Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hangin out at the Buffalo Chip: a liberal looks at a slice of conservative America

A fun blogpost. A fun picture of Miss Rodeo Arizona! Love her. Love her flowery saddle decoration. Extra love her chaps.

A truism of life:
Every woman who is healthy enough to get on a horse looks good on a horse.


Aaaaaand: sometimes I get all feisty and righteously indignant, and head into a comment section with guns blazing. Aaaaaaand then, once I'm in there, if I get my dander up, I sort of refuse to walk away if walking away means letting slander and foolishness stand unrebutted.

So, I got nuthin today. But I sort of went all righteously indignant inside the comment section of the Miss Rodeo Arizona blogpost; and, so, here's the most recent comment I made there. It's kinda ... not edited for spelling, grammar, and tightness ... b/c it's a comment, not a blogpost. But, anyway, it's insight into my sometimes scattered thoughts. When you write fast, as you do in a comment, you sort of open yourself more, b/c you are writing fast and w/o much self-censorship or editing. My comment is in response to a number of assertions made by this commenter.

My comment:

Incidental notes re the polls:

1. Upon encountering such polls for the first time, only a couple weeks ago, I was surprised at the numbers of moderates and liberals attending Tea Parties. I'm guessing this is due to the Tea Parties' major message: reduce spending.

2. The polls you link: Gallup and CNN, display evidence that Tea Partiers are at least as educated as the U.S. population. Gallup shows almost exact educational parity; CNN's 124 person sample of shows definitively more education amongst Tea Party activists than amongst the U.S. population. Therefore, separate from your point about the conservative/moderate/liberal make-up of Tea Party activists: the polls you link do not help anyone make a case that Tea Partiers are particularly ignorant.

My pet peeve has to do with forsaking reasoned argument about issues in favor of anecdotal observation + speculation + assertion/accusation. For instance: what good does it do for you and I to schoolyard argue back and forth about whether Tea Partiers in general cross an unacceptable threshold of ignorance? They do! They don't! They do! They don't! This accomplishes nothing.

I've formed my impression. I've been to a Tea Party, I know people who have been to Tea Parties, I've watched videos of Tea Parties. If my impression changes, it will begin changing based on what I see when I attend a Tea Party tomorrow in Grand Prairie (anticipated crowd = 25,000). My first hand impression, based on attending one Tea Party of 6,000 persons, tracks perfectly with
Jazz Shaw's impression in his TMV post on March 11:
I’ve now met with more than a dozen [Tea Party] groups in both Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and my suspicions have been almost unanimously confounded rather than confirmed. We’ve been greeted by surprisingly large groups of citizens who were polite and obviously very well informed on the issues of the day which concern them. The tone has been far more energized and excited than hysterical. [...] They asked questions – very tough questions in many cases – and listened patiently to the answers.

The topics of interest came as a bit of a shock also. [...] Imagine my dismay when these tried and true stump winners [“respect for life” and “keep and bear arms”] were met with either silent nods of approval or polite smatterings of applause. It’s not that the audience didn’t agree… it’s just not what they came to hear.

Another part of the speech caught the crowd’s interest instead. [...] [Jazz Shaw's congressional candidate] talked about stressing to his students the importance of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution and the 10th amendment. That is what brought the crowd to their feet. We had to pause and wait for the ovation to die down. They knew their history and were focused on what they saw as the proper function and authority of the federal government. (And let’s have a moment of brutal honesty here… how many of you had to flip open another tab on your browser to be reminded of what Article 1 Section 8 says?)
The point is, meeting with tea party supporters has been a surprising experience. It’s not politics as usual and the old rules about Red vs. Blue and D vs. R don’t apply. Like any large gathering, you’ll find a couple of people with some more fringe outlooks, and that seems to be who the television cameras focus on. (We had one couple at a recent meeting who were obviously birthers and wanted to ask about Obama’s birth certificate, but they were quickly shushed by the rest of the crowd.) But for the most part, each group seems to carry its own distinct flavor and topics of interest. The one thing they seem to have in common is that they are unhappy with the current leadership in D.C. and they have come to play a serious game.

You listed some issues. I will make some general comments. Here's what you will notice: for me, as for the majority of self-described conservatives, we are interested in smaller government; free markets; less spending; lower taxes; more effective regulation. We don't get so bogged in minutia. We are driving the small government vs. big government conversation.

I've heard of this, yet I don't know the argument in favor of eliminating the EPA. It's not something I've ever heard or read a discussion of. Do you know the argument in favor of eliminating the EPA?

I take your word for it that this movement exists, yet I've never heard of it. Do you know the argument in favor of eliminating OSHA? Because I don't.

No public education
I've never heard of this. There is a 10th Amendment case for getting the feds out of education and allowing states to oversee it. Do you know the reasoning behind a movement to eliminate public education? Because I don't.

No federal reserve
I've heard of this. Do you know the reasoning behind this argument? Because I don't.

Return to the Gold Standard
I know something about this, but haven't seriously studied the issue b/c the possibility seems so remote.

School prayer
Do you know the argument in favor of allowing prayer in school?

Criminalize homosexual activity
I don't know a single person who has ever indicated they are in favor of this. This is obscure.

Make abortion illegal
Do you know the arguments? I oppose a federal statute or a constitutional amendment which would make abortion illegal. Yet, it's my impression that the majority of attorneys and judges in this nation believe Roe v Wade is bad law; is unconstitutional. Abortion ought be decided by each individual state.

