Stop Slandering the Tea Party

When your name isn’t uncommon, a Google alert can be interesting. Through the wonders of that daily e-mail, I’ve learned about the cool David French (British military historian), the transgender pick-ax-murderer David French, and — yesterday — the National Retail Federation’s Tea Party-insulting David French. As the David French that represents 41 tea-party groups in a lawsuit against the IRS, it was a little jarring getting an e-mail quoting “David French” celebrating the budget deal and saying this: “I think we have all said it. The business community has been uniformly frustrated at how strident the ideological groups have been in defiance of reason.”

Well, shame on you, David French, for perpetuating the slander that the Tea Party is irrational.

It’s not just my evil twin, of course. The Left has long portrayed the Tea Party as nuts, and many Republicans are now slinging the same mud.

For a long time, our culture has allegedly celebrated those who “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” or — to use a favorite phrase of the Bush years — “speak truth to power.” Of course the vast majority of that rhetoric was and is a pure sham, the words the cultural elite have used to pat themselves on the back for their own stands — stands taken in the safety of like-minded cultural bastions, invariably to the thunderous applause of their peers.

Then along comes the Tea Party, actually afflicting the comfortable and speaking truth to power. And guess what? It’s not all that fun for the comfortable and powerful.

And so the captain and officers of the ship of state howl and wail and moan at their discomfort – angry at tea-party tactics, shocked at tea-party anger, and puzzled that they’re not trusted to turn the ship from the course they chose.

I fully acknowledge that the process of political and cultural change is both painful and messy. Sometimes rhetoric is overheated, sometimes good politicians are wrongly targeted while true culprits skate by unscathed, and sometimes even the best-intentioned reformers simply make the wrong call about a given bill. But none of that is “crazy.” It’s just human.

Here’s what’s crazy; here’s what’s “in defiance of reason” – that we’ve created a political process so focused on using the power of government to provide financial benefits to the largest number of people (including interest groups like the National Retail Federation) that we’ve made financial promises we can’t possibly keep and that will, if not corrected by reforms that will be painful for millions, lead us to economic and moral ruin.

Here’s what’s also crazy: The idea that the best remedy for this now-generally-acknowledged crisis is to turn largely to the same people who engineered it and beg them to rescue us from the crisis they made.

It’s also crazy to then write off any critique of the political class as “irrational” or “unhinged” unless the critique is delivered according to norms of civility that invariably run only one way and that were utterly inapplicable to our current political class during their own rise to power.

As I’ve said in previous posts, in the battle of ideas, stigma tends to defeat dogma, and the political class — along with allied media — is working overtime to stigmatize the Tea Party into oblivion. But, ultimately, reality trumps talking points, and the “crazy” Tea Party has a much firmer grasp on our fiscal challenge than the political class that scorns them so.

Read more on the Patheos Faith and Family Channel and follow David on Twitter.

  • Kevin

    Care to address some of the substantive beliefs which comprise the basis for the criticisms against the tea party? Less than half of tea partiers believe that the President was born in the U.S., despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Is it “crazy” to criticize this belief as irrational?

    • David French

      President Obama’s newest senior adviser, John Podesta, just called Republicans in Congress a “cult worthy of Jonestown.” Who’s crazy?

      • AshleyWB

        You’ve got the spin game down. Never admit your team is wrong about anything, just change the subject to something the other team is wrong about.

        So when are you running for Congress?

        • David French

          You must not have read the post if you say I never admit my team is wrong about anything. Here’s what I said: “I fully acknowledge that the process of political and cultural change is both painful and messy. Sometimes rhetoric is overheated, sometimes good politicians are wrongly targeted while true culprits skate by unscathed, and sometimes even the best-intentioned reformers simply make the wrong call about a given bill. But none of that is “crazy.” It’s just human.”

          • Sven2547

            Sometimes rhetoric is overheated, sometimes good politicians are wrongly targeted while true culprits skate by unscathed, and sometimes even the best-intentioned reformers simply make the wrong call about a given bill.

            Going back to Kevin’s point: which one of those categories do the “birthers” belong to?

          • ginalex

            Where in the above do you say that the Tea Party is wrong? What you have said is so vague that it can be easily interpreted different ways. You don’t specifically say that “your side” is wrong.

      • BT

        There is much rhetoric flying around that’s unhelpful. That’s one example.

        The emphasis being placed within the GOP on ideological purity is where the cult comment originates. It points out a legitimate problem, but not in a helpful way.

        The other thing that isn’t helpful is:
        “YOUR guy said THIS”
        “Yeah but YOUR guy said this OTHER thing”

        They all say stupid crap occasionally.

        And yes, the birthers ARE irrational. At least on that point.

      • Jim Bales

        My apologies for the duplicate post!

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      > Is it “crazy” to criticize this belief as irrational?

      One could inquire of Obama’s literary agents, the original “birthers.”

