Friday, October 15, 2010

Tea Off

While attempting to divine some semblance of meaning from the Tea Party phenomenon, what's become amply clear over the last year is that there's obvious merit to the notion of pushing back against a government that's ceded its responsibility to fairly represent us in favor of a corporate aristocracy whose interests cross all partisan or ideological divides.  That anger is real, and our politicos of either stripe would do well not to dismiss it.

However, any notion of genuine populism has long since been lost to the Tea Party as it exists now -- a vehicle for political astroturf and culture war clashes, where proudly-held ignorance not only survives, but thrives.  Indeed, there's a fundamental hypocrisy at work, either willfully or accidentally, that's exemplified by the crop of Tea Party candidates who are at once decrying government largesse while benefiting from it.  As Matt Taibbi articulated in a recent post:
This whole concept of “good welfare” and “bad welfare” is at the heart of the Tea Party ideology, and it’s something that is believed implicitly across the line. It’s why so many of their political champions, like Miller, and sniveling Kentucky rich kid Rand Paul (a doctor whose patient base is 50% state insured), and Nevada “crazy juice” Senate candidate Sharron Angle (who’s covered by husband Ted’s Federal Employee Health Plan insurance), are so completely unapologetic about taking state aid with one hand and jacking off angry pseudo-libertarian mobs with the other.
They genuinely don’t see the contradiction, much in the same way that some Wall Street people genuinely can’t see the problem with their company, say, taking $13 billion in bonuses in the same year that they accepted $13 billion in state bailouts. You wave a pitchfork at them with little post-its of the relevant figures taped to the ends, and ask them to confess – and they can’t, because they literally don’t see your point.
The mind boggles.  Of course, that cluelessness and complete lack of self-awareness is an inevitable outgrowth of the very mix of social and economic ingredients that's given the Tea Party its juice up 'till now.  If a Joe Miller or Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell didn't exist, those same interests would have conjured some other useful idiots from the political ether to gladly advocate against their own interests.  A lot more from Taibbi at the link, much of it hilarious, much of it depressing, and all of it worth a read.

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