Class/Cultural reactions to the tea party


Lisa Kramer

Lisa Kramer is a contributing contributor at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Erm, why would you like the dividing line to be comfortably class-based?Report

  2. Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

    As opposed to culture-based? I’m not advocating Marxism, just a bit of a return to the political dividing lines throughout American history that started getting jumbled in the ’50s.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Lisa Kramer, be careful what you wish for.

      I suspect, on one level, that’s also one of the inevitable outcomes of the tea party movement (assuming it doesn’t Perot out (again)).Report

      • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

        @Jaybird, What’s one of the inevitable outcomes? The breakdown by class?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Lisa Kramer, the return of political dividing lines.

          One of the current criticisms I keep seeing is that “you can’t tell the difference between the two parties”.

          If the tea parties get their way, that criticism, for better or worse, will cease to be particularly accurate.Report

          • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

            @Jaybird, It’s an interesting take, and – if you mean that it would lead to deeper ideological entrenchment – you’re right, I wouldn’t want it.

            My own take isn’t that you can’t tell the difference between the parties; I’m actually much more partisan than I am ideological. I just wish income and education were more telling predictors of voting choice than church attendance or geographic region. I don’t know that the Tea Party (if it doesn’t “Perot out”) would have any impact on that.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            @Jaybird, I can’t really see hpw that wouldn’t be a good thing (not that I agree it will happen). From what I can see, the TPs represent a stark cultural conservatism married to pretty hard-core Nineteenth Century laissez-faire economics (kind of the anti-Liberaltarian ideal). In this respect, I take Greenwald’s point, that they’re really just a super-charged version of the Republican Party minus the corporate welfare, if the Republican Party really believed in its platform. It would be good if the Tea Parties purified the Republican commitment to its stated objectives, because it would allow the us to have a real political (rather than merely partisan) fight over those ideas, both on the merits in debate, and in elections after seeing results. Unfortunately, I don’t think the TPs will ultimately change the GOP’s MO of crony capitalism and cheap cultural opportunism, so it’s not likely we’re going to get to have that fight any time soon.Report

  3. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Ok, boys and girls, read this one:
    and follow the link to a really, really excellent essay.Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer says:

      @Robert Cheeks, I actually found this article and wrote up some notes for a response a few weeks ago, but it never came together and I never bothered to post it. Maybe I’ll pull it together and give it another shot sometime soon. Anyway, I think this misses a lot of points to be honest. Ironic reference to Brooks’ and Friedman’s “shlock sociology” since that sums this up in large part as well. Still, it’s a good read and I do find a couple of points of agreement. Thanks for posting the link.Report

  4. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    I’m already looking forward to your critque. I do find the “ruling class” vs the “country class” paradigm very intriguing and a explanation for the contemporary “climate of opinion” that seems to unhinge/anger my “elitest” friends more than being labelled “librul.”Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      @Robert Cheeks, I think a lot of the difference is based upon resentment of the elite classes telling people what is good for them, and treating them as semi-children. You should not live in a suburb… Its almost a modern version of puritanism. Obama in his comments about working class people at the fund raiser had actually a good point, that these folks feel the elite don’t care about them or their lives, they are just the same as the elite 130 year ago, except now from academia as well as business.
      For example the complaint about to much regulation at the federal level, suprisingly a lot of the federal regulations come about because different states want to do different regulations, and industry prefers the US to be a single market thus federal pre-emption of regulation (see auto efficency standards, and low flow toilets for examples).Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @Lyle, The thing is, the resentment of elites is far often just a way of saying some people don’t have legitimate opinions. Calling someone an “elite” is just a form of calling them The Other. *** How dare those people, those elites have different opinions, we are the good Americans and we know what is right, how dare somebody think different. ** It’s are really effective way of avoiding actually discussing the issue throught stoking anger.

        So if some group of dreaded evil professors or who live in those lesser american states, you know, the blue ones, say maybe suburbanization has a real down side, its far easier to name call and say they are not worthy then actually discuss the positives and negatives of suburbs and how we should build our communities.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          @greginak, Lyle and G-Man, I’m not buying your the essay, if you haven’t. It would be one thing if the ‘elites’ had a good idea now and then, but they rarely do (see Imam Barry and his coterie of elitists’s performance the past year and half).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Robert Cheeks, what disappoints me is how low the bar is.

      When I was a kid, elites totally were. You actively felt intimidated because they were better educated, had a better vocabulary, and these were likely indicators that they were smarter than you.


      Ugh. We’re dealing with elites who don’t appear to read for pleasure.

