Krugman and the Tea Parties
The Tea Parties, and Tax Day, came and went Wednesday. The Tea Parties were reasonably well attended, with something like 250,000 protesters showing up across the nation. Protests aren’t my thing (I can think of many more useful ways of spending my time), and the only way I’d go to one of these protests would be out of curiosity on a day in which I had nothing else to do (those days are rare), but those who did go seemed satisfied.
The conservative media gave the Tea Parties lots of praise, just as one would expect. Predictably, Fox News gave the protests positive coverage, while CNN and MSNBC provided negative coverage. The worst were the “teabagging” jokes (a reference to a sexual act) on CNN and MSNBC, which are really staggeringly unfunny. All that was exactly what you would expect.
What was unexpected, at least to me, was the reaction of prominent liberals. No one could expect that they would like or approve of the protests. But the typical liberal reaction was much more vehement, and much more worried, than I expected them to be. They seemed almost…afraid.
One example of this is Paul Krugman. Krugman is the farthest thing from a hack, or an extremist. He has won a Nobel Prize, and is a respected columnist for the New York Times. He’s a scholar—other economists take his work seriously.
But his pre-Tea Parties column was just stupid. Some of his points are, in my opinion, wrong, but definitely debatable, so I’ll grant that saying that the only true policy debates are within the Democratic Party, that the Tea Parties are embarrassing and fit for mockery, and that the GOP “looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now” are points that are at least arguable. And while Krugman is unfair in picking out isolated examples of unadulterated craziness (Obama birth certificate Truthers) in order to smear the whole movement, that “guilt by association” strategy is merely unfair, not stupid.
But without including all that, there is still plenty of stupidity in Krugman’s article. He tries to link those isolated idiots who are convinced that Obama is ineligible for the presidency with the mainstream of the Republican party, providing a convoluted parallel which compares the birth certificate people to Vince Foster conspiracy theorists, and the Vince Foster theorists to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh once (irresponsibly) suggested that possibly the theories surrounding Foster’s death had some truth, which in Krugman’s mind apparently translates into Limbaugh relentlessly pushing those theories.
Krugman expanded on his anti-Rush theme, comparing the apologies he has extracted from those Republicans foolish enough to criticize him to Stalinist show trials, which is unfair on many levels. He says that while it is “new to have a talk show host in that role” (apparently, no editors at the New York Times noticed that “that role” was never defined), such party discipline is nothing new. Apparently, Stalinist show trials are business as usual for Republicans.
The rest is more of the same—Krugman rambles on about evolution, Astroturfing (which Krugman defines are “fake grass roots events,” although the Tea Parties seemed as genuine was any grass root event, and anyway I don’t see that it matters who, if anyone, was behind them), Fox News, and the 2000 presidential election, all of which he relates somehow to the Tea Parties. (Some Tea Partiers protest evolution too, Fox News gave the events favorable coverage, etc).
Krugman’s point, as far as he has one, is that the Republican party needs to grow up and move on. (Actually, he is right, though for none of the reasons he cites in his column). But the fact that the only evidence he presents are some slightly silly but harmless protests, and every liberal talking point used against conservatives sounds inconsistent. His argument would be a lot more persuasive if he moved on (to borrow a phrase) and stopped spreading liberal paranoia about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and any gathering of conservatives with more than three people.