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Debating the Tea Party: a reply to Peter Berkowitz

When I picked up my Wall Street Journal last Saturday morning and turned to its opinion pages, I was eager to see what the distinguished political philosopher Peter Berkowitz had to say in his article entitled, "Why Liberals Don't Get the Tea Party Movement." I should say that I know and like Berkowitz, even if our political views often differ.

After first taking swipes at Paul Krugman and Frank Rich of The New York Times, Berkowitz devoted several paragraphs to my own writing on the subject. He noted that I had written last month that the Tea Party "constitutes a sliver of opinion on the extreme end of politics receiving attention out of all proportion with its numbers." This, he said, constituted a "step back" from my "rash prediction five months before that since the Tea Party "represents a relatively small minority of Americans on the right end of politics, the tea party movement "will not determine the outcome of the 2010 elections."

I don't see how my more recent take constitutes a "step back" from my earlier take -- the more recent reference to "a sliver of opinion" hardly seems a retreat from my earlier reference to "a relatively small minority of Americans." Nothing in the second article contradicted what I said in the first, that the Tea Party will not decide the November election. Unemployment and economic discontent are still far more important. But that's a small point.

I read on to see what evidence Berkowitz would offer to refute my analysis, which was based a series of surveys taken to get a handle on who makes up the Tea Party movement and how big it really is. And what I found was: absolutely nothing.

Berkowitz did not challenge my factual assertions, presumably because he couldn't find any data to call them into doubt. Study after study has shown that the Tea Party is a minority movement that exists largely at the right end of the Republican Party. A poll released earlier this month by the Public Religion Research Institute (I played a role in the formulation of the study and moderated a panel on it at the Brookings Institution) found that 11 percent of Americans consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement and that three quarters of the members of this group call themselves Republican, or lean toward the Republican Party.

The Tea Party is just the latest incarnation of a strain of very conservative opinion that has always been part of the American political landscape. It's the old American right with the additional advantages of a cable network of its own, new organizing possibilities created by the Internet, and expanded publicity that arises from the media's fascination with Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Christine O'Donnell.

Having failed to challenge my numbers, Berkowitz went on to challenge my understanding of history. He cited my reference to the anti-Federalists who, as I wrote, opposed the Constitution itself because "they saw it concentrating too much authority in the central government." He then pays me the high compliment of claiming that I "follow in the footsteps of the progressive historian Richard Hofstadter." There are few historians I admire more. But it is worth noting that I have offered criticisms of Hofstadter in the past, particularly, and perhaps ironically in light of this exchange, of his attitude toward populism. My own criticism of the Tea Party rests not on some psychological analysis of who they are -- it was precisely Hofstadter's use of psychological explanations for protest on the right and the left that I found wanting -- but of what they actually believe and say.

In fact, Berkowitz's article is barely about the Tea Party at all. The bulk of it was an effort to argue that: 1. the Tea Party represents nothing more or less than "a commitment to limited government," a devotion that "lies at the heart of the American experiment in liberal democracy;" and 2. that modern universities do little "to instruct students in the founding principles of American constitutional government." This second argument -- offered presumably to make the point that liberals of my ilk suffer from a flawed education -- comes with the requisite references to The Federalist Papers, in this case No. 9 and No. 51.

On the second point, I want to defend my college teachers from Berkowitz's charge. I had the founding principles drilled into me. In fact, a copy of The Federalist sits proudly on my bookshelf, and I find an early vindication of our modern civil rights laws in Federalist 51's assertion that "[i]t is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other."

Berkowitz's piece is an effort to defend the idea that limited government is an essential American principle. No liberal I know has a problem with that. It is a principle upheld by contemporary liberals in their staunch defense of civil rights and civil liberties. Liberals do differ with the right-wing in believing that the federal government has the authority under the general welfare and commerce clauses of the Constitution to support programs for social security, health care, environmental and food safety regulation, and the protection of the rights of labor. If Berkowitz disagrees with that view, he should say which parts of the program he rejects rather than retreat behind highly general criticisms of "the progressive vision."

What he wants to avoid is a serious discussion of what the Tea Party actually stands for. Alas, he doesn't want to grapple with the historian Sean Wilentz's recent New Yorker article demonstrating the extent to which tea party heroes like Glenn Beck rely on the paranoid theories of the old John Birch Society to "explain" the current threat against America posed by Obama and his "socialist" allies. He doesn't want to struggle with poll findings showing quite clearly that a backlash on race and against immigration explains some -- and note I say "some," not all -- of the energy behind the Tea Party.

I "get" the Tea Party. I just disagree with much of what it's saying and would insist that it's neither as novel nor as large as its supporters and some press accounts would suggest. And I'd urge thoughtful conservatives such as Berkowitz to apply the example of their distinguished forebears, notably William F. Buckley Jr., by challenging the sometimes exotic extremism that is now taking hold on parts of the right, including parts of the Tea Party.

