Tea Party Logic

October 7, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

I agree with this Salon article that it is counterproductive to write off the Tea Party as irrational. It is much more productive to work harder to understand the Tea Party’s thought process. Here’s an excerpt:

While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents.

In Jonathan Haidt’s most recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, he makes a compelling argument that all of our become blinded when we get caught upon in tribal politics. His suggestion is that we need to work hard to unplug from the moral matrix in order to better understand the “other.” It’s a tall order in these times of great hostility and crisis, but I believe that Haidt is correct, that it is the only way out of this mess.


Category: Ingroup/Outgroup, Politics, Psychology Cognition

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.

Comments (2)

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  1. I was just reading a similar sentiment form Herb Cohen in “You Can Negotiate Anything”—he said it was important to understand your negotiating partner’s (opponent’s) motivations, needs, core beliefs and the constituency they represent, especially who signs their paycheck.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The tea party members are not rational, they just think they are. For decades, they’ve been manipulated by right-wing media, spoon-fed a diet of fear nurturing lies that form a paranoid mythology as the basis many rationalizations.

    Example: The myth of the $600 hammer.
    The hammers in question actually cost $15 per unit and were part of a contract for tools and parts that included complete engines, among other items. The average price of all items in the contract worked out to $435 per item, and the media sensationalized the seemingly over priced hammers, while selectively ignoring the equally astounding bargain price of $435 for an engine worth thousands.

    Example: The DMV
    Popular media seems to always portray renewing a drivers license as an all-day waste of time, waiting in line for hours to meet for a few minutes with a grumpy and sadistic clerk who may send you to the end of the line on a technicality. The DMV experience has been the basis for decades of comedy situations and is held to be the quintessential model of bureaucratic inefficiency.
    This was the reality 20 years ago. Government keeps up with technology. Now, I renew my license online in about 5 minutes. The last time I needed to update my photo, I planned on two hours at the DMV, but when I got there, the place was nearly empty. A clerk directed me to one of three touch screen kiosks where I verified my information, paid with my debit card, and received a receipt and instructions to proceed to the photo area.
    At the photo area there was a line, Two people were ahead of me. Even so, within minutes a had my new license with an update photo.
    Total time at the DMV: about 12 minutes.

    With the exception of law enforcement, the media generally vilifies civil service portraying government employees as lazy, stupid and incompetent.

    A lot of the basic Tea party assumptions are irrational garbage, and reasoning based on garbage assumptions usually produces garbage results.

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