What I think the Tea Party is, continued.

George Monbiot writes in The Guardian:

“The Tea Party… is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting.”

To which Alex Knepper responds:

“Ideologues don’t see opposing ideas as possessing any real legitimacy. Instead of honest disagreement, they see men behind the curtain deceiving helpless fools. Anyone who disagrees with them is manipulated, conned. Dissent from the beliefs of an ideologue, and he doesn’t treat you as an opponent worthy of sparring with. Instead, he condescends; he treats you like a helpless sap who’s been suckered into furthering the villainous motives of malicious sociopaths. The ideologue is the hero, motivated by kindness, while his enemies are bad guys who obstruct virtue and goodness.” 

This is much the same phenomenon I examined in this post, and after reading these articles, I think it’s worth examining a bit more in depth. First, Monbiot’s claim that the Tea Party people are simply being tricked is not quite right; they may not be aware precisely of who the Koch brothers are, but I am sure that they wouldn’t care if they did. Monbiot is indeed oversimplifying the situation to fit his ideology.

To this extent, Knepper’s rebuttal is correct, but where it falls short is in deciding to simply treat this discrepancy between the philosophy of the party’s backers and its members like it is completely unimportant. The Koch brothers really do spend money on these things–which is hardly surprising when you think about it. After all, someone has to pay to fund all these efforts.

Knepper appears to prefer  to simply conclude that, for some reason, the small-government ideals resonate with people nowadays; Tea Party has diverse viewpoints, etc. etc. etc., end of story. I would prefer to think of it in a rather different way.

There are three major groups here: the Nationalist Conservatives, the Materialistic Libertarians and the Cosmopolitan (the philosophy, not the magazine) Liberals. The Tea Party rank-and-file is mostly Conservative, but it is funded mostly by Libertarians. I don’t think this is a case of the one manipulating the other; rather, it is simply a strategic alliance. The Libertarians say to the Conservatives: we will help you get the Liberals out of office if you’ll help us with our small government initiatives. It’s a compromise.

And, as I’ve said before, this seems to me to make intuitive sense because it’s the exact same alliance that has defined the Republican party for almost fifty years.

That’s how I see it, anyway. As always, if you disagree with my analysis, I encourage you to speak up.

(Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan)

1 Comment

  1. There's always been a streak of anarchism in this country. That's the other name for libertarian. Think of how popular the wild west has been for books, magazines, movies, TV. Everyone running around with a six shooter on their hip, shoot outs, glorified outlaws.The Tea Party want to identify with that rugged individualism. What they've missed is that most of the men who lived by the gun died by the gun. Those who lived long lives in the 1800's didn't wear guns.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?