By E.J. Dionne  | October 22, 2010; 9:54 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

Poor, misunderstood E.J. Dionne - he "get's" the Tea Party but thinks they are an insignificant bunch of whackos.

I think the Tea Party phenomenon is best viewed as the tip of the iceberg. It may not look like much, but it is just a small representation of the massive disgust with government that is permeating the American electorate. A big government guy like Dionne doesn't want to understand that this is a real backlash against his political ideology.

Posted by: pilsener | October 22, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr Dionne; all,

personal to Mr Dionne: frankly, you do NOT have a CLUE as to what the TEA PARTY is, WHO the membership is, how large it is and/or much of anything else about us.
(but you are not alone in your ignorance of THE TRUTH, as Sean Wilentz doesn't have a clue either.)

it just so happens that i'm a coordinator of our local county's TEA PARTY "disorganization" (frankly, our membership is too rebellious to even have officers AND we do almost everything by popular vote.), who has been a Tea Partier since about 18 months ago and has read most of the BILGE/NONSENSE/LIES that the DIMocRATS, "the washington COMpost", "the NY SLIMES" and the rest of the "mainstream press" has said about the Tea Party Movement & its members.
in just one word, what the "mainslime press" has said is: FICTION.

IF you really wanted to know THE TRUTH and were able to step away from your SELF-important, arrogant, elitist, inbred prejudices (that are so obvious to most of your readers), you would ask at least one Tea Party member to tell you:
1. WHAT the TP is,
2. WHO our membership is,
3. WHY our membership is so angry at the city/county/state/federal government,
4. WHO the true TP leadership is,
(that i can answer easily: we have NO "leaders", unless every member is a leader.)
5. approximately HOW MANY active Tea Partiers there are,
6. WHAT our immediate, mid-term & long range goals are,
7. WHAT our "average educational level", ethnic make-up, "job titles" are
and
8. almost anything else that you want to know.

BUT i seriously doubt that you (or any other DIMocRAT/leftist/"progressive") will actually ask, as you would prefer to think of us as:
a bunch of ignorant, racist, gun-toting, Bible-thumping hillbillies/trailer park trash
OR
an extremist, right-wing, auxilliary of the GOP
AND
you "members of the press" seem quite comfortable in your SILLY, FALSE, ARROGANT PREJUDICES & in spewing out LIES on TV/in print about our membership.

but PLEASE continue to "run us down", as every time one of you LIBs starts spewing out more hatefulness/lies/foolishness/DIMocRAT "spin" about our movement, you drive evermore "regular folks" into the TEA PARTY.
(as we are growing at about 6% per week, we will soon be larger than both major parties combined.)

IF you wish to surprise us all, you have but to ask & i believe that any number of TEA PARTIERS will happily provide you the answers to any questions that you may have.

TO ALL: IF you are as disgusted with the "current occupant of the White House", "the Congress-critters" & the arrogant/ignorant/nosy bureaucrats that infest our government, come join the TEA PARTY in your local town/city/county/parish.- you will be welcomed with "open arms" & immediately "put to work" to return "our current MESS" to the Constitutional Republic that the USA once was.

just my personal opinion. - i CANNOT speak for our county's TEA PARTY group, absent a vote on each issue.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 22, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

E.J. -- you are a couple of days behind in the Democrats' talking points about the TEA Party Movement. Let me catch you up:

PHASE 1: "Tea Party? What's that? Never heard of them. What's for lunch?" (this was popular summer of 2009.)

PHASE 2: "Teabaggers. You know what THAT >giggle< means? Idiots. Too stupid to see that Obama is helping them. Gray-haired white men who can face reality. Losers." (early 2010)

PHASE 3: "Horrible Racists! Bigots! Bible-thumping rednecks who hate Barack Obama only because he's black. Domestic terrorists with guns!" (This summer)

PHASE 4: "Well-meaning populists, but they're being exploited by evil rich guys and shadowy foreigners." (Today)

PHASE 5: "C'mon Tea Partiers, can't we just get along. We Democrats hate big corporations and John McCain, too! Please, please, please don't vote us out of power! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" (Next week.)

Posted by: pmendez | October 22, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Nothing in the second article contradicted what I said in the first, that the Tea Party will not decide the November election. Unemployment and economic discontent are still far more important."

************************

That's like saying that George Washington's Continental Army did not decide the Revolutionary War. Unfair taxation and discontent with British rule was far more important.

(You get PAID to write this drivel?)

Posted by: pmendez | October 22, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Spot-On, pmendez! May I steal that?

Posted by: sosueme1 | October 22, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Well ... there are some 'responses'. All I know is that I have asked the Republican/Conservative/Tea Partier crowd several questions on exactly what they stand for (ie, what will you cut) and all I have seen is irrelevant generalities. Their candidates still only talk generalities and run like h3ll on the rare occasions they say something specific and it is invariably pure garbage!

