Lets Tea Party Like’s It’s 1939

30 Sep

Matt Taibbi writing at the Rolling Stone writes an insightful article scrutinizing the Tea Party movement. Taibbi frequently writes about vacuous trends in American culture. The entire article, Tea and Crackers is worth reading.

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn’t a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — “Government’s not the solution! Government’s the problem!” — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains. “The scooters are because of Medicare,” he whispers helpfully. “They have these commercials down here: ‘You won’t even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!’ Practically everyone in Kentucky has one.” A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.

If one has the time and interest, a study of The Authoritarians by Dr. Bob Altemeyer  (free online) will be beneficial in illuminating this movement. On Altemeyer’s home page there is an update on the Tea Party movement with his thoughtful analysis. If you are not aware of Dr. Altemeyer you should be. His decades of research became the bedrock of John Dean’s book, Conservatives Without Conscience.

 Here is one (link in pdf format) of twelve behavior traits Dr. Altemeyer identified regarding the authoritarian followers who are a perfect match for those who instigated the Tea Party movement. One could have fun reading the twelve behavior traits before reading the Rolling Stone article and keep a scorecard on the traits revealed.

10. Dogmatism. We also know that authoritarian followers lead the league in being dogmatic. When their leaders set their opinions for them, those opinions are set in stone. Experiments show that nothing (aside from their authorities) can convince them they are wrong. If overwhelmed by logic and evidence, they simply “castle” into dogmatism. This is probably because they don‟t really know why they believe what they believe. They didn‟t figure it out for themselves; they Xeroxed what their authorities said. Does this apply to Tea Partiers? During the health care debate their authorities said an enormous number of untrue things, and the proponents of reform quickly countered them point by point. For example, Joe Wilson was proved the liar when he famously shouted that Obama was lying about no coverage for illegal immigrants. And opponents endlessly told their followers that federal dollars would now be used to fund abortions, when they would not. Obama called out the Republican House caucus face-to-face in a meeting last January about the lies they had spread, but Tea Partiers probably never heard about it. So the truth was out there in lots of places. But it rolled right past the protestors, who had been inoculated against catching it. Another example of Tea Partiers‟ intransigence in the face of fact was illustrated by a CBS News/New York Times poll reported on February 12, 2010. Democrats have lowered income taxes for almost all Americans, but the poll found that virtually none of the Tea Partiers realized their taxes had gone down. Instead nearly half of them thought their taxes had gone up, a mistake they made more than twice as often as the rest of the sample. They simply believed the rhetoric of their movement more than the information on their own pay slips.

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