Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The Tea Party's Absolutism
If the Tea Party was a room, it would be full of white, conservative, supply-side American citizens who are out to make or break a path into the corridors of power in Washington to actively do some good and spark a transformational turnaround in the way things are being done in government. I’ve written a couple of times before about the Tea Party and there is one thing about the men and women of that ideologically-severe, prime example of an obstructionist faction that I have always judged about them: they are some of the most obsessive, narrow-minded, and exacting absolutists of modern American political yore.
Because of the Tea Party’s suppression of reason and moderation, any possibility of political compromise has disappeared at least for the moment as both Republicans and Democrats continued to posture against each other over the government shutdown. Obviously some Tea Partiers feel that they have every right to bring this confrontational reception to America’s economic distress.
Political pundits and politicians not associated with the Tea Party have insisted that this minority of right-wing extremists in the House of Representatives are every bit as absolutist in their worldview and recalcitrant towards necessary cooperation as the Roman Catholic Church was during the Middle Ages, as the Nazis were during World War Two, and as Islamic fundamentalists are towards women and democracy. A warning in short: the most dangerous people are the ones who choose to vacuously ignore all opposing views and beliefs and who base their counsel and petitions on black-and-white, either/or propositions.
There is something to be admired about standing firm for your principles, but in tackling the practical problems of the day and of the era in which we live standing for your principles can require a second thought or two. Sometimes, if we are to survive in the real world, overriding our principles for the sake of being practical or realistic is an evil necessary. However, the Tea Party has spawned a new, more starkly-centered definition of what sticking up for what you believe in means: to do so at all costs and damn the expense and all and any contrarian views. The appropriate metaphor for the Tea Party has become the enraged suicide bomber whose sole purpose is to destroy the corrupt, present world in order to build a better, more perfect one. It is a striking image of an American constituency and one to be feared if not contained.
Lunatic fringe groups like the Tea Party are what ail American political discourse and practice today. Within the scope of fringe groups throughout history, the Tea Party belongs to a contentious, historical trend: when socioeconomic adversity runs at a higher volume and intensity than can be tolerated by people, comparably facile “reasoning” about causes and solutions bleed into a society that is all too vulnerable to such tenuous but naïve and irresponsible rationales. The result is binge polarization, a refusal to compromise in the American democratic tradition, and a scary turn towards the seediest common denominator of logos and intelligence.
If it were up to the Tea Party, all vestiges of sensible policymaking would be traded away in exchange for reviving a “lost” America, one in which a tenable majority of white, masculine, old-school males held the center stage of power and influence. Nostalgic to the point of delusion, Tea Partiers in general fear what is coming and that is the changing demographics of a re-envisioned America. Blacks and Hispanics are making up more and more of the population and are thus put together red hot, Democratic-leaning electoral voting blocs much to the dismay of the inconsolable Tea Partiers.
After almost selling the American economy down the river, Tea Partiers still refuse to adjust their severing stride. They will not stop tirelessly looking for ways to burn the house down if we let them. What a misfortune it is to have this fanatical threat in our great democracy.