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June 15, 2010

Re: Trying To Understand The Tea Party II

More from Sullivan.

...The cognitive dissonance and the obvious human misery behind it:

The pseudo-conservative believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded ... he is the most bitter of all our citizens about our involvement in wars past but seems not the least concerned about avoiding the next one.

Brutally accurate, no? What you see is the predominance of acute alienation - the opposite of a natural conservative at peace with the world as it is - and the intensity of emotional rage it provokes. I would add one thing to this analysis. The Bush-Cheney presidency was, in some respects, the perfect pseudo-conservative administration. They waged war based on loathing of the experts (damned knowledgeable elites!); they slashed taxes and boosted spending for their constituencies, while pretending to be fiscally responsible; they tore up the most ancient taboos - against torture - with a bravado that will one day seem obscene; and they left the country in far worse shape than they found it.

Throughout all this, the Tea Partiers supported them. So how do they manage the cognitive dissonance that two failed wars, a financial collapse and a debt crisis have brought? How do they deal with the fact that their beloved president was manifestly the most incompetent and disastrous in modern times? They blame it on the next guy.

Yes, they are doing all they can to avoid facing the fact that they did all of this ... to themselves. And sometimes, the truly, deeply humiliated can only carry on through blind rage.

via andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com

Re: Trying To Understand The Tea Party I

More on the Tea Party. From conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan on the economic front, what he thinks is a pragmatic conservative response and puzzling out the Tea Party.  While agree with his list, I'm sure we might disagree on where the cut lines are!  But I think he needs to add: cutting the tax credits that serve no public good other than to subsidize some business or industry.

I confess to staying baffled by this whole movement. I spent many years wailing about spending under Bush, and the Tea Party was largely silent. I'd like to see serious cuts in entitlements, means-testing of social security benefits, and sharp reductions in military spending ... to avoid the default that could one day come when we least expect it. The Tea Party has proposed no such entitlement cuts - let alone defense. Because taxation is historically low, and because we're never realistically going to tackle the debt without more revenues, I also favor some tax increases - on carbon, and on consumption. The Tea Party is opposed to any new taxation. So at that point, I don't know what to do. I don't know how to respond. Do I share a generalized frustration with a government that takes away half my earnings every year? Yes. Does an intervention to ease a huge market collapse drive me nuts? Sorry, but: no. Neither does a modest attempt to provide some subsidies to help millions get access to affordable healthcare at a time of extreme economic insecurity. Call me a Marxist, I guess. But I have yet to see anything in Obama's first eighteen months to convince me of a need for conservative rage.

via andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com

June 14, 2010

The Very Angry Tea Party

Interesting take.

What has gripped everyone’s attention is the exorbitant character of the anger Tea Party members express.  Where do such anger and such passionate attachment to wildly fantastic beliefs come from?

My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans’ collective self-understanding. 

... what has been undone by the economic crisis is the belief that each individual is metaphysically self-sufficient, that one’s very standing and being as a rational agent owes nothing to other individuals or institutions.

In politics, the idea of divorce is the idea of revolution. The Tea Party rhetoric of taking back the country is no accident: since they repudiate the conditions of dependency that have made their and our lives possible, they can only imagine freedom as a new beginning, starting from scratch. About this imaginary, Mark Lilla was right: it corresponds to no political vision, no political reality. The great and inspiring metaphysical fantasy of independence and freedom is simply a fantasy of destruction.

In truth, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement wants; terrifyingly, it wants nothing. Lilla calls the Tea Party “Jacobins”; I would urge that they are nihilists. To date, the Tea Party has committed only the minor, almost atmospheric violences of propagating falsehoods, calumny and the disruption of the occasions for political speech — the last already to great and distorting effect. But if their nihilistic rage is deprived of interrupting political meetings as an outlet, where might it now go? With such rage driving the Tea Party, might we anticipate this atmospheric violence becoming actual violence, becoming what Hegel called, referring to the original Jacobins’ fantasy of total freedom, “a fury of destruction”? There is indeed something not just disturbing, but frightening, in the anger of the Tea Party.

via opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

June 04, 2010

Re: Justice Souter’s Class

This is consistent with my own view, that most of the "easy" constitutional cases were decided long ago and therefore most of those that get to the Supreme Court now are about where different parts of the Constitution collide.

The “notion that all of constitutional law lies there in the Constitution waiting for a judge to read it fairly” is not only “simplistic,” [retired Justice Souter] said; it “diminishes us” by failing to acknowledge that the Constitution is not just a set of aphorisms for the country to live by but a “pantheon of values” inevitably in tension with one another. The Supreme Court may serve no higher function than to help society resolve the “conflict between the good and the good,” he suggested:

A choice may have to be made, not because language is vague, but because the Constitution embodies the desire of the American people, like most people, to have things both ways. We want order and security, and we want liberty. And we want not only liberty but equality as well. These paired desires of ours can clash, and when they do a court is forced to choose between them, between one constitutional good and another one. The court has to decide which of our approved desires has the better claim, right here, right now, and a court has to do more than read fairly when it makes this kind of choice.

via opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

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