      P.S. I’ve never been to a tea party function nor sent them money. I just think St. Carlin—Goddess bless his Frisbeetarian soul stuck on a roof in Buffalo—was correct when he stated: “When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.”

      • MumbleMumble

        It’s irrational if you cling to a belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          > It’s irrational if you cling to a belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

          Take up your concern with Obama’s literary agents, OK?

          I’m no birther; I don’t care if Obama was born in Kenya or not. It’s just funny watching people hyperventilate at publicly verifiable evidence that goes against your position. (No, I’m not saying it is conclusive or even convincing, but you refuse to address it rationally.)

          • MumbleMumble

            Who’s hyperventilating? You mean the birthers? Yes, they are. And yes, it is funny watching it.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            You are: “It’s irrational if you cling to a belief…”

            Good lord, dude! Photographed publicly verifiable evidence isn’t irrational, nor does its presentation mean “I cling to a belief.”

            More often than not, I get called a liberal, and more than once I’ve pointed a tea-party person to this:

            ATLAS SHRIEKED: Ayn Rand’s First Love and Mentor Was A Sadistic Serial Killer Who Dismembered Little Girls
            exiledonline.com/atlas-shrieked-why-ayn-rands-right-wing-followers-are-scarier-than-the-manson-family-and-the-gruesome-story-of-the-serial-killer-who-stole-ayn-rands-heart/

            Enjoy that. :)

            But…I find tea-party detractors almost as nutty. Observe how they try to evade that Obama’s literary agents were the original “birthers.”

            Like St. George Carlin said….

          • MumbleMumble

            THAT was hyperventilating? You wouldn’t be making a strawman argument, would you?

            And are you aware of the huge amount of evidence pointing to Obama being born in Hawaii? Along with almost no evidence to the contrary? Your pamphlet is, as you said, not convincing. I’m not trying to evade anything. It was an error, made over twenty years ago. I don’t think the people who typed that up still think that Obama was born in Kenya.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > huge amount of evidence pointing to Obama being born in Hawaii?

            Reminds me of Fundamentalist Christian hyperventilating about the huge amount of evidence pointing to Jesus’ birth.

            Here’s your sign:

          • MumbleMumble

            You love making these ridiculous comparisons, don’t you?

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            Jefferson made me do it.

            “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

          • MumbleMumble

            Cool story, bro.

  • Sven2547

    Insulting someone is not the same as slandering someone.
    If I said “the Tea Party wants to massacre homosexuals”, or “the Tea Party is secretly aiding the KKK”, those would be slander (and libel if I published those claims).
    Saying “the Tea Party is irrational” is an opinion and an insult, but it’s not slander.

  • JasonMankey

    The Tea Party is completely out of touch with mainstream America. If anything is going to lead to our “moral and financial ruin” it’s the Tea Party. Attempting to legislate an outdated code of morality while treating certain parts of our citizenry as second class citizens will not make America a brighter and better place. Continued attempts to punish the poorest Americans by keeping wages down and vilifying anyone who needs a helping hand is only hurting our economy. Simply disagreeing with everything Obama does is not sound governance.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      > Attempting to legislate an outdated code of morality while treating certain parts of our citizenry as second class citizens

      Can’t have that.

      • MumbleMumble

        People don’t like guns because guns help some people kill lots of other people. People don’t like gays because a really old religious document tells them that homosexuality is wrong. You think these two arguments are synonymous?

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          Neat strawman there. Knock it down with glee!

          P.S. If fewer guns mean less murder, why is Washington D.C. the dual gun control and murder capital of the US, while here in the rural “red counties” of NW Ohio—armed to the teeth, you should here the racket at midnight New Year’s Eve—the murder rate is very low*, equivalent to western Europe’s?

          * Zero, actually.

          • MumbleMumble

            Ok, sorry. Why don’t people like gays?

            P.S. If you don’t know why crime is higher in urban environments than rural ones, I really can’t help you.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > If you don’t know why

            Why would you assume such a strawman?

            > I really can’t help you.

            So, so fun to knock down, aren’t they?

          • MumbleMumble

            They are. They really are. To be fair, you make it easy with your cutesy little questions. What’s the fallacy you keep committing? Is it false comparison? Incomplete comparison? Something like that.

            Also, way to ignore my first question.

          • ginalex

            Really? you’re comparing your county to all of Western Europe? If you go by per capita, the US has a much higher rate of death by firearm than any country in Europe.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > If you go by per capita, the US

            I’m comparing Red-County data in my State of Ohio to Blue-County Data. (Ohio’s crime data is readily available by law enforcement district.)

            The Red-County (Republican voting) rates of both murders (1.8/100K) and other violent crime are much, much lower than Blue-County areas, on levels comparable to a nation like Belgium (1.7).

            Really.

          • ginalex

            Fine. I guess anyone could find a way to compare the data that makes it look like their side is the winning side.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            The question is, why are “red” (rural, Republican) counties in Ohio so much more peaceful than “blue” (Democrat) counties?

