So, in a recent discussion with some relatives, I unthinkingly used the word ‘teabaggers.’ Unthinkingly, because (1) even though these relatives are fairly conservative and (2) I generally heavily self-edit my comments around them, (3) I was pretty out of it and that particular filter wasn’t working. But really, I find it good practice to NOT use interesting sexual terms OR politically-charged language around some of my relatives. See. e.g., here, here and here. This, of course, offended two birds with one stone. But this biggest shocker (oops) wasn’t my verbal slip, but the realization that – brace yourselves – my relatives might actually be of the teabag carrying ilk.
So, the story … For context, they were taking me to the hospital and decided that this was the perfect time to inform me that they were getting a bumper sticker proclaiming their desire to ‘vote ’em all out.’ Perhaps just to ensure that if by some bizarre chance I failed to make it through a routine procedure, at least I would have died knowing that they really REALLY hate Obama and Congress.
So with a fair amount of nervous laughter, I groggily replied, ‘Oh dear, you aren’t TEA party people now, are you?’ And from there the conversation immediately devolved into an utterly fruitless absence of listening with righteous indignation on one side and confusion and dismay on the other. You can guess which side was mine. At any rate, I was pretty stunned when the ensuing “conversation” made it clear that said relatives were, if not actual TEApartiers, at least ardent supporters of general teabaggery. I am fully aware that these relatives have drifted further and further right, but I had NO idea that they had gone that kind of right.
Still thinking that perhaps this was just a hunger-induced aural hallucination, I tried to minimize my horror with what I hoped would be a very neutral favorable comment about libertarians, and teabaggers taking over the libertarian party. Yes, I said ‘teabaggers,’ so it wasn’t exactly a neutral comment. But I hadn’t slept in days, so tact wasn’t exactly foremost in my mind. And I didn’t start this shit. And at that point I didn’t realize that they might actually be on board with the TEAparty agenda and wrongly assumed that they would think it as ridiculous and potentially dangerous as I.
Anyhow, I immediately said ‘I apologize, I shouldn’t call them ‘teabaggers.’ But alas, it was too late. Relative A had already started in with the liberals and their awfulness, and Janeane Garofalo made up the ‘teabag’ moniker, and then Relative B joined in with the how dare you insult them, they are “good, hard-working Americans.” I pointed out that they picked the name, but by that point no one was listening. Except, unfortunately, for me.
While A appeared to be enthusiastic about the TEA party agenda, B seemed reluctant to commit. Or perhaps B just wanted to argue. It’s a common family trait; I get it. B said that he just wants better candidates and has decided that he doesn’t like incumbents. I can relate. However, I observed that you can find whatever candidate you want, but you need to find someone who can win. Which means that person has to have the support of a group with money and power. Something about which I know just a little.
And I stated that I could never support a candidate put up by the TEAparty, as the TEApeople specifically wanted candidates that reflected “Christian” values – which seemed both inarguable and inoffensive. But apparently I was wrong. B angrily insisted I was ‘making things up’ about the TEA party and demanded I provide proof of my spurious and outrageous comments. Righteous indignation, meet confusion.
(An aside: am I the only one who thinks that Fox News has riled people up to the point that “liberals” don’t even have to SAY ANYTHING in order to offend conservatives? They just assume that everything I am saying is rude, false, accusatory, elitist, and part of some major liberal agenda to deride and destroy everything that is “good” and “American ™.” Even when I haven’t said anything at all. Sadly, I didn’t realize until this particular incident that, to these relatives, I had become “them.” And there is a reciprocity there that I am powerless to disarm when no one listens to what I am saying.)
At any rate, as much as I *heart* supporting citation and precedent, I didn’t exactly have the means to provide sufficient documentation for my assertion. And I don’t have any awesome technopathic powers whereby I can verbally hyperlink as I talk. So I couldn’t provide B with the proof right there in the sedan on the way to the hospital. But assured him I had spent enough time blogging, trolling the webs, attending political functions, talking to TEA party folk and READING to feel fairly confident in my simple statement that “TEA party people want extremely conservative candidates who espouse Christian ethics in politics.” B basically told me I was full of shit.
But, if I DID have some totally bitchin technopathic power, I would have pointed to this guy, who heads up the local TEA events, and he has posted here about how they want uber conservative moral majority-type Republicans. And he isn’t the only one – all kinds of heavy-hitting Conservative groups are backing this *ahem* “grassroots” movement. It seems clear to me that what the TEA party folk really want is uber-conservative moral majority-type Republicans like themselves.
But, of course, I didn’t. I just let it go, and tried to close my eyes and think of America. These are relatives and I need to be able to respect them. And if they decided that the TEA movement is for them, well … that is their choice. But it bothers me on a fundamental level. Because even though most TEAfolk will try to tell you that this is not a partisan thing, I am pretty sure it is quite partisan and quite conservative. And then there is the ugliness. I think it is UTTERLY irrefutable that the TEAgroups are now the happy home of many far-right christian conservatives, multiphobes, bigots, and paranoids. They will also try to tell you it isn’t about Obama (but for some it is), or race (but for some it is), or abortion (but for some it is).
And yes, I know that the signs don’t speak for everyone, but why would you choose to join people like that? How can you stand next to someone who is shouting about birth certificates and nazis and muslims? If you don’t feel the same way as the bigots and the paranoids, you can either ignore them or fight them; but by standing with them, don’t you think that you are validating the bigotry and insanity? Or, at the very least, you are saying that the bigotry and paranoia doesn’t matter. Hello, de minimus argument. All I will say is that to the objects of the bigotry and paranoia, it is pretty de maximus.
And while I fully respect the individual’s right to find a candidate that speaks for them, at the end of the day that candidate speaks for everyone in their district and answers to the people that elected him or her. And we don’t get the luxury to ignore the things we don’t agree like. If you support a candidate that has been given the imprimatur of the TEApeople, then you are supporting someone who reflects THEIR views and goals.
If fiscal issues are more important to you than human rights and social issues, that is fine but know that the days where the two were utterly unconnected are long gone. The single-issue people (abortion), the “Christian Values” people (marriage is man + woman, prayer back in schools, abortion, ID), and the multiphobes (immigration and border enforcement, anti-civil rights, anti-welfare, anti-Obama, anti-environmental) want the Republican party for themselves – even if they have to leave the party to do it.
And if you thought you could get around them by joining the Libertarians or the TEA people, you might want to take a quick look around you. They have beat you there.