Because that’s what it seems they’re claiming. I’ll get to that in a bit. Rolling Stone invited Matt Taibbi, David Gergen, and Gary Hart to discuss political events of the day. The subject of the Tea Party came up, at which point Taibbi said:
To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they’re just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That’s part of the Tea Party’s litmus test: “How far will you go?”
Gergen and Hart both, despite their supposedly being smart people, misinterpreted what Taibbi said:
Gergen: I flatly reject the idea that Tea Partiers are crazy. They had some eccentric candidates, there’s no question about that. But I think they represent a broad swath of the American electorate that elites dismiss to their peril.
Hart: I agree with David. When two out of five people who voted last night say they consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, we make a huge mistake to suggest that they are some sort of small fringe group and do not represent anybody else.
Taibbi: I’m not saying that they’re small or a fringe group.
Of course, nowhere in Taibbi’s claim did he say anything about the Tea Buggers size; in fact, I doubt Taibbi would really care about them were they only a handful of people. Reading comprehension FAIL. So then Taibbi attempts to explain why he thinks they’re crazy:
Taibbi: I interview these people. They’re not basing their positions on the facts — they’re completely uninterested in the facts. They’re voting completely on what they see and hear on Fox News and afternoon talk radio, and that’s enough for them.
At this point, Gergen and Hart enter into high dudgeon (An aside: is there ever low dudgeon):
Gergen: The great unwashed are uneducated, so therefore their views are really beneath serious conversation?
Taibbi: I’m not saying they’re beneath serious conversation. I’m saying that these people vote without acting on the evidence.
Gergen: I find it stunning that the conversation has taken this turn. I disagree with the Tea Party on a number of issues, but it misreads who they are to dismiss them as some kind of uneducated know-nothings who have somehow seized power in the American electorate. It is elitist to its core. We would all be better off if we spent more time listening to each other rather than simply writing them off.
Hart: I agree. The point here is that the Obama administration would be at their own peril to somehow misread this as a fringe, unacceptable group of people. This is a huge portion of the electorate, and they represent a core within the Republican Party.
Gergen and Hart seem to conflate “fringe” with “unacceptable.” One can be a significant fraction of the population (i.e., not fringe) and still be utterly unacceptable (or even batshit lunatic). A huge chunk of Tea Partyers believe Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. They believe that Obama/Romneycare would establish ‘death panels’ (no need to establish them, insurance companies seem to have this covered). They are, indeed, bugshit loony (not in a clinical sense). While it might not behoove politicians to say this–although conservatives have done rather well with aggressive tactics–journalists and other commentators have the obligation to place honesty and accuracy above comity or ersatz notions of elitism.
We have a long history of widespread lunatic beliefs: belief in the inherent inferiority of African-Americans is one good example. But I can’t imagine either Gergen or Hart arguing, during the fifties and sixties, that segregation wasn’t, at its core, crazy or fact-free.
Which brings me to creationism. According to Gergen’s and Hart’s logic, those of us who oppose creationism–and the U.S. has a lot of creationists (and there’s substantial overlap between them and the Tea Buggers)–are ‘elitists.’ Because creationists, who are just as crazy those who believe Obama is a Kenyan-born Mussleman who wants to turn all your kids gay or whatever the daffy shit o’the week is, are also equally impervious to facts and evidence.
It’s not wrong to call them out on this; in fact, it’s absolutely necessary, as creationism makes no sense whatsoever. There is no evidence for it. It’s not elitist to point out that someone is staggeringly wrong, and when they repeatedly hold ideas that are utterly divorced from reality, colloquially using words like insane or crazy is appropriate. Their ideas and ideology should receive the legitimacy and respect they deserve, which is to say, none at all.
Intelligent Designer, I hate Compulsive Centrist Disorder.