If anyone wanted to make some money, they’d come up with a new bumper sticker for people who have QUESTION AUTHORITY plastered on their car. It would read HOW DARE YOU, and would go right in front of the old one.
The left’s amnesia over eight years of anti-Bush rhetoric is one thing; their willful contortion of tea party ideas is quite another. It’s necessary to note that there are peculiar people at tea party events who believe peculiar things, and I don’t just mean those who think the Commerce Clause has been promiscuously applied. There are the usual tone-deaf types with signs that say OBAMANAZI KENYAN = SOCIALIZED GROCERIES, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Politicians get up and say things designed to cause mass facepalming among the faithful, like when someone says the president should go back to Africa. But Sarah Palin ought to be able to use strong metaphors without someone accusing her of wanting to lead a militia into Congress. It’s called a “figure of speech.” Unless you believe that Martin Luther King was sleepwalking when he said “I have a dream.” Present tense! Words mean things!
All of this gives the chestless pundits the vapors. Joe Klein of Time magazine said the opposition rhetoric is bumping up against … SEDITION! It would make a great musical, wouldn’t it? “Teabagger on the Roof,” with everyman Bubya leading the townspeople in a rousing number. Sedition! Sediiiition! Why do we question the power of the state to regulate every aspect of our lives? (pause) I don’t know. But it’s sedition! And it is what Beck wants us to do.
Of course, Fiddler on the Roof had the tea party creed buried in the opening number. The townspeople crowd around the rebbe, and ask him to invent a prayer for the tsar. The rebbe is taken aback: a prayer, for the tsar, he says with astonishment, wondering how to reconcile his distaste with his duty as a man of God. He thinks. He says: May the Lord bless and keep the tsar. Far away from us.
Critics will note that tea baggerz want the tsar by their side holding their hand when it comes to the programs they want, like Medicare and Social Security, so ha ha, you’re hypocrites. Well, A) there’s no hypocrisy in wanting to get something out of a program into which you’ve been required by law to support for your entire working life, and B) the tea party, and its complaints, are not opposed to the existence of government. It’s the size and power they wish to debate. That’s okay, right?
No, not really. That would ruin the whole future. So we have to paint the opposition as a throbbing wad o’ Kluxers pinin’ for someone to boom up a Federal Building. Opposition to Bush was principled and civilized. Opposition to Obama is opposition to principles and civilization itself.
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It’s one thing to drop a stupid statement in a speech, and quite another to drop a bag of cement on a bus of delegates heading to a convention. This happened in St. Paul in 2008. I covered the event, and spent time on the gathering ground for the interminable and ineffectual protest that wound past the hall, ignored. Guys with masks with scary anarchist cred: check! Spartacists defending North Korea: check! Nutwads with a creamy Commie center: check and double-check. Anti-imperialists who couldn’t care less if the Taliban took power in Afghanistan and instituted the annual Festival of Clitoris Removal: oh, check, because the only reason the U.S. invaded was because of an oil pipeline. So you’re okay with religious fanatics hacking off young girls’ genitals? Better that than having them stay on for the wrong reason.
It was the golden age of dissent. What was said mattered little, because the cause was just: defeating the Death Machine that stood in the way of distributing Stuff to Everyone. Now dissent is sedition. Don’t worry, it’s still the highest form of patriotism, theoretically, but it’s practiced by the lowest sort of people. They don’t even have clever bumper stickers. Then again, the left has nothing in their quiver anymore; QUESTION AUTHORITY was all edgy ‘n’ stuff, but GIVE AUTHORITY A LOVING TONGUE BATH doesn’t give you the same rebel cred.
Now that things have changed, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Discussing the threat posed by militant Islam and its innumerable anti-American manifestations, based on a long record of attacks: fear-mongering designed to make us accept a police state, and opportunism of the most despicable sort.
2. Discussing the threat posed by citizens who dispute budgetary and legislative initiatives: temperate analysis. Remember, Timothy McVeigh had an AM radio in the vehicle he drove to carry out his attack, and Rush Limbaugh was on AM radio. You have to deny science to say that’s not true.
3. All efforts to roll back any initiatives of the Obama administration are RACIST. Example: say they’re opposed to increasing the penalty on late-reporting of data relating to a Medicaid billing that may have been due to an interpretation on the wording about whether an in-patient procedure required an examination or a consultation. But it’s really about the melanin content of the guy who signed the bill, although he probably has no idea which provision you’re talking about.
4. Bringing up the way some investors in GM got the drive-shaft in the take-over is a subtle threat to violence, because history shows most cross-burners drove to the scene of the crime.
5. Saying you want to “defeat” President Obama is eliminationist rhetoric, a code word that recalls WW2, when everyone knew that “defeating” Germany meant putting Hitler on trial and hanging him.
6. Anyone who describes himself as a “Christian” and a “Patriot” is probably a “Christian Patriot,” which means they probably stay up nights discussing fertilizer bombs via ham radio with Aryan Nation cells in Idaho. Or, writing lesson plans for Sunday school about how marriage should really be about a man and a woman. Six of one, half dozen, etc.
In other words: Protest is fine, as long as the cast of characters and the content of their chants reminds people of the ’60s. This is why protests against Clinton’s Balkan war weren’t lovingly covered: that was a just war, fought for just reasons, by a serious man. Gulf War 1 was for oil, duh, and Gulf War 2 was for oil, daddy, and because Fox News told George Bush that Saddam ran the planes into the WTC via remote control. If President Obama ordered a strike on Iran tomorrow, the protesters would be marginalized, and CNN would find tea partiers who supported the move. Anderson Cooper would be amazed to find that the Teepers had overcome their hatred of the president to support him, but it would be up to Joe Klein to say they just wanted to see brown people dead.