Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Did they have Darjeeling at the tea parties?

There were tea parties across the country today. Not the kind with scones and raspberry jam. These tea parties were supposed to remind people of the original Boston Tea Party, the one that started the American Revolution. Except that these people have taxation WITH representation, so it's not clear what the parallel is.

The big liberal blogs have been all over the story all day. Daily Kos provides a comparison with the original. TPM has a great photo gallery of some of the protests. HuffPost had several posts.

The point of all these is to protest taxes and the government in general and Obama. From some of the pictures, these protests attracted a fair people from the fringe of the radical right.

Andrew Sullivan tried to take these protesters seriously. He linked to an incredibly cool graphic of exactly how and on what the federal government spends money. He summed up the salient point well:

it seems odd to describe this as anything but a first stab at creating opposition to the Obama administration's spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush's.
. . .
All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.
It's almost trivial to describe these protesters as whackjobs. Obama is a fascist/socialist? Huh? There were people on the left who used that kind of language to describe Bush. Both Bushes. And they were ignored, particularly the second time around, even though W. was a much worse president than his father. They were ignored because the vast majority of liberals and Democrats - the 99% who are sane, rational people - realized that the crazies tainted the movement. Apparently the right did not learn this lesson.

I'm going to imagine for a moment that these folks are serious about cutting spending. Where have they been for the last 8 years? One of the largest items in the budget is interest on the debt. At the end of the Clinton administration, we were running a surplus. If we had kept doing that, we would have eliminated a huge chunk of the interest we pay on our debt, which would have made cutting taxes or dealing with this financial crisis even easier. Somehow this never comes up.

If these folks really wanted to cut the budget, they would have protested against Bush. But of course they didn't. And now that Obama is in office, with the horrendous problems he inherited from Bush, they're blaming him? Please.

They're angry about government spending, but of course they couldn't protest Bush, because they somehow see themselves as agreeing with him, even though he did the opposite of what they believe in. So Bush pissed them off, but they couldn't protest against him, so they are taking all their anger that was inspired by Bush, and aiming it at Obama.

Can you say dysfunctional?

This feels like one of those moments at a party when someone does something really embarrassing but doesn't realize it, so everyone else pastes uncomfortable smiles on their faces, waits for the moment to pass, and then doesn't say anything. Until maybe a few days later, when there is a hushed whisper here and there. And eventually the person somehow doesn't get invited to quite as many parties. Right now, many, many Republicans are incredibly embarrassed by this spectacle, but they're not saying anything, and they won't for a while. At least not in public. But this will have a strong impact on how many people vote.

What's unfortunate for those mainstream Republicans is that events like the ones today are great networking events. Thousands and thousands of business cards and phone numbers and emails were exchanged at these parties today. Which means that we have not heard the end of the tea partiers. It took many years and several devastating electoral defeats before the Democrats finally dealt with their nutcases. As Sullivan keeps writing, it is going to get worse before it gets better.


Anonymous said...

The tea parties did offer "constructive and specific" suggestions about how to reduce spending, contrary to what Andrew Sullivan claims. Indeed, many of the tea parties arose in opposition to Obama's $800 billion stimulus package, which the Congressional Budget Office says will actually shrink the economy in the long run, contrary to Obama's claim that it was needed to prevent "irreversible decline."

The tea parties specifically identified two massive spending programs that need to be cut. The first is Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package. The second is the Obama Administration’s mortgage bailout, which would benefit even high-income people with modest mortgages (hence the “I can’t afford your mortgage” sign wielded by many protesters).

The protesters are right to protest the Administration's broken promises (like Obama's promise to enact a "net spending cut") and out-of-control spending.

Andrew Sullivan dismisses the tea parties as “opposition to the Obama administration’s spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush’s.”

I certainly made “serious objections to George W. Bush’s” spending plans. I condemned his costly prescription-drug entitlement in the Washington Times, and repeatedly condemned the $160 billion Bush “stimulus rebates” in 2008. I called his $700 billion Wall Street “bailout bill dangerous, inflationary, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.” And I condemned his multibillion dollar auto bailout.

JohnTEQP said...

That's great, I'm glad there were some people with specific, detailed proposals.

But those specific, detailed proposals got drowned out by the people claiming that Obama is not an American citizen and a Nazi or a fascist or a socialist or whatever. Liberals learned a long time ago how to marginalize their crazies. Even John Lennon knew it - that's the whole point of The Beatles' "Revolution." The right is going to have to learn that as well. Kos, of Daily Kos, thinks street protests are a waste of time. That's another lesson that the right is going to have to learn. For now, tho, I am perfectly happy to let the crazies define the agenda of the right.

JohnTEQP said...

Another thing: You may have protested Bush's spending. Great. But there were no marches in the streets or cheerleading by Fox News in opposition to Bush.