Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Minority in a minority of a shrinking minority party

Many reports have said there were 1200 people at the Nashville Tea Party "Convention." (Heck, there are bigger family reunions than that.) But let's be generous and double it. Let's say 2400 fringies attended. 

So where does all the hysterical (pro and con) media coverage spring from? Is there something all that engaging about a group of very white, slightly over-the-hill, angry Americans that morbidly draws us in, like rubberneckers passing a bloody car accident? 

Is the infotainment industry so incapable of separating urgent national issues from political bloodletting? Why do they insist on running from the right side to the left then back again, gasoline cans in hand, to keep the fires of division stoked?

The TP-ers are an extremist sliver of the right wing minority residing within the minority Republican Party, which itself has shrunk to a self-identifying group of 21% of the electorate. (Democrats are still in the 35% range, nothing to beat the chest over, but 1.6 times greater than Republicans. Independents make up about 38% of the total. Small party enrollments make up the rest.) 

We look at the TP-ers "through a glass darkly," seeing the worst angels in ourselves, fascinated and appalled by their tribal lust.

I am reminded of Beat poet Delmore Schartz's poem that puts its finger on our barbaric impulses, ones that the Tea Partiers indulge themselves in with no moral compunction:

The hungry beating brutish one
In love with candy, anger, and sleep,
Crazy factotum, dishevelling all...

Moves where I move, distorting my gesture,
A caricature, a swollen shadow,
A stupid clown of the spirit's motive,
Perplexes and affronts with his own darkness,
The secret life of belly and bone,
Opaque, too near, my private, yet unknown...

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