I should have made a bit more clear in my post yesterday that Andrew Sullivan was well aware of the contradictions within the right wing response to Obama – and had articulated a coherent response to them from his conservative, Oakshottian perspective earlier yesterday in a post I had printed out to read. He did reach a bit too far in seeing that particular silver lining to this movement though.
The main problem is that this right wing movement is still somewhat amorphous. Lydia DePillis of The New Republic had this dispatch from the D.C. protest this past weekend explaining the core complaint of the movement:
Their complaint? Hard to say, really. Some, like the contingent of coal miners in hard hats with anti-cap-and-trade signs, had a concrete beef with the administration. But for most, there was both an incredible specificity to their protestations–all those czars, and ACORN, and Obama’s missing birth certificate–and a fuzzy vagueness.
“We’re losing America,” said Kris, from Maryland. “Government is trying to take over everything.”
It’s one thing I have noticed as well – both the specificity of what they are outraged over and the sense that the tawdry specifics don’t explain the rising crescendo of outrage.
Matt Welch – editor in chief of Reason magazine – tried to defend the protestors against liberals attempts to write them off – and to defend them against charges of racism. He does so by misrepresenting two liberal responses to the protests and then knocking down the strawmen he creates – which is about par for the course in terms of New York Post op-eds, but I expect more of Welch whose work I often enjoy. Welch would have done better to explain what he found most of the protestors stood for, but I suspect he would have had the same difficulty DePillis did.
So, instead, he writes that “popular left blogger Josh Marshall reported from his armchair” that this was a “Small protest.” Welch declines to link to Marshall’s post saying such – probably because if he had, readers might have found that this was one in a series of posts by Marshall and others at the TalkingPointsMemo covering the size of the crowd, and that Marshall had concluded his post with the D.C. Fire Department’s estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 saying the protest was “smallish by big DC protest/event standards but definitely respectable.”
Welch then goes on to say that the Center for American Progress claimed that the protest was marred by “racist, radical portrayals of Obama.” Welch has this to say about the evidence presented by Think Progress:
Among the dozen or so pieces of evidence? A placard claiming, “Ayn Rand is right,” and one of President Obama with the caption, “When his lips move . . . he’s lying.”
Once again – an extremely misleading selection by Welch given the main signs focused on by the piece, including this one:
Welch could have made the argument that focusing on these people was misrepresenting the crowd – but instead he choose to made a much less defensible point.
Nothing Welch says challenges the point I made yesterday – that right wingers are fans of big government run by christianist right wingers, but wary of any type of government run by liberals, such that even pragmatic, incremental, modest Obamaism is seem as a radical assault on their children:
The protests aren’t about the size of government or its role; they are a viceral response to the fact that a liberal now runs the government. That frustration is rooted in cultural and social issues, rather than economic ones.
There are libertarians who legitimately object to big governmen (Ron Paul and Matt Welch himself come to mind), and I can respect their views even if I disagree – but they don’t seem to be well-represented in the Tea Party movement, in the Republican Party, in the bulk of the emotional resistance to Obama.