The video above is from last night’s Daily Show, in which John Stewart assesses the final Tea Party protest of the year. First of all, I think it’s high time we acknowledged that the Daily Show pretty much performs all the functions of Combat! blog, plus a bunch of other stuff, and does all of it better. They are the Facebook to my Twitter. Second of all, after months and thousands upon thousands of words speculating on just what it is that the various Tea Party protestors have in common, John Steward has pinned down the species in one four-minute video segment. In so doing, he also assembles a pretty good list of differences between them and an actual political party. To wit:
1) They confuse goals with policy. At the 2:01 mark, Rick Scott says “we” don’t want more government or increased spending; we just want lower health care costs and more coverage. I agree that it’s a terrific idea, but I’m interested to see letter B in his outline. The chant “kill the bill” is a comical instance of how not just policy-free but anti-policy the Tea Party movement is. The Tea Partiers don’t have their own bill or even a vague plan for how to address health care reform, but dammit, they’re against everything that has been done so far. When they’re not out in force specifically to fight health care reform, the most common complaint of Tea Party activists is that taxes and spending are both too high. But what specific spending do the Tea Partiers suggest we cut? By now, we’ve all seen the video where the fat lady thinks for a few seconds before saying, “All of it.” Low taxes, a strong economy, unshakeable national security and an unobtrusive government aren’t positions; they’re values. That they’re values we all share makes passing them off as an agenda even more insipid.
2) They’re outraged at stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Since Barack Obama took office and the Tea Party movement miraculously coalesced out of nowhere/Fox News studios, no changes have been made to federal gun laws, tax structures or abortion statutes. Yet the Tea Party is animated by a sense of urgent panic over these issues. Granted, President Obama probably will raise the marginal tax rate and re-ban private ownership of assault weapons, but he hasn’t yet, just like he hasn’t converted the country to socialism or changed one whit of the landscape that Tea Partiers suddenly find so terrifying after the Bush administration. When Laura Ingraham says “First they came for the rich…” she’s either lying or describing her sophomore year in college.
3) They have no sense of historical perspective. And about Laura Ingraham’s little homily: it’s a good thing Eli Wiesel wasn’t at that anti-health care reform rally. For all their fixation on history, the Tea Party seems to have very little sense of how the lives of a bunch of mallwalkers in middle America might differ from those of colonists in eighteenth-century Boston, or Jews in 1930s Germany, or political dissidents in Maoist China. Now matter how much Congress jacks up the marginal tax rate, no one is going to be sent to a forced labor camp. The inability to distinguish between real tyranny and not getting your way is a hallmark of childhood, not of representative democracy in a post-industrial superpower.
4) They’re fundamentally anti-intellectual. “We cannot let the pen be mightier than the sword.” I’m sure that was taken out of context, but I would like to take this opportunity to personally offer to meet with this fat man and explain to him the benefits of a discourse based on rhetoric rather than capacity for extended physical violence. Does the Tea Party really believe that we as a nation should think less and act more? Probably, which is why they give me the fuckin’ creeps.