Tag Archives: Conservative

The Tea Party movement and why Liberals are so unhappy about it

I’m growing pretty tired of listening to Conservative politicians, surrogates, and commentators explain how elitist and arrogant Liberals are in their depictions and discussions of the Tea Party movement. Now, of course, the very nature of these arguments destroys their validity by constantly claiming that Liberals are elitist and arrogant, but I want to suggest that mainline conservatives are misreading what they see as snooty contempt.

Liberals aren’t “freaked out” by the Tea Party because they think it’s silly, regressive, and generally filled with rednecks (though many do believe this), but rather because the Tea Party has no ideological coherency. Clearly, the point can be made that the expectation of ideological coherency is, in itself, elitist or whatever, but what we are really looking at is the basic expectation of rationality in American public discourse. So far, Liberals have watched Tea Party members label Obama a socialist, communist, Maoist, Stalinist, Muslim, fascist Nazi, which for students of history makes no sense. How can somebody be both Stalinist and a Nazi? Anybody remember World War II (besides the clear ideological incompatibilities)?

Yes, Liberal sarcasm makes it sound like the Tea Party is being scolded for getting an ‘F’ in high school history, but what that masks is a legitimate fear that a movement has formed glorifying this sense that facts are irrelevant and actually elitist. What that world-view means is that I could claim absolutely anything, and not be held responsible for what I say. So, for instance, if I were to say that George Washington hated Communists that would be alright, regardless of the obvious problem with this statement. That’s a lie, but benign. And if I were to say that Republicans are attempting to pass legislation that will allow banks to accept children as payment, can you prove me wrong? Well, even if you could, it wouldn’t matter because trying to prove something through the use of facts shows that you are an “other.” Once you are an “other,” an insular group couldn’t care less what you think because you have been delegitimized.

The Tea Party is quite obviously made up of many people who are really more interested in fiscal responsibility than in holding up Hitler-Obama signs. Unfortunately, these are not the people who make it onto television or into news stories. Frankly, showing an ideologically coherent Tea Party limits the GOP and Conservative media’s ability to harness the movement for literally any purpose, regardless of how far it may be from the Tea Party’s original intent. Tea Party members become incensed when accused of across-the-board racism, as they should be, but do they really not see where Liberals are getting this from? This sense wasn’t born out of some memo written by radical Liberals living in a secret bunker underneath the streets of San Francisco, but rather from an inability to figure out what else could account for what appears to be a severe and irrational over-reaction to some fairly moderate reforms (Yes. Healthcare was moderate). Hearing the actual use of the N-word is not the impetus. Watching thousands of people across the country claim that Obama is a communist fascist, which again is ideologically impossible and thus perceived as disingenuous, is what gives Liberals cause to believe that there is really a different underlying sentiment.

Liberals don’t really believe that Tea Party members are just copying Glenn Beck’s talking points (which is actually giving them a lot more credit than Conservatives believe Liberals are even biologically capable of), but that Tea Party members themselves are purging facts and mixing up political and economic systems on purpose to dupe others at the behest of people like Glenn Back and the GOP. When Liberals see signs that depict Obama with a Hitler mustache, there is a general feeling that since Obama’s politics are so unlike Hitler’s as to make the comparison silly and deceptive, that what the sign must really be saying is that Obama, like Hitler, is again the “other,” the enemy, a foreigner in our midst. He’s unlike “us” and thus can’t represent “us.” That kind of tribalism would seem scary and un-American to ANY party that stands in opposition.

Right now, the Tea Party is ideologically incoherent because it a) contains many people with different foci, and b) because the Republican Party and popular Conservatives (as opposed to intellectual) have turned it into the fundraising and activist arm of the GOP. Knowing this, Liberals should expect this irrationality. The Republican platform is filled with inconsistency, as is the Democrats’, and thus turning it into quick three-word yells without the spin and gloss of seasoned politicos is inevitably problematic. This is not the Tea Party’s fault. This is the fault of Republicans who have convinced regular people to shill for absurd political positions (or oppositions) to help their 2010 chances.

Tea Party leaders need to sit down by themselves and hash out a list of coherent political goals. For example, they can’t both fiercely fight to preserve Medicare and Social Security and call HCR a government takeover of our healthcare system for which they want full repeal. They need to decide whether they want repeal more or less than they want Medicare and Social Security. The Tea Party won’t be seen as a legitimate player by the Left or independent lovers of ideological consistency until they get past things like this that just appear irrational, hypocritical, and self-serving. I believe there is indeed opportunity for the Tea Party activists to perhaps play a role in policy-making. They just need to decide if they would rather be “patriots” or Republicans first.

