Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Played for Fools

Via Andrew Sullivan, Mark Thompson explains how the conservatives and the GOP ripped off the Tea Party movement.

The concept started out as a relatively small idea organized by a handful of libertarian activists. Movement conservatives saw an opportunity to co-opt it – and they did.

To them, the Tea Parties aren’t just an outlet for expressing frustration over the recent orgy of government spending, they are an opportunity to complain about gay marriage, affirmative action programs in government hiring policies, and just about everything else that movement conservatives oppose even more vehemently now that they’ve been beaten – badly – in consecutive national elections. Never mind that the original point of the Tea Parties, so far as I can tell, was completely libertarian in nature and was to be as much a protest of the Republicans as it was of the Democrats.

Of course, if the Tea Parties had remained the sole province of a handful of libertarian activists, they never would have received the national attention they’re now able to receive, and thus would have had even less impact. By accepting the involvement of the movement conservative multitudes, the originators have lost control of their message even as the message has access to an ever-larger platform. The result? An incoherent jumble of protests that is going to wind up resembling the same sort of incoherence that has characterized large-scale protests and demonstrations for decades.

Aside from this co-opting of the Tea Party movement by Dick Armey and Fox News, it’s pretty obvious that the GOP has no objection to turning it from a libertarian protest against all taxes into a bash-Obama ratings ploy without even thinking it through and or caring that it’s drawing in a mish-mosh of all sorts of wingnuttia, ranging from every chapter of the Tin Foil Hat Brigade and the comic talents of Alan Keyes, the birthers, and the contrapuntal shouting of “Fascist!” and “Socialist!” to the anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-fluoridated water crowd. Wow, and I thought “an incoherent jumble of protests” was the sole purview of the Democrats; the GOP can’t even resist ripping off their opponents.

But it’s hardly a surprise that the GOP would steal an idea from someone else; they haven’t had an original thought since Barry Goldwater. And it’s not surprising that they would use the libertarian movement — which has as much in common with the Republicans as they do with the Democrats — as their foils, right down to pawning them with the snicker-inducing use of the term “teabagging.” I had a commenter admit as much on my post about the use of the term:

But the term was chosen intentionally – generally it became an in-joke among the protestors which caught on quite easily (because let’s face it, it’s not really a very in-joke as everyone knows what it means) but it did have the effect of finally getting coverage in the mainstream media, because the protests had been oddly ignored in favor of much smaller protests against things like AIG.

So the commenter is saying that the promoters were intentionally making fun of their own followers’ ignorance and setting them up for mockery for the sake of publicity. That seems intentionally cruel to play their own devotees as fools, but not unexpected. The conservative leadership has never passed up a chance to enlist their followers as useful idiots.