The Right Opinion

Obama's Rapturous Style Versus Tea Party Substance

By Michael Barone · Jan. 14, 2010

In his New York Times column last week, David Brooks contrasted “the educated class,” which supports Barack Obama and his liberal worldview, with the tea party movement, “a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against … the concentrated power of the educated class.”

Many conservatives read Brooks as putting down the tea partiers. I think he was indicating distaste for both sides. “I’m not a fan” of the tea party movement, he wrote, but he also noted, “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the year.”

Still, it sounds like Brooks was indulging the conceit of so many liberals that they are, well, simply smarter than conservatives.

But when you look back over the surges of enthusiasm in the politics of the last two years, you see something like this: The Obama enthusiasts who dominated so much of the 2008 campaign cycle were motivated by style. The tea party protesters who dominated so much of 2009 were motivated by substance.

Remember those rapturous crowds that swooned at Barack Obama’s rhetoric. “We are the change we are seeking,” he proclaimed. “We will be able to look back and tell our children” that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

A lot of style there, but not very much substance. A Brookings Institution scholar who produced nothing more than that would soon be looking for a new job.

In retrospect, the Obama enthusiasts seem to have been motivated by a yearning for a rapturous, nuanced leader. Send that terrible tyrant with his tortured sentences and moral certitude back to Texas and install The One in the White House, and all would be well.

The Obama enthusiasts have achieved that goal, and perhaps it’s not surprising that, as polls show, they’re not much engaged in the details of the health care bills or cap-and-trade legislation or looming tax increases and the like. They, or at least most of them, were never much interested in those things anyway.

In contrast, the tea party protesters, many of them as fractious and loudmouthed as Brooks thinks, are interested in substantive political issues. They decry the dangers of expanding the national debt, increasing government spending and putting government in command of the health care sector.

Their concerns have basis in fact. The national debt is on a trajectory to double as a percentage of the economy over 10 years, and the Democrats' health care bills threaten to bend the cost curve up. Higher taxes could choke off economic recovery and keep unemployment up near double-digit rates for years.

Last year’s stimulus bill surreptitiously raised the budget baseline for many domestic spending programs and sent money to state and local governments – a payoff to the public employee unions who spent more than $100 million to elect Democrats in 2008.

Agree with the tea party folk or not, these are substantive public policy issues of fundamental importance.

Or look at other issues on which Brooks notes, correctly, that Americans have been moving away from positions “associated with the educated class.”

The educated class thinks that gun control can reduce crime. But over the last 15 years, crime rates have plummeted thanks to Rudy Giuliani-type police tactics and while 40 states have laws permitting law-abiding citizens to get licenses to carry concealed weapons.

“The educated class believes in global warming,” Brooks notes. But ordinary Americans have been noticing that temperatures have not been rising in the last decade as climate scientists' models predicted, and they may have noticed those Climategate e-mails that show how climate scientists have been jiggering the statistics and suppressing opposing views.

On these issues the educated class is faith-based and the ordinary Americans who increasingly reject their views are fact-based, just as the Obama enthusiasts are motivated by style and the tea partiers by substance.

As the educated class bitterly clings to its contempt for the increasing numbers not enlightened enough to share its views, other Americans have noticed, even in the liberal heartland of Massachusetts, where Republican Scott Brown seems on the brink of an upset victory in the special Senate election next Tuesday. That would have reverberations for the educated class an awful lot like that tea party back in 1773.

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15 Comments

republicanblack said:

Look, I am sorry if hearts are broken when I say the Tea Party is a farce. I think the effort is nice but I am afriad it has been Hijacked by bigots, libertarians, rabid right wingers,and ppl who just hate Obama plain and simple. There is no coherent platform that is viable. They talk about spending, but guess what just because u are in debt it doesn't change the fact that u need capital to change things. Tell me a person or a company that got started on tax cuts, this article speaks of how the Tea Party was established on a lie:http://keironjackman.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/republicans-rewrite-tea-party-history/

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:58 AM

Ruth Ann Wilson said:

So we have this "educated class", I call them "clever devils". No God, No Bible, No wisdom, No understanding, the "education" they have received will be their "undoing". God has a thousand things they have never thought of, He is God the Creator, He is omniscient (knows everything), omnipresent (He is everywhere), and omnipotent(All Powerful). What a Foe!!!! You say, "I don't believe that", that's your problem, I believe God, yesterday, today, and Forever.For God & CountryRuth Ann Wilson

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 7:41 AM

bill mcniff said:

You go Ruth Ann ! Back to the Constitution and the founding principles: a limited and small federal govt, low taxes, preferably based on purchases not income, and an awsome military.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 8:40 AM

Ileana said:

Ruth, I have been called many things, but "clever devils" is a new one. I thought the job of calling people names belonged to the liberals not a patriotic christian conservative such as yourself. What makes you think that an educated person cannot and does not believe in God? I have received four college degrees and I believe my education has enriched my perspective into my belief in God. And I did take Latin in high school and college, I know the roots of "omnia." Thank you for your post, I am the educated class and also the educator, that must make me twice a "clever devil." We are doing to ourselves exactly what the liberals want - "divide and conquer," for we are certainly more judgmental, critical, and divided than ever.God bless you, Ruth Ann, your opinions are very important and educational, right now we need unity in thought and action.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Dave said:

HOOAH!

