Sunday, July 17, 2011

Disdaining the Tea Party

James W. Ceaser and John York have a very good post
about how liberal politicians and commentators have adopted a tactic of blaming the Tea Party whenever the public doesn't seem to like what they're doing. They've gone from characterizing those who came out for Tea Party protests as poor ignorant racists to then describing them as well-to-do white racists who don't want to pay their fair share. Then, as their numbers seemed to grow in influence we saw politicians, such as Pelosi who had previously derided the tea parties, trying to co-opt them as sharing their same beliefs.

Whenever there is opposition to all that the Democrats have tried to do in the past two years, these liberals rush to "Blame the Tea Party First."
For two years now, “Blame the Tea Party First” has been the Democrats’ favorite mantra. “Firsters” invoke the Tea Party to make sense–for themselves–of the otherwise inexplicable fact of large-scale public opposition to President Obama, and they hold the Tea Party responsible for many of the nation’s deeper problems, from incivility in our discourse to an inability to set aside intransigent partisanship.

Generosity in describing one’s foes is a rarity, especially among conspiracy theorists. But Firsters have carried their animus against the Tea Party to unprecedented heights by failing to credit it with what is today right before everyone’s eyes. Without the Tea Party, there would be no debt limit negotiations going on, just as there would have been no budget reduction deal last December. Without the Tea Party, President Obama would not be posing as the judicious statesman, but would be pushing –as in truth he still is–for more stimulus and further investments in high-speed rail. Whatever pressure now exists to treat the debt problem derives directly or indirectly from the explosion of energy that has been generated by the Tea Party.
The tea party is not a political party, but a movement. It encompasses all sorts of people who have all sorts of motivations and abilities.
Despite the accident of its name, the Tea Party is not a political party, but a political movement, according to Peter Berkowitz, “one of the most spectacular grass roots political movements in American history.” A feature of such movements in American politics, whether on the Left or the Right, is that they are unformed and inchoate. Their boundaries–who is in and who is out–remain ill-defined, as there is no authoritative organizational structure that exercises control of the “members.” It’s therefore almost always possible for interested investigators to find, somewhere, what they are looking for. So the Tea Party movement has had its share of ideologues (Ron Paul) and flakes (Christine O’Donnell)–although the same might be said, respectively, of the Democratic Party’s Sheila Jackson Lee and Anthony Weiner.

Given the porousness of the movement, any serious analysis demands perspective and discipline, qualities that in political commentary today are in short supply. What Firsters have instead provided is a grab bag of charges from which they pick the one that best fits the need of the moment. On some days it may be that the Tea Partiers, as Michele Bachmann so colorfully expressed it, are a bunch of “toothless hillbillies coming down out of the hills,” on others that they are some country-club Republicans teeing up for a round of golf. One moment the movement is weak and fragile, another it has captured the Republican Party, which, according to David Brooks, “has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.” Where these characterizations do not undermine themselves by contradiction, they often amaze by their absurdity. In the most malicious and persistent charge–that of racism, which serves as a prophylactic to protect O’bama from any criticism–the evidence offered is a small number of African Americans in the movement. But how many African Americans, already the most liberal group in America, should one expect to join a movement opposing Barack Obama? And of course when one does, like Herman Cain, and upon a strong showing in a debate wins the respect of the hordes of racists, he immediately becomes subject to the most unseemly attacks by those free of any hint of racial prejudice.
But they do share a vision of a "more constrained federal government and greater austerity in our welfare programs." That is very different from the vision shared by the liberal commentariat who are willing to grab on to any derisive description of tea partiers in their efforts to garner support for a larger more expansive government. Today's controversy is over the increasing of the debt ceiling. There is the way that Obama would like to be regarded as the wise adult who is willing to sacrifice his own political future in order to constrain government spending in order to spend more money on the programs he'd like to push through in a second term.
In this week’s controversy, Firsters are promoting the narrative of Barack Obama as the great statesman of the hour, willing to go the extra mile for a great bargain. Somewhere and sometime, according to this fantastic account, Obama experienced an 11th-hour conversion to spending restraint. Only no one–no one–has seen or knows what he wants. It is the phantom of the budget, staged with wondrous smoke and mirrors and accompanied by the old refrain, now growing stale by repetition, of Obama worship. We are witnessing the sorry spectacle of high-minded commentators, who only recently were chanting in unison for greater transparency in our politics, and who now bite like a school of perch at the cheap plastic lures and leaks being tossed out by White House flaks. These are men and women without an ounce of pride in either themselves or their craft.
This is so much malarkey but somehow the liberals think that the peasants should be buying all this hooey. President Obama has even made up poll numbers to show that the majority of the American people favor his so-far unrevealed proposals on taxes and spending. One wonders when poll numbers became the determinant of policy-making - it must have been some time after Obamacare was rammed through despite poll numbers against the policy with numbers that have increased in the time since the bill was passed. As Peter Wehner writes,
I look forward to the president’s next press conference, when tough, independent-minded journalists press Obama on the deep, across-the-board unpopularity of his signature domestic achievement — and the president, in bowing to his own logic, endorses a repeal of his most unpopular health care plan.
Ah, well. It's a lovely fantasy. But not with this White House press corps.

Read the rest of their post for a very good, short history of how critics of the tea party keep changing their contemptuous descriptions of those who dare to oppose all that these progressives believe is better for everyone else.