Posts Tagged ‘Matt Taibbi’

Matt Taibbi on the Tea Party

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Well, I have to say that it was more fun to make fun of the Teabaggers before they took over the Republican party and then the Republican party took over the House. Now it’s more tragic than funny, but I would be remiss if I didn’t post Matt Taibbi’s brilliant analysis of the Tea Party.

Writing in a style reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson, Taibbi is one of the toughest, most insightful critics of American politics. This article is worth your time, but since most people won’t take the time to read the whole article, I’ll cut and paste my favorite parts.

On the hypocrisy that’s endemic to the movement:

At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them.

The big Republican establishment funding by Freedom Works and the Koch brothers:

a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations (that persuaded) a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street….A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

Taibbi notes that there is remarkable similarity in their arguments as well as their defense for why they were all silent when Republicans expanded government and ran up trillions of dollars in debt, as well as their insistence that race is not a factor in their worldview:

After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. (“Not me — I was protesting!” is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock….Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill “cracker babies,” support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Nothing infuriates Tea Party sympathizers more than being called racist, but Taibbi points out that most of them are not racist, they’re just narcissists:

…Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It’s not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It’s just that they’re shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid.

He goes on to argue that the Tea Party will be co-opted by the Republican party.

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will “take our country back” from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don’t realize is, there’s a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. (my emphasis)

This point is perhaps the most insightful part of the article and it’s worthy of a separate discussion, because it gets at the core of the American political system. Clearly, the Tea Party is not going to usher in some new era of Paul Ryan like efforts to dramatically shrink the Federal Safety net and privatize Social Security and Medicare. This is due in part to the fact that our electoral system was created to prevent any major changes in policy, but it’s also because the American people don’t support those policies and the Republican party would be out on their asses just as fast as the Democrats have been if they pushed for them (which is why only a handful of Republicans have signed onto Ryan’s Roadmap).

In fact, this idea gets at the core of the issue with the Tea Party, which is that their objectives are contradictory. At it’s heart, the Tea Party is a supposedly a protest against three things: taxation, the size of government and federal deficits. But most Tea Partiers are either benefiting from a single payer, government run health care system (Medicare) or they will be soon. They are also collecting Social Security, or will be soon. They feel (rightly so) that they’ve paid into these social welfare programs and they deserve to collect the benefits. They also (like the good Republicans they are) support American military supremacy and don’t want to cut military spending. But any look at the federal budget will show that you can’t have tax cuts while still maintaining the same levels of spending on Social Security, Medicare and defense.

Somethings got to give, and if the Tea Party doesn’t see this, then we’ve got to hope that the Country Club Republicans do. Because this country has big problems right now, and more than ever, we need leaders who are willing to compromise in order to do what’s good for the country, not dig their heels in and refuse to be part of the solution. If they’re willing to compromise and accept some tax increases in exchange for a deal to shrink the government, then their influence could be significant. Otherwise, they’ll just continue to be another loud, distracting minority that gets an out of proportion share of media coverage, continually complaining, but not offering any politically viable solutions.