Like it or not children, the devil is in the details, and governance involves much compromise. Oh, and believe it or not you are not the only 'real' Americans!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | October 22, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

To texasnative46: okay, I'll take the bait. I'll ask you one of those questions you doubt anyone will ask. So, what is the ethnic make-up of the Tea Party?

Posted by: rgray | October 22, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Oh, one other question for you, texasnative46. You say you want to return '"our current MESS" to the Constitutional Republic that the USA once was.'

My question is a simple one. Could you explain which constitutional rights you wish to restore and it might be useful to add when those rights were taken away from you.

Thanks!

Posted by: rgray | October 22, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

rgray,

our county TEA Party group (according to a columnist of our local newspaper, who set out to do an expose on us) is:

51% white
23% latino
11% African-American
2 % Jewish
6 % Asian (mostly former VietNamese refugees)
1.3 % Native American (including MY family)
and
the rest "mixed-bloods" and "no response".

that "pretty well reflects" the ethnic mix of our county's population.

you didn't ask but:
1. about HALF of our membership is over 50 years old, with about 1/3 of those over 65YO,
2. about 60% have "some college" or a college degree
and
3. about 20% are union members.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 22, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

rgray,

OK. these quickly come to mind:

1. the freedom to actually SPEAK and/or PUBLISH, without fear of losing our jobs,
(Juan Williams comes immediately to mind = the 1st Amendment protects UNPOPULAR speech, as popular speech needs NO protection.)

2. freedom to practice our religion in public areas & at the times of OUR choosing,
(FOUR TIMES since 1950, our county's residents voted overwhelmingly to have PRAYER at ALL public school functions.= the last time a total of TWO votes were cast as "NO". - the state/federal government should have NO say whatever in what we citizens of our county CHOOSE to do. - freedom OF religion is NOT freedom FROM religion.)
3. the freedom from "being bothered by" a bunch of NOSY, SELF-important nitwits, who see themselves as being "just better" than our "ignorant, stupid, rural people from flyover country" ("PRINCESS PELOSI" said that in 2009.)
and
4. freedom to buy or NOT buy health insurance at OUR choosing. = about 3/4 of the voters in my county are ANGRY about the so-called "obamacare" & want it REPEALED & replaced with NOTHING.
(PLEASE, all you "obama-worshipers"/"progressives"/LIBs, show me in the Constitution where it says that the federal government can require any citizen to buy ANYTHING!)

face it, "rgray", the LIBs are about to "get their toucas handed to them" in about 2 weeks , as the DIMocRATS/LIBs/"progressives" are "out-of-step with" traditional America and we TEA PARTIERS, Independents & Republicans are going to take our country BACK.= the DIMocRATS, LIBs & "progressives" are FINISHED, as they are NOT trusted with our money, our government OR with our LIBERTY.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 22, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

to Pmendez

I believe you meant that the liberal elitists in this country are using PHRASES to describe the Tea Party followers. The word "phase" relates to several scientific concepts, such as which phase or state a compound such as water might currently be in. Water is a liquid at normal temperature or water would be in the gaseous phase at temperatures above 212 degrees F.

In your second post George Washington's Continental Army did have an impact on the Revolutionary War, I believe most historians would also consider the French Army and Navy as significant participants in defeating the English Army at Yorktown. This combination of forces created the situation that resulted in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. Without the French involvement we would possibly still be part of the English Empire.

When trying to insult an entire class of people please use the appropriate word or words to convey your disdain.

Posted by: Indianatransplant | October 22, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

texasnative46

Please read the following quote you might recognize it;
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This is the wording of the 1st amendment to the Constitution and just like Miss O'Donnell, might say there are no references to either popular or unpopular speech in the amendment.

PS. The Supreme Court is generally the branch of Government that gets credit for striking down several popular concepts such as school prayer by their strict Right Wing interpretations of the first amendment.
PS 2. You might want to rant about the warrentless wiretaps being conducted in the name of national security as a result of the previous administrations efforts. That is a significant personal right that none of us really knows what is being done. Just some food for thought.

