I happen to like Matt Taibbi’s writing chops. Indeed, were I a member of the left-wing intelligentsia whose definition of journalism is to first come up with a thesis and then go off in search of evidence to support it (while ignoring other bits of inconvenient truths), I am sure I would want to adopt his very readable style. But alas, I am not a progressive partisan, and as such found myself holding my nose and crawling through the sewer-pipe that was his latest article in Rolling Stone in which he makes no bones about his motive to eviscerate the Tea Party movement, for which he holds primeval contempt. Indeed, the title of his hatchet job, “Tea & Crackers, How Corporate Interests and Republican Insiders Built the Tea Party Monster“ is all one needs to know about where his piece is going. But, I figured what the hell, I’ll bite.
Now, first off let me say that I do not consider myself a ‘Tea Partier’ per se. (And as you will see, I readily admit that there is some merit in Taibbi’s criticisms, his condescension aside.) But as a small-business owner and family man I am sympathetic to the over-arching theme of the movement which as I see it can be distilled thusly: centralized government has grown too large and powerful; current deficits are shameful; the welfare state is unsustainable; Washington is run by entrenched career politicians who are out of touch because they need not live in the world they create for the rest of us; we presently have an administration that seems hell-bent on implementing a European-style social democracy at the very same time we are watching those models across the pond collapse under the weight of mathematics; and that, in general, America is an exceptional country and the premier force for good in the world, short-comings and occasional botched policies notwithstanding.
With that said, in the interest of fairness, let me begin by relating to you where I found myself nodding in agreement as I read Matt’s piece. He points out that some in the Tea Party movement with whom he interacted are hypocritical in their calls for smaller government. He makes his case forcefully in describing one rally he attended as: “A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government.” It is the classic paradox of the clarion calls to “keep government out of my Medicare!” Leaving the ‘white’ part aside for a second, score one for Matt here. I have argued in the past that there are those in the libertarian wing of conservatism who first need to do some introspection and ask themselves just how entwined in the web of government subsidies and programs they really are . Do they seriously want cuts in all spending–or just to the other guys’ pet programs? Are they willing to forgo social security? Medicare? Farm subsidies? There is an old expression: “it all depends on whose ox is being gored.” Taibbi justifiably doubts the credibility of those who seem incapable of seeing their own dependency on an evil big government even as they call for its dismantling.
He also correctly points out that many of these fiscal hawks were curiously silent during the administration of George W. Bush whose spending spree on new Medicare prescription drug initiatives and two wars ballooned the national deficit. Why no Tea Party movement then? He asks. What was the tipping point? Why were Bush deficits acceptable, but Obama deficits a national travesty? Again, no argument there. Although in this case, one plausible explanation could be that as a nation we were distracted by a post-9/11 outlook, engrossed through much of the mid-2000s with the wars being waged rather than the more wonkish issue of federal spending overruns. But two things happened to awaken a discontentment that had actually been brewing for some time during the latter half of the Bush years. The financial crisis exposed the corruption of the system and the perils of debt spending encouraged by Washington’s push for “affordable housing”, enabled by the manipulating banks, and abused by the undisciplined population at large… and then Obama embarked on a series of unpopular spending initiatives and policy shifts to the left that positively dwarfed his predecessor’s reckless deficit spending. In short, while many were nervous that Bush may be driving the bus over the cliff, they see Obama as the one who detonated a grenade in it. That combined with the President’s far left of center agenda and foreign policy apologetics was enough to ignite dissent.
Anyway, for a the first page or so I was thinking this article isn’t so bad despite its title. Ah, but then the Matt Taibbi we have come to know and love through his commentary reveals itself. For Matt, like many on the far left, can only see one possible explanation for the genesis of the movement. The Tea Party’s appeal must be rooted in… (wait for it)… RACISM! Well of course! And so (yawn) here we go again.
Taibbi offers as evidence that at a right-wing Gospel rally in Kentucky he didn’t see a single black face (doubtful, but for sake of argument we’ll take him at his word). Therefore, the Tea Party is a racist movement. I would imagine if he set foot in a Baptist Church in Harlem he wouldn’t see a single white face. Would that make the entire Baptist Church an anti-white organization? Here’s a thought. Could it be more a matter of mathematics than attitude that the Tea Party is predominantly white? This is an admittedly ad hoc equation, but do the numbers: Blacks made up 13% of the 2008 electorate. Now, in the last election 94% voted Democrat. So, in all of the country, the pool of black Americans who did not vote Democrat is just 6% of 13% or a mere .78% of the total voting population. That is a pool of roughly 1 million people. This paltry sample out of a voting population of over 131 million. Perhaps then the true story behind the mostly white complexion of the rallies is not that blacks are excluded, but rather an overwhelming number of them are affiliated with the opposition party. Cynically keeping an entire race captive as wards of the state to ensure a reliable voting block suits the Democratic Party and profiteering race hustlers like Al Sharpton just fine. But it belies Taibbi’s thesis of rampant bigotry inside the Tea Party movement and, by default, a GOP which has fielded more black candidates this election cycle than ever before.
