Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rich Angry White Guys

The New York Times did a survey of the tea party folks and came up with some not-too-surprising conclusions.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

Not surprising, either, is the underlying mythology fed by radio bloviators and Fox News about President Obama that he’s not really American.

“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

And then there’s the contradiction of people complaining about “government takeover” and wasteful programs that should be cut… as long as they can keep their Social Security and Medicare.

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.”

Digby at Hullabaloo sums them up:

These people are nothing new. They have different iterations, but when you get right down to it they are, quite simply, the far right. They hate poor people (especially blacks) and they hate government that helps poor people (especially blacks.) They are deluded about taxes and spending and are paranoid about the government being infiltrated by “the other.” They believe they are the only “true” Americans and alternate between insisting that their “traditional values” are best represented by the Bible or the Constitution, both of which they believe they are ordained by God to properly interpret. And they do not really believe in democracy which is really why they hate the government.

When they lose they stage a national hissy fit of epic proportions and persuade the Village (where they are perceived as the personification of the heartland of America) that they are something very important. Now that they have their very own TV and radio networks featuring crazed right wing demagogues 24/7, they are more successful on those terms than ever. But they are nothing new, nothing new at all. They are mostly a bunch of cranky, white men with money who are trying desperately to hang on to their privileges. Same as it ever was.

They are what we have called “Republicans” for at least the last 30 years.

When they had the chance to govern in the recent past, the rich white conservatives did a really lousy job of it by giving us huge budget deficits, recession, an illegal war, violations of Constitutional rights, corporate corruption to a degree that would make the Mafia blush, religious intolerance, sex scandals, hypocrisy — all the things they accuse the “others” of doing — all with the approval of the rich angry white guys. That’s not to say that the Democrats have not had their problems and failings, but certainly not on the scale of the Republicans, and they didn’t do it while they were lecturing the rest of the nation on how to live and that they were the real Americans. And their idea of a true leader is a woman with the voice of a bat, the intellectual curiosity of a sponge, the crowd-pleasing talents of a finalist on American Idol, and the business ethics of a snake-oil salesman. (Would it surprise you to learn that Ms. Palin’s political action committee spent more money de-icing her jet than it did on the candidates she was supposed to be raising money for? Me neither.)

What I find fascinating — and disturbing — is the mantra that the Tea Party people want to “take our country back,” and they mean it in both senses of the term; back from whomever it is they perceived took it away from them, and take it back to a time when everything was a perpetual rerun of Happy Days. It’s not just the same as it ever was; they want it the same as it never was.