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Failed Suicide Club April 20, 2010

Posted by monty in news, politics.
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Sometime in the last couple weeks I made a conscious decision to stop getting so aggravated by the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. For much of 2009 and the first few months of this year I feared for my sanity whenever I turned on the news.  I’ve never been one to talk to myself – or to inanimate objects – but recently all it would take would be an appearance by Sarah Palin or Eric Cantor or Michele Bachmann (or the unholy triumvirate of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Ann Coulter) to get me frothing and barking at the TV screen like … well, like a member of the Tea Party.

But at some point I realized it was a waste of energy and emotion to get so worked up over a party whose only purpose is to obstruct the Democrats’ agenda, and whose anger exists without any recourse to reality.  I could work up a self-righteous head of steam in an honest debate with someone who is genuinely informed on the issues and who holds an opinion that’s grounded in facts.  But all you have to do is listen to Mitch McConnell or Mike Pence or any of the wingnuts in attendance at a tea party rally to realize that you’re not dealing with sane people who genuinely want to constructively solve America’s problems.  It’s all about getting angry and fucking shit up – physically or legislatively, it doesn’t matter.

So even though my reaction now is to laugh whenever I hear or see virtually anyone representing the GOP or the Tea Party, there have been a few things coming across the wires in the last several days worth mentioning.  So bear with me as I try to pull them together.  I might be able to connect the dots, but I make no promises.

1) There’s a solid piece at Daily Kos comparing the current Tea Party to this country’s last viable third party movement: those who supported Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election.  The gist of the article is that the two movements are nothing alike.  The third partiers in ’92 sprang up in support of Perot, instead of in support of a nebulous cause like “Give me back my country!,” which is really just anti-Democrat sentiment disguised as patriotism.  Perot’s supporters were truly bipartisan in nature, rejecting Republicans and Democrats alike.  For instance, over a third of those who voted for Perot voted for either Walter Mondale in 1984 or Michael Dukakis in 1988 (or both).  Today?  Only 5% of those in the Tea Party self-identify as Democrats.  Similarly, roughly 57% in the Tea Party view George W. Bush favorably (with only 27% viewing him unfavorably), but in ’92, Perot’s supporters viewed both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton unfavorably.

The point?  It’s time to put an end to this myth that the Tea Party is a multi-hued, technicolor, rainbow coalition of concerned Americans who are peeved at government in general.  It’s not.  It’s a bunch of Republicans who are pissed that Obama’s in the White House, and are trying to brand their version of far-right craziness as ultra-patriotism.  Period.  Most of these people don’t give two shits about the Constitution, not in any real way.  They live in a fantasy world where the Constitution grants rich white dudes the inalienable right to do whatever they want, and the rest of us just have to deal with it.  That’s patriotism, Tea Party-style.

2) On a related note, the GOP is now clearly aware of some of the more virulent, violent protest signs at the Tea Party rallies, and are busy trying to point out that some left-wing protestors used similar rhetoric against Bush. Okay, first off, they’re absolutely right.  There were definitely some nutcases comparing Bush to Hitler and Satan, and calling for either his death or his incarceration.  You’ll get no dispute from me there.

The Democrats, as should be expected by now, are handling this all wrong. In the article linked above, the Dems’ response is to question the veracity of the signs.  This is profoundly stupid, and is akin to the Republicans’ current strategy, which is to claim any signs espousing violent or racist rhetoric against Obama is being done by liberal infiltrators who just want to make the Tea Party look bad.  In other words, rather than denounce the violent racists in their midst, the GOP would just rather blame the Democrats.  Again.

