The Widdershins

Archive for October 11th, 2013

A great Friday to all the Widdershins.

The title is cryptic for a reason.  The shutstorm and the debt ceiling showdown has gotten me thinking about Don't Tread on Me...motivation.  It is amazing to me why anyone would want to be a part of government if their sworn objective is, if not destroy it, severely cripple its function.  In short, why all the H8?

In many ways I feel a bit guilty over not exploring these motivations prior to now.  Not seeking understanding is always a precursor to fear and in turn, fear is most assuredly a precursor to H8.  In that respect, I’ve been no better than the H8ers.  I’ve written too often by making overly generalized assumptions without being specific.  For that I apologize.

This question of the composition of the Tea Party and what they believe is not novel.  It is a question about which Christopher Parker, a political scientist from the University of Washington, has just written and published a book.  His book is entitled, Change They Can’t Believe In:  The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America.  His research is robust.  He has approached the subject from various angles and all the sundry data sources coalesce on the same answers.  This signifies solid methodology and highly reliable outcomes.

Parker explains the phenomenon of the Tea Party as not new or necessarily unique.  Other groups with a reactionary response to societal stimuli have sprung up before.  Groups like the Know Nothings, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birch Society all have reactionary conservatism at their core.  The Tea Party is just the most recent incarnation.

The most prickly broad-brush findings are these:  Tea Party adherents are more likely to be racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Obama.  While these characteristics fall far outside my system of core values, until they become actionable who am I to pass judgment on those who might hold these ill-conceived beliefs?  Only when these beliefs begin to affect others can we legitimately protest.

Unfortunately, Parker’s research shows an empirical connection between support for the Tea Party and antagonistic views toward “marginalized groups,” or toward “not real Americans.”

Save our countryIn short, when people see their “social prestige” threatened — their way of life threatened — they react.  When they saw an African-American elected President, when they saw a liberal California woman as Speaker of the House, when they saw a gay Congressman from Massachusetts leading the way out of the financial collapse, when they saw two women, one a Latina and the other unmarried, joining the Supreme Court, when they saw undocumented immigrants getting attention, when they saw same-sex rights being legitimized, they see a crisis.  When they see these things, they see their social prestige threatened — they see themselves losing “their America.”

Just as Don Quixote fought at windmills, the Tea Partiers are fighting a undefeatable foe — time.  They are unwitting victims of verisimilitude and unhappy denizens of a Land of Lilliputian understanding.

An eye-popping result of these perceived threats:  Seventy-six percent (76%) of the Tea Party want to see Obama fail.  Without a moment’s reflection, they want the leader of the country where they live to fail.  Another data point of distinction is whether or not Obama is destroying the country.  Of regular conservatives, only six percent (6%) believe this.  When Tea Party sympathizers are asked, seventy-one percent (71%) believe the President is destroying the country.

Overlaying these findings upon certain historical facts is almost jaw-dropping.  On the evening of Obama’s inauguration, in the midst of the worst economic upheaval since the Great Depression, while we were shedding over 700,000 jobs a month and engaged in two hot wars, the Republican leadership met over dinner and pledged their undying oath to oppose everything the hours-old administration would propose.  No thought as to the merits or policy, just no in order to make sure the President would fail.  While this meeting was a full month prior to the first public rumblings of the Tea Party, it was a harbinger of things to come.

I want to be very precise here.  The Parker research does not represent all Republicans.  It does not represent all conservatives.  It doesn’t even represent each and every Tea Partier, but with a high level of certainty — for those claiming Tea Party allegiance, as a group they do believe this.

With the political leadership kowtowing to the goal of uncompromising failure and the right’s infotainment media Captain Amuricacomplex pushing their preconceived beliefs, the narrative became the message.  The outgrowth?  Thirty to forty Tea Party zealots, representing safe districts with about eight percent (8%) of the country’s population, have driven us into the ditch.

The overarching goal of this “manufactured crisis of choice” is making sure Obama fails.  The kernel of this existential crisis that has been compared with the Holocaust and the worst legislation ever passed:  The right of uninsured Americans to go on a government sponsored website and purchase insurance from private insurance companies.

Fortunately, the folly of this fool’s errand seems to have been exposed.  Saner heads within the Republican hierarchy finally realized hysteria is only possible when there is an audience.  The audience for the frothy Tea Party hysteria has driven the Republican Party to an all time low.  Hopefully some understanding can excise this Tea Party virus or at least allay some of their fear.  I know my understanding of them has matured not into H8, but pity.

This is an open thread.


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