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by George T. Axiotakis

Recently, there has been a spate of analyses about the Tea Party and its motivations.  Sean Wilentz and Matt Taibbi have published informative pieces, while Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow regularly expose their irrational positions.  These analyses are all good, but all seem to share a crucial error: they see the rank-and-file protesters as "dupes" or "saps" or "suckers," while any moral judgment or excoriation is directed at the leaders of the movement: Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, the Koch Brothers.  While this mode of analysis may feel right, the distinction is too simplistic. The angry white faces carrying placards are often literate adults who know what they are doing.  What is dangerous is that theirs is actually a coherent, albeit bizarre, worldview with deep historical roots.  The purpose of this essay is to draw on some well-known sources to explain it.  I hope this is more than a pedantic point ("rabbits are not rodents"); to combat a malady, one must first have an accurate diagnosis.

By now, many aspects of the Tea Party philosophy are well known.  These include: Opposition to healthcare reform on "Constitutional" grounds; hostility to the progressive income tax; denial of global climate change; a putative right to openly carry firearms, even at political events.  Much has been written and said about the irrationality of these positions.  But for Wilentz, Olbermann and Maddow, the locus of analysis is usually not the Tea Party rank and file. In a recent New Yorker piece, Wilentz points out the crackpot sources of Beck's tirades, placing him squarely in the tradition of the John Bircher Robert Welch.  While Olbermann lambastes Tea Party supported candidates like Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and Rand Paul, Maddow seeks to expose the real money behind them, such as Dick Armey, Rick Berman, the Koch Brothers.  Taibbi did talk to the Tea Party protesters, and concludes that their philosophy is basically irrational (but in more interesting terms, repeated below).  

Yet in all cases, even Taibbi's, it seems that the protesters are perceived as the hapless dupes of powerful forces that they do not understand.  Unfortunately, this is probably not true.  The cognitive linguist George Lakoff (he who discusses campaigns in terms of "framing"), points out that liberals often proceed from the assumption--and it is just that, an assumption--that the reason many people do not hold progressive positions is because they have not been exposed to clear, rational arguments. Lakoff argues that this ignores how people actually think, in "conceptual metaphors."  Wilentz quotes the great literary curmudgeon H. L. Mencken: "A demagogue is somehow preaches what he knows to be untrue to people he knows to be idiots."  But surveys have shown that many Tea Party protesters are often successful people, many with real college degrees.  These folks have plenty of access to information which they consciously reject. (Political psychologists call this "confirmation bias," and in fairness, liberals can do this too.)  To put it bluntly, these people really believe this stuff--from Beck to the ubiquitous characters with misspelled signs.   What Lakoff calls conceptual metaphor I would call a frame of reference, but he has a serious point that can help us to understand the Tea Party's worldview.

The Tea Party Philosophy revolves around at least four interrelated propositions.  All of these are bad policy or morally dubious, and at least one is demonstrably false.

One: Fairness is not usually conceived in terms of equality, but a selective conception of merit.   A just society rewards and admires successful people, and does not try to impede them.  I suggest this has its roots in Max Weber's Protestant Ethic, the thesis that material success is evidence of God's grace.   In this world view, God rewards those who actually deserve it. There is a kernel of historical support for this view, as the framers of our Constitution did not conceive of political liberty in terms of social equality; they were not, in the parlance of the time, "levelers."

Two: This view conveniently ignores the Constitutional preamble "to promote the general welfare," and sees several amendments that follow the first ten as irrelevant intrusions.  For the Tea party, the United States Constitution in its original form protects liberty because it allows the deserving to succeed.  Even the First Amendment is not immune to some ingenious interpretation. In a recent debate, Christine O'Donnell actually asked where separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment.  For Glen Beck, the clearest conspiracy is a modern fiction that the Constitution is not divinely inspired.  Beck seems to believe that the Constitution is actually a Judeo-Christian ethical guideline, and that the supporting evidence has been suppressed.  This is demonstrably false, as there is a wealth of primary source material that shows how the Framers were influenced by the European Enlightenment, especially John Locke.  And they were almost to a (white) man quite suspicious of organized religion and its hold over the human mind.  (No need to go further here, except to agree with Wilentz that the fact that many college-educated people do not know this means we are doing a bad job teaching history).  The next two propositions follow from the first two.  

