Monday, April 19, 2010

On the Motives of Tea Partiers

In the SWNIDish neighborhood, there are many pleasant, attractive, well maintained homes. One has always been a special object of SWNIDish admiration: a handsome Cape Cod, its brick painted a gleaming white, its roof and shutters providing contrasting black accents, its lawn thick and vigorous, its landscaping neat and attractive. Vehicles parked outside the house are clean and well maintained. The family has a mom, a dad, a couple of teens, and a couple of dogs. They are to all appearances moderately prosperous and immoderately happy, not to mention perfectly comfortable with neighbors of varying ethnicities, religions and economic statuses.

And as it happens, they're also the only folks in the neighborhood with a Tea Party sign in their front yard.

Such a collocation of comfortable prosperity and political dismay is impenetrable to Kate Zernike of the Gray Lady:

The Tea Party supporters now taking to the streets aren’t the ones feeling the pain.

In the results of the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, they are better educated and wealthier than the general public. They are just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good.

Yet they are disproportionately pessimistic about the economy and the nation. A breathtaking 92 percent said the country is on the wrong track.

What accounts for this gap between how they are faring and how they feel the country is faring?

Her answer is supplied by author Rick Perlstein, who says that for conservatives, liberal government means that the country is being led by the wrong people, who send it off in the wrong, un-American direction.

Fair enough. But just maybe there's a reason why people who have made a good life for themselves resent what has become known as the liberal political agenda, that is, a reason other than resentment founded on self-centeredness. Perhaps the people Perlstein describes know that they have a pretty fine life, and they know what got them to that point. It wasn't luck or advantages but honest hard work, dedication to family, and a personal commitment to improving things around them. They'd like others to have the same opportunities, and they worry that such opportunities will be squandered by a government that creates disincentives for such behaviors through higher taxes and greater spending that seems to obviate individual virtue.

The notion of the "conservative" is one who recognizes the value of established ideals and institutions and so seeks to preserve and enhance those as times change. Seeking to conserve what has made a dignified, comfortable life possible is for folks like these Tea Partiers not a reactionary response to change but an honest, unselfish expression of concern for others. One can hardly condemn such people without first mischaracterizing who they are and what they believe.

To be honest, we've always wanted a house that looked as well-cared-for as the one up the street that now sports a Tea Party sign in the well-manicured lawn. We suspect that the folks who live there would like nothing more than for everyone to enjoy the kind of life that they have. That, we surmise, explains what others find mysterious.


Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to puke.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for praising my yard and my political philosophy. Now get out in your yard and clean it up!

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Anon #1: just clean up afterwards.

Anon #2: that's why people in industrialized countries have kids.