Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Obama Created The Tea Party

Interesting critique on the London Review of Books. I found this passage gave me the most to think about:
Obama’s largest rhetorical miscalculation – and it bears part of the responsibility for 2 November – was to suppose he could move people to admire and sympathise with government even as he encouraged them to disdain and deprecate politics. By holding himself above politics he cleared a path for an insurgent movement that put itself below politics. Obama echoes Reagan in speaking often of ‘Washington’ in a tone of assumed displeasure. The difference is that Reagan had so little grasp of the details of his administration that the disavowal in a sense showed consistency. For Obama, the same posture is transparently inauthentic. And in a democracy like the United States, as in any representative government, a contempt for politics whets the people’s appetite for sudden remedies.

A Reagan-loving friend of mine isn't so hot on the disparagement there, but otherwise I wonder if this isn't getting at something. In a representative democracy, politics is how we make government go. If you're always grumbling about the mud that you're in, is it any wonder if people think you're a pig?

That said, there are limits to this theory. I still stick with the theory that the Tea Party originated as a gathering of sore losers from the 2008 election; I don't imagine there's much President Obama could've done to win them over.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Agree with you here in most respects. I don't think Obama's disdain for Washington was inauthentic. In some ways, I wish it was. What has been more damaging, in my view, is that he really honestly believed his hype, that somehow a charismatic and intelligent leader could sweep away some of the pettiness of politics. He made the mistake of thinking he could win over the tea partiers, when what he should have been doing was embarrassing them back into silence and apathy. Most of us would have stood eagerly with him in that mission. I still will if he ever gets around to it.