The Tea Tantrum Movement

I spent the better part of an hour earlier today scanning the various sites and blogs to try and understand what specifically the Fox-Pajamas tea parties are about. Having absorbed about as much of the literature as I can, I have to say I'm still befuddled.

Option 1: It's a protest of the bank bailouts orchestrated by Bush and now Obama. But surely these tea-partiers understand what would happen if we didn't bail the banks out. Are they advocating letting major banks fail? Or are they advocating a Krugman-style government take-over? No idea.

Option 2: It's a protest against tax hikes. But there have barely been any! Are they arguing that the planned return to Clinton era marginal rates is an outrage worthy of the colonists ... only months after an election in which the winning candidate ran on exactly that platform? Is that postponed future increase so radical that it demands a protest modeled on one in which people were taxed with no representation at all? Truly bizarre. And when you consider that we have gone through a very long period of relatively low taxation for the very successful, and a very long period in which their wealth has soared, and after an election where a majority of such people voted for Obama, the extremism seems unrelated to anything substantive underneath it.

Option 3: It's a protest against illegal immigration. Ok, so why the tea? Weren't all the original tea-partiers illegal immigrants?

Option 4: It's a protest against government debt. Yay! I will leave aside the somewhat awkward fact that Fox News and Pajamas Media barely covered the massive debt racked up by the Republicans during a period of economic growth. Instead, I'll proffer a simple point: If the tea-partiers are concerned about debt and concerned about taxes, one presumes they favor drastic spending cuts. But what are the tea-partiers proposing to do to Medicare, Medicaid, and social security?


I'd love to see a proposal that they support on any of these entitlement programs, but particularly Medicare which is the culprit for much of the debt burden. Where is it? Or are we really going to hear more diversions about "pork"?

As a fiscal conservative who actually believed in those principles when the Republicans were in power, I guess I should be happy at this phenomenon. And I would be if it had any intellectual honesty, any positive proposals, and any recognizable point. What it looks like to me is some kind of amorphous, generalized rage on the part of those who were used to running the country and now don't feel part of the culture at all. But the only word for that is: tantrum.

These are not tea-parties. They are tea-tantrums. And the adolescent, unserious hysteria is a function not of a movement regrouping and refinding itself. It's a function of a movement's intellectual collapse and a party's fast-accelerating nervous breakdown.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

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