Posted by: Indianatransplant | October 22, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

The Heritage Foundation has been at the forefront of the overpayment issue. Heritage research has found that the average federal employee earns an annual salary almost 60% higher than the average private-sector employee — $79,000 vs. $50,000. Even after controlling for education and experience, federal employees get paid significantly better — 22% more per hour, on average — than private-sector workers. Once you add up the benefits, the gap in total compensation rises even higher — 30% to 40% above comparable private-sector workers.
But defenders of the federal pay system, including the OPM, have mischaracterized our analyses by suggesting they ignore skill differences between the public and private sectors, resulting in an “apples to oranges” comparison. On the contrary, Heritage has carefully accounted for skill differences, always comparing apples to apples.
In a letter the Washington Post this week, Heritage economist Bill Beach directly addresses those critical of our analysis:
Ignoring this evidence [of standard practice in calibrating data], government and union representatives quoted in your column attack our findings by relying on a survey that examines job descriptions. But federal workers tend to be less skilled within an occupation level - a senior accountant may qualify only as a junior accountant in the private sector. So economists look at skills and experience, not just official duties.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | October 22, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Indianatransplant,

SORRY, but the CRAZY/EXTREME decisions of the federal courts were NEVER intended to bind anyone/anything but the federal government. - further, the TENTH AMENDMENT to the BoR forbids any federal agency from attempting to interefere with state/local affairs, unless those powers/rights were ceded to the central government.

also, i was asked which rights that i thought should be returned to us. NOT what the courts said about those rights.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 22, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Indianatransplant,

SORRY, but the CRAZY/EXTREME decisions of the federal courts were NEVER intended to bind anyone/anything but the federal government. - further, the TENTH AMENDMENT to the BoR forbids any federal agency from attempting to interefere with state/local affairs, unless those powers/rights were ceded to the central government.

also, i was asked which rights that i thought should be returned to us. NOT what the courts said about those rights.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46
============================================
Coordinator of false ideas and pot calling the kettle black. Federal law is binding on all Americans higher than state law with the constitution being highest. FL election law was overruled by SCOTUS without a higher law in Gore 2000, Chicago had the state gun law altered by them, after giving away state secrets in outing Plame, the Wilson's sued with a Dubya appointed judge ruling Cheney was doing his executive duty (committing treason).

Posted by: jameschirico | October 23, 2010 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Great column as always EJ. To all the right wing nut-jobs that have posted here (especially you TN46). Don't get too full of yourselves. Most American, when pressed, don't agree with your extreme interpretation of the Constitution, especially if it means we have to give up the FDA, EPA etc. Also, nothing that the government has done is unconstitutional. If it was, it would've been struck down by the Supreme Court. Now, it's your right to dislike or even hate their ruling, but that doesn't make it unconstitutional. Finally, hiding behind the 10th Ammendment to refuse to follow laws you don't like is a tactic that was discredited by the end of the Civil War (sorry, I forgot you're from Texas...The War of Northern Aggression). Read the 14th Ammendment and pay close attention to the equal protection clause. That, along with the general welfare clause of the Constitution, gives the government the power to do a lot of what it does.

Again, you may not like those decisions but to claim that the Constitution has been hijacked by some cabal of Freedom-Hating Liberals is pure fantasy (or should I say parnoia). Finally, see how I have refrained from using capital letters ALL over THE place and creating hidden MESSages in certain words? Much, much less annoying to read, don't you think?

Posted by: BigAl70 | October 23, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

texasnative66:

1) You have no right to speak or publish without fear of losing your job. Nothing in the Constitution requires anyone to offer you employment. It didn't protect the Dixie Chicks in 2003 and it doesn't protect Juan Williams now.

2) Does a group of Wahhabi muslims have the same right to peacefully worship as they choose in public spaces in your county? Does a group of Muslims have a right to build a mosque in lower Manhatten?

3) I like this one. Can you point out where the Constitution outlines the right not to be bothered by annoying people? I have many occasions to use this power.

4) We'll see what the courts say about this one.


Posted by: TXAndy | October 23, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I understand what the Tea Party stands for. Unlike the original tea party which was about taxation without representation the new Tea Party is about representation without taxation.

Posted by: timothy2me | October 23, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

It's very interesting to read the comments here defending the tea party, but not particularly illuminating. Why? The answer is that it appears from the perspective of an outsider, that as hard as those on both sides of the political spectrum try to define the movement and argue about it, the movement itself has not come up with its own broad definition of what it represents beyond vague generalities. Given the specificity of the comments of some of its members, many of which appear to contradict one another, I think it's fair to say that simply reciting statistics on the membership is not sufficient.

When one adds to that the seeming contradiction between the goals and ideals of the party, the few that do appear to have a common thread, and the goals and intentions of the entities funding the movement, most of them special interest groups connected to corporations, it becomes even more confusing. In fact, that is not terribly surprising. Many "populist" movements are co opted into the mainstream, leaving behind their most ardent supporters to fend for themselves. What's surprising is how quickly it happened this time, which causes one to wonder about the purity of its inception in the first place. That is not to disregard the intentions of all of its members, but unless the party finds coherence in its message beyond the impossible dreams of a world without governance, it hards to see how it will have have any lasting impact on the system itself.

Posted by: Koko3 | October 23, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Apparently the origional TEA PARTY was highjacked by DICK ARMY and the KOCH brothers who saw an opportunity to exploit witlessness by giving low-information voters a sense of esteem by being "involved" in a political movement. Why is the actual TEA PARTY candidate remaining on the ballot oposite SHARON ANGLE in Nevada ? The origional TEA PARTY was disgusted with BOTH major parties. "Keep government out of Medicare" says it all about the current gang of idiot Republicans masquerading as so called "patriots".

Posted by: mrtimmaulden | October 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Apparently the origional TEA PARTY was highjacked by DICK ARMY and the KOCH brothers who saw an opportunity to exploit witlessness by giving low-information voters a sense of esteem by being "involved" in a political movement. Why is the actual TEA PARTY candidate remaining on the ballot oposite SHARON ANGLE in Nevada ? The origional TEA PARTY was disgusted with BOTH major parties. "Keep government out of Medicare" says it all about the current gang of idiot Republicans masquerading as so called "patriots".

Posted by: mrtimmaulden | October 23, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The tea party is a sow's ear. Berkowitz--like so many other sucks and sycophants in the media--is trying to make a silk purse out of the tea party.

Look. EJ Dionne used factual data--polls, surveys, studies and more importantly, the common nonsense coming directly out of the mouths of the tea partiers themselves--to make an effective case that the tea party is nothing more than a louder more extreme version of the republican party as a whole.

Look at the tea party "agenda". It barely qualifies as an agenda at all. It is chockful of airy, vapid generalizations that teel us nothing about how they would actually address the nation's problems. Indeed, their solution in general terms is to ignore the problems that beset us and simply get rid of most of what government does. And that is where the "movement" bumps up against the reality of these polls that suggest that they are not anywhere as influential as the media have made them out to be.

One of the more curious aspects of the tea party phenomenon is that a great many of the political personalities that have risen since the organizing of the tea party, are not all that committed to the their "agenda" at all. Look at Scott Brown's performance since entering office as a darling of the tea party. Rubio is little more than a Florida version of Scott Brown and is already making gestures to the middle. Indeed, the ones who sound more tea party "purist" are the very ones who are doing all that well--O'Donnell, Paladino, even Angle in Nevada is pretty much tied up with the most unpopular politician in Nevada history, Harry Reid.

Look. The tea party is a media creation. With all of their histrionics they create conflict, drama--the catnip that attracts a silly, pedestrian mainstream media hungry for Fox News-like ratings and profits.

Posted by: jaxas70 | October 23, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

At some point--no matter what happens in November--the tea party is going to have to face a general electorate that in no way resembles the narrow constituencies that comprise the primaries, especially in this abnormal year when so many citizens have simply dropped off the radar owing to disillusionment and angst over the economy.

The conditions that prevail this year are not going to last forever. The tea party's Achilles Heel is that they don't even have a heel to be shot at and wounded. When the people find that out, whatever tea party types who do make it into office this year will either have to adapt (become more moderate, serious candidates) or be swept out in the general elections to come.

At some point, the public is going to weary of all of this I'M-MAD-AS-HELL fever and start demanding real world answers. So far, I have heard nothing from tea party candidates that comes anywhere near the real world we live in.

Posted by: jaxas70 | October 23, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

As a final word on this, the tea party was created as a reaction to Barack Obama being elected President. Obama will still be President after this election. And if the NEWSWEEK Poll released this weekend is to be believed, he still will be President after the next election.

The tea party will still be around because they hate him. He is the locus of their rage. Some of it is racial, most of it is cranky ideological resentment. But, it is not an enduring movement that has any substantial groundings. Indeed, limited government, tax and spending cuts, uber-patriotism--how in any way does that differ from what George W. Bush ran on? Or any other conservative politician in the past 30 years?

Posted by: jaxas70 | October 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

jaxas70 wrote:

1. "The tea party was created as a reaction to Barack Obama being elected President."

WRONG -- the Tea Party was created as a reaction to the big-government policies of Obama and the Congressional Democrats ... government overspending in particular.


2. "The tea party will still be around because they hate him. He is the locus of their rage. Some of it is racial, most of it is cranky ideological resentment."

I'll bet you didn't call it "cranky ideological resentment" when it was Code Pink or ACORN demonstrating against Bush.


3. "But, it is not an enduring movement that has any substantial groundings."

So what's your tune of choice when you're whistling past the graveyard?

Posted by: jaxas70

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | October 23, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Teabaggers=John Birch Society, circa 2010. Nothing more need be said.

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | October 23, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Teabaggers=John Birch Society, circa 2010. Nothing more need be said.

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard
________________________


*** Wow, with that kind of tolerance, you could get a job as president of NPR.

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | October 23, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Excellent column, beautifully argued.

Posted by: Jdvanlaningham | October 23, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

republicans and tea party sheeple, are giving us liberal progressives a hard time, I hope they enjoy the prison camps we are building for them, with their own tax money. HA HA Teabaggers!

