Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

February 9, 2011

IT'S NOT A MOVEMENT.... A few months ago, describing the Tea Party crowd, Karl Rove told a reporter, "There have been movements like this before -- the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement."

Identical delusions are pretty common on the right. Take, for example, the launch of a Tea Party magazine this week, and the way in which one its founders described the importance of the publication and those behind it. Katrina Pierson, the "national grassroots director" for the new magazine, told the NYT, "Throughout American history, successful movements -- abolitionists, women's suffragists, the civil rights movement, the conservative movement, et cetera -- all had their own print publications."

This generated some well-deserved mockery from Greg Sargent.

As I've noted here before, it often seems like some on the right are suffering from what you might call a world-historical inferiority complex. They're so desperate to imagine themselves as actors in an ongoing drama that rivals the most momentous struggles in human history that they simply play-act the part, pumping up their own situation into something comically out of proportion with historical reality. [...]

Abolitionism and the civil rights movement, taken together, spanned more than a century, beginning with the founding of abolitionist societies in the early 1800s and culminating in the 1960s with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. They liberated millions of people who had been held captive under a deeply entrenched economic system -- the Slave Power -- that could only be defeated by decades of committed political activism, superhuman perseverance, and untold amounts of bloodshed.

Publishers of abolitionist newspapers routinely had their printing presses broken up by angry white mobs, a fate that is unlikely to meet the publishers of the new Tea Party magazine.

Well said. I'd add for context, though, that the Republicans' Tea Party base characterizing themselves as a "movement" in the first place strikes me as a mistake.

We're talking about an amorphous group of activists with no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise. Its passionate members, while probably well meaning, appear to have no idea what they're talking about. Genuine political movements have, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) put it, a "coherent vision." The Tea Party has rage and a cable news network, but that's not much of a substitute.

Tea Partiers may struggle to appreciate this, but real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. We knew exactly what the civil rights movement was all about -- they highlighted a systemic social injustice and presented a moral/legal remedy. Similarly, labor unions created a movement. Women's suffrage was a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for, and their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.

Remind me, what exactly do Tea Partiers want again? More tax cuts? A system that makes it easier for health insurance companies to screw over the public? Their demands are usually contradictory, and the activists don't even agree with one another over what their alleged agenda includes.

It's not that the right is incapable of coming up with legitimate political movements -- I'd consider the pro-lifers and the gun-rights crowd as credible movements -- it's that these Tea Party folks aren't it.

Delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, for the hysterical GOP base to equate itself with abolitionists, women's suffragists, and civil rights activists is ridiculous.

Steve Benen 2:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

And how many "movements of the people" have been funded by corporations?

Posted by: Tigershark on February 9, 2011 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

They may not have a consistent message, but there's one thing they all have in common: they hate the fact that the president of the United States is a n*****.

There wouldn't be a tea party, but for the fact that a black man is president.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on February 9, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

The Tea Crackers want to be dominated by others, and dominate others in turn. Everything else is details.

Posted by: Mark on February 9, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

They're fighting to make hate meaningful again.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 9, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter TeaParty: "We're being persecuted! Send Money!"

Posted by: DAY on February 9, 2011 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

We're talking about an amorphous group of activists with no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise. -- Steve Benen

Absolutely true. But then, why on earth do you acquiesce to calling them a "Party"? What characteristics of a "Party" do they possess?

Nor are they a movement. As every 2yr old knows, a "movement" is #2; according to their own estimation, they're #1. A Pee Potty.

Posted by: exlibra on February 9, 2011 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Look, as much as they want to wear sheets and a hood, a tri-corner hat will have to do in this day and age.

Oh, and let's not forget, 'there mizpeled sings.'

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Ridiculous" is becoming your favorite word, Steve! Carry on ;-)

Posted by: Mimi on February 9, 2011 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

The teabaggers are a bunch of fucking morons.

T.E.A. Taxed. Enough. Already.

After Obama cut taxes for 95% of them.

Posted by: jharp on February 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Remind me, what exactly do Tea Partiers want again?

They tell us they "want to take our country back." They never define what that means but it seems to be something like Hollywood's fantasy of the 1950's with Leave It To Beaver. Everyone except a few servants was white and middle class, crime was on the level of Beaver tossing a baseball and accidentally breaking a flower pot, June kept a spotless house while wearing an A-line dress and pearls, and life was happy and wholesome for all. Too bad that America never really existed but nevertheless they "want it back." And in 1955, there was no way in hell a Negro would be in the White House except as a dishwasher hidden in the basement kitchen.

Posted by: GringoNoraca on February 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Uh..as has been noted already, the "tea party" is nothing but an astroturfed tool of corporate America. Of the Koch Bros. specifically, who want the right to ruin the environment, pay their employees as little as humanly possible, and pay no taxes on the profits they get from mining fossil fuels from our Earth.

Yeah, that's quite a "movement." Bozos. Bad enough they're tools of totalitarians like the Koch Bros. Even worse they appear not to realize it.

Posted by: LL on February 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Of course it's a movement! Just like the KKK, the Luddites, the Know-Nothings, etc.

Posted by: Rachel on February 9, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Without sounding crass, the Tea Partyers should hope they aren't seen as a posterior movement!

That being said, I do think the Tea Party is reflective of a movement - The Stupid is as Stupid does Movement!

I predict the Tea Party will agree on a PAC entitled Committee Revisiting American Priorities (CRAP)!

Now there's a match for their "movement!" -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Legit. Satire, Either way, I'll bet that magazine's hilarious.

Posted by: slappy magoo on February 9, 2011 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you're just trying to keep this small fraction of Americans in chains and throwing a wet small-pox infected blanket on their aspirations. Disenfranchisement.

Posted by: LoveHater on February 9, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

You ae mistaken, there is a clear, coherent agenda - maintaining white power and dominance in politics and culture.

Posted by: RuthAlice on February 9, 2011 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Just let them call themselves a movement. They don't have an agenda that can be summarized in one word or short sentence, however I think a group should be able to call themselves a movement even if they have no narrow focus.

Posted by: Ed on February 9, 2011 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Please use "anti-abortionists" instead of "pro-lifers". Don't buy into their framing. Thanks.

Posted by: MattW on February 9, 2011 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Tea partiers take their cue from the movie, "The Wild One." Asked what he's rebelling against, one of the characters responds, "whaddya got?"

Posted by: mrgumby2u on February 9, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you're just trying to keep this small fraction of Americans in chains and throwing a wet small-pox infected blanket on their aspirations. Disenfranchisement.

Awesome.

Posted by: shortstop on February 9, 2011 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

The Tea Party is a movement, but only of the bowel variety.

Posted by: cb on February 9, 2011 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking the more telling parallels, would be that to the Dixiecrats or the Know Nothing Party.

Posted by: jamie on February 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Please use 'anti-abortionists' instead of 'pro-lifers' Don't buy into their framing. "
-- MattW on February 9, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Couldn't agree more with this sentiment, or with this goal.
However, may I humbly and respectfully suggest considering terminology such as that adopted by Amanda Marcotte and others; I especially like:
"government-forced childbirth"
and
"state-mandated childbearing"

Posted by: smartalek on February 9, 2011 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

What @Doctor Whom said.

Posted by: Rose Tyler on February 9, 2011 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Put me down for "bowel movement."

Posted by: Jack H. on February 10, 2011 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

I think the Tea Party sincerely wants to hack and slice and chop at the budget. Problem is there's really not much fat to cut. Republicans in Congress presented their wish list and 1. it's harmful as hell and 2. it doesn't even begin to seriously cut the budget.

Posted by: Rich Gardner on February 10, 2011 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly