Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Narcissism of the Baggers

Matt Taibbi has another blistering story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, this one about his adventures at Tea Party rallies and explaining how they were fueled to prominence and whatever cohesion they have by corporate interests and Republican insiders. By far the most compelling stuff is his take on the partiers themselves:

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much." Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about..

He goes into the funding behind the Tea Party, etc., some of which you may have read before, and then digs into the race angle:

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It's not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It's just that they're shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid.

Taibbi describes the scene in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is the #1 Tea Party idol, even though he's lived off government largesse via Medicare payments that he hypocritically does not want to see cut to doctors, all the time getting more and more cozy with and castrated by the Republican Party establishment that he ran against in the primary:

With all the "just for the primary" stuff out of the way, Paul's platform began to rapidly "evolve." Previously opposed to erecting a fence on the Mexican border, Paul suddenly came out in favor of one. He had been flatly opposed to all farm subsidies; faced with having to win a general election in a state that receives more than $265 million a year in subsidies, Paul reversed himself and explained that he was only against subsidies to "dead farmers" and those earning more than $2 million. Paul also went on the air with Fox News reptile Sean Hannity and insisted that he differed significantly from the Libertarian Party, now speaking more favorably about, among other things, judicious troop deployments overseas.

Beyond that, Paul just flat-out stopped talking about his views — particularly the ones that don't jibe with right-wing and Christian crowds, like curtailing the federal prohibition on drugs. Who knows if that had anything to do with hawkish Christian icon Sarah Palin agreeing to headline fundraisers for Paul, but a huge chunk of the candidate's libertarian ideals have taken a long vacation.

I've long thought Rand Paul a lightweight/milquetoast, especially compared to his very honest and mostly consistent father, Ron. Rand looks so weak next to his Democratic opponent for Senate, Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General and a guy who has the bearing of a sheriff:

If Rand were a Dem he's be laughed out of Kentucky -- too weak-looking for that state or many others -- but it's a crazy year and the South is crazy Republican right now.

Y'know, the worst thing that could happen to the Tea Party isn't necessarily that all their candidates lose. It's that enough of them win to take the bloom off the rose by the next General Election.

Too bad it'll be hell on America.

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