Three: The most important aspect of political liberty is private property; as a corollary, the greatest threat to liberty is any form of centralized government power that can make people depend on it.  After all, the truly deserving would never have to depend on the government.  Here is a penetrating exchange from Taibbi with a man in Kentucky (including his priceless "conclusion":

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much." (Here Taibbi adds, "Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit.")

Some may recall a disturbing image from the healthcare debate that occurred in Ohio. During competing rallies, there was a pro health reform advocate who happened to be an elderly man with Parkinson's disease. He sat on the sidewalk holding a pro healthcare reform sign. Two anti-reform advocates (much younger than he) approached him and repeatedly mocked him. That's right--these two clowns actually dissed a man with Parkinson's disease.  What must be understood--other than that they have no class--is that these guys really believe they were calling out a freeloader, a loser. Theirs is a worldview that sees weakness as a deep moral flaw.  Consequently, any central government with the power to redistribute resources from (deserving) winners to (undeserving) losers is almost existentially evil.    

Four: For the Tea party faithful, there was a traditional America that held these values, and it was a real place. In this world, people rose on merit, gender roles were defined, people knew their place. Here Rachel Maddow is absolutely correct to point out that the Tea Party is not just about radical economic libertarianism; they readily align with hard-right culture warriors on abortion, gay marriage, climate change, etc.  I may not be academically qualified to call Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell nut jobs, but I can state with confidence that they are not libertarians--they are culture warriors quite at home in the Tea Party. (Besides Maddow, the only observer I know of who discusses the potential threat to abortion rights is Ed Kilgore at The Democratic Strategist.)  

It is the last point that needs some elaboration. Many who are not of the cultural right are perplexed how people can be libertarians on economic matters but almost draconian on matters of sexual choice.  Here, Lakoff offers an explanation.   He suggests that people on the right have a "strict father" morality, which holds that the world is a dangerous place filled with flawed people.  In the real world, it is natural to have winners and losers.  As such, the real way to success requires discipline, and people must pay for the consequences of their actions.  Taken to its logical extreme, this is how some on the right can blame AIDS victims, or force a woman to carry any pregnancy to term--people must bear the personal consequences of their own actions.

I believe Lakoff's thesis to be useful, but incomplete.  The Tea Party phenomenon also has a strong cultural dimension.  If Beck and the Tea Party have a foundational belief, it is that America once held these values.  It was a simpler America where people succeeded or failed based on merit. To argue that this is nostalgia, not history, misses the point; for this crowd, it is liberals who have distorted history.  Things started going downhill not with the advent of the New Deal, but twenty years earlier, with the adoption of the progressive income tax in 1913.  This evocation of a mythical past is nothing new for the cultural right. Throughout history, various elites have been able to rouse whole communities with threats of cultural change.  The familiar themes repeat themselves: An exaltation of community, traditional gender roles, a distrust of cosmopolitanism.  In his classic Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Barrington Moore terms the phenomenon Catonism, as it goes all the way back to Cato the Elder.  The function is apparent, as it places the elite as the defender of tradition against real or invented enemies.    

I do not think Taibbi or Olbermann would disagree with much here; where we might disagree is that I believe the Tea Party is filled with people who want to be led--as long as it is by people they feel are like them. This is why Armey and the Koch brothers are seen as leaders, not cynical manipulators.  Let me give props to MSNBC here, as Olbermann and Maddow have both exposed the practice of elite corporate interests masquerading as grassroots movements.  And Olbermann, Maddow and Chris Matthews have not shied away from exploring a connection between the Tea Party and the Militia movement.  What binds these elements of the far right together is their list of potential enemies: THe usual suspects include assorted tree huggers, eggheads, immigrants, queers, weirdoes, etc.--they are not us.  Let me also make the obvious point that for this crowd, there is no greater evidence of this existential threat than the election of the first American African president (and--yawn--the "birthers" who suggest that Obama is not even American).  