      That’s f’ed up, yo.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        @Jaybird, The Brits call it the “lucky sperm club”. The aristocracy always declines because they eventually realize they don’t need to make such effort. You wind up with Paris Hilton who, if not for a lucky birth, would be hanging out at the beach asking passersby for change.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        @Jaybird, Yes, but I’m not so sure the elites have declined or decided to wear the hairshirt of egalitarianism, so they can say “yo,yo,yo!”.
        They may have been better edumacted fifty years ago or so, but I’m pretty sure that anyone with an IQ over 90 and a practicing autodidact is, intellectually, far superior to your run-of-the-mill Ivy League grad.
        In the same way, the silly girl, Ms. O’Donnell, from the People’s Republic of Delaware, is a much better senate candidate, in terms of republicanism, than her well edumacated, self-proclaimed, epigonic Marxist.
        It ain’t rocket science.

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      @Robert Cheeks, That is indeed a very interesting essay, Bob. I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with most of what he says about specific policies and their detrimental impact on people’s lives, but disagreeing with the class based analysis in which he frames it all. In spite of my disagreement, I think he explains the right-wing populist point of view very well, from a sympathetic perspective. That makes is especially important to point out why the point of view he’s explicating is wrong.

      Lets look at exactly how Professor Codevilla defines his ruling class, because its instructive. Apparently the ruling class is defined by “connection with ever bigger government” and “a certain attitude”. He says explicitly that money, academic achievement and professional competence are irrelevant. He also implies that actual power is irrelevant too – he explicitly says that Ronald Reagan was never part of his ruling class, but that Elena Kagan was in 1984. I think we can all agree that Ronald Regan had more power than Elena Kagan in 1984. So whatever else it may be this ruling class isn’t defined by actually ruling anything.

      This isn’t necessarily a fatal problem with the argument. England was until recently an unashamedly class-ridden place, and yet the institutions of British power have included people who refused to assimilate into the ruling class (or more accurately classes) for a long time, and yet were somewhat excluded from actually exercising power by the informal ties between other office-holders. Does something similar hold in the present American situation? It will always hold everywhere to some extent – its unavoidable that people who went to school together call one another up and collaborate – but the question is, is it significant? Prof. Cordevilla really does nothing to show that it is, and the argument that Ronald Regan, Clarence Thomas and Richard Lindzen were somehow prevented from exercising power by the tacit cooperation of the rest of the establishment doesn’t really pass the vaguely plausibility test – all of these people had far more influence of American public life than Elena Kagan has had as yet.

      So this ruling class that doesn’t actually rule any more than anyone else does is defined by exactly what? Cordevilla never spells out what exactly the “connection” to expanding government and the “attitude” of the not-really-ruling class are. He leaves it helpfully vague, but we can see where he’s going and he confirms it when he puts both Presidents Bush firmly in the “ruling class”. What distinguishes this class isn’t power or really anything to do with power, but belief – belief that government can change things for the better.

      But this isn’t a class based analysis at all! Classes are distinguished by their roles in the state or in society, not by beliefs. This is just an ideological analysis dressed up in Marxist drag. Cordevilla is making the familiar conservative argument that government should not be used to change society. Which is fine and all, but why dress it up?

      One can only speculate about the Professor’s motivations, but quite clearly the presentation is in tune with the times – large swathes of the public perceive both a failure of government to do what they need it to do, and an almost-simultaneous expansion of government, and conclude that its being run in someone else’s interest. They want to know who that someone is, and those who believe in government as an instrument of good make a convenient target, since they have either failed or were lying about their intent.

