Progressives Hate the Tea Party… But Love the Current Arab Revolt.


All of the revolts are led by young men and women, many of whom are novices at political activism. All use modern tools, like social-networking sites on the Internet and texting over mobile phones, to organize and amplify their protests.

That statement could easily apply to the wave of Tea Party success just as it applies to the Arab revolts sweeping the Middle East.  And while most Tea Partiers might not be young, but rather old white people, are their aims really that different?  Both groups aim to achieve regime change, believe that their voices haven’t been heard and that the current government policies don’t take account of their opinions, and are angered over joblessness and economic forces beyond their control.

Yet the media, us bloggers included, tend to treat the two groups very differently.   We have been cheerleaders for one group; calling them “courageous” and “heroes” while “applauding” the “chains being thrown off.”  For the other group?  Well… the second group gets called “crazy,” “unbalanced,” “lunatics,” “domestic terrorists,” and even had their name  mocked in a myriad of semi-witty ways.

Conservatives are generally the opposite, cheerleading for the Tea Party as they “take back their America” while questioning how the situation in Egypt and the broader Middle East will end up ass-raping American interests.

Certainly this is one of the better examples of how identification politics can affect a person’s world view.  Don’t both conservatives and progressives champion the ideals of democracy, free speech, and personal choice?  But here is a good example of how the same ideals viewed through a different lens creates two different outcomes.  How do you get “freedom fighter” vs “lunatic fringe” from two situations exhibiting essentially the same motives, tools, and aims?

Obviously, from the progressive point of view the Tea Party is a rabble of seemingly angry, underbred, uneducated, elderly rednecks.  Because of this, we can look down on them, we dismiss their ideas, we deride their movement, and sarcastically and cynically comment on every Tea Party action or wrong step.  We are ever vigilant to the slightest faux pas, paying too much attention to the unimportant details because we feel threatened by their success and can’t yet understand nor formulate an effective counter to their rapid rise.

Better to try and tear them down what they say then to have real legislation that addresses the underlying issues fomenting the Tea Party’s strengths.

  1. CharleyCarp

    Hitler was a vegetarian: basically just another Missoula hippie? Silly context-free comparisons are, well, silly. Mubarak ruled Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years. Obama had been in office 8 months when the TP arose, having taken over from the opposition party. And enacted virtually no significant legislation at the time. But, rather, proposed that government (sponsored, if not run) health care be extended beyond that already provided to a great bulk of TP enthusiasts.

    I think a better comparison for the TP are the pro-Mubarak thugs that went around knocking heads trying to prevent change. Not that this isn’t still a silly comparison.

    • petetalbot

      Gotta go with the Carp on this one, Carfree. It seems to me that the tea partiers are a self-interested little group that wants to restrict peoples’ rights through draconian legislation. while the uprising in the Middle East was fomented by draconian rulers opposed to extending rights to the masses.

      • carfreestupidity

        Dismissing the TP as a “self-interested little group” aiming to “restrict peoples’ rights through draconian leg” empowers the TP even more. Progressives dismissing them and looking down upon them plays into their hands.

        To the TP, they are fighting to restore a “lost” vision of what America should be… a vision that never really existed. It doesn’t matter that the vision has been spoon fed to them by an elite group of conservative power-brokers, think tanks, and billionaires… to the TP they are the little guys fighting against the injustice of big government that favors minority rights over the rights of true Americans, e.i. white people that have been here more than two generations.

    • Rob Kailey

      Maybe a minor quibble, Charley, but significant when reviewing the “rise” of the TP. The first Tea Party rallies were on April 15th, 2009, following Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the CME on Feb. 19th. That was less than a month after Obama had taken office, the rallies coming less than 3. From that alone, I think it’s pretty clear that the rise of the TP wasn’t organic, and had very little to do with policy. Hence I strongly agree with your “better comparison”, and I’m not so certain that that one’s silly.

      • CharleyCarp

        I was being overly generous and looking at when the movement really started to get a head of steam: shouting down summer recess town meetings.

    • carfreestupidity

      I’m not saying that the two movements are equivalent… what I was saying is that the many of the motives that have driven both movements are similar. The Tea Party sees itself as fighting government oppression that stretches back to FDR and the original set of New Deal policies.

      Its supposed to be a ridiculous comparison… maybe silly enough to get a different way of thinking about the Tea Party going. We need to understand the Tea Party’s motives and physiology better if we wish to render them irrelevant.

      • crazy upside down analogy cfs. think about it. you are equating opposites as similar.

        tea party is an arm of the plutocracy. i already know their motives- ignorance, greed and in the case of many of the followers- sheer gullibility.

        • carfreestupidity

          The people that get out and protest for the TP don’t view themselves as corporate plutocrat shills… they thinks of themselves as the little guy, the under dog. Plutocrats are simply seizing an opportunity to take hold of the anger these people feel and use it for their own purposes.

          • sheer gullibility. the same mindset that allowed medieval princes to get their starving pitch-fork wielding peasants to fight their battles for them while they greased their lips on the harvest and hoarded treasure…..

            some people just feel more comfortable with accepting table scraps from the lords of the manor.

            most prefer freedom.