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Maybe They Just Want to Belong? Confederate History Month and the Tea Party

It’s been a really, really long time since I last posted. This time around, I hope to vastly improve on the quality of my former posts (it’s always strange looking back at opinion bits and realizing that you kind of sound like a moron…eh). I guess we’ll just see…

This is not a true “post” in the sense that any of this is meant to be coherent. Rather, just a jumble of thoughts I can’t get out of my head at 2:23am. In fact, this was originally written as a comment for an article on NY Liberal State of Mind (you might want to read this first), but I jumped over here before clicking the send…:

I’m from the South, North Carolina specifically. That may not be important to impart, but having spent the vast majority of my life in the South, I have had plenty of opportunity for observation. Having said that, I will now make a ridiculous claim.  I think I might understand, to some degree and academically, a bit of the need that white southerners feel to “honor” the Confederacy. Let me just state that I do not support, to any degree, a Confederate History Month, or any sort of dismissal of Slavery. Leaving Slavery out of the Civil War is like leaving religion out of the history of the Crusades- absurd, historically inaccurate and just, plain bad (“wrong” seems like an indictment too light). My theory, though, is this:

Essentially, I think it comes down to the sense that, as the U.S. became more mobile, as more people began moving into the Southern states and others out, the structures of the original community organizational schemes were lost and those people left behind, aka white southerners, were left feeling not a part of any particular community. A century ago, white southerners, for the most part, would have either been part of a town community filled with people they knew because there wasn’t that much mobility and they had all lived there for a fair amount of time, or they were newer to the country and perhaps still identified with their origin nationality (Irish, Germans, Italians, etc), or they were still identified with a specific Southern church community. All of these areas provided identities for those who were a part of them. Now that the organizational structures are gone, white southerners are those with power but no sense of identity or self, no greater organization into community.

When I say, “I’m Jewish,” I’m claiming a host of experiences, point of view, and history that are specific and give me a place in the world. White southerners have no label like that. Though there are those who believe that labels are generally detrimental, we all use them to self-identity and show identification with larger groups that we consider ourselves a part of. White southerners only have, for the most part, a shared geographic history. Memories of the Confederacy do remind them of a better South as long as they forget that slaves were not just there for the “paternal coddling,” but I think that behind the portion of hardcore racists, most of these people just want to be a part of something.

I see the same thing in the Tea Party. There is, of course, an element of the Tea Party movement that is legitimately racist and just afraid of the black man in the White House, but I think the majority of Tea Party members are looking to be part of a group, to belong somewhere, something we all desire. This doesn’t excuse the bad behavior by some and lack of condemnation by most, but it seems to explain, in my mind, their totally contradictory and inexplicable ‘ideology.’ The ideology isn’t what’s most important, the important part really is the party itself.

Goodnight!

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Conservatives Have Fought Right-Wing Conspiracies Before: William F. Buckley, Jr. and The John Birch Society.

This is an interesting excerpt from a March 2008 article written by William F. Buckley, Jr. for Commentary Magazine. In it, Buckley discusses a strategy meeting he attended in early 1962 with a couple of other Conservative strategists and Senator Barry Goldwater. The main topic? How to deal with Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. The entire piece is absolutely worth reading (I’ve linked to it above), but I have chosen a specific excerpt in light of today’s article in The Daily Beast entitled Too Hot for Fox News:

 

Time was given to the John Birch Society lasting through lunch, and the subject came up again the next morning. We resolved that conservative leaders should do something about the John Birch Society. An allocation of responsibilities crystallized.

Goldwater would seek out an opportunity to dissociate himself from the “findings” of the Society’s leader, without, however, casting any aspersions on the Society itself. I, in National Review and in my other writing, would continue to expose Welch and his thinking to scorn and derision. “You know how to do that,” said Jay Hall.

I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

“How would you define the Birch fallacy?” Jay Hall asked.

“The fallacy,” I said, “is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.”

(*Among many other controversial comments over the years, Robert Welch circulated a letter calling President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy.”)

“I like that,” Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. “Me? I’ll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away.”

“Put away in Alaska?” I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch’s expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

 

The idea behind the term “Birch Fallacy” applies to so much of our contemporary political discourse; the very reasoning continues to be used often. It really is quite an ingenious and concise term for describing a means of attempting to make logical what is inherently illogical in the face of rationality. I thus propose that the “Birch Fallacy” should hold a greater place in our contemporary political lexicon. 

Also, apparently even in the 1960s Alaska was a little crazy.

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Interesting Op-Ed from…Jonah Goldberg?

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but there’s a great Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg on NRO today. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but I think it’s a really interesting treatment of the Sotomayor nomination and the idea of a national discussion on race. An excerpt:

It may go too far to call her a racist — not necessarily because she doesn’t fit the technical definition, but because she doesn’t fit the popular, emotional definition of one. She’s not an evil bigot, which is what the word “racist” colloquially suggests.

So maybe we can call her a “racialist.” She certainly doesn’t seem to believe in official colorblindness. Just ask Frank Ricci, the fireman denied a promotion simply because he’s white. He sought justice in her court, but Sotomayor couldn’t muster the requisite empathy to give him a fair hearing.

There’s a lot more to Sotomayor’s views on race that seems worth talking about, and her record is far from indefensible. In many ways, she’s a perfectly mainstream liberal jurist. All the more reason liberals should defend her positions openly, rather than dismiss or deny them.

