Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sugar Blues

Ross Douthat went to Glenn Beck's rally and had an experience that sounds a little like what it must've been like to go to the Iowa state fair in 1954:

It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the message would have fit right in.

But whereas Obama wouldn’t have been Obama if he weren’t running for president, Beck’s packed, three-hour jamboree was floated entirely on patriotism and piety, with no “get thee to a voting booth” message. It blessed a particular way of life without burdening that blessing with the compromises of a campaign, or the disillusioning work of governance.
Let me boil all that down to its essence:

A festival..for middle-class white Christians...[which] blessed a particular way of life.
An event described like that doesn't need to be explicitly political to be a little ominous, especially when we have a black president whom many of these same folks (if we go by recent polls) think is pretending to be a Christian (thanks in part to Beck's own accusations) while secretly favoring the global triumph of Islamic law. The racial component loomed even larger on Saturday than it would have if Beck had not, inadvertently or not, chosen the anniversary of Dr. King's speech and if there hadn't been a largely African-American counter-demonstration going on nearby.

Also stressing the event's benignity, Reihan Salam put it this way:

They don’t feel as though their values are reflected by the country’s economic and political elite, and they worry about losing their economic and cultural autonomy, sensing that the further centralization of power will hurt rather than help that cause, a premise we can’t expect committed social democrats to understand.
If so, I wish Beck and Sarah Palin had actually made it political, or at least policy, by giving a three-hour seminar on marginal tax rates and the dangers of ballooning deficits and galloping federal growth. From Jane Mayer's New Yorker article about the libertarian sugar daddies who are sweetening the Tea Party, we learn that there's a rational motive behind all this, namely lower tax rates and less growth-stultifying regulation for the sugar daddies. I can understand that and, to a certain pragmatic moderate centrist extent, applaud it. But when policy preferences come cleverly hidden behind racial semiotics, no matter how gosh-darn middle America cuddly it may look on the surface, we're not going in a good direction or having the useful debate the country needs and deserves.

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