Astonishingly good -- and frightening -- article exposes the Tea Party mindset

Journalists should acquire information, analyze it, and present it honestly. Instead, many “journalists” do little research, get most of their “facts” by recycling what other journalists and media talking heads have said, and force facts to fit a false apolitical balance by striving for “neutrality,” i.e., presenting left- and right-wing arguments as equally valid, regardless of the facts. Many “journalists” today are even worse… they don’t even analyze the substance of politics, instead focusing almost exclusively on the horse race and the latest political poll.

Matt Taibbi, America’s most entertaining political writer, has been studying the Tea Party movement in person for almost a year. He uses his painfully gained knowledge to eviscerate the entire movement — leaders and supporters — in this outstanding article.

Taibbi begins by exposing a core Tea Party hypocrisy: That the free Medicare scooter crowd is outraged by wasteful government spending:

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the [Sarah Palin rally] crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn’t a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — “Government’s not the solution! Government’s the problem!” — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

“The scooters are because of Medicare,” he whispers helpfully. “They have these commercials down here: ‘You won’t even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!’ Practically everyone in Kentucky has one.”

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.

Taibbi chats with a couple at the rally — Janice and David Wheelock — who don’t back down when Taibbi points out their hypocrisy:

“I’m anti-spending and anti-government,” crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. “The welfare state is out of control.”

…“Are either of you on Medicare?”

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”

“Well,” he says, “there’s a lot of people on welfare who don’t deserve it. Too many people are living off the government.”

“But,” I protest, “you live off the government. And have been your whole life!”

“Yeah,” he says, “but I don’t make very much.”

So, their real anger is at being lower middle class. Without the government, they’d probably be lower class or homeless. Yet their anger is directed at government taxes, which they probably don’t even pay (aside from David’s Social Security payments)!

Taibbi concludes:

after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them.

The rest of the article talks about the hypocrisy of the Tea Party candidates and the eagerness with which Tea Party members ignore their candidates' blatant violations of core Tea Party values.

Taibbi also predicts the future of the Tea Party movement:

what [Tea Partiers] don’t realize is, there’s a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren’t yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it’s only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP’s campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives.

Taibbi also offers this delicious definition of “the Tea Party”:

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob… which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The brave Taibbi even visted “one of the world’s most extraordinary tourist attractions: the Creation Museum, a kind of natural-history museum for people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old.” I’ll let you read for yourself what he discovered and why I’ll never, ever live in Kentucky.

Posted by James on Monday, October 04, 2010