Matt Taibbi’s Epiphany

Matt Taibbi’s epiphany about the Tea Party came at the National Quartet Convention, an annual gathering of Southern Gospel quartets and musician, according to Wikipedia; specifically, at a Sarah Palin speech to this gathering. Of the gathering, he writes, “If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.” But… it was a Gospel Music convention! This somewhat unusual beginning is an early hint that the Tea Party may not be getting a fair shake in Matt’s recent Rolling Stone article.

It seems also that the Tea Party is to blame for the fact that there’s a poor showing of blacks at Sarah’s speech.

The couple that he talks to after the speech are not identified as belonging to, or having sympathy with the Tea Party – presumably, they went to the Sarah Palin speech, so ’nuff said. Now, I’m no fan of Sarah, but if I was at a convention, and she was speaking, I might just show up, if only for laughs. No matter, the couple is anti-spending and anti-government – but David is a property appraiser (presumably working for some form of government), and Janice is on Medicare; that’s enough for Matt; he follows soon with the conclusion that the Tea Party is full of shit.

Now, let’s take Medicare; it’s not really government funded, it’s a trust fund, like Social Security, as I understand it; funding is taken out of our paychecks, so, technically, there’s no contradiction to being for reduced government spending, but for Medicare. But realistically, Matt’s standard for not being “full of shit” is pretty high if he thinks Tea Partiers should not use available government-provided healthcare just because they are anti-government and anti-spending.

Also, presumably, one could be for greatly reduced government and also be a government employee, without not being “full of shit”.

Matt’s next criticism is that the Tea Partiers yawned through the Bush deficits, and are now getting worked up over Obama’s; well, for one thing, the Tea Party didn’t exist for most of Bush time, and for another, until 2009, the Bush deficits were pretty puny compared with the estimates of Obama’s.

Matt then explains the futility of the Tea Party agenda; “it’s only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country”. The message seems to be that no grass roots campaign should try to change anything. Not such a convincing condemnation.

Next, Matt takes on Rand Paul, and condemns him as a fake, and, later in the article, goes through Rand’s about turn when he went from “insurgent outsider to establishment stooge”. Assuming that Matt’s take on Rand is accurate, well, is this necessarily a condemnation of the whole Tea Party? After all, Rand is not an elected leader in the Tea Party, and, even if he was, it would still be kinda weak grounds for condemning the whole party.

Matt then describes Rand’s father, Rep Ron Paul, as a principled crackpot, who will never go any further than he did in the last election because he’s honest, and his radical positions won’t ever play in Peoria. Well, who could not have a bit of admiration for such a politician?

Matt then goes into pretty deprecating descriptions of your average Tea Partier; he comes across, as your basic redneck half-idiot, with crazy beliefs, really, an uneducated, pathetic racist bumpkin, the plaything of rich businessmen and corporations. Now, there may be a bit of truth to this – after all, Matt spent nearly a year talking to Tea Parties, and covered a lot of ground, but it’s hard not to get the feeling that Matt’s reporting here may not represent the highest standards of impartiality. Compare Matt’s general description with this: “Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public…according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.” From the April 14 2010 New York Times. Bt the way, this article also reveals, re Tea Party supporters, that “A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers”.

The rest of Matt’s article serves to confirm his dim view of Tea Party members, but his increasingly obvious disdain, and his copious over-the-top anecdotes, serve to undermine his credibility. His conclusion is somewhat curious; the interests of the “Goldmans and BP’s of the world”…”mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That’s the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It’s just that it’s a lot of noise, and there’s no telling when it’s ever going to end.”

Now, with those beliefs, one would think that Matt would have found common ground with at least a few Tea Partiers, and might have given voice to someone in the Tea Party railing against the interests “that have us by the balls”. Indeed, a recent Business Week story tells us “Why Business Doesn’t Trust the Tea Party”. Perhaps there’s hope that election day results may matter, after all?

PATRICK BRENNAN can be reached at: