Stop With The Demonization of the Tea Parties and Start Making Some Real Critiques
Okay, I’m back.
So sorry for the silence, I’ve been getting acquainted with my new job/internship (don’t know if I can say where, so I won’t), which is taking up a chunk of my day.
If you follow the gist of this blog you can probably guess what dragged me back into the opinion-spouting: the Tea Party convention.
Allow me to start with a qualifier? Okay: the very existence of the Tea Party groups and their shenanigans doesn’t raise my ire, the incredibly crappy analysis of the Tea Party groups by those on the Left does. I’ve long accepted the existence of People Who Disagree With Me, and there are very few opinions out there that I find upsetting. So while I disagree with probably 80% of what the Tea Partiers stand for (and, let’s remember that their very positions are indeterminable at best), the reporting and analysis is so crapulescent that I feel the need to sympathize with the groups. All that to say this: what I’m going to write will, at times, sound pro-Tea Party, but please don’t think I’m one of them. It’s just that one of the rules of this here blog is: “If You’re Going To Criticize, Know Your Stuff And Do It Right.”
Michelle Goldberg has a piece out on the conventions that ponders whether the Tea Partiers are joining with the Religious Right. In it:
Speakers joining Palin include Rick Scarborough, Roy Moore, and Joseph Farah, men who are radical even by religious-right standards. Their presence shows that the tea-party movement is no longer merely populist, libertarian, or anti-government, if it ever was. It is theocratic. Indeed, after several months in which the religious right seemed lost and dispirited, it has found a way to ride the tea-party express into renewed relevance.
So. Close. Goldberg seemingly thinks that the mere presence of a person is the same as that person being relevant. This was a fundraising event- in many ways, this convention was a like a multi-day concert, starting with small acts and then bringing in the headliner to close. And as any person who has been to a multi-day concert can tell you, there’s inevitably some crappy bands on the stage at some point in time. I’m sure the organizers were hard up for filling all the slots and accepted any self-promoting doofus who spouted the right words. Now I’m not saying that these “theocrats” are irrelevant, I’m simply asking for more proof that mere presence before I give them the leadership reputations they so desperately want.
Over at Crooks and Liars, John Perr writes:
As a quick glance at the video tape makes clear, the supposed Tea Party movement is simply a continuation of the right-wing’s failed 2008 presidential campaign by other means. (Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) spoke for Sarah Palin, John Cornyn, Michele Bachmann and countless others when he insisted, “We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican party.”) But as the sessions by Pastor Rick Scarborough and Judge Roy Moore at today’s National Tea Party Convention show, the assembled Birthers, Birchers, Deathers and Deniers have seamlessly embraced the extremist religious right agenda. They are Tea Bagging for Jesus and they are in your face about it.
Now, if Mr. Perr’s hope is to pump his page views up by using shallow and caddy analysis, he’s welcome to do so. This is America: we all gotta make a buck somehow. If his hope is to expose a right-wing group conspiring to turn America into 1930’s Alabama…he’s missed the mark. And if he is hoping to advance America to more enlightened policies through fact-finding and thorough analysis, he’s a disastrously bad writer and thinker. I’m saying:
1. If I have to hear “tea bagging” one more time, I’m liable to calmly push myself away from the computer, walk outside to my car, grab the tire iron from my car’s maintenance kit, and beat the brains out of the first adorable baby chick I can find. Liberals: you’ve been warned. The name calling has got to stop.
2. What 2008 presidential campaign did Mr. Perr see? If I recall, McCain voted to bail out the banks, a key gripe of the Tea Partiers. The Left does itself no favors by putting out this kind of incorrect crap. Try and actually learn the other side’s arguments, then tear them apart. By doing the mock-but-don’t-understand song and dance, those who oppose the Tea Party movement preach to the choir and do little damage to the movement they claim to oppose.