            Answer?
            press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html

          • ginalex

            I don’t know because I don’t live in Ohio.

          • Surprise123

            The causal relationship between the number of guns in a society and the number of violent crimes is murky best. A better indicator is the number of males who accept the authority of the police and the justice system, and believe that that authority serves their best interests.
            Many African American males in our inner cities do not believe that the police and the justice system serve their best interests (and, rightly so): therefore, each man is a law unto himself, and, as a result, there is far more violent crime. The fact that many African Americans in our inner cities are armed with guns just means that when violent crimes do occur, they more often result in serious injury and even death for both victims and assailants.
            If there should ever be a day when European American males in the South ever decide that the police and the justice system don’t serve their best interests, look out! Those areas, too, will become far more violent, and as a result of the proliferation of guns in their population, far more deadly, at least until an authoritarian dictator can take control and impose conservative Christian evangelical values (minus freedom of speech, press, assembly, & religion, of course). Guns? Guns will remain the #1 freedom in the new conservative evangelical society, if it is ever established.

  • BT

    I don’t think they are crazy. I just don’t think “I got mine” politics is justifiable from the point of view of the Christian faith that most TP folks claim.

    I have serious issues with the values behind it, but it’s not irrational. Immoral perhaps and misguided to be sure, but not irrational.

  • Grotoff

    It’s not crazy to suggest that the people who claim to be elite are really not, and are total failures at managing the economy and respecting the rights of citizens. It is crazy to suggest that the fix for this is shutting down the government or cutting historically low taxes and fighting against regulating the industry that drove the economy into a ditch.

  • Jerry Lynch

    The Tea Party: Duck Dynasty goes to Congress. Enough said.

  • Y. A. Warren

    What benefits that are paid for with taxes are the Tea Party people willing to give up? My issue with the Tea Party people that I’ve talked with is the same as my issue with teenagers who want authority with no responsibility. They seem to know what they don’t like, and it is all about them and their preferences. They don’t seem to have many ideas on how to fix what’s wrong, while preserving progress. We cannot simply turn our backs on what we have created in our country with unregulated capitalism as our value system. They should stop screaming and start studying history, civics, and math.

  • JT Rager

    Pretty much every political opinion cannot be categorized as a “fact”. Which is why when I call the Tea Party irrational or hypocritical it is not “lying”. It is what is known as an “opinion”. Even if I “lied” about the Tea Party by saying they were run by a secret cult of Nazis, it would not be slander if I didn’t publish it.

    The above paragraph is a fact.

    The following statement is an opinion: The Tea Party is a bunch of irrational, racist, homophobic, bigoted hypocrites and they make the reasonable Conservatives look bad.

  • Yonah

    Well, David. First, when you say “we” this and “we” that….who is the “we”? “We created a political process….”????

    The Tea Party, among other things has joyously asserted the most obscene positions, let alone rhetoric, against the poor. That is unforgiveable…for all time. With that unrepentent obstinant succorance of evil, you’re done.

    Now, as for Obama & Co., it’s another rant. Unfortunately, he did lie. About Gitmo…about surveiling the public…about concern for undocumented immigrants…there was the sorry stupid HAMP program that actually made things worse for many…there’s the drone stikes that have killed a lot of innocent kids…and the health care lie….affordable my @#$.

    So there is massive failure all around. The media is worthless. The legal community and social work profession impotent in the face of overwhelming caseload. The “faith community” is worthless…either left or right…it’s just upper class people deciding they’re the ones to call the shots for the poor with token little “policy initiatives”…while the poor get locked up in an ever increasing prison industry. Oh, what could go wrong?

    Advent begins with John the Baptist…in the wildnerness…rejecting the total status quo. Christmas is the advent of a more radical horizon….the defeat of the status quo…in this world. And to say it Jewishly, “if not now, when?”

  • wawoo

    Sorry but the Tea Party represents those who have become willing dupes of very wealthy powerful narrow special interests who are only interested in making themselves more powerful and wealthy.The Tea Party Caucus in the House represents the worst in the American polity, fierce bias based on class and race combined with willfull ignorance and malice. Then the fact that many, including you, do not evidence any particularly relevant to historical facts understanding of the Constitution but instead a great affection for the Articles of Confederation. Your IRS lawsuit being a perfect example as none of the Tea Party groups, or for that matter, almost any of the groups that sought and received the exemption for being “educational organizations” whether conservative, liberal, or middle of the road should have qualified for tax exempt status since all had the prime purpose of political action.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Tea Party represents those who have become willing dupes of very
      wealthy powerful narrow special interests who are only interested in
      making themselves more powerful and wealthy.

      True.

      Just like Obama supporters.

      Manufactured Consent works on both herds.

      upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/11/Manufacturing_Consent_movie_poster.jpg/220px-Manufacturing_Consent_movie_poster.jpg

  • ginalex

    In response to the headline of this article: no.


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