Andrew Sullivan on what it means to be part of the Tea Party

September 16, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More

Glenn Greenwald’s asked: What sets Tea Party politicians apart from the radical right-wing republicans who preceded them? Here’s part of Andrew Sullivan’s response:

I think what the tea-partiers would say is that they are for real – that, unlike Bush, they won’t spend the country into oblivion, that they won’t bail out the banks, that they won’t pass unpaid-for entitlements, that they actually will make sure that abortion is illegal, that they will round up illegal immigrants and enforce the border, and will not pretend that we are not fighting Islam in a civilizational war. And that they will refuse to raise taxes even if it means the most radical dismantlement of the entitlement state since the New Deal.

Now you can argue that this kind of extremism was always part of the picture, but the Rove method was to use these convictions, not actually share them. Bush increased spending radically, added a huge unpaid entitlement to the next generation, pandered to Hispanics, favored immigration reform, did nothing to prevent legal abortion, felt awkward demonizing gays, pretended he wasn’t torturing prisoners, did not kill enough Iraqis, and made a major point about not having a fight with Islam as such. The base wants to get rid of any of these nuances and get the real thing.

But here’s more to the inner-psyche of at least some Tea Party advocates. Each of the following positions have been promoted by Christine O’Donnell (this excerpt is by John Farrell):

Darwin was wrong, the earth is 6,000 years old, and creationism should be taught in the public schools. God wouldn’t want us to lie to the Nazis, even to save folks from concentration camps. Onanism is a pressing social issue. She’s going to Washington to fix the federal budget, but can’t seem to pay her own bills and taxes, or compose an accurate resume

I do suspect that these sorts of positions are intentional displays of ignorance in order to impress similarly situated others regarding one’s loyalty that that group. It’s much like wearing saggy pants or professing belief that Mary was a virgin who had a baby. I don’t suspect that the Tea Party advocates necessarily really believe many of the things they say–I suspect that they don’t really feel strongly about Onanism (masturbation) or lying to Nazis, for example. But it’s not really about Onanism or Nazis. These purported positions are more about attempting to coordinate the energies of many individuals in order to make a power grab as a group. Not that they wouldn’t then try to pass some laws along these lines, in order to further their displays to each other, in attempts to prove sincerity. This could create a dangerous situation where intra-group stroking is the impetus for enacting self-destructive laws.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Ben says:

    What the Tea Partiers Really Want – By Jonathan Haidt

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703

    "To understand the anger of the tea-party movement, just imagine how you would feel if you learned that government physicists were building a particle accelerator that might, as a side effect of its experiments, nullify the law of gravity. Everything around us would float away, and the Earth itself would break apart. Now, instead of that scenario, suppose you learned that politicians were devising policies that might, as a side effect of their enactment, nullify the law of karma. Bad deeds would no longer lead to bad outcomes, and the fragile moral order of our nation would break apart. For tea partiers, this scenario is not science fiction. It is the last 80 years of American history."

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