Actually, Tea Party Types Love Government – As Long As It Benefits Them And Not the Poor

You may have missed it, but there’s a lot of soul searching going on among the younger crop of conservative big thinkers. Most of it seems to miss the point that is plain as day everyone else: the conservative movement has been hijacked by corporatists whose sole reason for seeking power is to funnel taxpayer funds into the coffers of their corporate masters — people who will lie, cheat and steal to win elections, but then have nothing but disdain for the icky part that comes afterward, i.e., governing.

Tea baggers were content to veg out and watch “Idol” or NASCAR during the Bush years while the Republicans exploded the size of government, along with deficits and debt. It took the prospect of a black president providing health insurance to poor people to get them riled up off their couches and into the streets.

There’s a paradox that is clear to the rest of us that these insider big thinkers also apparently have missed. The rise of the tea partiers is both a reaction to and a creation of this same corporatist junta that runs the movement and its public face, the GOP.

Via Sully — in the midst of Conor Friedersdorf’s call for reinvigorating conservatism by moving away from Bush-era big-government toward small-government libertarianism, he comes upon the truth behind tea baggers’ call for reducing the size of government:

In my experience, the average Tea Party adherent doesn’t have a blanket distrust of institutions — and far from it. He reveres the American military, imagines that American soldiers can successfully establish a functioning democracy in Iraq, doesn’t object when even a Commander-in-Chief he loathes invokes sweeping powers to fight terrorism, generally trusts the criminal justice system to effect fair outcomes, affords police officers the benefit of the doubt when they arrest Harvard professors or suspected drug dealers or especially suspected terrorists, believes that local government officials in Arizona can enforce federal immigration law without unduly impinging on the civil liberties of legal residents and American citizens, wishes that Christian churches played a more influential role in American life, etc. I don’t mean to imply that Tea Party attendees are uniform in their beliefs — there is more intellectual diversity than is commonly supposed — but what I’ve just described are all commonly held views.

This goes deeper than the baggers’ superficial “Don’t steal from Medicare to support socialized medicine” sort of hypocrisy. A less charitable way to say it is that tea partiers like what government does for them, but they hate what it does for poor people, by which they mean people with brown skin, and not lower middle-class and poor white people.

Remember, they were content to veg out and watch “Idol” or NASCAR during the Bush years while the Republicans exploded the size of government, along with deficits and debt. It took the prospect of a black president providing health insurance to poor people — you know, like they do in every other industrialized country — to get them riled up off their couches and into the streets.

Of course, they are wrong about government poverty programs primarily benefiting brown-skinned people. The official poverty level is $22,050 in income or less for a family of four. By that measure, according to 2007 U.S. Census figures, 8.6 percent of white Americans, so about 19.6 million out of 228.2 million, were living in poverty. By comparison, 23.2 percent of Latinos, so about 10.8 million out of 46.9 million, were poor, while 24.7 percent of African Americans, so 9.2 million out of 37.6 million, lived in poverty. So according to the Census, the number of poor white Americans is equal to the number of poor blacks and Latinos combined.

The CBS/NYT poll of tea baggers last month found that they were better off financially and more educated than their appearance and demeanor suggests. What this suggests is that there is more than racism behind the tea baggers’ antipathy toward social programs, of course. There’s also a whiff of class-ism, along with a healthy dollop of greed.

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