          • JC

            Plutocrats are simply seizing an opportunity

            No, they are creating an opportunity. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that the t-party is an organic movement. It is far from that. It was fomented from the top down feeding on a bunch of lies: “Obama is a Muslim”; “Death panels will kill granny”; “Global warming is lie”; “Evolution isn’t real”…

      • JC

        If you want to understand the t-party’s motives, then you best start understanding Dick Armey, FreedonWorks, Liberty Central and the Koch brothers. Because that is what is fomenting that movement. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

        Sure, there may be undercurrents of populism in it, but by and large the whole movement is just a tool of far greater interests than the slogans you see paraded around on signs.

        We will see moments of shared concerns–like when the t-party joined with House dems to kill the fighter jet engine last week. But just because two different means have the same ends doesn’t justify hanging the label of authenticity on both.

  2. i think future generations will remember the tea party as an odd political phenomenon much like the no-nothings. a very small but angry minority that briefly fooled americans into listening to them during a deep recession.

    if it were simply a normal economy instead of a depression the tea party would have been simply ignored as the average gang of fringe extremists; racists, white separatists, religious fanatics, survivalists, freemen, and white identity movement members.

    but the koch brothers and the right wing money machine associated with corporate interests saw attaching themselves to the tea party as an opportunity to influence our political system to give themselves tax breaks. now they hope to topple everything which serves the people at the expense of the wealthy.

    it is a movement which has a short life. once people realize that the tea party is about serving corporate interests and the wealthy few, it will vanish back into the woodwork. i think 2012 will be the end of their brief reign of ignorance and greed.

  3. Rob Kailey

    A not so funny phenomenon I’ve noticed evident in the Tea Party, their candidates, their leaders, and written large in the current Montana Legislature. It seems the only thing “Real Americans” hate more than being told what to do is *not* being able to tell others what to do.

    • JC

      Let’s start calling this the “white picket fence” phenomenon.

      It’s a throw-back to 50’s morality–the final thrust to overthrow the 60’s and all that they hate about the hippies.

      • Rob Kailey

        The way I like to put it is that the Tea Party is the Homeowners Association from Hell.

        • JC

          Rule by covenant! And only landowners can participate in their writing or enforcement.

          21st century feudalism coming home to roost… and every home must have a white picket fence!

  4. The Polish Wolf

    CFS –

    While I don’t think your comparison is valid, I do like that someone is bringing it up. This is the sort of discussion that is really only likely to happen on a blog and deserves to be had. So thank you for starting it.

    I think the answer is that progressives don’t really support the Egyptian protesters, at least not on a policy level. They have made very few policy demands as a group, but if they do start making decisions Democratically, they are likely to be less secular and to favor things like stoning for adultery. Progressives merely support the right of the protesters to exist and to have their concerns heard. They support exactly the same for the TEA Party. But then, no one is threatening their existence or right to be heard, so progressives needn’t offer much support.

    The one thing the two have in common is a livid hatred for the current leaders of their respective countries. Most in the TEA Party have faith in the Democratic system to get rid of Obama; Egyptians understandably had little confidence in their upcoming elections.

  5. I think it is interesting that as CFS notes, progressives tend to have an inherent affinity for populism in the abstract, but occasionally run up against the hard reality that sometimes the population doesn’t want progressive solutions, no matter how right they may be. The question then becomes how to balance what you believe or what is supported by evidence and what the public/electorate wants – because sometimes the best policies are useless if the public doesn’t buy in.

    • carfreestupidity

      The problem with populism is that it is at it’s most effective when it is in opposition to something…

    • lizard19

      funny how the CBS early show is framing the Wisconsin protests:

      Dickerson said the protests spurred by Walker’s anti-union bill can be for progressives and labor what anti-tax and anti-health reform protests were for conservatives and business – a potential Tea Party movement for the left.

      “Well, the Tea Party always existed within the Republican Party,” Dickerson said. “But they had an energizing moment. And this is the energizing moment on the left. Progressives and unions have always been together. They were very energized in 2006 and in 2008. In 2010 they were a little dispirited – Barack Obama didn’t turn out to be the president they had hoped.

      “Well, now they’re quite energized, and it’s not about President Obama anymore. It’s about the threat to their benefits.”

      i would like to suggest a very simple litmus test for any politician who supports this multi-state attack on state workers: kill your benefits and public perks first, then make your case for the necessity of going after those terrible overpaid teachers, cops, and firefighters.

      as for the populism of the tea-party, i remember how dismayed i was two years ago around this time of year when the opposition movement began taking shape. before the big money from the right swooped in, there were some more visible libertarian strands railing against the wall street bailout—something all of us should be disgusted and outraged by.

      but when it got in the hands of the media and the money poured in, lefty-corporate pundits used clips of stupid signs to deride and mock the whole phenomenon, while right wing politicians and fox news saw a perfect trojan horse to sneak in their minions and anti-american/corporate-whore agenda.

      now tea-party is a brand anyone can use and abuse—small government, individual rights, and respect for local governance be damned.

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