What the Democrats should be saying instead is this: “Look, we get that there were some idiots who said Bush was like Hitler.  And we know that Code Pink consists of a bunch of transsexual drama queens whose protests are annoying even to the people who agree with the issues in principle.  But the fundamental difference between those groups and the Tea Party is that these liberals protestors were the fringe of our party.  They’re the half-dozen lunatics and twerps that give all of us a bad name.  But the Tea Party is your base. These are, almost to a person, stalwart conservatives, who worship at the altar of Bush and Reagan, who festoon their bodies with American flag regalia, and who believe there’s nothing sexier than a firearm clasped by a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan in an Uncle Sam hat.  18% of Americans identify with the Tea Party.  Toward the end of his presidency, only 25% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Bush.  The margin of difference there is razor-thin.  The Tea Party is the Republican Party is the Tea Party.  They’re indistinguishable from one another.  Which means – guess what? – the Republican party is littered with violent racists who are primarily angry that there’s a black man in the White House.  We have our crazies, too, but our crazies are the disorganized fringe.  Your crazies make up the foundation of your party.  Job well done, Republicans.”

3) Much was made of the recent poll demonstrating that Tea Party members are wealthy older white males.  No shit.  Really?  Perhaps more surprising was the finding that, grammatically incoherent and rhetorically obtuse protest signs notwithstanding, they’re also educated.  One thing I’d like to point out, though, is that there’s a difference between being educated and being intelligent or informed.  I have a high level of education, but I’m not too swift when it comes to certain things outside my purview.  You don’t, for instance, often hear me spouting off about quantum physics.  If I don’t know much about something, I tend to keep my mouth shut.  I’m a good listener.  But the Tea Party, despite whatever level of education its individual members possess, don’t seem to know much about the government or taxes or Obama’s citizenship or, you know, any of the issues they’re supposedly protesting.  To wit:

  • Only 41% believe Obama was born in the United States (Hawaii: not a state, apparently).
  • 64% of them believe their taxes have been raised (despite the fact that the economic stimulus package contained the largest middle class tax cut in history).
  • Two-thirds are climate change deniers (because it snowed in the New England in February!).
  • 40% believe there should be no recognition of gay couples at all (depressing, but expected).
  • 92% believe Obama is moving the country toward Socialism (obvious, what with the Dow being way up and the tax cuts and people finally finding jobs and all).
  • A staggering 73% believe that government aid encourages people to stay poor (because being poor is fun!)
  • And, of course, 59% love Glenn Beck; %66 love Sarah Palin (also: 100% of these believe the sun revolves around the Earth).

The Tea Party may be educated, but does this really sound like the views of an intelligent movement?  What it sounds like to me is the standard GOP party line, and the perfectly understandable opinions of a bunch of people who use Fox News as their primary source of information.

At the top I said I’d try to connect the dots between these three articles, and the obvious picture that develops when they’re combined is this: the Tea Party is indistinguishable from the present-day GOP.  There’s been talk for months about the Tea Party becoming a third party, or wondering to what degree the Republicans should extend an olive branch to the Tea Party, melding the two in the sort of genetic experiment that should be illegal.  This kind of speculation is pointless.  To try and separate the GOP from the Tea Party, or to pretend the Tea Party would be a viable third party, is ludicrous.  The members of the Tea Party are Republicans.  They believe in the things Republicans believe in, support all the usual Republican politicians and pundits, hate all the usual Democratic causes and beliefs, and, when push comes to shove, will vote Republican straight down the ballot, no matter how much they swear up and down they won’t.

But it’ll be interesting to see how this conflict continues to play out.  The GOP surely realizes that the Tea Party isn’t exactly a model of civility and decorum, and will continue to be wary of embracing them whole-heartedly.  And the Tea Partiers, who’ve sworn until they’re blue in their jowly, porcine faces that they hate all government, will be slow to align themselves with the GOP, lest they reveal themselves as the hypocrites the rest of us know that they are.  So yeah, I used to get mad at all of this, but now I’m sort of grateful for this wonderfully hysterical gift that just keeps on giving.

*****

Current listening:

The National – High Violet (2010)

Last movie seen:

Kick-Ass (2010; Matthew Vaughn, dir.)

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