Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Venn Diagram with One Circle

They are at it again.

For right wing, Islam behind every curve

April 14: Kent Jones reports on the latest right-wing outrage over a round logo, this time for the Nuclear Security Summit.

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A new New York Times/CBS News poll was released last night, taking a closer look at those who identify with the so-called Tea Party "movement." The results confirm much of what we already know -- this is a confused contingent of conservative white people older than 45 -- but there were a few interesting tidbits.

Tea Partiers are obviously not part of the American mainstream. Its activists are to the right of the Republican Party, they have favorable opinions of George W. Bush, and rely heavily on Fox News. They don't like health care reform, worry about government spending, and think the government does too much to address the problems of the African-American community.

For all the recent talk about Dems and independents connecting with the right-wing movement, Tea Partiers "usually or almost always vote Republican." And for all the hullabaloo about the groups' rallies, only 4% of the general public has "given money or attended a Tea Party event, or both."

But the kicker is the predictable limits of the extreme ideology.

[I]n follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security -- the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on "waste."

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

"That's a conundrum, isn't it?" asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. "I don't know what to say. Maybe I don't want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security." She added, "I didn't look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I've changed my mind."

The point, of course, is not to pick on one confused person who sounded foolish when put on the spot. The point is Jodine White of Rocklin, Calif., is fairly representative of the larger movement.

If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you'd only see one circle.

These folks claim to be motivated by concerns over taxes, but Tea Partiers tend not to know anything about the subject. They claim to be angry about the Affordable Care Act, but they don't know what's in it. They claim to hate expensive government programs, except for all the expensive government programs that benefit them and their families.

It's inherently challenging to create a lasting, successful political movement predicated on literally nothing more than ignorance and rage. In the case of Tea Partiers, we're talking about a reasonably large group of people who seem to revel in their own ignorance, but nevertheless seek an active role in the process.

Following up on an item from a few weeks ago, this is important to the extent that there are still some who believe the political mainstream should do more to listen to the Tea Party crowd and take its hysterical cries seriously. But how can credible people take nonsense seriously and hope to come up with a meaningful result? How can policymakers actually address substantive challenges while following the advice of angry mobs who reject reason and evidence?

The bottom line seem inescapable: Tea Party activists have no idea what they're talking about. Their sincerity notwithstanding, this is a confused group of misled people.

  • from the comments:

    If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you'd only see one circle.

    And if you were to show that Venn Diagram to a Tea Partier, they would have no idea what you're talking about.

    Meanwhile, this is precisely what the GOP is hoping for — willful ignorance that can be manipulated easily through the media. The sad fact is that the Tea Partiers are exactly the same as the fundamentalist Christians. They can be made to believe anything as long as it's fed to them through their own specific ideological bendy straw. "God hates fags. The GOP loves God. You hate fags. Vote Republican!" "Taxes pay for things dark-skinned people use. You hate dark-skinned people. The GOP hates taxes. You hate taxes. Vote Republican!"

    It's the Southern Strategy all over. Just a new set of idiots. Make a Venn Diagram of Fundies and Tea-baggers and the overlap is the sweet spot where all the donations will come from.

    Posted by: chrenson on April 15, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

    Not just mislead. Ignorant. By choice. They follow Fox like it's gospel. They don't read. They don't research. They take it on biblical faith that Fox is honest and for true.

    Yeah, they are mislead. But they like it that way. Which is what makes it that much more disgusting, disheartening, and depressing.

    Posted by: MsJoanne on April 15, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

    This reminds me of that study some researchers did a few years back, in which they demonstrated that incompetent people are incompetent, in part, because the same set of skills needed for competency are those needed to recognize competency. Hence they regularly overestimated how well they had performed tasks, whereas competent people tended to be fairly accurate in their own self-performance assessments.

    I always thought the biggest mystery about that research was: why did a group of presumably well-educated researchers feel the need to conduct a test to demonstrate that clueless people are clueless because, in fact, they have no clue?

    Same thing here. Though I suppose they assumed it would be helpful to get it on the record that teabaggers are a bunch of angry old white people who have no idea what they're talking about.'s not helpful, because we already knew it, and we're not the ones who need to accept reality. The teabaggers themselves won't believe it, because despite what their lyin' eyes tell them when they look around at teabagger events and see only old, white, angry people, Fox and Rush etc. are telling them they're a majority of voters and are representative of the electorate as a whole. And since that's what they'd prefer to believe, they'll continue to believe it.

