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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


respect, but don't fear, the Tea Parties

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, April 16, 2009 permalink View blog reactions
Yesterday's nationwide Tea Bagger tax protests seem to have been reasonably successful, with total turnout probably at least a couple of hundred thousand people. Despite dogma by the conservative blogsphere that the media was ignoring them, it seems that coverage was everywhere - including on NPR, which even interviewed Glenn Reynolds.

One of the more fairly written articles about these protests was at The Daily Beast, which pointed out that there was also a substantial Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS) mentality running through them:

But when I saw the giant placard which read “Hussein = Commie,” the time had come for some counseling. The guy holding the sign looked like he could have come over on the subway from Williamsburg, wearing a hoodie, sunglasses, and an iPod. I asked him if the sign was serious. Oh, yes. “Every-time he opens his mouth he spouts textbook Marxism, Communism, Socialism,” said the man who initially gave his name as “Barry Soetoro”—Obama’s name when he lived in Indonesia as a child. After some prodding, it turned out the protester was named Ted Houvouras, a Manhattan real estate executive with a degree in economics from Georgetown. The pedigree didn’t make his analysis any more persuasive, but it hammered home one point clearly. Hating President Obama has already become a cottage industry for a hard-core fringe, as it was for Clinton après-Monica and Bush after the invasion of Iraq.
The conservatives organizing these events kept studiously repeating the apparently poll-tested line that these rallies were not about Republicans or Democrats, but their appeal is self-evidently partisan. It’s part of the “patriotic resistance” recruitment drives that started popping up online days after the election. It brings to mind loaded old slogans like Nixon’s “silent majority.” And when the president is cast as somehow un-American there is a rank ugliness to the sentiments that are being stirred. It may be good for ratings, but it’s bad for the country.

Given that these people were essentially protesting the expiration of tax cuts that President Bush intended to expire, amounting to a few percentage points for the topmost tax bracket, the stated rationale for the protests comes across as rather selfish, the antithesis of "Country First". Still, there is a real policy difference at the heart of these protests, the belief that government should be smaller, and thus the tax burden should be lower. However the fundamental problem with this philosophy is that "big" government is not the problem, it's bad government that is. The simple truth is that government is not going to get smaller, and rightly so; the challenges of the modern world require it. In a sense these protests are a denial that elections have consequences; to expect a liberal president to pursue a course of government reduction is absurd, and given that he won't (and the American people prefer it that way), then either he raises taxes or he doesn't. Not raising taxes, the fundamental goal of these protestors, would inflate the deficit far, far worse than raising them a minor amount (as Obama is proposing to do). And yet it is deficit spending that these protestors claim to be against.

A simple rebuttal to the tax parties is this: why weren't you worried about deficit spending when you supported the Iraq War? They have no answer other than to point lamely to their signs now accusing Bush alongside of Obama for being "part" of the problem, but again, there were no protests on Tax Day the past eight years.

Related: Dear Conservative Teabaggers at Daily Kos.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.