The Tea Party, in particular, is powered by hate. It isn’t about Obama being a bad president; it’s about the fact that he’s an Islamo-Marxist Usurper Manchurian Candidate. Obamacare isn’t a glitchy boondoggle of a healthcare law; it’s an unconstitutional socialist takeover that is about taking money out of your pockets and spending it on unmarried sex-havers. Benghazi wasn’t a tragedy that is inevitable when diplomats are forward-deployed to unstable regions; it was an UN-Al Qaeda plot which Obama gleefully watched play out on live video from the situation room, rejoicing in the death of an American ambassador between rounds of cards. Don’t believe me? Check out the primary sources in the comments section at RedState.com or TeaPartyCommunity.com. I really can’t think of single issue on which the Tea Party position isn’t “My way or the apocalypse!”
There can be no compromise with fanatics. All that is left to us is hate. Aren’t we so much more righteous in our hate than they are? Feel that rage. Stoke it. Share it on Facebook.
Do we really have the high ground here? Recently, I took a trip to the halcyon days of the Bush Administration with the great cartoonist Tim Kreider (who’s comic archive is down, which means I can’t share Civil War II, or The Shithead Vote, or his immortal Reagan Eulogy), and I remembered that from 2000 to 2008, I was fucking furious! Incandescent with how my country had been stolen by amateurish chickenhawks and moralizing hypocrites, how patriotism was used to crush dissent, fear to erode civil liberties, our armed forces turned into an army of occupation, and finally how the rich stole everything from the poor and got off scot free. Maybe that whole decade has gone down the memory whole, but I’ll never forget.
And you know what? I liked it. I liked it for how it made me feel. I believe (and always will) that The Truth was on our side, and that history has already proved us right about how criminally incompetent the Bush administration was. But being right didn’t matter as much as the whole sensation of being part of the Resistance, of seeing past the lies on TV to the awful truth on the ground, of always having the distraction of ‘did you hear what those clowns in the White House did?’ And now that my guys have the White House and the Senate, wouldn’t it be just as hypocritical to deny the extremists on the other side the same pleasures?
Which is part of why I don’t want to take hate away from the Tea Party. As long as nobody gets hurt, strong emotion is a fine accompaniment to democracy. I don’t even really care that their worldview is based on a contradictory and ever shifting web of lies and nonsense. It offends me that they lack basic skills in empiricism and evidence gathering, it really bugs me that their desired policies have already made America a worse country, and maybe I hate them a little because I’m a cosmopolitan coastal elitist and they have all the wrong cultural markers. But at the end of the day, my hate is righteous and theirs is not.
This is why: My hate is a hobby, something I indulge in once in a while, much like a tumbler of single-malt scotch. And while I drank a lot during the Bush days, (metaphorically speaking, I was mostly a kid), I could put the bottle away. Their hate is the only thing holding their personal universe together. The Tea Party is that 12-pack a day alcoholic claiming they’re fine because they don’t touch the hard stuff (like that anti-war government nig-). Social psychiatrist John Haidt argues that conservatives work from a richer set of moral foundations than liberals, but I think he misses the bigger picture in that the three conservative foundations (Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation) require respectively, an enemy, an unassailable leader, and an arbitrary system of taboos. The conservative moral universe is intrinsically parochial and built on hate, jealousy, and fear.
As much as I’d enjoy the Tea Party discovering that oxygen is a liberal plot and quit breathing that probably isn’t going to happen (even with Michelle Obama’s help). Likewise, this vast surplus of hate isn’t going away: It wins political campaigns, drives web traffic, and is just too damn fun for all concerned. A better person than I might say that the only that ends hate is respect, compassion, and dialog. I disagree. I think the only thing that ends hate is running it over with a tank, or failing that public ridicule.
So for now, I say let it burn! Haters gonna hate, and the more the Tea Party rages and makes it clear just how nihilistic it really is, the faster it’ll implode. We in the reality-based community don’t even need to engage. Just keep talking about what unites us, a shared faith that rational and empirical policies can make a better future, that policy by ultimatum is unacceptable, and when challenged, like we’re being challenged today, raise an eyebrow and ask “Really? This is the hill upon which you’ve chosen to die? Then stop messing about with my country and put up or shut up with the dying already.” Just remember, even when you're right there has to be more than hate.
*This doesn’t mean we should let the assclowns interfere with the business of governing again. I hear there might be enough moderate Republican votes to pass a clean continuing resolution. Not introducing a clean CR is an act of cowardice on the part of Speaker Boehner.