      Unfortunately this sentiment is mistaken, and talking about it in terms of class rather than ideology simply serves to hide the error by pinning blame. The public wants sharply contradictory things – we want security but don’t want to pay for wars, we want medicare but don’t want the government to ration healthcare, we want insurers to be forced to cover everyone but don’t want to have to buy insurance, we want our savings to return a steady 5% but don’t want the government to bail out banks. This isn’t because the public is stupid, but because we have sharply differing priorities and the government generally resolves those priorities by spending too much money and not collecting enough in taxes simply because its much easier to win elections that way. No conspiracy of elites is required.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        @Simon K, Thanks, Simon, for your insightful and indepth analysis.
        For me, human nature almost demands ‘a conspiracy of elites’ simply because of the ever popular ‘libido dominandi,’ and in that experience understand what it is that ‘some’ will do to obtain and maintain that condition.
        Where I agree with you is in the good professor’s analysis of exactly who the ‘elites’ are. There’s something I can’t put my finger on that isn’t quite right. Perhaps, the analysis fails to take into account that (1) these so-called ‘eliteists’ are dreamers, in a Marxian sense, where the burden of existence is grounded on the hope/desire/longing for a state of perfection. And, (2) we must remember that this is a recent phenomenon associated with the Enlightenment and the collapse of faith in the Divine ground. These modern elitists are then grounded in the self, and in so doing overcome the three phases of Marxian existence by defining what is in fact the second phase of the pathology as the attainment of ‘social justice.’ But, it is important to understand that the vast majority of the elitist class are epigonic (vulgarian) Marxists, who very simply have derailed existence into a world-immanent condition and, consequently, have lost the meaning of existence.
        Another point I’d make is that in my opinion, the founding of the Republic marked a period harmony and as an outstanding example of the ‘polis.’ What we experience now, is a disintegrating, a collapse of the order of society in the pressure cooker of man’s passions, lusts, ‘intellectual and spiritual ‘ quests, etc.
        The hope lies, not with the elitists, rather with the ‘country class’ who still retain some memory of the symbols of the old republic.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          @Robert Cheeks, There is a point of agreement there – if there is hope, it always lies with the proles. Elites, whether they’re party members, academics, or senators, are just window dressing.Report

          • Avatar gregiank says:

            @Simon K, well its good to know there is group you can hate and blame everything on while heaping laurels on the noble good people.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              @gregiank, I think there are ‘elites’ that seek the Good. Not many, and not often but they’re out there. Most of the elites are living in Hegelian Second Realities, a charming albiet evil corruption that’s overrun the West. The truth Nietzsche said, “..we do not need it, we would come to power and victory even without the truth.” And, so it is.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              @gregiank, How’d you read that into what I said, Greg? If you read me earlier, longer, less flippant, less George-Orwell-quoting comment, you should find I was arguing more-or-less the reverse or I’ve completely and utterly failed to communicate.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            @Simon K, In theory ‘elites’ can serve the ‘good,’ as well. The dichotomy, as you’ve pointed out, is in the individual and not the whole, unless there’s an ideological pathology that infects the whole. The Greeks were looking for an ‘elite’, defined within the Good, and grounded on the Divine that could provide the leadership for the polis that we could describe as ‘order.’
            The problem for us today, modernity, is what Whitehead called ‘the climate of opinion.’ We do not, generally speaking, seek the truth of reality. We are captured by the ‘climate of opinion,’ and can not see the truth. The good news is, some can, and they’re the ones we should get to know. I would like to explain the phenomenon in terms of ‘open existence’ and ‘closed existence,’ but there is the leakage, so it isn’t a clear separation.Report

  5. Avatar gregiank says:

    @simon- I have to admit i find the entire elite vs good ol american thing to be simply Us vs Them: White Rural Edition. I think your first comment was very good and nuanced. However i don’t think its possible to have a society without some sort of elite type person, even if that is just the village head man or religious leader. Our sainted founding fathers were all elites in almost all senses. “Elite” is just another way of saying i disagree with your political beliefs. Well with a supersized helping of self-righteousness. I don’t think that is that far from what you said.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      @gregiank, That is indeed pretty close to what I said. In fact I’ll go further – the American public is stuck in a violent disagreement between what it wants and what its prepared to do in order to get it, in which the “elites” who can’t magically create candy out of cowshit are just innocent bystanders. This is part of what I mean when I say that elites are just window dressing – they always have far less power than we like to pretend they do, and any change actually has to be driven by movements deeply embedded in society. Simply chucking out the elite just creates a new elite which ends up almost indistinguishable from the old one (back to George Orwell again).Report

  6. Avatar Jeff says:

    When the spectacle is stripped away, I do see something that, at its core, is much closer to libertarianism than traditional Republicanism, even the more vitriolic Republicanism of the last decades. But that’s a lot of layers of spectacle to strip away, so I understand why the point can be debated.

    Late to the party (I only ocassionally read this blog), but this is just so much hog-wash. It has become Accepted Wisdom, dispite being manifestly wrong.

    The Tea Party started as a libertarian anti-tax anti-government movement, but it hasn’t been that in well over a year, since Glen Beck et al co-opted the movement. It’s now a bunch of know-nothing (See the hatred of Medicare-for-all and the love of Medicare-for-me, “Obama is a soshulist, Muslim Hitler”), racist (it’s not a “small number of outliers” when the leaders of the movement — Beck, Lindbaugh, et al — are out-and-out racists), mean spirited a-holes.

    You’d think libertarians would be denouncing the Tea Party as it has come to be.Report