    Posted by: Jennifer on April 15, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Sully: "Activist Judges"

John Cole thinks Republicans generally "care about what they want right now, and if they don’t get their way, you are an activist judge":

For me, the clearest example of the lie regarding judicial activism is the way that Republicans treated Judge Greer in the Terri Schiavo case. The Republican Judge Greer made the fatal mistake of actually calling balls and strikes and correctly according to Florida law, ruled against the fringe right and the Schiavo dead-enders, and for doing what conservatives claim they want- strict interpretations of the law, Greer was subjected to a smear campaign so fierce that included his being asked to leave his church.

In other judge news, Lexington examines the case against Elena Kagan.

Sully:"A Half-Term Former Governor With A TV Show"

David Brooks wants everyone to stop talking about her:

She is not going to be the leader of any party and doesn’t seem to be inclined in that direction. The Sarah Palin phenomenon is a media psychodrama and nothing more. It gives people on each side an excuse to vent about personality traits they despise, but it has nothing to do with government. She is in 2010 what Jerry Falwell was from the mid-1990s until his death — a conservative cartoon inflated by media. Evangelicals used to say that Falwell had three main constituency groups — ABC, CBS and NBC.

I understand why David would rather she go away; but like his dismissal of the power of the Christianist right in American conservatism and culture, this dismissal of Palin misses, I think, several critical things.

The first is the psychological appeal of the beautiful female warrior. Palin is not appealing to the Republican super-ego (in so far as one has survived the last ten years); she is directly, umbilically connected to the Republican id (and some other male organs). Her appeal is visceral not rational. And if modern post-Nixon Republicanism has always had a thread of class resentment sustaining it, Palin concentrates it into a heady brew. If Nixon was cocaine for the resentful psyche, Palin is meth.

Secondly, she fuses both Tea-Party anti-government sentiment with neocon conviction about the necessity for American empire. Of course, none of this makes any sense, but Palin, unlike some of her rivals who feel some kind of lingering need to relate their policies to fiscal and global reality, is a thoroughly post-modern creature. She creates her own reality, and that is an incredibly important talent for a party base that desperately wants to live in another reality (a kind of souped-up version of 1950s culture and late nineteenth century economy). Her book - a fictional account of an imagined life - sold well with the GOP base because they too want a fictional account of America's current standing in the world and an imagined set of viable policy positions. She so lives and breathes this magical-realist culture she doesn't need to channel it. She knows we can keep social security and Medicare and global power for ever and balance the budget without any taxes - because that is what she wants to know. And she has never let reality get in her way. Reality is one of those doors she keeps crashing through.

Thirdly, she has a child with Down Syndrome. If you see Trig as a political tool, the near-appalling exposure of him in the campaign and book tour is not so bizarre. For a pro-life base that suspects that all Republican leaders, including even Bush, are phonies on the life issue, Palin has, in their eyes, walked the pro-life walk. Since this issue motivates the base in deeply powerful ways, Palin's ace has always been her youngest son. He proves her political authenticity - or at least seems to.

Who else puts all this together for the GOP? No one. Huckabee is crippled by a record of spending and leniency. Romney is crippled by being Mitt Romney and Mormonism. Pawlenty: seriously? Santorum? Ditto. Brown? We are beginning to see the depth of his predicament. DeMint? Rubio? C'mon.

Yes, many tea-partiers do not think Palin is "qualified" to be president. But primaries are won by enthusiasm and star power. Palin has both. And she has money. And, most important, she has a media machine dedicated to promoting her outside of any real scrutiny or questions. She has never faced a real press conference and speaks to "pre-screened" questioners at debates and speeches. She is a test-case of how willfully divorced from reality a segment of America can remain, and how irrelevant reality is for today's niche-targeted media. All of this makes Palin the most potent force in American politics since Obama.

Acknowledging that requires a grasp of the depth of the crisis on the right. I think David still under-estimates how deep that crisis is. I think he still thinks the current Republican party is salvageable as a credible governing force. I don't.

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