For me, what is so frustrating is that the Left should have seen all this coming (I conveniently define "Left" here as anyone who agrees with Taibbi that the Tea Party is full of shit).   As mentioned, the themes are not at all new.  In a famous essay, historian Richard Hofstadter defined "The paranoid style in American politics."  In it he discusses numerous perceived threats: Masons, Jesuits, communists, etc.  Hofstadter acknowledges that some threats were real, such as Soviet communism; he focuses on various paranoid (over)reactions, such as McCarthyism.  His stated purpose was to locate "our political psychology through our political rhetoric." But his real target was the radical right of 1964 (especially the John Birchers), and the following passage is worth quoting at length:

"(T)he modern right wing, as (sociologist) Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high."

This was written in 1964, and it describes the "modern right wing" today.

I suggest that the Left misread the Tea Party, because of the occasional, but real, tendency to confuse power and morality.  Simply put, there are serious people who seem to believe that only those with real power can be bad guys; the corollary, of course, is that to be weaker is to be a nicer guy. (In a fine reply to Edward Said, Judith Shulevitz points out that if you take the weaker = good guy position to its reductio ad absurdum,you end up supporting the South during the Civil War.) A current example:  A New York Times article (10/20/2010) reported on climate change doubt  among Tea Party members.  It began by quoting a couple of skeptics after after a congressional debate in Indiana--so far, so good.  But the article then veered off into a report of how climate change skepticism is promoted and financed by energy companies and lobbyists.  While the article is informative, it seems to imply that the Tea Party faithful are being manipulated by powerful corporate interests.  But this analysis is shaky.  Interviews showed how many of the skeptics are guided by by religious belief: "I read my Bible," said one Norman Dennison: "He made this earth for us to utilize."   It is this fundamentalist worldview that makes some people receptive to anti-science propaganda.  Armey and Berman are just giving the Tea Baggers what they want--not telling them what they want.  

Many liberals, especially professional politicians, were loath to go after the Tea Party protesters at a time when many people were losing their jobs and/or homes (although surveys showed that the Tea baggers themselves are usually not the unemployed or those without health insurance). While many commentators were willing to dispute Beck and critique Armey, very few thought it wise to criticize the rank and file protesters; maybe they feared being labeled elitist or condescending.  But to not confront the Tea Party protesters had one unforeseen effect--it made liberals appear weak. This is not an appeal for a "politics as war" metaphor; of course, we should be civil.  (Nor is it a missive for mockery--dissing people because they cannot spell goes only so far.)  But there is nothing wrong with treating adults as adults, and that means subjecting wacky ideas to rigorous criticism and rigorous politics.  While we cannot throw those two bullies in Ohio a beatdown, they should at least have been the butt of a political ad.  We all know that, with the roles reversed, the Right would have done so with alacrity.    

Even Taibbi, while willing and able to criticize, evokes a degree of sympathy:

"They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology... because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart."


No, it should not break your heart.  In the political arena, we are not obligated to feel compassion for an adult who openly carries a firearm at a political event--when we know the real purpose is intimidation.   We do not need to be patient with someone willing to display a picture of the first African-American president of the United States with a bone in his nose--especially when we realize that he really means it.  Much has been written suggesting that while the Tea Party may enjoy electoral success in the short run, their irrationality will make it impossible to govern.  I suggest that, to hasten their demise, we need to take them very seriously--from Glen Beck to that angry guy with the hostile sign.            

The writer was a history major and eschews all hot beverages.


Broder, John M. "Climate Change Doubt is Tea Party Article of Faith." New York Times, October 20, 2010.

Hofstadter, Richard. "The paranoid style in American politics." Harper's,  November 1964.  

Lakoff, George. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Moore Jr., Barrington.  Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.  Beacon Press, Boston, 1966.

Taibbi, Matt. "How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster." Rolling Stone, October 15, 2010.

Wilentz, Sean. "Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party’s Cold War roots." The New Yorker, October 18, 2010.

Originally posted to Groundhog on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 08:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So how do we break the news to them (9+ / 0-)

    that Norman Rockwell's America never existed (though their dreams might be closer to George Rockwell's)?

  • (4+ / 0-)

    This is why Armey and the Koch brothers are seen as leaders, not cynical manipulators.