3. This is a complaint for both sides, but Mr. Perr’s the closest one at hand: stop calling things “extremist” unless they are held by less than 10% of the population. Pundits of both the Left and Right have used up all the “extremist” label currency there is out there. The evangelical church is learning this the hard way: for years they labeled non-evangelicals as radical secularists, and when the kids grew up and moved out (see: me) they saw that those who disagreed with them weren’t fire-breathing Marxists who read the Jim Eliot story for comic relief. Plenty of people in this country support the Tea Party platform, thereby negating the label “extremist.” It’s our job as non-Tea Partiers to convince others why the movement is wrong. Mr. Perr’s not helping in the least.
Here’s some reality: while it is tempting to make the argument “Prayer + Gay-Bashing + American Flags = Theocracy QED hurrhurrhurr”, it is utterly useless to do so. If an argument is a defense of positions used to persuade or convince, that little formulation is an anti-argument. Furthermore, while it might seem like a time-saver to just label the entire movement as Birthers or racist or Christianists, that maneuver also serves no purpose in the political arena. The second someone does that they’ve immediately stamped themselves with the label of “Don’t Care Enough To Learn The Details Before Criticizing”. Case in point: the closest to fair-minded reporting I’ve found is this piece from TPM which at least acknowledged that there’s a chunk of Tea Partiers who were calling for a boycott because of the presence of some Birthers. And the TPM piece is probably only about 65% fair.
Any reader who isn’t all-in-for-liberalism will look at the writing about the Tea Parties and Sarah Palin and wonder if the liberal press is shoddy enough in its coverage and analysis of these events, are they any better on anything else? Know your enemy, people.
In what has to be one of the most awful cases of co-opting someone else’s thoughts to make yourself look smart, I’ll liberally (heh) blurb Glenn Greenwald here:
All of this underscores both (a) the total incoherence of the “tea party movement” and (b) how it is, at bottom, nothing more than a cynical marketing attempt to re-brand the right wing of the Republican Party under the exact same policies and principles which defined it for the last couple of decades. As I’ve noted before, there are many individual participants in this “tea party movement” with valid populist grievances against the sleaze and corruption of both parties in Washington, but it’s all being directed towards a pedestrian goal that has nothing to do with any of those sentiments: namely, the re-empowerment of the Republican Party in completely unchanged form. Palin last night righteously condemned the Wall Street bailout even though she (like Glenn Beck) supported that bailout. She wears the banner of “freedom” and “individual liberty” even as she mocks the notion that our laws and Constitution — the instruments by which we restrain government power — ought to limit what the President can do in the name of national security; cheers for the omnipotent Surveillance State; and demands that her religious beliefs form the basis of government intervention in people’s lives. She rails against government debt while supporting the policies largely responsible for its explosion: namely, limitless increases in military spending and endlessly expanded wars and imperial policies (primarily in the Middle East and oh-so-coincidentally aimed at Muslims).
A-men. The only place of disagreement I have with GG is the idea that this is somehow a near-100% top down re-branding. I think there’s a significant number of people in the Tea Parties who are truly pissed off at the GOP. I think the GOP and Leaders of the Right would love nothing more than to rebrand themselves to become more popular, I just don’t think that some of the Tea-Partiers are willing to give them the satisfaction.
I’ve written about the ineffective incoherency of the Tea Party movement before. I had a close friend of mine (who’s a die-hard Tea Partier) read it and he admitted that the criticism had some validity. He disagreed with my conclusion at large, but he said that it was some of the first criticism he’d read/heard that was actually familiar with the Tea Partiers. If I, a somewhat-interested doofus, can do that, I think it’s fair to demand from our intellectuals the same level of familiarity.
I don’t believe I’ve talked about him here, but if you want good reporting on the Right, the stuff that comes out pretty straightforward and just-the-facts-y, you can’t do any better than Dave Weigel at The Washington Independent. His report on the convention is superb. And what it reveals is this: this weekend was a ragtag get-together thrown by a guy named Judson(!) for a bunch of wealthier middle-aged men and women who’ve regained (or discovered for the first time) the heady feeling that comes with convincing yourself you are at the vanguard of a massive social revolution. That’s it and that’s all, folks.