Posted by: simonsays1 | October 23, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Dionne wrote, "And I'd urge thoughtful conservatives such as Berkowitz to apply the example of their distinguished forebears, notably William F. Buckley Jr., by challenging the sometimes exotic extremism that is now taking hold on parts of the right, including parts of the Tea Party."

I heartily agree but I have yet to see a thoughtful conservative offer a challange and survive politically.

If we end up following the wandering ideological path of the Tea Party, this country is in for some very difficult times.

Posted by: tunkefer | October 23, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

upon further review: teabag much? I AM intolerant of you teabaggers, as I am intolerant of all reactionaries. You should remember that what comes around, goes around. You betcha! Remember the 1960s? Wanna go back there?

But you're funny: those, like you baggers, who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Or is that too opaque for you?

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | October 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Someone wrote:
“I think the Tea Party phenomenon is best viewed as the tip of the iceberg. It may not look like much, but it is just a small representation of the massive disgust with government that is permeating the American electorate.”

Did anyone beside liberals distrust government prior to November 4,2008? If so why did they wait until Obama was elected to start protesting?


Someone else wrote:
“The Heritage Foundation has been at the forefront of the overpayment issue. Heritage research has found that the average federal employee earns an annual salary almost 60% higher than the average private-sector employee — $79,000 vs. $50,000. Even after controlling for education and experience, federal employees get paid significantly better — 22% more per hour, on average — than private-sector workers. Once you add up the benefits, the gap in total compensation rises even higher — 30% to 40% above comparable private-sector workers.”

Soo … my former company cut everyone’s pay, took away paid holidays, did not give any pay raises to offset cost of living increases THEN declared bankruptcy which wiped out 50% of our pensions … yes I still had a job BUT I don’t expect everyone else, including government/federal workers, to suffer the same pay cuts … why do you?

The Heritage foundation is working on reducing the size of the middle class by supporting wage suppression and people like you seem happy to see other people’s standard of living reduced … as long as it doesn’t affect you.

Posted by: knjincvc | October 23, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

EJ is too polite to say this, but Teabaggers are just confused old racists on Social Security and Medicare.

They get all riled up because they think blacks and Mexicans are getting government benefits from the white man's tax money.

And seeing a successful, intelligent black man in the White House has driven them into a retarded racist fury.

Posted by: ottoparts | October 23, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Hilarious. So Texasnative46 literally proves every "slander" offered about the Tea Party movement. Look it his list of local grievances. They have little or nothing to do with "excessive government" (the 4th one excepted, perhaps, but the Court will determine this in the end - as it should). In fact, they are the opposite. Texasnative is just angry that the government can't impose the majority religion on the minority through the auspices of the public schools. So the Tea Party movement is not only predominantly elderly - as TX native reveals with his data - but is more of a Christian Right movement than a small government movement.

Thanks for proving the liberals correct. I suspect that after November 2 the non-South will re-discover why the Republican Party should never be trusted to "defend our freedoms."

Here's a question for the Tea Party: Do I have a right to exercise my "Second Amendment freedoms" against tyrannical majoritarian Christians who want to force Jesus down my Jewish children's throats in the public schools?

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | October 23, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

There was a Tea Party rally under the arch in St. Louis recently. A bunch of kids from St. Louis U. showed up with a "Cut Defense Spending" sign. They almost needed police protection.

I was also at a debate between a self-proclaimed and prominent local Tea Party member and a pretty old school Democrat on the proper role of government.

The Tea Partier took great pride in the fact that he could cite no central or specific Tea Party philosophy on the subject at hand, and, of course, that was the beauty of the Tea Party. According to this guy, the movement has no central philosophy, organization, leadership, and especially no central authority, ignoring the role of Fox News, Glenn Beck in particular, Dick Armey and the Koch Brothers in funding and organizing it.

It is also no coincidence that the "movement" -- if it even qualifies as one -- sprung up within a month of the inauguration of a Democratic president. There is an element of the right wing that runs on nothing but hatred of the Democratic Party and all it stands for, and their chief spokesman for years has been Rush Limbaugh. They have nothing to offer. They only know what they are AGAINST, and even don't bother much with their analytical synapses to arrive at that --- if it's proposed by a Democrat, it's evil.

So basically what the Tea Party "movement" represents goes beyond the worn-out Ayn Rand free-market libertarianism, and right down to good old fashioned 19th century anarchism, resurrected once again.

Especially when a Democrat is in the White House.

Posted by: kkelly32951 | October 23, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Here's a simple way to understand the Teaba.gger Treason movement: Go to the bathroom. Take a massive dump.

That would be the Tea.bagg.er Treason movement.

Posted by: snortz_the_cat | October 23, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh my. I have a feeling there are going to be an awful lot of teabaggers shrieking about "voter fraud." Oh well, it beats a Republican take-over.

Posted by: hellslittlestangel1 | October 23, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

@hellslittlestangel1: "Oh my. I have a feeling there are going to be an awful lot of teabaggers shrieking about "voter fraud." Oh well, it beats a Republican take-over."