    Money is at the very center of Teapartiers manipulations.

  •  nicely said (12+ / 0-)

    well written and thought out, Groundhog. you're right about how the battle has to be waged -- with both the leadership AND rank and file.

    the Teahadists can be BOTH manipulated "from the top" as per Taibbi / Maddow and ideologically motivate from below as per Groundhog.

  •  Thanks for wading through the bilges for us (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, palantir, Larsstephens, vahana

    The WaPo had a Sunday Magazine article yesterday on travels with the Baggers, but, I just couldn't stomach reading it. Now, I don't have to.

    Many good thoughts here.


  •  I think you're on to something (11+ / 0-)

    There is a particular world view that unites the Tea Party.  A few points.  First, these are the same folks (or at least their descendants) who have populated the right wing for generations.  Second, there are two other underlying attributes I'd add to your list.

    One attribute is that this brand of right winger has  deterministic view of the world (related to your description of their "selective conception of merit"): roulette wheels, stock markets, the weather, and everything else is deterministic and indicative of people's relative merit.

    Another attribute is that these are people who can practice doublethink without trying hard.  They can hold multiple contradicting views at the same time, or can sequentially sort through what facts they choose to present.  "Facts" are as malleable to them as probability theory.

    Both of these are an alternative view of the world to the sort of rationalism most of us profess.

  •  Random Karl Popper Passage (7+ / 0-)

    Popper on totalitarianism

    But in spite of this dubious freedom, the mystics endlessly repeat the same thing. It is always the myth of the lost tribal paradise, the hysterical refusal to carry the cross of civilzation.

  •  I think it's correct that (5+ / 0-)

    the biggest distinction I see between economic conservatives (and I believe the Tea Party falls in that category) and progressives on economic matters is the relationship they see between merit and financial success.  

    Most of the economic conservatives I know are well-educated, very intelligent working professionals. Most came from very middle-class backgrounds (I knew a lot of them growing up), studied hard in high school, went to local colleges, and have been working professionals for 20 plus years.  They believe very strongly that they got where they are today through their hard work and intelligence.  They believe that, while not everyone can become rich, most people can better their own situation in life through hard work, intelligence, and education.  They are ok with a social safety net for those who truly can't help themselves (the disabled, for example, although they think private charities are "more efficient" at helping the truly disabled than is the federal government), but not so much for people whose financial circumstances (they believe) are due in large part to choices they made.  They are far more likely to accept help getting an education than straight financial aid.  They are very much against direct financial aid to those who (in their view) can make better choices to help themselves, and resent having "their money" (i.e., money they work for) go to people who made bad choices (dropped out of school, etc.) that affected their financial situation.  They were the ones who greatly supported Clinton's welfare reform, for example.

    That's what I see in the reasonable, intelligent economic conservatives I come in contact with every day.  

    •  Their Nation Has Slipped to the 20's to 40's Rank (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      behind the other advanced democracies in countless measures of health, well being and opportunity for the people, it's just caused the 2nd global depression because of Republican policies, and they're capable of identifying as conservatives?

      Democratic leadership are conservatives, some of their policies are rightwing enough to keep the nation heading down just slower than the Republicans would.

      There shouldn't be anyone with a brain left in their head, other than sociopaths, left identifying themselves as conservative in this wingnut America.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:24:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They are the ones who are on the target of the conservative leaders manipulations, because they will better carry the water for them: the local used car dealer, the restaurant owners, the neighbor with signs in their yard, etc. The message is that they have worked hard (true), they have earned it (true), and that "others" are trying to steal it (not true).

      •  And what makes them really mad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is the carefully crafted right wing propaganda, that the "other" who are trying to steal from their hard earned work are brown, aided by our President.

