finish.

A few germane posts have been sitting on my desktop for a few days and bear forwarding. Two of these come from Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

One is a column by Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic from a couple weeks ago.

The other is a column by James Hohmann from last week at

I'm particularly interested in how the movement is really two distinct sects, one committed to small-government libertarianism and the other to social conservatism. And neither side has much time for the other. They are currently united, like Sunni and Shia, by shared anger more than they are repelled by each other (though the Politico article gives some stats about how small a minority of each group would be willing even to consider voting for the other wing's leader--kind of reminds me of the Groucho Marx quote: I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member).

There's nothing like stridency combined with ignorance, and much of the movement's glorious ignorance comes from the social conservative side (the "Palin" wing). Again and again I marvel that these folks cannot generate a coherent argument that doesn't have a ridiculous lie beneath it--which of course peremptorily blocks any chance of civilized political discourse. Does anyone honestly doubt Obama's citizenship at this point? Or are they just running with it so long as they make political hay? (Given the anger base among the all-white party, why not just admit that they hate having a black president? At least it would be honest.) Did they care that John McCain was born in Panama? Would they care if their latest David Duke was born in Haiti? Not if he were strident enough, they wouldn't. I maintain that no one honestly believes Obama is a closet Muslim, yet it gets regularly trotted out to fan the flames. Do they really believe he's a Communist who is parading as a capitalist? (I'd love to know what capitalism has done for many of these people, the same ones who are blaming Obama for the economy and the country's unemployment.)

Which brings us to their other big grievance: the deficit. I came across a link from a few months back in the New York Times with an interesting analysis of our national debt (put in graph form here). I again emphasize that I don't dismiss concerns about the national debt; informed citizens ought to be upset about it. But if we would combat a thing we must first understand the thing, and there seems a weird disconnect between the Tea Baggers' protests and the facts of the case. With our economy coming apart at the seams (as it was 18 months ago), we naturally and rightly demanded that government do something to pull us back from the abyss; but then we can hardly blame that same government for having inherited the economic malaise in the first place!

I'll happily credit protesters of deficit spending now, but only if they were equally fervent about George W. Bush's doubling of the national debt during his presidency--taking a surplus budget and turning it into the biggest deficits in history (until Obama's fire-retarding budget). But the guys I work with (my regular source of conservative political reality) are virtually never willing to acknowledge the linearity in this. The NYT article above shows that Obama's policies have almost nothing to do with the national debt, and this administration's contribution to the debt is almost entirely from the economic stimulus package--a package, I might add, that was begun under Bush and is considered to have been quite successful in preventing a total collapse of our economy.

I keep wanting to believe this is just a bad patch we're passing through, an ugly response to ugly conditions. We will someday return, I reason, to the hopeful, progressive place of my '60s youth where education was prized and expertise was honored and where a can-do attitude conquered disease and put men on the moon.

But I may have to wait a while yet. The projection TV in a crew briefing room tonight was playing the Weather Channel--not the usual Faux News--and up came an angry advertisement for Dick Morris's new book, the narrator screaming at us to "Stand up and STOP OBAMA! Let's take America back!"

On the Weather Channel! Jesus.


CyberKitten said...



dbackdad said...

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. If you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, Teabaggers should solely be about libertarian concepts. The problem is that the anti-government rhetoric attracts everyone else who might be against Obama (birthers, militia, racists, social conservatives, etc.). True libertarians are against war, but you have plenty of pro-war conservatives in the teabagger movement. True libertarians are not anti-illegal immigration, but there are plenty of teabaggers who question Obama's citizenship and who want anybody who is not white out.

It's truly an unholy alliance.

wunelle said...

I think I'd engage more in the issues if the real issues were being more seriously debated (e.g. discussing what concrete steps should be taken about the mounting debt). But with all the lies and noise and spin I find myself mightily turned off.

The one ray of hope is that the much over-hyped party has comparatively small numbers and, as I noted, little unity of purpose where the rubber meets the road.