Tuesday, March 01, 2011

High Contrast

Back when I was in high school, I was often given writing assignments instructing me to "compare AND contrast," which meant you should find the similarities and the unique difference between two things. How many ways do we have to compare the union protests with the Tea Party? I can think of a few. But I don't think the main problem lies in the pathologies present in all populism:

My point is that when folks get angry, they get stupid, and stupidity knows no party or clique. Progressives should not meet this truism so defensively. I know we want to believe the best of our comrades. And I know that loudly congratulating one's team for its superior intellect and virtue is a critical part of keeping a bubble of enthusiasm aloft and rising. So we adults can speak in whispers, if we must. But it's a plain fact that the fuel-mixture of potent populism includes generous helpings of stupidity and self-regard. Democrats got flattened last fall by a fired-up, pie-eyed right. They should welcome an equivalent efflorescence of inchoate rage from the left. The naked, monkey-minded tribalism of an "engaged" political faction is not lovely to behold, but then smash-mouth politics is not brunch at the club.


While there's a lot of truth to be read there, I think that's too easy a write off, too easily a dismissal. It doesn't take into account what the Tea Party was when it started, what it became, and what it is now. It doesn't take into account what the Madison Sit-Ins currently represent. What it does fit is the oversimplification, the compartmentalization, and the furious pursuit of "balance" that currently pervades Western progress-resistant pathology that Americans have perfected in the past decade.

Thus the false equivalency of aloof analysis:

"Conservatives" + Inchoate Rage + Demonstrations = Tea Parties
"Liberals" + Inchoate Rage + Demonstrations = Union Demonstrations

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