As FDR said, "Many of them hate me. And I welcome their hate."

I am hoping that we can welcome their shrieking.

Posted by: snortz_the_cat | October 23, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The Tea Partiers are people who claim to believe in the constitution but don't know what it says, who love thier guns, who watch FOX News and listen to Rush and thus are clueless about what is going on and the lies they are being fed, who are making Sarah Palin rich for her screeching, baffling speeches, who are mad because the modern world is challenging and they don't do the work to cope in it, and who pick the craziest, looniest candidates for office I have seen in my long life time.

Posted by: withersb | October 24, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

The Tea Partiers are people who claim to believe in the constitution but don't know what it says, who love thier guns, who watch FOX News and listen to Rush and thus are clueless about what is going on and the lies they are being fed, who are making Sarah Palin rich for her screeching, baffling speeches, who are mad because the modern world is challenging and they don't do the work to cope in it, and who pick the craziest, looniest candidates for office I have seen in my long life time.

Posted by: withersb | October 24, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

bigal70, how can you "speak for most Americans?" That is one problem with you lefties - you think you know so much and you actually know so little.

Were you better off 4 years ago? I certainly was. The dems took over congress 4 years ago and the country started down hill. Obama came on board with his unions, big business like GE and BP, Wall St and the onerous George Soros. Obama took us down hill on steroids.

This administration and dems in congress have driven us to the cliff. They must be stopped. I will call myself a Tea Partier, because it is much better than the alternative - lefty progressive marxist. I would like to save this great nation for my children and grandchildren - not turn it into a third world country. Or worse, end up as slaves to China.

Posted by: annnort | October 24, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Folks, take it easy...commentators like E.J. just can not comprehend the "tea party"....it just does not fit into their world view. I can tell you from many weeks of knocking on doors for a local Republican candidate working to unseat a freshman Democrat that voters are steamed and ready to take action against this liberal, Democratic crowd. I always tell my liberal friends that DC is full of smart people with ten point Powerpoints and their schemes to tell us peasants how to behave. What we need is some leadership with a few clear ideas and the guts to implement that and I believe we will get that on November 2. The Democrats are going to get the beating of their lives and will spend the next ten years wondering what happened....they will NEVER understand this country and the voters.

Posted by: dcmowbray1 | October 24, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

TXandy;BIGal70;all,

actually i was asked WHAT RIGHTS that i felt were being taken away from our "stupid, stupid, rural people from flyover country" (Princess Pelosi said that.).

reference PRAYER at public school events: our county school board has ALWAYS (at least since 1955 - the first year that i can find actual information on this subject) gone out of their/our way to ASSURE that EVERY religion in the county had their rabbi/priest/preacher/leader asked to pray/read scripture/discuss their religion at school assemblies/football games/etc.

and YES we have had (on at least TWO occasions) a Moslem IMAM speak at a school-wide assembly. - it "went off without a hitch" BOTH TIMES, because we "nutty Texans" truly believe in FREEDOM TO PRACTICE religion in public/private places.

it has been my long experience that it is the STATISTS/LEFTISTS/DIMocRAT extremists that HATE freedom of religion/speech.- they believe that "freedom of religion" means freedom FROM religion!

as for the decisions of the federal courts, the Congress has the authority to LIMIT the sorts of cases heard by the courts by law.- it was NEVER intended by the founders of this republic that the courts would become the SENIOR PARTNER of the three (supposedly co-equal) branches of the government. - may i also remind the readers of these lines that there have been some incredible UNJUST/STUPID decisions of the federal courts, including SCOTUS, which were later reversed?
DREDD SCOTT,
PLESSY,
ROE v. WADE,
the 2000 BUSH-GORE decision,
CITIZENS UNITED
& numerous other DUMB/UNJUST/FOOLISH decisions come immediately to mind.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 25, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

TXandy;BIGal70;all,

actually i was asked WHAT RIGHTS that i felt were being taken away from our "stupid, stupid, rural people from flyover country" (Princess Pelosi said that.).

reference PRAYER at public school events: our county school board has ALWAYS (at least since 1955 - the first year that i can find actual information on this subject) gone out of their/our way to ASSURE that EVERY religion in the county had their rabbi/priest/preacher/leader asked to pray/read scripture/discuss their religion at school assemblies/football games/etc.

and YES we have had (on at least TWO occasions) a Moslem IMAM speak at a school-wide assembly. - it "went off without a hitch" BOTH TIMES, because we "nutty Texans" truly believe in FREEDOM TO PRACTICE religion in public/private places.

it has been my long experience that it is the STATISTS/LEFTISTS/DIMocRAT extremists that HATE freedom of religion/speech.- they believe that "freedom of religion" means freedom FROM religion!

