Teabaggers and Puppetmasters
An e-mail today, which I suspect is tongue-in-cheek, but which actually is worth making a point about:
Why do the teabaggers and their puppetmasters hate America so much?
Well, in terms of the teabaggers, of course, they don’t hate America. They love America, and no, I’m not being arch and sarcastic. They do. Deal with it. The problem is that as much as they love America, they love an alternate history version of America more, the one in which someone other than Barack Obama won the presidency, the Republicans aren’t the minority in Congress, and where they can not worry overly much about the excesses of big government because at least it’s their big government.
They love it so much that they are having a hard time grasping that it is an alternate history version of America, partly because where they live, it doesn’t seem like alternate history. Dayton, Ohio had one of the largest teabagger turnouts in the nation, and if you look the county election map for 2008, it’s easy to see why: Because Dayton’s Montgomery county is an island of blue surrounded by a sea of red, including my own county, Darke, which is incidentally represented by the GOP’s top congressman, John Boehner. When you live in counties that went 60% or more for McCain (Darke was at 68%), you have a hard time believing your vision of the US is the alternate one.
If you don’t want to believe this, I ask you to cast your mind back to, oh, say, November 3, 2004 and check in with how liberals and democrats were feeling that day, and indeed additionally for much of the time between then and November 4, 2008. Well, you say, at least we never threatened to secede. To which I say: Oh, I don’t know about that. Granted, it wasn’t the governor of one of those blue states getting himself all hopped up on secession fumes and blurting stupidities on national television. But this is neither here nor there regarding a chunk of the electorate being in shock and denial about how another, larger portion of the electorate voted.
So that’s the teabaggers. What about their puppetmasters — most specifically Rupert Murdoch and his minions at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the various other contributors to the whipping up of these alternate America lovers? You know, the ones that the tea baggers are adamant aren’t their puppetmasters, because no one tells their grassroots movement what to do?
Well. Rupert Murdoch doesn’t actually give a shit about the teabaggers one way or another, save retaining them as eyeballs for his advertisers. Murdoch understands the dynamics of American political opinion, and that outside the sixty percent of the US electorate that constitutes the fuzzy, unpredictable political middle, there’s a hard-edged twenty percent on either side that is reliable, predictable and loyal to its politics, and to those who support them. Murdoch long ago staked out one of those twenty percent for his own benefit and enrichment, and now maintains it assiduously. Done and done.
Limbaugh’s the same, although I suspect he’s less dispassionate about it than Murdoch; he’s enjoying the fact that for now, fortune has crowned him the right’s unofficial policymaker. Between Limbaugh and Murdoch and the teabagging rabble is a middle class of opinionators and politicians who may believe what they expound to a greater or lesser degree but who equally see themselves as chessplayers, moving the teabagging public into position for the next game, i.e., 2010.
Will any of it work? Doubt it in the short run; President Obama is being tricky by not actually playing their game and instead focusing on his own plans, carving out a constituentcy in the middle of the road and generally being successful at it, leaving the teabagging right, which will never support him regardless of what he does, to spin in tight, isolated circles and do its own thing — except when from time to time he reaches out them. Which they reject, which allows him to say “well, I tried,” and then do what he was going to do anyway, with the added benefit of making the right look petulant and insular. He’s already done this a time or two, with excellent effect, politically speaking. This is not to suggest Obama is an Ultimate Political Jedi Master. He screws up enough. But at the moment he is better at politics than his opponents, which is sufficient for his purposes.
Also, I doubt any of it will work in the long run, either. Not because conservativism is doomed — it’s not. But the current iteration of it — the socially fundmentalist, expansive government, rights grabbing, it’s-right-if-we-say-it’s-right-because-we’re-right version — almost certainly is. The smart conservatives (and the younger ones, not necessarily always the same) have already started to separate themselves from this dried-up conservatism, particularly its social fundamentalism: Note the recent appearance of Steve Schmidt and Meghan McCain at the Log Cabin Republicans convention, banging on the old guard for being clueless (or as McCain noted, for being “scared shitless”). These folks aren’t living in an alternate America, the one that denies that it’s lost the argument; they know the score well enough. They’re living for an alternate America, one in which they win because they have a better argument.
They know what most of the teabaggers don’t (and what their puppetmasters don’t seem to care about): No amount of hopping up and down about taxes or secession or same-sex marriage or whatever will mean anything if the majority of Americans have already rejected your message and see you as embarrassingly clueless about not getting the memo. So, no. The teabaggers don’t hate America. They love America. It’d be nice if they started living in the real one.