        Against logic there is no armor like ignorance. - Dr. Laurence J. Peter

        by ahumbleopinion on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 10:39:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it is less important to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          my educated, intelligent economic conservatives what the race/ethnicity is of the people who are getting "handouts."  The word you will hear more often is "able-bodied."  If you are disabled, then they have no problem with financial assistance.  If you are "able-bodied" and of normal intelligence, then (in their view) you could have made a decent living for yourself -- you may not have become rich, but you could have been solidly middle class if you had made better decisions in your life, stayed in school, and worked hard. They recognize there may be some exceptions, but they believe that to be true for most "able-bodied" poor people.  They recognize that it is harder for some than for others to get there, but they will say that "life isn't always fair," and that it was harder for them to get where they are than it was for so-and-so who had rich parents or whatever.  In their view, the fact that some child starts in a disadvantaged family, for example, means that government should provide that child with the opportunity to get an education.  You'll hear that a lot: "government should guarantee opportunity, not results."  They will recognize that opportunity is not always equal, and they will recognize that making the choices they did is easier for some than others, but they can all tell you about the things in their life that made getting where they are difficult.  In the end, however, in their view, they are in a better financial position than you are because they went to school, studied, graduated, and have been working long hours since then to get where they are.  They don't see that they "owe" anything to "able-bodied" people who "choose" not to do the things that would make a better living for themselves.  

    •  What do they think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, ahumbleopinion

      of keeping poverty and all the ensuing problems, at bay?  Is it worth it to them that they keep poverty at a level where crime is minimized and disease is controlable?  I often cite welfare, disability, food stamps and Medicare/Medicaid as a valuable asset in keeping our world free of the awful consequences of poverty.  Those consequences would touch us all.  Constant robbery, contageous disease, Calcutta like slums breeding all kinds of ills.  I press them on why they want to return to that kind of world.  The other point I lkide to makew is that the pauments to the poor are a fantastic way to stimulate commerce.  All that money gets thrown back into the economy and helps keep the engine running.  If we did not have that many small businesses would fold.  The selfish attitude that the undeserving are taking one's money and getting away with it is immature, akin to sibling rivalry.  Everyone should get over it, grow up and realize that we live comfy lives in part, because of our social structures.

      •  You will hear things from them like (0+ / 0-)

        "moral hazard," and people should live with the consequences of their decisions.  For poverty, they believe in "workfare" or "welfare to work" programs, that kind of thing.  But they resent any programs that simply provide funds (with no strings attached) to people whose circumstances (poverty) are, in their view, a result of things those people did or did not do.  They see a huge difference in providing funds, on the one hand, to the disabled who cannot provide for themselves, or, on the other hand, to people who are "able-bodied" but dropped out of school, who chose not to learn a marketable skill, that kind of thing.  That's why they are much happier supporting programs that put requirements on the recipient of the financial assistance (working so many hours, having to attend some classes to learn a marketable skill, and some limits on how long the government will provide the financial aid).  They believe that, in the long run, it is better to send a message that "actions and decisions have consequences," and if you make (in their view) bad decisions, then life may be more difficult for you.  They are willing to support programs that help you work your way out of it but not programs that provide financial assistance with no strings on that financial assistance.  

        As for stimulate commerce, you are talking about people who work for a living and spend that money.  You are not talking about the "idle rich" who will simply put all they earn in a bank. This group would rather keep more of what they earn to spend on things like their own kids' college education, or supporting their parents in their old age, or their own retirement, than have money they earned go to people who (in their view) could be providing for themselves but chose (through their own decisions) not to.  

        •  I think we would all (0+ / 0-)

          like to see programs that give people the proverbial fishing pole rather than just handing out the money.  Who is going to do the work of training (for miniscule pay, ie social workers), and are these wonderfully giving citizens going to pony up the extra taxes to provide the service?  I can say assuredly, the bitching would be loud and long on that one.  I already hear versions of it.  "I paid for school and these gd ghetto moms are going for free". Penny wise and pound foolish.  I work with several people whom could be considered to be in the category of "they could do something for their check" and it is true, they could.  Who is going to hire them and put up with their peculiarities and unproductivity?  Should there be a law that forces all businesses to hire a low performing person so that they stay off the welfare rolls?  
              As for stimulate commerce, any person contributing to a retirement account is not putting everything back into the economy.  They are in effect, helping the wealth go off shore.  

