Monday, April 13, 2009

Tea Parties Forever

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman finally takes a break from opining on the economic mess left behind by decades of neoliberalism to talk some politics:

But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.

But everything that critics mock about these parties has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.


Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

More here.

I've been wondering for a couple of weeks if I ought to simply ignore these ridiculous "tea parties" put together by dead-ender Republicans. I mean, they're so obviously staged by right-wing insider organizations, shamelessly and relentlessly promoted by FOX News. This ain't "the people" protesting: this is just bad PR--it'll probably all go away in a few weeks like any other ineffective ad campaign. Besides, everybody knows conservatives don't protest in the streets. That's for hippies, communists, homosexuals, and Black people. Conservative "tea parties" are fake. Non-events.

But they're just so absurd, it's really difficult to keep my mouth shut about them.

My personal take is that "tea parties" are a sign of desperation. The right-wing is in total disarray, and conservatives know it. But they have no idea what to do about it. Consequently, they're becoming increasingly irrational. I mean, to some extent the Conservative Movement of the last twenty years or so, as opposed to more traditional American conservatism, has always been irrational, but this tea-bagging thing strikes me as being along the lines of how animals in weird psychological isolation experiments eat their own feces or pull out all their hair. That is, conservatives are literally going nuts. And that's pretty frightening, if only because they've all got guns.

On the other hand, Krugman rightly observes that the basic ideological content these tea-people are pushing doesn't really differ in any way from what they've been vomiting for years, and he seems a bit afraid that these views may come to dominate national politics again at some point in the near future. It's always a good idea to fear the right-wing nut fringe, but I'm not, myself, particularly afraid of the Conservative Movement gaining new momentum anytime soon. That is, the excesses of the Bush administration laid bare for all the world to see the inadequacies of the movement. No WMD in Iraq meant either gross incompetence or straight-up lies. "There is no insurgency in Iraq" contrasted starkly with daily reports of American soldiers being blown up with IEDs. Hurricane Katrina revealed that an ideology bent on dismantling government was also an ideology incapable of adequately running government. Tax cuts didn't create new jobs, nor did they prevent the financial meltdown. Deregulation didn't prevent the meltdown, either. Same with imported poison pet food and poison toys from China. In short, movement conservatism developed some severe problems with the real world, and everybody's noses have been rubbed in that fact.

We're all going to have to die off before conservatism starts to smell good again. I mean, too bad for the future, but for now, for the next two or three decades, conservatism, as we've understood it since the early 80s, is kaput. All that's left is theater. Bad theater. But if that means we don't have to put up with this Nazi shit for awhile, I'll take it.

I mean, it's not like Andrew Lloyd Webber or anything. "Tea parties" have some kitch value, at the very least.