Friday, September 17, 2010


First Howard Dean declared that building an Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero, in an area where two mosques already exist, would be an "affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims." Now there's this:

Howard Dean ... expressed a surprising admiration for the mad-as-hell tea party movement....

The former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Vermont governor [spoke] at a forum on the 2010 midterms sponsored by Hofstra University on Thursday....

"I actually approve of most of what the tea party is doing... I think it's great to have individuals reach out to take their own responsibility for their own [future] and lashing out against government that has really forgotten them... but I also believe that there is a fringe of racism in the tea party, which unfortunately for the tea party that is focused on” by the media.

He blamed the “liberal media” for focusing on the “Obama is a Nazi” posters instead of the party's populist undercurrents but also said "FOX runs these race-baiting programs… aimed at ginning up the racists attitudes that you see." ...

So, to sum up:

(1) The tea party movement is swell.
(2) The tea party movement would be even sweller if than nasty Fox News wouldn't poison the noble patriots' minds with racist notions.
(3) There's nothing good to be said about stinky old liberals -- we sneer at the tea party movement and our vast propaganda machine keeps mischaracterizing these wonderful patriots as haters, which they really, really aren't, or are only because they're brainwashed.

There's a lot going on here. One obvious point is that this is the same guy who said during his presidential bid that he wanted "to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." I think what he meant was that those pickup-truck guys are just economic populist/progressives who just don't know that that's what they are -- and he seems to be saying the same thing now. He seems to be echoing the Firebagger line that, deep down, lefties and tea partiers really want the same things.

I don't think that's completely crazy -- we don't know whether these people would respond to genuine economic progressivism because Democrats never really offer it -- but Dean is overlooking the deep roots of the teabaggers' cultural resentments. Fox may tap into those resentments, but Fox didn't create them out of whole cloth in the past year and a half. The right has been nurturing those resentments for decades, and they're quite self-sustaining by now.

And it's not just race. Dean says:

If you look at the tea party they are all people of my complexion and my age... there are a lot of people who are my age and my color who can't get their arms around the idea that this country is going to look like California in 40 years in that there's not going to be a [white] majority... That is a very hard pill to swallow if you are an American who is my age. That is a swirling issue that nobody wants to talk about.

I think Paul Krugman got closer to the truth a few weeks ago:

Anyone who remembered the 1990s could have predicted something like the current political craziness. What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don't consider government by liberals -- even very moderate liberals -- legitimate. Mr. Obama's election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn't, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.

It's race -- but it's also anger at Easterners, Northerners, Ivy Leaguers, wine-sippers, non-Fox media controllers, secularists, feminists, gays, non-gun owners, believers in separation of church and state ... the whole damn lot of us. There'd be less rage if Obama were really improving the economy, but the rage would still be there. Fox sustains it, but Fox didn't invent it. And quite a bit of it will never go away, no matter how much outreach we do.

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