Friday, August 5, 2011

Adventures in tea-party cognitive dissonance

Matt Steinglass considers the cognitive dissonance inherent in Judson Philips' objection to cuts in defense spending, because building aircraft carriers would put people to work, yet Mr. Phillips doesn't want the U.S. to raise more taxes or increase borrowing authority.

How do you pay for a $9 billion aircraft carrier if the government can't seek greater revenue or mortgage the cost?

Beyond the paradox there, it's worth noting that Mr. Phillips own words would support the notion that government spending is stimulative. Yet, I doubt he'd be on board for another stimulus bill despite the fact that the cost to the U.S. of borrowing money is almost zero.

Judson Phillips and his ilk aren't serious people.

5 comments:

Colin said...

This most certainly does indicate that Judson Phillips is, at best, seriously confused. However, I don't see how this episode proves that anyone besides Phillips isn't serious. Rand Paul and Mike Lee are most certainly part of the Tea Party and both favor defense cuts, as do I.

While I don't doubt one can find others who share Phillips cognitive dissonance, it doesn't strike me as obvious why this means the whole movement is unserious (if that is indeed what you are implying).

Jason said...

Judson Phillips is one of the leading faces of what is considered the Tea Party. He is in many ways analogous to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz or RNC Chair Reince Priebus. When either one of them says something contradictory it is often equated as a party contradiction. I see no reason Mr. Phillips, who styles himself a leader of this movement, should avoid the same consideration.

Sen. Paul, like his father, is a libertarian, which is a political philosophy that predates the Tea Party and at times their policy preferences makes good bedfellows. But beyond that if Messrs. Paul and Lee are members of the Tea Party, why then were they elected as Republicans? Indeed the Tea Party is a party without a single candidate. Should we take seriously a party that registers in closed primaries as Republicans, but self-identifies as something else?

Colin said...

No, Judson Phillips is not analogous to either the DNC or RNC chairs. In fact, if one looks at wikipedia the following groups are 501c4 organizations that are part of the Tea Party: Tea Party Patriots, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party Express. Tea Party Nation, in contrast, is listed as a for profit business.

Judson Phillips is the leader of the Tea Party Nation, but is not the leader of the Tea Party. You can claim that he speaks for this particular faction -- and I have no idea how many that is -- but not more than that. Given that, unlike the head of the RNC or DNC, no out outside of the Tea Party Nation gave this guy their stamp of approval, his authority doesn't go beyond his group.

Paul and Lee were not elected as members of the Tea Party because no such thing exists, at least as an actual political party. Rather it is a political movement whose name refers not to "party" in the classic political sense, but the Boston Tea Party (which was referenced in Rick Santelli's rant that kicked the whole thing off). If you look at wikipedia's list of Tea Party politicians you will see both Paul and Lee listed, however.

Jason said...

Seems to me a movement that is a party, but isn't; that has legislators, but doesn't; that one of it's leaders wants to cut government spending, but make another aircraft carrier, isn't a serious movement. It's a collection of disparate people unified only by their anger. But they're not even unified in what they're angry about. They're just angry.

Such rejectionist sentiment isn't a serious governance alternative, and thus not a serious political movement.

Colin said...

Seems to me a movement that is a party, but isn't

It has never pretended to be a party or fielded candidates. It's not hard to figure out what it is.

that has legislators, but doesn't

Ridiculous. It endorses candidates, but doesn't field them. This is just like, well, pretty much every other political movement out there.

that one of it's leaders wants to cut government spending, but make another aircraft carrier, isn't a serious movement

The notion that one self-proclaimed leader's incoherence invalidates an entire movement, most of which has not endorsed him, is absurd.

But they're not even unified in what they're angry about. They're just angry

As opposed to, what, the Democratic party which is unified on everything and votes in lock step???

Such rejectionist sentiment isn't a serious governance alternative, and thus not a serious political movement.

You've done nothing more than build a strawman and then knocked it over. In fact numerous Tea Party-endorsed politicians have put forward serious proposals and have demonstrated themselves to be fully capable of governing. Some of them even put their ideas on paper during the recent debt ceiling debate, unlike -- to pick a random example -- the White House.

But I suppose it's easier to simply come up with a caricature and apply it to an entire movement to invalidate them, rather than actually engage with them and their ideas.