Wednesday, February 10, 2010

coffee claques?

Guardian | Tea partyers, by the way, are basically Nixon's silent majority in a less reticent mode. What is it about tea parties that make them off-limits to Democrats? Well, for starters, everything. The Democrats control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, so at least until they get massacred in the November elections, they will have a hard time portraying themselves as a persecuted minority. Democrats neither hate nor distrust the federal government and do not automatically object to higher taxes, though, just like the Tea Party types, they do hate Wall Street.

A more pertinent explanation, though, is demographics. The Democratic party, always a weird melange, is now truly the party of the rich and the poor, with millions of civil servants and intellectuals filling out the mix. Rich people don't attend tea parties, not only because they can find ways to hide income and avoid paying taxes, but because tea parties are corny. After all, Sarah Palin was there. Poor people don't go to tea parties because poor people don't go anywhere. Civil servants don't go to tea parties because they've got nice pensions – so who's complaining? And intellectuals don't go to tea ­parties because the whole iconography of populist insurgency repels them.

Since the 60s, Democrats have been reluctant to wave the flag and are uncomfortable with anything that evokes the spirit of '76. Words like "patriot" and "minuteman" unnerve them, not only because they have been co-opted by the right, but because they are used to christen nuclear weapons and vigilante groups along the Mexican border. And the ethnic monochromaticism of the Tea Party movement is equally abhorrent. Latinos and blacks are not invited to tea parties. Well, maybe as caterers.

One of the things that helped get Obama elected was that he was really cool. This made Democrats feel cool. Tea Party types are not cool. But there are an awful lot of them out there. The Democrats thus find themselves in a bind. They cannot continue to cede the public stage to the Tea Partyers. They cannot simply sit back and do nothing. Maybe they should try torchlight parades. Or coffee claques. Perhaps even fistfights. But they better try something soon. Trouble's a-brewin'.