The right-wing populist Tea Party movement has politicians of both parties spooked. Democrats fear it will bring so many Republicans to the boil, and then to the voting booth, that they will lose control of Congress. Republicans fear the movement will frighten away moderates and leave their party an unelectable, ideologically extreme rump. The press, both alarmed and delighted by this political force that sprang from nowhere, is eager to prove its lack of elitism and left-wing bias by treating the Tea Party activists with respect. Journalists also sincerely appreciate having something new to write or talk about. It is in their interest to keep this story going.
Some people think that what unites the Tea Party Patriots is simple racism. I doubt that. But the Tea Party movement is not the solution to what ails America. It is an illustration of what ails America. Not because it is right-wing or because it is sometimes susceptible to crazed conspiracy theories, and not because of racism, but because of the movement’s self-indulgent premise that none of our challenges and difficulties are our own fault.
“Personal responsibility” has been a great conservative theme in recent decades, in response to the growth of the welfare state. It is a common theme among TPPs—even in response to health-care reform, as if losing your job and then getting cancer is something you shouldn’t have allowed to happen to yourself. But these days, conservatives far outdo liberals in excusing citizens from personal responsibility. To the TPPs, all of our problems are the fault of the government, and the government is a great “other,” a hideous monster over which we have no control. It spends our money and runs up vast deficits for mysterious reasons all its own. At bottom, this is a suspicion not of government but of democracy. After all, who elected this monster?
Worth the read.