Why I Can't Take the 9/12 Movement and the GOP Seriously

Posted on 13. Sep, 2009 by in Uncategorized

I must confess I don’t posses the intellect needed to assess the actions and motivations behind Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project”, a conflation of disparate conservative activist groups which culminated with a march on Washington, D.C. yesterday to protest…what exactly? Taxes? Spending? Health care reform? The creeping socialist/Nazi/Islamofascism policies of the Hussein X Obama Stalin administration? Ever since the Tea Party movement appeared on the national stage last spring, I’ve grappled with how to talk about it and how much seriousness it should actually be given because I feel like I must be missing something.

To start with, I’m puzzled by the embrace of the tea parties, which in their proper historical context were understood to be protests against taxation without representation. The last time I looked (scoreboard!), the United States directly elects its congressional representatives, so pardon me if I think that undercuts the notion of these movements being analogues.

The current tea baggers, er, partiers, are just anti-tax. And that’s ok! There’s certainly must be some sort of tyranny that motivates the desire to let marginal tax rates revert from 33 and 35 percent to 36 and 39 percent while also enacting quite possibly the largest middle class tax cut in history.  But if you’re going to make such a big stink, at least understand that you’re misappropriating history to do so.

But the bigger problem I have with this movement is its supposed focus on fiscal responsibility. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative whose bona fides should not be in doubt, has written several scathing pieces in recent months criticizing the tea party movement, and the GOP in general, for not grappling with the reasons they lost power. As Bartlett points out in the Daily Beast, there’s a certain hypocrisy that is pervasive among those who are having their come to Jesus moment now that a Democrat is back in the White House:

In my opinion, conservative activists, who seem to believe that the louder they shout the more correct their beliefs must be, are less angry about Obama’s policies than they are about having lost the White House in 2008. They are primarily Republican Party hacks trying to overturn the election results, not representatives of a true grassroots revolt against liberal policies. If that were the case they would have been out demonstrating against the Medicare drug benefit, the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, and all the pork-barrel spending that Bush refused to veto.

Now, I actually disagree with Bartlett’s contention that the entire movement is comprised of GOP hacks. There are a lot of people who tend to agree with the views that are being promoted by Republican Party hacks, but they’re not all one in the same. That said, they suffer from the same affliction, which is that they’re seemingly incapable of engaging in some honest self-reflection. Why didn’t they march and rally against the Medicare drug benefit, which will almost certainly cost more than Obama’s proposed reforms of the entire health care system? To explain that, here’s Bartlett again, from an e-mail exchange with liberal blogger Steve Benen:

I believe that political parties should do penance for their mistakes and just losing power is not enough. Part of that involves understanding why those mistakes were made and how to prevent them from happening again. Republicans, however, have done no penance. They just pretend that they did nothing wrong. But until they do penance they don’t deserve any credibility and should be ignored until they do. That’s what my attacks on Bush are all about. I want Republicans to admit they were wrong about him, accept blame for his mistakes, and take some meaningful action to keep them from happening again. Bush should be treated as a pariah, as Richard Nixon was for many years until he rebuilt his credibility by more or less coming clean about Watergate with David Frost and writing a number of thoughtful books.

One reason this isn’t happening is because the media don’t treat Republicans as if they are discredited. On the contrary, they often seem to be treated as if they have more credibility than the administration. Just look at the silly issue of death panels. The media should have laughed it out the window, ridiculed it or at least ignored it once it was determined that there was no basis to the charge. Instead, those making the most outlandish charges are treated with deference and respect, while those that actually have credibility on the subject are treated as equals at best and often with deep skepticism, as if they are the ones with an ax to grind.

I am truly baffled by this situation, as I’m sure you are.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up for me. We’re treating a movement that refuses to accept any responsibility for its part in driving the country into crisis or even coherently state its reasons for opposing any and everything that the new administration hopes to accomplish (which include many programs intended to fix messes left by the Bushies) as if they’re a serious and credible opposition. At present, they’re not. We need a strong oppositional party to have a thriving democracy. It’s too bad we don’t have one.

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