Birth control illegal
I guess I'm too young to remember this. I've never met a person who professed to favor this.

Then come your comments saying many of these positions, to varying extents, have become more mainstream amongst conservatives.

Which, if you're me, how do read that? Here's how: whatever. Here's the thing: I am not swayed by your supreme confidence that all those issues above are stupid issues.

I am open to being swayed re most of the issues above. I'm either somewhat or largely ignorant about several of them. But I am not swayed by your merely mentioning the issues and assuming that arguments in favor of those issues must be idiotic arguments. And here's why I'm not swayed by that: I've heard it all my life. I used to be liberal. I supported Bill Clinton in 1992. I was sucked into liberalism b/c I wanted to be cool and smart, and everyone who seemed cool and smart also seemed cocksure that liberal arguments were superior. And it took until I was in my 30's to realize that most of those cool and smart people who were cocksure actually didn't understand the arguments themselves. They didn't know or understand the conservative arguments and reasoning. They often didn't even understand the liberal arguments. And yet they were soooo pretentious and condescending and scornful of those ignorant conservatives and their principles and beliefs. And I had been cocksure and scornful also. When all this finally and certainly dawned on me, I felt like a needed a shower to get the taint and the stink of it off me. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

However, I might be swayed if you laid out, for instance, the reasoning in favor of eliminating the EPA, and if you then made reasoned argument as to why that reasoning is misguided. I might then occasionally reference your argument and share with other people that the idea to eliminate the EPA is misguided. My point: reasoned argument about issues can be effective. Conversely, cocksure assumption about issues does nothing for me or for most mature persons. Anecdotal based accusations re racist, violent, greedy conservatives does nothing for me or for most mature conservatives - and here's why: we ARE conservatives; we know conservatives; we know why we are conservatives, and we know it has nothing to do with racism, violence, greed. It has to do with free market democracy being the greatest tool for the elimination of human suffering in the history of mankind.

Wrapping up: you assert birthers are "more common" amongst Tea Partiers. Looking at that SacBee poll, it looks to me like birthers are 11% of the population and 20% of Tea Party attendees. I'm fine with that. I can believe that is correct.

The SacBee poll, however, is a little tricky. They throw in a question: are you sure Obama was born in the U.S.? Now, lets think about what is true. The only way to be "sure" Obama was born in the U.S. is to take Obama at his word. I would have answered: I am not sure Obama was born in the U.S. I think there is a strong, strong, strong probability Obama was born in the U.S., and therefore I flee from any discussion of birther issues. Get me outta there. However, am I "sure" he was born in the U.S.? I am not. There's no way I am putting my faith in Barack Obama. I believe he is scam artist. Therefore, I will not be "sure" unless Obama produces his birth certificate. And it looks like he's not going to do that. So, I write this issue off. It's a non-issue. But, were I surveyed in that SacBee poll, then SacBee would count me as a Tea Party activist who is ominously not "sure".


Montana said...

I love that they asked for “Public Defenders” (and they thought they could bring down our government), undercover FBI agent, sweet. Since their inception the Tea party crowd (not a movement since they do have the numbers or clout) because they are haters not debaters or as others have dubbed them screamers not dreamers. The simpleton Tea baggers are the same whiners that were crying when the McCain/Bailin ticket lost. Now that their yelling and screaming failed to stop the health care debate and the bill from passing they are crying again. Let’s face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. The Republicans are good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. Instead of participating in the health care debate of ideas the Republicans party turned inward to their old fashion obstructionist party. In my opinion the Republican Waterloo loss was caused by the party allowing a small portions (but very loud) of the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to take over their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that perform abortions). The Tea party crowd think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey than the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. The world is complicated and presidents like Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believed that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now it’s about dancing around the claim of government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. Although some Republicans are trying to distant themselves from this fringe most of them, having no game plan/ vision for our country, are just going along and fanning the flames. For a party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, it is tragic that the ranks are filled with too many empty suits. But they now claim they have changed, come on, what sucker is going to believe that? All I can say to you is remember Waterloo.

DaGoat said...

Hey gcotharn, nice essay.

I've been watching people's takes on the Tea Party poll and like many polls people seem to be using it to try and prove what they already believed. The Tea partiers focus on the intelligence aspect, the Obamaites focuses on the racial aspect and the "fruitcake" aspects (birthers, etc).

My take is that the Tea Party isn't as good as they think they are nor as bad as the pro-Obama crowd thinks they are. Your points on what the Tea Party stands for and what it does not is probably accurate for the majority or it's members, but unfortunately the sensible messages have been drowned out by the association with people like Palin, Bachmann and Beck. The Tea Party has done itself no favors getting in bed with those types.

I remember when the Tea Party started and how politicians from both major parties were scorned. That appears to have changed. Some of that can be blamed on the media but much of it is the Tea Party's own doing. It has allowed it's messages, which were fragmented, to coalesce into a far right outlook.

I've often said the Tea Party looks like a lot of people angry about something but not sure what exactly. That perception persists. I had high hopes for the Tea Party initially but it seems to be turning into something I tried to get away from during Bush's second term.

gcotharn said...


I'm always interested in your take. Have a good weekend.

gcotharn said...


You mention a "debate of ideas". Tea Partys are protests in favor of reduced government spending; in favor of smaller government. Do you agree with those ideas?