Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking Shots at The Tea Party

No need for me to do so. This Rolling Stone piece is a wonderful screed.*  It will not change too many minds, as it will be read by TP opponents and dismissed by TP activists.  It does touch on some key points:
  • TP folks are not really opposed to government spending.  They just don't want the money to go to other folks.  As medicare consumers and the like, they like government programs just fine as long as they directly benefit. [Reminds me of my selfishness argument in Kin or Country--opposing irredentism because you don't want to share your welfare state with others, even if these "others" are of the same linguistic/ethnic identity]
  • "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? " [They are giving narcissists a bad name. I may have to re-consider my embracing of my narcissism.  But only if I can still use first person five times in one parenthetical expression in my blog.  Mine.]
  • "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. " [Reminds me of senior IR scholars at top schools who complain about being oppressed.  Give me a break]
  •  That TP folks sell out?  Perhaps. Rand Paul is not talking about armies of EPA jackbooted thugs entering houses to enforce environmental agreements anymore.  "The candidate who just a year before had pledged not to accept money from TARP supporters was now romping in bed with those same politicians. .... Making fun of the Bailout Ball was just for the primary."
I read this piece a day after I lectured my upper division course on the IR of Ethnic Conflict about my book with the non-terrorist Bill Ayres.  One of our main points is that the folks who wanted to endanger their countries by trying reclaim their lost kin nearby (irredentism) had natural allies in those who wanted to be isolated from the international economy.  Aggression would lead to isolation and some folks prefer to be isolated than integrated into the worldwide competitive market.  So, I was struck by this piece, as the xenophobia we talk about in the book that serves as a brake on international aggression via irredentism seems pretty similar to the TP ethos: "their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart."  However, in our book, we admit the tradeoff between international peace and domestic consequences of xenophobia is a significant challenge.  In the US today, there is no bright side to xenophobia as it is not braking a quest for territorial conquest.  It is merely driving the country off of the rails. 

*My favorite line in the article: 
"Paul had an extensive record of loony comments, often made at his father's rallies, which, to put it generously, were a haven for people gifted at the art of mining the Internet for alternate theories of reality."
HT to Steve Greene for highlighting this piece in his blog.

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