In Berkeley (pause for jokes) recently, liberal academics gathered to discuss the Tea Party movement: Radical Shriek, from Slate. How wonderful, I thought. The nation’s most stalwart bastion of leftward thinking has finally deemed us worthy of consideration.
My excitement was short-lived, as are many of my dreams of constructive dialogue these days. Turns out that the gathering was sponsored by the two-year-old Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe social movements are a legitimate object of study. It does seem odd to me, though, to start with the premise, “Why are these groups so screwed up?”
“Prospects for an American Neo-Fascism” reads the abstract for one paper. Perhaps the authors think that Tea Parters are practicing goose-stepping in preparation for…hmmmmmm…we’ll have to ask the authors. One of my favorites was a paper abstract on cognitive biases. The findings, from a sample size small enough to embarrass most statisticians into silence, are:
…that strongly held pre-existing beliefs (particularly economic and political individualist ideology) heavily impacted levels of dissatisfaction with government policy and choices of information consumed.
Reread that and tell me if I have it wrong. Are the authors saying that we might be dissatisfied with government because of our beliefs? And that this might influence what we read? Oh, it’s not just me? Whew!
Let’s sort out a couple of things, my esteemed Berkeley-ites. I am a researcher as well, but let’s not drift into academic jargon. Let me instead be plain and straightforward. First, “right-wing” is generally taken to mean some variation on conservatism, and not a flattering one. Many Tea Partiers are anything but conservative, at least if we think of conservatives as those frowning sorts who point long accusing fingers at us for not having “family values.” To anyone who still doesn’t get it, Tea Partiers want three things. Read them:
- Fiscal responsibility
- Constitutionally limited government
- Free markets
There. That’s it. Nothing complicated, nothing sinister. We don’t want to make you go to church, believe in creationism, or stop watching porn at home. We don’t want you to wear lederhosen and march to military music. We don’t care if you wear short shorts or suits without a tie. We are not interested in whether you like baseball, Mom, or apple pie. We don’t care if you fall in love with someone of the same sex, or even a different species. You are an adult–you make those choices. We want to do the same. Now there’s an idea worth studying.
Terry has never worn lederhosen.