Tag Archives: opinion

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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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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“The Truth Commission” or “How To Avoid Repeating the Past” (I’m back!)

Let’s talk about this idea of a “Truth Commission:”

History (and I mean recent history) has shown us that it is extraordinarily important for a society to confront, atone, and record the grave misdeeds of its past, as opposed to simply “forgetting” about said past and looking toward the future. Even for me, it is difficult not to instinctively believe that simply moving forward is the best use of national resources. However, vastly disparate contemporary political conditions in Germany and Austria attest to the cost of willful forgetfulness and the manipulation or glossing over of an unflattering historical narrative:

Assuming that most of you have, at the very least, an elementary understanding of the events leading up to and during WWII, I will not recap the war crimes committed by these two countries, as this is not a comparison between American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and those of the Third Reich. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the United States today (or of the past 8 years) is comparable to Nazi Germany, and neither am I suggesting that American citizens were equally silently complicit, as many have claimed of the citizenry of Germany and Austria in the 1930s-1940s. I do, however, think that the aftermath (and I use that word lightly as I am really looking to the 1960s-1980s) contains lessons that we need to learn from.

Today, Germany’s parliament has one of the lowest levels of far-right participation in Europe (1.4%). Austria has the highest (18%). German Neo-Nazi groups certainly exist, but are extraordinarily limited and shunned by the general population. In Austria, the interests of the extreme right are discussed in the halls of government. How did this happen? What accounts for this disparity? Scholars have posited that Germany’s eventual willingness to confront its Nazi past through a surprisingly honest national dialogue that accepted guilt, as opposed to Austria’s “victim” narrative, provided a certain catharsis and openness that acknowledged the importance of admitting and atoning for the mistakes of the past in order to avoid repeating them in the future. Suddenly the younger generations had a frame and language with which to discuss Germany’s past with the older generations, and in doing so they effectively killed the elephant that was sucking the oxygen out of the room.

Austria, on the other hand, chose to perceive its position in WWII as that of the victim, thus ensuring that national guilt and shame remain slowly boiling beneath the surface and necessitating a certain amount of justification in order to maintain the status quo. Austria agreed with the school of thought that said focusing on the future rather than the past is a cleaner, less messy means of moving the country forward. This, however, essentially ensured the rise of the far-right as a major political player since Austria had/(has) yet been unwilling to even admit that it was the ideals of a not-completely-dissimilar far-right that led to their complicity in the first place. Admitting to the failings of the far-right would be admitting to complicity, which would then negate the victim narrative and then where would they end up? The unwavering answer should be, “hopefully not back in the 1940s.”

One must see Austria and Germany as exemplifying the two directions in which a society can go after major national trauma. We can look at the past, confront it, and weave it into a better future and a more honest national narrative or we can pretend like the past doesn’t exist and focus exclusively on what is ahead. These are our only two options and the one that we, as Americans, decide upon may define our future decades down the road. The idea of a “Truth Commission” may seem like liberal mumbo-jumbo to a lot of people who think talk is cheap, but in this case silence could end up a much more costly and dangerous game.

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Politico Covers Chuck Grassley’s Twittering

Hey! Check it out! The contents of my Chuck Grassley Twitter post were reported on by Politico’s Shenanigans and a part of my post was quoted:

At first blush, the irascible, frugal, cranky — take your pick — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) doesn’t seem the type who gladly suffers lobbyists. Recently, upon disagreeing with a Grocery Manufacturers Association lobbyist, the senator wrote a scathing letter about the lobbyist and mailed it directly to the guy’s boss. 

However, all that aside, he Twittered — it pains us to say it — in the wee hours of Friday morning: “Attention Ia legislative business lobbyists: I visit w many Repbli can REPs and Sntors. Don’t take ur frends 4granted.U spend all time w Dem [sic].” 

First of all, Chuck Grassley Twitters? 

Second, he has some serious typing issues. 

Third: Get on it, Iowa lobbyists! The king has beckoned. 

One observer seemed stunned, and not just by one thing: “Did Sen. Chuck Grassley really just ask to be lobbied (in what I believe to be some kind of Creole accent) via the public Twitter network? Isn’t that supposed to be a behind-the-scenes kind of thing? Wow.”  <—–

Grassley responded to Shenanigans thusly: “I meant for the posting to speak for itself. The message is everybody should be part of the political dialogue.” 

Nice.

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McConnell: Message Is Fine, Messengers Not So Great

Washington Wire‘s Susan Davis reports this story:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t believe the Republican Party has the wrong message, just the wrong messengers.

“We don’t think it’s a flawed message as much as we haven’t had the right candidates out there to put these races in the win column and we’re working very hard to turn it around,” McConnell told reporters today at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Senate Republicans have lost about a dozen seats in the previous two election cycles, and now control just 41 seats unless Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman scores an upset in the ongoing recount battle against Democrat Al Franken.

McConnell identified candidate recruitment as the biggest challenge the party has faced in recent years, noting that it was “really hard” to convince Republicans to run with an unpopular Republican president in office and a sour electorate.

He said he is working with Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is running the campaign operation, to turn it around in 2010. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to do a lot better in candidate recruitment in this cycle than we have over the last two,” he said, “And it’s kind of a statement of the obvious that the better candidate you have the more likely you are to win. So I think that’s the starting place.”

McConnell likewise expressed frustration at the lack of diversity in the Senate Republican ranks. “I’m not happy with the fact that our only Hispanic member of the Republican Conference has retired,” he said of retiring Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, “We don’t have nearly as many women senators in the Republican Conference as we’d like to have. We’re working on all of those things.”

The minority leader was less candid, however, when asked about home state GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, who has publicly clashed with Cornyn and the press in recent weeks over his re-election bid. Some Republicans believe the party will have a better chance to hold on to the seat if Bunning, 77 years old, retires.

“I don’t have any observations on that,” McConnell said.

So…what’s the message? Low spending, low taxes? Was McCain unable to deliver this message? I thought I heard it loud and clear. If I’m wrong, if there’s a significantly more comprehensive and perhaps fresher message that I have yet to hear articulated, I think Senator McConnell should do the honors.

At the same time, I feel it odd that Senator McConnell seems to be stressing that the candidates his own party put up for election, candidates I want to assume the GOP thought would do a good job, were just…well…bad.

Perhaps the inability to recruit real talent  and the quality of the message are somehow related…

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GOP: The First 50 Days

Craig Crawford over at CQ’s Trail Mix put together this great video highlighting the GOP’s first 50 days of the new political term:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

more about “GOP: The First 50 Days“, posted with vodpod

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