What's with the "tea baggers" and angry conservatives?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 7:07 PM | comments: 0

You've seen them on TV, the angry self-labeled conservatives who get together and bitch and moan. They're doing it at the CPAC gathering now. What I don't understand is what it is they're bitching about exactly. They all agree that they don't like the president, but never quite say why. In fact, I can't remember any president as long as I've been able to vote that was disliked this much without being for some specific position on policy, let alone have critics offering alternatives.

It's particularly sad when you start having entertainers like Coutler and Beck as your speakers. It's like having Tom Cruise or David Letterman satisfying your political desires. Although the one soundbite they used today on ABC from Beck was absolutely right on: The Republican Party needs to admit it has a problem. That pretty much sums things up nicely. Being diametrically opposed to the sitting president is not a policy, it's being a bunch of douchebags. That's not going to win any elections.

And then you have those whacked out "tea party" people who don't have an informed opinion about anything. I mean, they don't even get the reference right. The Boston Tea Party boiled down to taxation without representation. If they don't like who is representing them, then perhaps they should endeavor to get others elected.

Regardless, the anger is what gets me. What are people so angry about? When you get these people standing up in a room saying they want to "save America," what exactly is it that they're trying to save? I wasn't aware that we were in danger. If there is policy that they don't agree with, then let's talk about that. That's at least actionable. Being able to afford to fly somewhere to a nice hotel to see entertainers speak doesn't seem like something to be angry about.

In fact, the loudest and most angry people seem to live pretty comfortable lives. Why are they so angry? Back in the day, at least this same group of people had emotional issues like abortion and gay rights to cling to, but now what? That they have to pay taxes or that the government spends money on stuff? I saw an interesting graphic that showed the national debt in recent decades has gone higher every time a Republican president was in office (I found this one by way of Google, but it's not the one I saw originally). The thing about taxes is that they don't exist in a vacuum independent of spending. That's why I'll never understand the Bush tax cuts, made in a time when we could least afford it. Paying less tax isn't going to fix anything until we can get that debt under control.

Our economy is in the shitter and slow to recover. That we know. Our health care system is broken. We know that too, especially with so many people out of work. I'd love for there to be discussion about how to solve those problems instead of the constant versus nonsense. As I've said before, I put Obama on a B-/C+ rating for the moment. Congressional Democrats I'd put much lower. There was a time when I truly believed that having a congressional majority that was the opposite of the White House was a good thing, to balance out government. That seemed to work pretty well in the Clinton era. But now, I'm not so sure, because the m.o. of many Republicans right now is diametric opposition, which is the wrong thing to do. Being a centrist from either side seems to be impossible, and that's a shame. Most people may lean one way or another, but few are fringe wackos to either side. Yet it's the fringe that is the loudest. No wonder no one can get anything done.

I still have some level of faith that this political deadlock will work itself out. I'm not jaded enough to believe that a democratic process doesn't work. The last presidential election had a ton of data being published on the Internet around policy, most than any time I can recall. There actually was some meaningful discussion taking place. I'm just not sure why it stopped once there was no election at stake.


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