It’s Monday, and the federal government appears to be functioning much as it did on Thursday. Either Operation American Spring has failed, or the mainstream media has predictably covered up the resignations of the President and congressional leaders from both parties, along with the repeal of virtually all federal taxes. My money is on the second one, because I am a self-deluding maniac. In retrospect, Col. Harry Riley’s prediction that “10 to 30 million” patriots would mass on the National Mall this weekend may have been unreasonable. But isn’t that what the Tea Party/constitutional patriot movement is all about?
I went to the Western Montana State Fair and Rodeo last night, where I remembered that the experience of American culture varies wildly from person to person. For one thing, this year’s clown sucked. His first interaction with the audience was built around the joke, “can a bald man get a hairline fracture?” Fertile comic ground though it was, we did not respond, so he launched immediately into one of those math tricks that involves thinking of a number, adding six, dividing it by three, subtracting the original number, et cetera. Math tricks! Fortunately, he won us back with a dog routine. The people behind us went insane, occasionally describing what was happening with gleeful incredulity—e.g., “He can’t get out!” when the clown get stuck upside-down in a garbage can—and generally reminding us of the values of a bygone era. Today is Friday, and a substantial portion of the populace loves Milton Friedman and Dennis the Menace. Won’t you focus your nostalgia on an age that never existed with me?
Here are just two of the many fun quotes in Jane Meyer’s New Yorker article about David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who founded Americans For Prosperity, support a network of conservative think tanks dedicated to libertarian causes, and have been instrumental in creating and sustaining the Tea Party movement:
They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.
The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.
The first is from a previous advisor to the Kochs and one of the many sources in Meyer’s story that go unnamed. The second is from Bruce Bartlett, formerly of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a think tank the Kochs funded. If you lack the time or patience to read Meyer’s mind-blowing but also 10,000-word story on these men—whose combined income is exceeded in America only by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet—you should know two things. One, the Fifth Avenue apartment mentioned in the opening section now belongs to one of my former clients, and I used to tutor there twice a week. Two, you can get the gist of Meyer’s article by reading Frank Rich’s column from Sunday.
As our unhealthy fixation on Rand Paul continues to grow, we at Combat! blog are impelled to consider the other prong of his narrative prod: authenticity. Paul and his ilk are, by their own avowal and by media announcement, outsiders—folks who feel the same way you do about the shysters in Washington because, like you, they watch ’em from afar. It’s a reform year. Two big stories dominate the news: 1) the entire country being economically, politically and environmentally fucked plus we’re losing two wars, and 2) people who cannot necessarily articulate the specific elements of #1 blaming the dang government. The trick, if you want to get elected in 2010, is to make yourself part of story #2. Hence the popularity of Rand Paul and his father, Ron, whose views are extreme but whose personae are paradoxically that of the everyman. As Meghan McCain put it, “I can’t help but interpret the congressman’s cult-like, libertarian-leaning following as yet another indicator of a growing resentment of all people incumbent and in power in Washington.”
Okay, this is weird. Rasmussen Reports announced yesterday that their most recent poll shows the Tea Party beating the Republican Party by a five-point margin on a three-way generic ballot. A generic ballot pits nameless candidates against one another in a theoretical election; in this case, Rasmussen asked “If congressional elections were held tomorrow, would you vote for the Republican, Democrat, or Tea Party candidate from your district?” Democrats led the pack with 36% of the vote, the Tea Party got 23%, and Republicans finished third with 18%. Astute observers will notice that leaves 22% of those polled undecided, and also that the Tea Party does not, uh, exist. I assume the same poll found that Americans overwhelmingly reject cap-and-trade in favor of having Bigfoot drink carbon out of clouds, and want the government to stay out of health insurance so that costs can be determined by the invisible hand of David Bowie in Labyrinth.