One of the downsides of being part of a team of crack experts over at Instaputz is that, like Glenn Reynolds, I feel like I have already talked to death this ridiculous Teabagging "movement" which culminates in today's astroturfed Tax Day mass bitch-ins. Everything that needs to be said about how meaningless this talk radio-driven spectacle is has already been said. We know these rallies are just a meeting place for militiamen, septuple-chinned suburban commandos (who, hard working as they are, somehow have the day off), the dregs of the local trailer parks, College Republicans who've never had a job but feel quite strongly about Unions and taxes, and a grab-bag of societal detritus with the interpersonal skills of a rabid wolverine. Leaving this aside, I'll make two comments about the nomenclature these Indoor Kids have chosen to use for their circle jerks.
First, "Tea Parties." The level of historical ignorance necessary to adopt this term is difficult to conceive. In the Boston Tea Party, wealthy colonists protested a tax on tea by dumping their tea in Boston Harbor – cutting off their noses to spite the King's face. They took something that was worth a lot of money and said "We'd rather piss away a thousand dollars worth of tea than allow you to tax it." Where is the connection to what is happening in 2009? Is this gaggle of sheep going to dump their paychecks, their SUVs, their HDTVs, and their iPhones in a body of water? Toss them in a bonfire? Commit any kind of self-sacrificing act of protest? No. They're going to bitch. That's what conservatives do. They bitch and whine like a bunch of poncy hairdressers.
I apologize for the grievous insult to poncy hairdressers implied in that analogy.
If it's not about bitching, then what is it about? Protesting deficits? Whoops. Republicans cause deficits and Democrats fix them. Tax increases? Unless all of these jackasses are making $250,000+, nope. I'd be willing to bet that 99.99% of the bozos putting on a show for the cameras got a nice tax cut from B. Hussein Obama. It's not about anything. It's about angry, angry people who just want to make a very public show of how angry they are. About stuff.
Second, they've brought back the Nixonian "Silent majority" to refer to their Legion. There are several problems with this, the most obvious being that it is neither silent, given the sheer quantity of wailing/gnashing of teeth/rending of garments being done by these gasbags, nor is it a majority. See, we left wing pinkos had our own "Tea Party" back in November, the end result of which made it pretty clear who is not a majority. Semantics aside, here's the real problem with the "grassroots/silent majority/Real Americans" argument, the same problem we encounter when this argument is thrown at the cameras during elections – it smacks either of barely-concealed racism or a misguided belief that it is 1952.
The right, as Thomas Frank has written about for 20 years, is so very, very desperate for working-class authenticity. This is why they continually trot out pathetic characters like Samuel the Unlicensed Plumber or vague stereotypes like "small business owners" and "America's farmers." As the benefits of Republican governance accrue almost entirely to the wealthy, they must go to great lengths and make endless promises they have no intention of keeping (Abortion! Guns! Culture wars!) to get Down With the People. Hence this very curious "grassroots, real Americans" aspect to the masturbatory coverage of these events in the right-wing media.
Did Sean Hannity get out from behind a desk and attend the immigration amnesty rally in Los Angeles to which 500,000 people showed up last year? Did Fox News dedicate around-the-clock coverage and nearly unbearable homerism to the Iraq War protests which over a million Americans attended (150,000 in San Francisco alone) five years ago? Did Glenn Reynolds claim that government needs to Listen Up and Get the Message and Pay Attention and all this shit when 800,000 people (NYPD estimate; protesters claimed over a million, but such estimates are inevitably high) marched in New York City in 2004 to protest the RNC? Do any of these hacks wax patriotic about the millions upon millions of people who did something real and substantive in electing the new President – not standing around bitching, not listening to talk radio millionaires give speeches in a park amidst misspelled, homemade signs – last November? Of course not. Why? Because "those people" aren't Real Americans. See, Real Americans means white people. Angry, middle-aged, rural or suburban white people.
The mongrel brown hordes who show up to anti-War rallies or who elected our new "non-American" (BLACK! Did you hear the dog whistle? BLAAAAAAAAAAACK!) President don't really matter but when real America speaks, guv'mint damn well better listen. And it just so happens that Real America is always a dumb white guy in jeans and a flannel. A lard-assed white woman with seven kids, a perm, and a 4th-grade reading level. A hillbilly with a Confederate flag, a misspelled placard, or both. A yuppie who's fed up and just isn't going to take the horrible treatment to which society has thus far subjected him.
And this is why I came to the 1952-or-racism conclusion earlier: that hasn't been America for decades. What the left has is real America, and boy-howdy does that drive the authenticity-seeking right crazy. An Obama rally, or an immigration amnesty rally, or an anti-war rally consists of people across age groups, religious denominations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, income ranges, and lifestyles. THAT IS AMERICA. To claim otherwise is inarguably ignorant; only whether that ignorance is willful is open for debate. Read Instarube as he wanks away about the virtue and authenticity of his fake movement (nauseatingly pimped by Fox, funded by elite right-wing think tank money):
These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs; most have never attended a protest march before.** They represent a kind of energy that our politics hasn't seen lately, and an influx of new activists.
Energy that hasn't been seen in our politics lately? Given that he spent most of the 2008 Election locked in a 69 with Hugh Hewitt, it's understandable that he missed the Obama campaign. It's understandable that, as a painfully square, so-white-I-make-Dick-Cheney-look-like-Eldridge-Cleaver hillbilly teaching at a 4th-rate law school in Tennessee, Glenn might have a skewed impression of what this country really looks like. But come on, you lazy prick. In the information age there is no excuse for failing to inform oneself about reality even while swaddled in a cocoon of nodding heads and simple declarative sentences.
I know not if the racial aspect of this ridiculous talk about Real America and Authenticity is rooted in ignorance or bigotry. I don't know if these people really think that it's 1952, that America is homogeneously white, rural, and thumping the (Protestant) Bible while living Leave it to Beaver lives, or if they simply think that white people are more important. But the inescapable fact, a fact that these little wankfests will only serve to reinforce, is that the left has America – multicultural, diverse, non-Evangelical Christian America – and the right has a bunch of tactless, clueless, out-of-touch, and perpetually angry white people pissing and moaning about their taxes.
**(Note how the fact that these people are too selfish and lazy to have participated in any sort of mass political activity before is presented as a virtue, as is the fact that they now mobilize for the noble cause of their own love of money.)