          •  I didn't mean to get into a discussion of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            the MERITS of their beliefs.  I just wanted to explain the beliefs as I hear them, so that people would see these aren't totally irrational nutcases who disavow paying any taxes or disavow any government.  Most of the reasonable ones, like you say, recognize that you can't just write off forever people who made bad decisions, but,  like you said, they want them to be given ONLY a fishing pole, even if it's harder for them to fish because of the decisions they've made.

            As for school, well, here in Louisiana, the one thing we've done right over the last years is the TOPS program, which allows any child who graduates from high school with a decent GPA, and who gets something like a 21 or better on the ACT (I forget exactly where the cutoff is) to attend LSU without paying tuition. Frankly, most economic conservatives I know think this is a great program, because it fits in their notion of the "deserving poor" (those who apply themselves in high school) getting a college education even if they could not otherwise afford it.  

            •  I have argued these points (0+ / 0-)

              quite a bit with people.  The jealousy and hate for the underclass is prominent in these discussions.  I have no patience for it.  I grew up Catholic and we worked hard in my family understanding our duty to the poor.  It is not as simple as people believe.  Their platitudes are not workable solutions.  Any solution would take lots of money and sacrifice in the general public.  They think an idea can be a solution with no thought into logistics.  Makes me mad.

  •  From what I've read of them (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, Larsstephens

    There's a core group of younger guys -- real hardcore YAF'ers, Birchers, etc. (1964 Goldwater'ites re-incarnated), who've gotten a bunch of mostly older folks interested. Recall the article where the guy describes their meetings as "social" not political? I don't know how to put it in less blunt terms so ... it gives some folks with less-than-full lives an "identity", a sense of belonging to a group (cause).

  •  Excellent diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, ahumbleopinion

    very well thought-out and well written. Tipped and recc'd. My only quibble at the moment is the use of the name "Tea Party" as if there were any daylight between these so-called "Tea Partiers" and the rest of the Rethug party and establishment. What we call the "Tea Party" is merely the most extreme wing of the Rethug party. But everything else is Spot-On.

    Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

    by drewfromct on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:15:46 AM PDT

  •  So basically they are the distilled essence of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what the republican party has become.

    They hate government (and the current state of what our country really is) so much that any incompetent is qualified for office. Failed governance pushes their agenda.

    What scares me is the fact that there is a sizable number of apolitical folks out there buys into this crap. Tea Party candidates wouldn't be competitive otherwise.

    •  They don't hate government. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, ahumbleopinion

      That's the whole point.  They're all for government when they control it.  When they say they want to drown the government, what they really mean is that they want to drown constitutional democratic government.  They might call the replacement something else, but if you're not a teabagger, it's going to look an awful lot like populist fascism.

  •  Yep They're High Not Low Information Voters (7+ / 0-)

    Much of the information is false of course; but yes they actually do hold the values they claim they hold.

    There's a large fraction of fundamentalists in them, and they intend to flatly take over the country. And they've been working at it successfully for generations.

    The right insists on the original intent the framers should have had. As you say that includes forbidding government meddling in the general welfare, equal rights, lots of other stuff they oppose new and original.

    There is a movement among them to repeal the Constitution entirely and restore the Articles of Confederation.

    And they're not voting against their interests. They're voting against a more comfortable life for themselves but they don't care. The fundies have a full featured community with support and missions for them, so they don't care how the rest of society degrades. And of course there's their get out of hell free card of Jesus' name.

    They're tribal identity driven, jealousy and fear driven. In exchange for a lower standard of living they get the Republicans to ensure comfortably familiar people rule, that outsiders don't get any support from them, and that the iron fist of security and military punishes as many outsiders as possible.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:21:06 AM PDT

    •  Punishment is more important than their own needs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've read about a factor of the conservative mindset, aligned with the need for a "strict father" regime. There is a strong desire (for males especially) to punish wrongdoers, those who are unworthy, those who are taking more than their share. This is probably an evolutionary behavior which helped to keep a tribe/clan cohesive. Those who misbehaved were punished and/or expelled from the tribe by the patriarchy. This is probably one reason that men are more drawn to be police officers and women to be kindergarten teachers. Not that there aren't female tea partiers, obviously women can have this mindset as well, but it's more full blown in men. This mindset is strong within the conservative movement and is part of the foundation of their psychological framework. When people are angry, their rage makes them desire punishment of their targets even if it causes them a loss of some sort. The extreme example of how this behavior can be manifested is the enraged ex-husband/boyfriend who desires to punish those he feels have wronged him, or are associates, or may simply be innocent bystanders. This person may go on a killing spree knowing full well he is destroying himself in the process, often finishing himself off. The desire to punish in a state of rage can easily veer into complete irrationality.

