Monday, October 18, 2010

Distorting the Tea Party Movement

In today's Toronto Star there is a review of three books on the Tea Party movement by Alan Brinkley. It is an incredibly dishonest and misleading hatchet job, which simply repeats the talking points developed by frightened Ruling Class politicians and their media allies over the past year. I wish it were online so I could give it a good fisking. But I'll have to make do by quoting Binkley extensively and pointing out the errors and lies (though sometimes it is difficult to tell which are which).

1. "Trying to describe the ideas of the Tea Party movement is a bit like the blind man trying to describe the elephant. The movement, like the elephant, exists. But no one, not even the Tea Partiers themselves, can seem to get hands around the whole of it."

Here, in his opening paragraph, Binkley sets the stage for his Marxist conclusion by denying that the Tea Part movement is based on a century old set of coherent principles with an intellectually respectable pedigree. Instead, he claims, the Tea Party is confused and unsure of what it believes.

2. "What lies behind the Tea Party? Some of it is purely partisan. It has close ties to the Republican Party. it is opportunistically promoted by Fox News."

What is the point of this rehashing of the blindingly obvious? Well, it is a way of saying "Watch out, this is not liberal or good for the Democratic Party." It is like saying of the Black Congressional Caucus: "It is purely partisan. It has close ties to the Democratic Party. It is opportunistically promoted by MSNBC." One get the sense already that this writer has little insight to contribute to building a greater understanding of this political movement.

3. "The people Zernike interviewed rarely expressed bigotry, prejudice or racism, but there are many self-identified Tea Partiers who detest immigration and fear the prospect of an America in which white people will be a minority."

Whoa, hold it right there. Note how slippery Brinkley is, speaking of those: "who detest immigration." Actually, they are concerned about "illegal immigration" which is very different from being concerned about "immigration." Many Tea Partiers are themselves immigrants or children or grandchildren of immigrants. Immigration is not their beef; it is illegal immigration and the lack of government enforcement of existing law. Also, note the way he slides from "immigration" to a fear of non-whites. This just plays on old stereotypes and conjures up fears of a return to the bad old days of Southern racism. But the crisis of illegal immigration in the US today centers on the Mexican border and it is actually Hispanic people who are coming across that border, not blacks. To assert that the Tea Party is just about whites who want a white only country is irresponsible. But let's not let facts get in the way of a cheap smear and an appeal to emotion.

4. "Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History, which combines her own interviews with Tea Partiers mostly from her home state, Massachusetts) and her deep knowledge of the founders and of their view of the American constitution. The architects of the Constitution, she makes clear, did not agree about what it meant. Nor did they believe that the Constitution would or should be the final word on the character of the nation and the government. It was the product of much compromise, and few were satisfied with all its parts."

This relativistic reading of the American Founding is popular today in universities dominated by the cultural relativism of decadent late Modernity. It portrays the Founders as being much like contemporary people: without deep principles or ethical absolutes just out to do enough horse trading to get the bill through - rather like the unseemly deportment of Democratic Party hacks openly buying enough senatorial votes to get Obamacare through. This reading of history lacks imagination or empathy with the thinkers it attempts - spectacularly unsuccessfully - to interpret.

Nobody in the Tea Party - and I mean nobody - thinks that the Constitution was meant to be the final word forever on the shape of the nation and its government. Nobody. This is a straw man dredged up out of the fevered imagination of the writer and tossed out for ritual dismemberment by the liberal mobs. You see, everybody knows about a little thing call "amendments" to the Constitution. There are a couple dozen of them. The Constitution itself provides for amendments to to constitution and there is a prescribed, constitutional way of doing them.

The problem is that progressives - social engineers and elitists at heart - don't like the fuss and bother of going through the amendment process. That and, of course, the little matter of the fact that they keep losing the votes. So they prefer judicial activism and the imposition of elite opinion on the unwashed masses by fiat. This is what the Tea Party movement opposes. If the Ruling Class wanted abortion on demand all they had to do is get an amendment to the constitution exempting unborn babies from the class of humans whose right to life is protected. But they didn't do that because they couldn't do it. The majority stood in their way. And that is why abortion must one day end in America - because it is a deeply un-American practice that is at odds with the American Founding just like slavery.

5. "Listening to the many and diverse demands and ideas that the Tea Partiers express in their rallies, pamphlets, and oratory does relatively little to explain why so many Americans are so angry."

Translation: they are uneducated and stupid rubes so you can't take what they say they are mad about as literally what they are really mad about. So relax, we don't have take them seriously.

6. "After all, most of those railing against government deficits (mostly created by Reagan and Bush tax cuts), protesting against taxes (the rates on the top income bracket are lower than at any time since before WW II, with the exception of a brief period two decades ago), and complaining about violations of the Constitution were, only a few years ago, much less concerned about these and many other issues that now loom so large in their vision of the future."

Where to start with this mess of untruths. First, to blame tax cuts by Reagan for deficits that began only 10 years after Reagan left office is a bit of a joke. How on earth did Bill Clinton balance the budget in the years of prosperity created by the Reagan tax cuts? Oh yes, because of the booming economy created by Reagan's policies following the disastrous Carter policies. Second, the Bush tax cuts account for $700 million dollars and probably created far more revenue than that by contributing to economic growth. But Obama's deficit is 1.2 trillion this year. Incredibly, Brinkley does not even consider the possibility that a totally useless and wasteful stimulus bill that cost a trillion dollars might have something to do with the deficit. No, couldn't be that - better blame Bush.

7. "Without the economic crisis, these same issues would remain unaddressed."

In other words, what is really causing all the ruckus is that the people are scared and mad because of the economic crisis. All the ideas and principles that the Tea Party talks about - limited government, a conservative judiciary, free enterprise, individual liberty etc. - all get boiled down to something a big government, welfare state liberal can get his mind around, namely, unemployment. This is his great, novel explanation of the whole Tea Party movement. They are just upset because of the bad economy. Ideas are just epiphenomenal; economics drives history. Marx was right.

This is lazy thinking and brutally conformist in its reluctance to confront the real words, actions and concerns of the most important political movement in the world today. It is dishonest of necessity because really to confront the issues raised by the Tea Party would be to expose the shallowness, incoherence and anti-Americanism of the leftover Left.

No comments: