Monday, January 25th, 2010

Sympathy for the Tea Party

MY TEA PARTY TIMEI have a weird thing about the Tea Party type of people, in that, while I don't think the Jews are running black helicopters from NATO down the Mississippi nor do I think Obama is "sekret Muslin usurper President of Kenya," I do actually find it exciting that there are pissed-off bands of people in this country-and I don't believe they're all astroturfed and I do think a great deal of Tea Party members have come to the tea party organically and with some not-terrible complaints, particularly those about the disinvolvement of Americans from politics. The problem is so many of them go awry with the whole birther crowd, and also that, like many of us, they have few reliable sources of information and so they spend their days printing out copies of blog posts garned from the crazy-net. That's a shame, because a loud movement actually working towards the goal of a smaller, lest-wasteful, more accountable government would be awesome. And it's also a shame because the Tea Party associates, as demonstrated in today's Ben McGrath story in the New Yorker, are much closer to us than we think. They aren't some weird far-off critters: they are, actually, our families and our neighbors and our friends-of-friends, as McGrath shows.

The Soros grumbler, who had also labelled John McCain a Communist, was dressed in jeans pulled up well above his waist with suspenders, and wearing thick, oversized shades. When he saw my notebook, he turned to Seely and asked, "Where's he from, supposedly?" Informed that I live in New York, he replied, "There's a nightmare right there." What he had in mind was not a concentration of godless liberals, as it turned out, but something more troubling. "Major earthquake faults," he said. "It's hard in spots, but basically it's like a bag of bricks." Some more discussion revolved around a super-volcano in Yellowstone ("It'll fry Denver and Salt Lake at the same time") and the dire geological forecasts of Edgar Cayce, the so-called Sleeping Prophet, which involved the sudden emergence of coastlines in what, for the time being, is known as the Midwest. I asked the man his name. "T. J. Randall," he said. "That's not my real name, but that's the one I'm using."

Seely saw our encounter with the doomsayer more charitably than Hofstadter might have. "That's an example of an intelligent person who's not quite got it all together," he said. "You can tell that. But he's pretty interesting to talk to." Seely's own reaction, upon learning where I'd come from, had been to ask if I was familiar with the New School, in Greenwich Village. His youngest daughter, Amber, had gone there.

I asked Seely what Amber thought of the Tea Party. "We kind of hit a happy medium where we don't discuss certain things," he said, and added that at the moment Amber, who now works for a nonprofit that builds affordable housing in New Orleans, was visiting his son, Denver, who is enrolled in a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering at Mississippi State.

35 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

You've lost your brain, Choire. I totally do not follow.

There will not be a major earthquake in New York, nor will there be a catastrophic disruption of your Yellowstone caldera, until long, long after the asteroid hits.

HiredGoons (#603)

Are you questioning Edgar Cayce? Tread lightly dear, or I'll have to sic The Ascended Masters on your ass.

Baroness (#273)

Cayce's story is genuinely interesting weirdness. But it's striking how often the scenario recurred in the 70s apocalypse industry, best-sellers like "The Late Great Planet Earth", psychic Jeane Dixon, tabloids. I was a young kid then, found it scary and fascinating. Now I see clearly, how right-wing and evangelical these books were. CA and NY being destroyed , sliding into the ocean was less "prophecy" than a wish-fulfillment dream for a distinct sort of American political thought, wrapped in mysticism.

HiredGoons (#603)

I have a weakness of Cayce, Blavatsky, Count de St. Germain, et al.

I have a collection of first-edition Occult Books.

I am a nerd.

HiredGoons (#603)

Communism was just a red herring.

jolie (#16)


brent_cox (#40)

But that they are our families and our neighbors and our friends-of-friends is what I hold against them.

Matt (#26)

Singles Going Galt.

blueprint (#2,019)

The Tea Party movement is largely a "last-gasp" effort by Baby Boomers to remain relevant.

The election of Obama was a repudiation of the policies of the "Me generations" glory years (Regan). The Tea Party is the Nicole Kidman of politics. As their youth and influence fade, they take to crazier and more extreme measures to stay in the spotlight. Kidman has plastic surgery, the Tea Baggers have birth certificates.

Essentially, the Tea Party's *real* rallying cry is "what about ME?!"

Abe Sauer (#148)

How many "tea party" types do you know b/c I know a bunch and the majority of them are in their 30s and 40s with the majority that I've met at tea arty events in their 70s and 80s Hardly baby boomers.

blueprint (#2,019)

It could be a symptom of geography.

I live in Northeast Ohio, and personally know ~25 people that openly identify themselves as members of the Tea Party. All but one are around sixty years old. People I see "around town" with pro-Bag t-shirts and bumper stickers also seem to fall in that same age range.

