Dictionary.com defines meretricious:
1. alluring by a show of flashy or vulgar attractions; tawdry.
2. based on pretense, deception, or insincerity.
3. pertaining to or characteristic of a prostitute.
…and that pretty much sums up my view of Kinsley’s take on the Tea Parties in this month’s Atlantic.
The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of TheNew York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.
First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming.
Second, although the 1960s ultimately spread their tentacles throughout the culture and around the world, politically there was just one big issue: ending the war in Vietnam. No such issue unites the Tea Party Patriots. You might guess from some of their materials on the Web that the repeal of health-care reform is the TPPs’ Vietnam, their towering cause. But even for devoted TPPs, stripping health insurance away from people who’ve just gotten it is unlikely to summon the same passions that the activists of the 1960s brought to stopping a misguided war. Not only do TPPs not have one big issue like Vietnam – they disagree about many of their smaller issues. What unites them is a more abstract resentment, an intensity of feeling rather than any concrete complaint or goal.
The antiwar movement also worked, sort of. As did the civil-rights movement that preceded it. Antiwar protests ultimately turned the establishment itself against the war, though extracting us from it still took years. By contrast, the Tea Party Patriots, I predict, are just the flavor of the month: the kind of story that the media are incapable of not exaggerating. The antiwar movement and the 1960s changed America in numerous ways forever. The Tea Party Patriots will be an answer on Jeopardy or a crossword-puzzle clue.
Wow. Just wow.
I’ve been to three Tea Parties, and was at a shedload of 1960-70’s radical events and I’ll tell you this distinction is overblown and ahistoric – generously. If Kinsley could actuoally bring himself to go out and talk to – you know – regular people at one of these events, he light learn a few things.
The Tea Party folks I talked to as I walked around are all deeply distressed by what they see as the size, corruption, and ineffectiveness of government at most levels. yes, they bring a lot of baggage with them – there aren’t a lot of critical theory fans there, nor a lot of fans of affirmative action or more robust regulatory regimes. But they were certainly no more racist – in my direct experience – than the people I meet everyday at the local grocery store, or the people I work with.
They are voicing the same kind of rage at a government they don’t believe listens to them as the soixante-huit crowds, and my belief is that they will do a better job of breaking the government’s walls down than the 68-ers did, because in 68 we could end the draft, stop enforcing the laws on pot, and pretty much buy off a movement and leave it’s members to their future as BoBo’s (Bohemian Bourgeois) and members of the media.
So now we have Kinsley, prostituting himself (or at least his intellect) to show his solidarity with the media class that used to throw rocks at cops and now counts themselves puzzled at others who
do didn’t as well.
Nice work, Mike.
[fixed dumb typo in second-to-last sentance]