Among many charges Taibbi claims that: “They blame the financial crisis on poor Black homeowners” Really? I didn’t know Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the execs at Fannie, Freddie , AIG, various Wall Street banks, Countrywide (just to name a few culprits with whom the Tea Partiers I know have issue) are poor black men. Franklin Raines is black, yes, but hardly poor. He goes on to harp on the right’s “reports about how the New Black Panthers want to ‘kill cracker babies.'” Is that not what their Philly leader King Samir Shabazz said? Try to imagine Taibbi’s outrage if a Tea Partier suggested “killing non-white babies.” And since when is questioning racial favoritism in the Justice Department off limits? Incredibly Taibbi even sees racism in the Tea Partiers’ objections to Charlie Rangel, who, yes, happens to be black. So what? Naturally, it has nothing to do with him a being chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee who cheats on his taxes. Does he honestly believe that were Rangel white he’d get a pass? Give me a break Matt! I myself have penned several articles on Rangel’s indiscretions.
As you can tell, the man’s color never enters my mind. But it does enter Matt’s. And that’s the point isn’t it? In fact, to label Taibbi as a tad race-obsessed is about as much of a stretch as to label DeNiro’s Al Capone handy with a baseball bat. And, propelled by his textbook liberal white guilt complex, Taibbi’s race-tainted Louisville slugger comes whistling down hard on the back of the head of a movement that in my travels I have found to be anything but racist.
Of course, Louisville is the place to profile if you are Taibbi trying to take a caricature of a movement you have created in your head and then force it to come to life. Now, I do not wish to disparage my fellow Americans from below the Mason-Dixon line (Ohio River in Kentucky’s case) but no one will confuse a creationist museum in rural Kentucky with the Guggenheim. But that is the world into which Taibbi voluntarily immerses himself for his showpiece article, presenting himself as a Jane Goodall amongst the chimps. In his mind, the Tea Party is a bunch of “Pissed-off white people [again with the race thing Matt?] sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by banks that advertise on Fox and CNBC.” To him they are a mob of mindless, toothless, bigoted, gullible hicks, doing the bidding of their establishment GOP handlers and the Koch brothers. And since he won’t find many people even remotely resembling that description in my state, rallying on the courthouse steps of Morristown or Trenton, New Jersey as they did last year, then it is off to Appalachia ye go!
Ostensibly his premise is that as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is a Tea Party favorite, it is therefore in Kentucky where one will find the heart and soul of the movement. How convenient for him. Well guess what? Go into any hinterland and you probably will find a few bona fide racists still…especially among the pre-Civil Rights era elders. Curiously though, he does not cite one example of an overtly racial act in this entire article. No ‘n’ words. No intentional exclusions. No racially charged signs. Instead, as proof of racist elements behind every “nobama” button he offers up a few older characters who believe that the federal government doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to prohibit racial discrimination in private businesses. (Or prohibit smoking either so I suppose they are lung cancer advocates as well). I too disagree with this ultra-libertarianism, but I understand their cases, which are grounded in the subtly of interpretation of federal authority as best summed up by: “If you’re for small government you’re for small government.” It does not mean that those who are such Constitutional purists are thus racist. But, wink wink, sure they are. They’re just too stupid to know it! But Taibbi of the enlightened class sure gets them. Regardless, there are racist crackpots in every crowd, left or right. That is inevitable at such events. And if there are some present amid the Tea Party throngs, then they would have a lot in common with the racists in crowds who cheer Al Sharpton or, if I may, sit for decades in silent assent in the pews of Jeremiah Wright.
The thing is, it never dawns on guys like Taibbi who deal out the race card with the proficiency of a riverboat gambler that perhaps of all the people viewing the world through race-tinted glasses, he is among the biggest offenders. Oh right, I forgot, only right-wingers are capable of racism. A white male left-wing journalist who spends so much of his time characterizing everyone and everything he sees on the basis of ethnicity, who surely sees a black person or a white person rather than just a person, surely is not a racist at all. Just ask him. This is a man who, in a discussion with Dana Loesch recently, found Glenn Beck’s rally “offensive” because all he saw was “100,000 white people gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.” Don’t tell that to Alveda King. Again, race, race and more race from this post-racial reporter. When pressed, however, he admitted he wasn’t even there.
Taibbi’s Tea Party = Racism smear campaign does offer a fascinating glimpse into the conceit of those in the modern progressive movement who simply cannot see any rational reason for opposing an agenda of universal healthcare, wealth re-distribution, open borders and amnesty, acquiescence to the UN, and Keynesian top-down economic stimulus programs. As much as they pay lip service to “the marketplace of ideas” liberals stopped caring about any opinions but their own a long time ago – and are quick to either patronize or demonize those with opposing views, all the while preaching tolerance. (Ask Juan Williams). This close-mindedness is grounded in a sense of intellectual and moral superiority through which they view their place in the world. It is a condescending attitude that practically oozes off the pages of this article. They see themselves as the sole arbiters or truth, justice, and enlightened thought and so if you oppose them you cannot be doing so from a reasonable point of view. Therefore some baser motivation must be driving this opposition to their iconic symbol, Barack Obama, who by the way is black. Ah-hah! Any opposition must be driven by racial animosity then. And that is the arrogant premise from which the Matt Taibbi’s of the world strike out in search of their stories. The problem for him is that outside of the dwindling group of the MSM faithful, no one but themselves are buying the false narrative anymore. And so, as the election nears, and they see the tidal wave of rejection (based on principles, not skin color) of so much of what they stand for – and thought they had finally achieved in 2008 – building on the horizon, they will lash out with ever more disingenuous pieces that masquerade as journalism.
[To Be Continued – Taibbi’s Confusion Over Illegal Immigration – If There Is Such A Thing To Him]