More on Chomsky
The brief clip I embedded yesterday came from a 2009 Commonwealth Club lecture that Noam Chomsky gave. He goes into the topic of the teabaggers a little more. Hearing this and having a night to think about it made me reconsider it. I think Chomsky is wrong. It is not that the teabaggers are pawns in this process: they have questions and the only answers come from Faux News. I believe it works the other way around. There are plenty of answers out there. If you want, you can find someone who will tell you anything you want. As we know, the teabaggers are (and always were) the most conservative members of the Republican Party. They not only want answers that tell them that America is perfect and that all our problems come from foreign people and ideas, they will only accept such answers.
If I just took the teabaggers are their word, I would agree with them. I believe strongly in the Constitution. I’ve read the Federalist Papers (they haven’t, of course) and I’ve read most of Thomas Paine (they haven’t, of course). And I would be willing to take the whole package. But they are not. For one thing, they don’t even understand the whole package. More important: they approach the Constitution the same way they approach the Bible. They cherry pick. What they really care about is American exceptionalism, which they understand to mean that the USA is the best country in the world and what it does internationally is always right. They are, in other words, nationalists; and they will only be happy with a nationalistic government.
Coming back to my father: I’ve noticed that he is always unhappy with his government. Whenever I complain about the Republicans, he will counter, “Do you think I like them?!” But then the Republicans will reconstitute themselves in the form of “Contract with America” or the “Tea Party Movement” and he’s right back on board. In two years, he will be unhappy with them too. Why? I think there are a number of reasons. First is that no party can return this country to the perfect, mythical past that he “remembers.” Second is that a Republican is a Republican is a Republican. The only thing that changes when the Republicans reconstitute themselves is the way they talk; they always believed the same thing: welfare for the rich, nothing for the poor. Third is that people elected to govern have to govern. The five-year-old in my dad wants the Republicans to shut the government down, but the adult still wants his Social Security check. And probably most important, he has a lot of vague bitterness about life and the Republicans use that to get elected: without ever explicitly saying it. Truly, the only thing that would make him happy is if the government started rounding up all of the people he doesn’t like. Doing this politically is pretty hard. But make no mistake, a big part of Republican dog-whistle politics is that they are going to “get the bastards” (whoever they might be). Of course, I’m not talking specifically about my father: I’m talking about a third of the nation.
None of the teabaggers see that when it comes to corporate welfare, the Republicans may talk a good game, but they are totally in favor of it. The Democrats are for it too, but they will make some changes that will improve the situation. The teabaggers (my father included) would rather vote for people who promise everything and deliver nothing (or worse) than people who promise a little and deliver a little.
My father would never accept the fact that it is the rich and not the poor who game the government and waste our tax dollars. He won’t believe it any more than he will believe in global warming. Facts don’t matter. And so Chomsky is wrong to think that if the teabaggers were just instructed in American international misdeeds and corporate welfare any but a tiny fraction would change their thinking. They wouldn’t. Faux News exists because people like my father exist. Yes, Faux makes it worse. But if it weren’t for the ready audience, Faux News would not exist.