Tea Party policy is really big among our older, relatively homogeneous population. It's another embarrassment we can add to "polluted river that caught fire" and "war protesters shot by the National Guard".

brad (#1,678)

in my town, they are all old and white. and the pains they take- THE PAINS- to point out that they didn't like bush's spending but it didn't bother them too bad because things were better and they're not birthers although they'd like to see the certificate and they're on medicare but they already paid for it and want no further government intrusion and blah blah blah blah

Abe Sauer (#148)

Could be. In ND and western/northern Minnesota residents have been "tea partiers" for the last 25 years. The movement just happens to have a name now. Ohio has a real blue collar base seems to have shifted (as the unions have dissolved). The older 75+ population turns out huge for the events and have genuine gripes about severe cuts to benefits. If I relied on Medicare and had misinformation coming about the cuts etc., I;d probably be in the streets as well.

jfruh (#713)

My stepfather is not quite a tea-partier but also has a lot in common with their worldview. One thing I find interesting about talking to him is his firm and monomaniacal conviction that if the government is in charge of something they'll fuck it up, and that there's really no way to fix this. Even when discussing, say, health care, and evidence that European countries with socialized medicine spend less money and get better results, his conviction is that there's some kind of qualitative difference between their governments and ours, where theirs work and ours doesn't.

See, when you say it that way, it is pretty reasonable. Because, in my secret heart of hearts, I too am convinced that there is some qualitative difference etc. etc. etc. and that's the only reason why I have to use my Furrin' Tahps passport when I want the good health care.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Choire's right that "loud movement actually working towards the goal of a smaller, lest-wasteful, more accountable government would be awesome." It is difficult to come up with an exact angle (though not impossible) were the "left" grabs an opportunity to engage many in the tea party movement. Sure, some of them are out of reach (just as the left's own truthers are beyond hope). Simply dismissing all of them as crazies is CLEARLY not going to work, especially at the polls.

LondonLee (#922)

I really don't see any comparison between "truthers" and "birthers" except that both of them are nuts. The former are unknown loonies on the internet while the latter include well-known politicians and television personalities.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Whaaa? I don;t think you are familiar wit the Loose Change following, including Jesse Ventura, Janeane Garofalo, Rosie Odoneel and a bunch of other very well known celebrities.

iplaudius (#1,066)

Tea and sympathy. Heh.

Ron Obvious (#351)

Nice that you can have empathy for bred-in-the-bone racists, Choire. And I mean that sincerely. You might be able to reason with them with at least a chance of success.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

After his wife's third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Bill Clinton telephoned Sen. Edward Kennedy in pursuit of an endorsement and, according to Kennedy's own account as given to a friend, said of then-Sen. Barack Obama: A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Seriously. Nothing less in-the-bone racist than a "we have to help those people" democrat.

HiredGoons (#603)

I think that was a comment on his youth.

Ron Obvious (#351)

Sorry, Abe, but the ones I know here in North Carolina all ultimately acknowledge that what's driving them nuts is that the President is black. Nothing more, nothing less.

El Matardillo (#586)

Many of the tea party crowd own and enjoy the company of their many cats. So, there's that!

deepomega (#1,720)

I would literally kill someone for a two party system where the progressive party is all up in government activism and the conservative party was all about minarchy and cautiousness.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Are you saying changing your facebook status to support health care reform isn't progressive activism?

deepomega (#1,720)

Hey guys, if we can get #reformhealthcarenow trending then Congress will immediately pass any bill with the words "Health", "Care" or "Reform" in the title!

Ironically, Bakunin is a fount of teabagger talking points

sailor (#396)

Truly missing the point here. Is everyone on this thread drunk?

Perfectly understandable, btw.

brad (#1,678)

are you not?

carpetblogger (#306)

Thanks, New Yorker, for pointing out that Tea Partiers are my family. I would never have otherwise known this.

Ribs (#2,690)

I like this post and agree. There are a shitload of legitimate reasons to be frustrated with both the active work of the current US government machine and the entire Operating System that US Politics and Politik-folk cog-around in.

Clintons & "they killed this person (maybe) in Arkansas (or something)!" hate had the same bullshit-y scent as the Birther/Truther crowd. The environment that the '09-and-on Tea Partiers coalesced in is quite different from the roaring 90's, when it was easier to look away from the sewage that the political OS was pumping out. Jobs, manufacturing (et al), even the slowly increasing drum-beat of Tale the Passing of The American Hegemony i can imagine rouses the more-commonly complacent. Dong story skort, i agree the sympathy is understandable – folks got American and Int'l reasons for angst.

(Add in a Dem administration & congress, granting outsider status, letting a flag of opposition be raised a la the Lost Boys in Hook…boom. What's more fun than being the underdog Fighting For Your Right to Parrrty?)

Ribs (#2,690)

PS – I guess this would make Glenn Beck Rufio, to be killed in a duel with Joe Biden? Help me out here.

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