Monday, October 18, 2010

Today's Pro-Right wing Article-- Ross Douhat on liberal errors about the Tea Party

Putting this one up for your perusal-- later will break this article down for analysis of what he's right about and what he's not. For sure, though, I disagree with some of my liberal friends who think the Tea Party is made up of none but idiots and jerks. I agree that its ultimate messaging tends to be wrong, in some cases laughably wrong, I still maintain-- and I don't consider it illiberal to say this-- that the Tea Party is correct in noting that we cannot keep spending as we are-- not so long as we wish to keep our nation able to deal with the crises of the future and to enable a greater quality of life for our people.


  1. Of course, to make his argument Douthat cites the less than scientific foray of a Cato Institute intern into a single crowd of protesters. In short, one protest attended by one "researcher" who shares the ideological leanings of those being studied; not exactly the picture of good, objective research. We basically have it on her say-so that all the photographed signs were indeed all the signs at the rally. We also have only a single rally by one group; scientific accuracy demands a much larger sample size to be able to assess with any accuracy. Her interpretations of those signs are debatable; for example, her choice of labelling the sign "Hey, Gov't Bullies - Stay out of my bedroom AND my boardroom!" (sic) as "ambiguous" is inaccurate and somewhat disingenuous (it expresses the belief in libertarianism of unfettered personal and economic liberty). A sign stating "OUR FOUNDING FATHERS WARNED AGAINST NATIONAL DEBT" is likewise mislabelled as dealing with intergenerational theft; given the context, it fits more into the mindset of the worship of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. To sum up, this feels more like a publicity stunt than anything serious.

    Douthat also likes to pretend that there hasn't been a large, right-wing propaganda machine churning out a particular message for decades on end, and while acknowledges that possibility that teabaggers might be hypocrites when it comes to government entitlement programs, he ignores the fact that these groups were not out protesting the limitless amounts of money spend on prosecuting two wars abroad (the aforementioned sign on the Founding Fathers, while mentioning a warning against debt, fails to mention a warning about building up a standing army). Douthat also succumbs to the fallacy that just because many people support an idea, that the idea somehow gains in stature (e.g., claiming that their ideas are necessarily "mainstream"). Douthat, like his fellow travellers, seems desperate to try to give some credibility to the teabaggers.

    My perusal of the signs posted in the Washington Post article to which Douthat refers does not tell me that this crowd is particularly well-informed, either, merely well-schooled in a particular brand of propaganda. Where were these people when, under Bush, military spending went through the roof, government debt piled up at an exorbitant rate, and government surveillance was on the rise? Oh yeah, they were cheering Bush on, just as the propaganda machine was telling them to do.

    While I might agree with you that there is a small kernel of sense to their protest about government spending (which, as a proportion of the GDP, has actually stayed pretty much level over the last several decades - it is just government income which has plummeted), this is only a very small part of what is going on here.

  2. Thanks, William. Douthat tries to suggest Ms. Ekins' study is somehow dispositive of the entire notion of bigotry within the Tea Party; he then assumes the matter closed and changes the subject. This would be incredible for the reasons you note, except that quick and total denial is the best and only retort the Tea Party has against this criticism. Admitting any degree of truth to the complaint would force it to defend a thing which there is no defense for, while denying it forces the left to either engage in a constant gathering of new evidence or to lay the issue aside, because in economic times like these, the public lacks the energy and interest to feel much sympathy for victims of social mistreatment, apart from particularly egregious incidents about which there is little factual controversy. Further, while I don’t believe everyone in the Tea Party is racist, I’m also doubtful that even its more tolerant members consider race and racism to be very important issues; if true, this would make denial fairly easy.

    Regarding government spending over the last decade, I’d guess the Tea Partiers easily separate spending supporting the projection of U.S. power into the Muslim world from domestic spending targeted towards the less fortunate in our nation, which they have made into a cause by renaming it “wealth redistribution,” “socialism,” or in the classy language found at the New Boston Tea Party, it’s a fight pitting “Patriotic American against the un-Patriotic Parasitic Leach.”

    That they equate majority support for their positions is, in my judgment, the ugliest part of the right wing and of our body politic today. This is what seems always to be the first explanation given by the bigots resisting the Park 51 Islamic Center, and it’s the one that seems to give them their boldness. The same has seemed true of the Tea Party, in that after it began to take off as a phenomenon, we began to see its more and more outrageous expressions of its bigotry and its messianic conception of itself—displays that were not contained, really, until the end of this past summer, when the election season began.

    I’m not sure the issue of public spending is quite as miniscule as you seem to see it, but otherwise I’m in agreement with you. I’ve got more to add to the Douthat article, which I hope to post sometime today.