Obama and the Democratic party indisputably share the broad outlines of her approach to racial issues. But rather than calmly defend her, they hide behind the robes of the first Latina Supreme Court pick and shout “bigot” at anyone who fails to throw rose petals at her feet.

And that is pretty much what liberals always do when it comes to race. They invite everyone to a big, open-minded conversation, but the moment anyone disagrees with them, they shout “racist” and force the dissenters to figuratively don dunce caps and renounce their reactionary views. Then, when the furor dies down, they again offer up grave lamentations about the lack of “honest dialogue.” It’s a mixture of Kabuki dance and whack-a-mole.

The irony of the current brouhaha is that the roles are somewhat reversed. Conservatives are shouting “racist,” and liberals are scrambling to explain themselves.

I’m willing to concede, happily, that liberals aren’t cartoonish villains for believing that certain preferred minorities deserve special treatment under the law. Unfortunately, too many liberals are unwilling to offer the same courtesy in return.

So here’s an idea. Let’s assume both sides have a serious and well-intentioned perspective and talk it out. Now.

Also, Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. What’s going on?

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Sessions, Sotomayor, Racism, and an Anecdote

All kidding aside, Sessions appeared on Meet the Press yesterday with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and was oddly unwilling to simply put into words whether he does or does not believe that Sonya Sotomayor is racist. Of course, the entire debate is 100% ridiculous and thus the mass participation on “is she/isn’t she” by both Republicans and Democrats is absurd, but it goes to a much deeper question that really has little to actually do with Judge Sotomayor. That is, how do we define racism in America today? Though seemingly academic in nature, the answer to this question has practical applications that go far beyond Senate Judiciary hearings.

An anecdote:

In my first semester of college, I participated in a freshman seminar called (some variation of) “Historical Memory and Slavery of the American South” taught by a young, but brilliant professor named Seth Rockman. Having literally just moved from my home in North Carolina to Providence, Rhode Island to attend one of the country’s most liberal universities, I was unsure how I would fare in a course meant to confront America’s Master Narrative head on.

It was, for all intents and purposes, the worst academic showing of my life. I remember distinctly the first time that Professor Rockman explained to us that reverse-racism is an impossibility, according to his school of thought, as racism relies on a superficial power construct, ie what has been the inherent position of power held by the white community as opposed to communities of other ethnicities. The more powerful (in this case white men) cannot be marginalized through racism by the less powerful (everybody else, but in Rockman’s specific example African-Americans), because the entire racial construct was created by white men to explain the relationship between themselves and all of the “others.”*

At first, I was entirely unable to comprehend this concept in a way that kept me from being incredibly offended at the apparent inequality, but after weeks of argument I reconciled that perhaps the problem with so-called reverse-racism really is about the semantics. As in, when a white person says something offensive to a black person pertaining to their race it’s called racism, but if a black person says something racially offensive to a white person, though perhaps hurtful and unacceptable, it isn’t referred to as racism because calling it so ignores the inherent power dynamics that define what racism is. Words have certain meanings, and racism has a historically specific and significant one. 

It has been a few years since I took that class, and I’d like to think that my ideas and reasoning on the subject have matured and become more nuanced (I suspect that the Professor and I have much to agree upon now), but even as I was the lone student arguing for the possibility of reverse-racism (a concept I reject after much further study), I managed to learn an important lesson from Professor Rockman: the words we use, how we define things, and the version of history we choose to tell all matter

I hated Rockman back then. I thought he was too liberal, too empathetic, and too blind to reality. But he was right.

Oh, and if I ever run into Professor Rockman, I’ll have to inform him that after writing  a (not very good) paper for his seminar tearing apart William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner  for being the MOST AWFUL, RACIST tome ever, I proceeded to bookend my college career by writing my final senior year seminar paper for a Gordon Wood class (entitled “The Practice of History”) on the very same book. My conclusions four years later were starkly different.

* I have vastly oversimplified this point. There is much to be read on the subject.

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Will David Frum Be Apologizing To Rush?

First, read Ben martin’s very good editorial about Rush’s sudden move to the forefront of the news cycle entitled Rush Job: Inside Dems’ Limbaugh Plan.

Now, take a look at this excerpt from Conservative David Frum’s latest opinion piece on NewMajority.com:

(This will not be my first time admitting that David Frum may have just hit the nail on the head. Blerg.)

President Obama and Rush Limbaugh do not agree on much, but they share at least one thing: Both wish to see Rush anointed as the leader of the Republican party. Here’s Rahm Emanuel on Face the Nation yesterday: “the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican party.”

What a great endorsement for Rush! (And we know Rush is fond of compliments – listen to his loving account in his CPAC speech of the birthday lunch given him by President Bush just before Inauguration Day.)

But what about the rest of the party? Here’s the duel that Obama and Limbaugh are jointly arranging:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.

Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

And in case some of you can’t quite picture who David Frum is, here’s a clip of him bitch slapping Rachel Maddow in one of the most awkward cable news moments I’ve ever had the displeasure of witnessing:

 

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