      Bendy spines lose elections.

      by Ruh Roh on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:57:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't doubt that their views are sincerely held (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, SouthernBelleNC49

    They're just obnoxious views.  They're selfish--they enjoy the benefits of a government-built physical and social infrastructure but they don't want to extend it to others.  They're myopic--they want the good old days, even though the good old days were horrible for many people.  They're racist--those "many people" they don't care about have something about them, and I can't quite put my finger on it....

    And they are indeed dupes: they're being organized by people who don't share their overall critique, only the desire to live in a zero-tax (for themselves), zero-services (except for themselves) society.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:22:40 AM PDT

  •  Merit? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Larsstephens, vahana

    Three men rented a hotel room for $30, giving the clerk $10 each.  The clerk later realized that the rent should have been $25, and sent the bellhop up with a $5 refund.  The bellhop, being dishonest, gave each man $1 and pocketed $2.  So, each man paid $10, and received $1 back, costing each a net $9.  9 time 3 is 27, plus $2 to the bellhop is 29.  Where's the missing dollar?

    What in hell am I talking about?  Framing.  It's the wrong question.  There is no "missing dollar."  But it continues to baffle people if you incessantly pose the question that way.

    What political/economic system best rewards "merit?"  Wrong question.  

    Human reason treads water in a sea of animal impulses.

    by legalarray on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:45:26 AM PDT

  •  Some idiot at work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    was rambling on about how the Constitution doesn't say anything about the good of the collective, but only the good of the individual. I said that if individuals decide to band together to elect a legislative body to improve their lot, the Constituion allows for that to happen. He still thinks he's right.

  •  Excellent diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nils o, Larsstephens

    Your analysis of the mentality of rank-and-file Tea Party supporters has been needed.

    So many good points, but I'm captivated at the moment by your highlighting of their belief that individual actions have personal consequences that actors must accept. This belief sets a snare to trap liberals, for when we try to hold them accountable for their racism, for instance, they redefine our imposition of consequences as intolerance that belies our liberal principles.  Little wonder, then, that

    Many liberals, especially professional politicians, were loath to go after the Tea Party protesters at a time when many people were losing their jobs and/or homes (although surveys showed that the Tea baggers themselves are usually not the unemployed or those without health insurance).  

    It's never too late to change up our game plan for promoting our liberal worldview and progressive values. I feel great affinity for the approach you suggest here:

    But to not confront the Tea Party protesters had one unforeseen effect--it made liberals appear weak... But there is nothing wrong with treating adults as adults, and that means subjecting wacky ideas to rigorous criticism and rigorous politics.

    Thanks for the enlightenment!

    "The most frightening feature of unreason is its failure to recognize itself." --Howard V. Hendrix

    by vahana on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 10:32:24 AM PDT

  •  Really excellent piece (0+ / 0-)

    I appreciate your expounding on the Success = Sign of God's Favor belief structure in American history where the converse is also held to be true, that lack of financial success is a mark of being a bad person.  My favorite from the news in recent years was the assertion that tolerance for Teh Gays is what brought on huricane Katrina if I'm not confusing natural disasters.

    I had not put it into context with teh Tea Baggers.  Where I'd noticed it is with the spiritual aspects of many New Age sects who also feel that illness is an indication of confused thinking and/or a rift in one's connection with God.

    "Limited government only sounds good as an abstraction, but the principles of the free market won't get you too far when your house is on fire." ~Joshua Holland

    by MsGrin on Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 01:36:08 PM PDT

  •  Thank you!!! (0+ / 0-)

    Gee, I want to thank everyone for your support--it's nice to know when you're on to something!  I find the comments interesting and want to continue the dialogue, but I'm a bit new to this--should I respond individually or in one long comment?



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