Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Mad, Mad Tea Party

So, today is tea bag day.

I’ve said pretty much all I need to say about the tea baggers here, here, and here. The tea parties are hardly a “grassroots” effort, even less so since they've been promoted (not covered) shamelessly by Fox News and the rest of the organized conservative media over the past month. That is undeniable, even if you buy the “movement’s” authenticity, even if you believe that news that these events are the brainchild of GOP consultants and PR firms is all liberal propaganda.

But there’s no doubt that the people showing up at tomorrow’s events are sincere in their protest. I am just not sure what, exactly, they are protesting. There seems to be some ire over the bailouts, which everyone conveniently forgets began with President Bush last September. And there seems to be the usual dissatisfaction over taxes, though I have little patience for anyone angry over a plan to raise taxes for the rich to where they were under President Clinton.

I guess people are just angry, and with the economy in a tailspin, that’s natural. What we have here is a political elite trying to harness that anger, channel it in a direction favorable to their cause, which is to return themselves to power. Considering that this party represents the rich and powerful elite, Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Business, I find it all rather .... pathetic.

We’ve got full-blown cognitive dissonance going on here, and it’s got most of the country scratching their heads in puzzlement. Here’s Matt Taibbi to explain it all for you:
This must be a terrible time to be a right-winger. A vicious paradox has been thrust upon the once-ascendant conservatives. On the one hand they are out of power, and so must necessarily rail against the Obama administration. On the other hand they have to vilify, as dangerous anticapitalist activity, the grass-roots protests against the Geithner bailouts and the excess of companies like AIG. That leaves them with no recourse but to dream up wholesale lunacies along the lines of Glenn Beck’s recent “Fascism With a Happy Face” rants, which link the protesting “populists” and the Obama adminstration somehow and imagine them as one single nefarious, connected, ongoing effort to install a totalitarian regime.

This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that  preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. In order to pull off this argument, in fact, you have to grease the wheels with a lot of apocalyptic language and imagery, invoking as Beck did massive pictures of Stalin and Orwell and Mussolini (side by side with shots of Geithner, Obama and Bernanke), scenes of workers storming the Winter Palace interspersed with anti-AIG protests, etc. — and then maybe you have to add a crazy new twist, like switching from complaints of “socialism” to warnings of “fascism.” Rhetorically, this is the equivalent of trying to paint a picture by hurling huge handfuls of paint at the canvas. It’s desperate, last-ditch-ish behavior.

I think I liked the Righties better when they were “Going Galt.” Remember that? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That sure didn’t last long, and neither will this teabag street theater.