October 5, 2010

Peel Slowly and Tea

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This weekend, I found out that Mo Tucker, the drummer from the Velvet Underground, is a Tea Bagger. It’s kind of silly, but it genuinely upset me. It’s like when I found out that Robert Downey, Jr. was a Republican. It hurts my heart a little when famous people I admire turn out to be idiots.

And this Tea Party thing, man, I just don’t understand it. Libertarianism, on its own, is bad enough. Pretty much the only thing it’s got going for itself is “progressive” social policy, in a sort of “live and let live” way. Ron Paulites believe in marriage equality and abortion rights, and I’m all for that. But when you marry the talking points of the Christian Right with an inherently classist and racist political philosophy, all you get is a lot of hate. And stupidity.

My downstairs neighbors have a Tea Party flag hanging from their front window. It makes sense, they do play a lot of video games (my roommate says this is no longer an accurate measure of geekdom. My b. Let me elucidate my bad joke right quick: They are young white males who look like they spend a lot of time on the Internet). I’m a little conflicted. On the one hand, freedom of speech and all of that, blah blah blah the First Amendment is what makes this country great etc. On the other hand, I really just want to rip that thing down. It offends me as a human being.

While I am baffled by the sheer idiocy of the “Tea Party Movement,” I think what angers me the most is that it tries to pass itself off as some sort of grassroots movement. Okay, so the racism actually angers me the most. But we’ll get to that in a second. There is nothing “grassroots” about this “movement” at all. It is the exact opposite of populism. It was conceived by Fox News. And the Tea Baggers? The people who go to these rallies and don’t know the difference between “socialism” and “fascism?” They wouldn’t benefit from the policies that their candidates support. They are not members the upper class. Aspirational politics have long been a cornerstone of the right, but the Tea Party shines some new light on how white, middle-class America views itself. Newsflash: Tax cuts for the upper 10 percent aren’t gonna benefit most of us.

And, while we don’t have a total welfare state, socialism, that dirty word, is integral to the way that our country works. It’s integral to our everyday lives! Do you use electricity? Socialism. How about the mail? Socialism. What’s that, you receive unemployment benefits? Do I even have to say it? I was gonna make a crack about “welfare queens” and how patently ridiculous that term/concept is, but it makes me too angry. Maybe you’ll get that rant another day. Something to look forward to, and all of that.

And, of course, there is the racism. I am not the first person to posit that this movement is just a front for thinly veiled anger over the fact that we have an African-American President. Where was this “populist” outrage when Clinton was in charge? If we’re gonna get all “socialist” up in here, I might argue that Clinton was actually more progressive than Barack Obama. Barack Obama is a pretty centrist dude. And we’ve all seen the signs with the racial slurs. And that birther “controversy.” I mean, really? And when you couple all that coded language with the anti-immigration bullshit that Fox News and the Tea Party loves so much, what other conclusion can you possibly reach?

I used to think that maybe the Tea Party could be a good thing; isolate the crazy and split the Republican party — Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, the Naders of the Right. But these people are winning primary elections. They’ve taken over the entire party. It’s a dark and scary time. Think about it. There are no more Colin Powells. I mean, shit, George Bush No. 1 would be too moderate for the contemporary Republican Party. And on that chilling note, I bid you adieu.

Elana Dahlager is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at edahlager@cornellsun.com. Nutshell Library appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Elana Dahlager