as for the decisions of the federal courts, the Congress has the authority to LIMIT the sorts of cases heard by the courts by law.- it was NEVER intended by the founders of this republic that the courts would become the SENIOR PARTNER of the three (supposedly co-equal) branches of the government. - may i also remind the readers of these lines that there have been some incredible UNJUST/STUPID decisions of the federal courts, including SCOTUS, which were later reversed?
DREDD SCOTT,
PLESSY,
ROE v. WADE,
the 2000 BUSH-GORE decision,
CITIZENS UNITED
& numerous other DUMB/UNJUST/FOOLISH decisions come immediately to mind.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 25, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many democrats or republicans can give you a definitive answer regarding what the constitution, or either of the parties platforms, say or actually stand for? I'd be willing to give odds, they will not as informed as a Tea Party member. The most you could hope to get is "we can continue building a stronger future" and "we can continue moving forward", but you won't anything specific.

Posted by: avatar666 | October 25, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

avatar666; all,

avatar: my guess is that you are 100% CORRECT & that the GOP members (on the whole) know more than the DIMocRATS, though TEA PARTIERS seem, at least in my experience, to be more knowledgeable.

for example, most DIMocRAT/STATIST/"progressive" extremists believe that the "Freedom of Religion" portion of the FIRST Amendment is about stopping public expressions of faith. further, they know so little about the Constitution that they believe that "separation of church & state" is IN the body of the Constitution, when nothing could be further from the truth.

to ALL: the ONLY prohibition ever considered by the authors of the FIRST Amendment to the BoR was that there be NO OFFICIAL CHURCH (like The Church of England for example) for the USA. they would be ASTOUNDED & HORRIFIED that any "reasonably literate citizen" would believe that they meant anything more than that.

furthermore, at the time that the BoR was accepted into the Constitution, several STATES of the union HAD "official churches".
in at least TWO states, theoretically, NOBODY but a member of "the official church" could vote/own property/hold office.
(as far as i could find out NOBODY, of any faith, was ACTUALLY prohibited in either state from those rights, BUT it was "on the books" as public law long after the BoR was ratified.)

the bottom line is that MOST of the "progressives"/liberals/DIMocRATS on this site actually know LITTLE & daily expose just how little that they do know. = i tend to LAUGH AT their IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE, SILLINESS, lack of ACTUAL knowledge & (obvious) SELF-importance.

just my opinion.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 25, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Mr.Dionne, You may be a wordsmith, but you are intellectually dishonest. Your lack of respect for any who do not agree with your far left agenda, are met with typical condescending, and dismissive slander. Perhaps if you would put down the bombs you are throwing in your column and on the "fair and balanced" MSNBC and listen for a change, you might learn something! Actually the anger that you and those of your political ilk is becoming quite funny. Realizing your loss of persuasion in the marketplace of ideas, you guys are coming unhinged!!!

Posted by: jjsopen | October 25, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

E.J.Dionne-
Your article is quite the hoot.
Give it up already.
This response you make clearly indicates-you do not get it.
The Tea Party or our Nation.

By your own words revealed...
"...that the Tea Party will not decide the November election. Unemployment and economic discontent are still far more important."
uhhh...ummmm...
Seriously E.J.- Can i call you E.?
Are you really not getting it?
Is this just a pathetic last act - snow job attempt?
All the points you raise regarding the Tea Party have been tried and have failed.
Yet you pack them all in one article for one more trot-out.
Give it up-

More ludicrous still, you bodaciously cite a study in support of your assertions- that you--"played a role in the formulation of ".
tsk... tsk... E.
You know better.

Why do you work???

Posted by: feanor1 | October 25, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

ElrodinTennessee; all,

"Elrod": do you enjoy being RIDICULED, thought to be a FOOL & loudly LAUGHED AT? - given your fact-FREE, ignorant & frankly "not particuliarly intelligent" comment about the undersigned, you must.

fyi, if you were bright enough to do the research, you would find that the most "PRO-Jewish" & "PRO-Isreal" people (at least outside your own religion) are Southern, fundamentalist, Christians.
fyi, it has traditionally been the "OH, so wunnerful, wunnerful & marvelous" NORTHEAST (mostly New England & NY) that has been the seat of ANTI-SEMITISM in this country.

fyi, my PU has a bumpersticker that says: "My boss is a Jewish carpenter".

NOTE to ALL: my best GF happens to be Jewish & wants to move to Rockport TX to retire in 2-3 years.
she, not too long ago, asked me how that she would be received, being "religious", "Conservative" & "observant" (she/her family "keeps Kosher").

i laughed out loud & then told her, "We have people who handle rattlesnakes in services at their church-house down south. a lady that cooks "unusual food", doesn't celebrate Christmas but lights candles on Friday night is just another sort of "church-lady", who won't even be thought "odd" by the neighbors. - you'll do just fine in south TX".

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | October 27, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

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