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Jack G in Texas said:

No more than State dept., Treasury, War,Post office,and Interior. God and Country and a small federal government Thats what the Founding Fathers meant and they were directed by an Almighty God to establish the country we hold dear.Ruth Ann, Bill, And Dave - You are right on!Jack

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Chad said:

Republicanblack, I think it is a hasty generalization for you to label the Tea Partiers as such. I'm sure a few people exist in that crowd who are less than kosher when expressing their views, but the concept of the Tea Party is as enlightening as the Boston Tea Party of the past. You say there is no viable platform, but you are wrong. I would guess you haven't been to their site, and if you have, the platform is staring you in the face. We are all protesting an expanding government that is spending future generations into debt. It is time for you to start allying with other patriots, otherwise you are nothing but a pawn the democrats and other useful idiots will take advantage of.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Texan said:

It could be argued that the so called "educated class" is more of an "indoctrinated class" Most of what they've been educated on is revisionist. Revisionist history, a "living" constitution, the righteousness of Marx and Mao and Alinski. They've been taught what to think, not how to think. Quite honestly the "educated" class is more of a cult.The "Tea Party movement is nothing more than a very loose organization of everyday citizens who's common sense sees through the lie of the progressive dogma. They are desperately exercising their first amendment rights before they find themselves forced to employ their second. They can no more be hijacked by "bigots", "rabid right wingers" or libertarians than the NAACP could be hijacked by the Klan. But that's just how foolish playing the race card is. It just proves how shallow and "uneducated" the player is.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Scotch62 said:

Republicanblack, take Chad's advice and try the site. Generally, you could characterize the Tea Party movement as a return to government as outlined in the constitution (minus the 16th &17th amendments IMO). The "fractiousness" of the movement in my opinion speaks to the many ways our government operates outside our constitution combined with the many levels of frustration those impacts have on individual (taxpaying) citizens. I'd also like to correct your false economic paradigm concerning capital. (which progressive government Keynesian economists love to perpetuate at our expense) Governments DO NOT create capital. Capital is created by the savings of individuals and the profits of businesses. Government cannot spend until they first take the money (taxes), borrow the money (bonds), or print the money (debase the currency). All three of these activities siphon capital FROM the economy now (taxes) or in the future (bonds and money inflation) and redistribute capital to government's chosen "winners". These capital transfers are in effect a transfer of power from the taxpaying citizens (and their children & grandchildren) to the government and at this point we have become tired of being "tread upon". And for wanting to have a lesser share of the fruits of OUR labor TAKEN from us, we are labeled by demagogues as "crazy greedy racist teabagging hate-mongers". It seems to me that the greedy are those who are willing to lie to gain control of capital they didn't earn.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Scotch62 said:

Republicanblack, take Chad's advice and try the site. Generally, you could characterize the Tea Party movement as a return to government as outlined in the constitution (minus the 16th &17th amendments IMO). The "fractiousness" of the movement in my opinion speaks to the many ways our government operates outside our constitution combined with the many levels of frustration those impacts have on individual (taxpaying) citizens. I'd also like to correct your false economic paradigm concerning capital. (which progressive government Keynesian economists love to perpetuate at our expense) Governments DO NOT create capital. Capital is created by the savings of individuals and the profits of businesses. Government cannot spend until they first take the money (taxes), borrow the money (bonds), or print the money (debase the currency). All three of these activities siphon capital FROM the economy now (taxes) or in the future (bonds and money inflation) and redistribute capital to government's chosen "winners". These capital transfers are in effect a transfer of power from the taxpaying citizens (and their children & grandchildren) to the government and at this point we have become tired of being "tread upon". And for wanting to have a lesser share of the fruits of OUR labor TAKEN from us, we are labeled by demagogues as "crazy greedy racist teabagging hate-mongers". It seems to me that the greedy are those who are willing to lie to gain control of capital they didn't earn.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Tony B said:

It might be important for you folks to know there is a book aout ther call Fourth Turning. It goes into great detail about the cycles the world society and American society has travelled through. Each turning lasts 20-25 years and the cycle 80-100 years. Based on what the writer wrote in 1997 we are currently in the mists of a Crisis which began on 9-11-2001. The date wasn't predicted only a period roughly 2005. Another important note is the Baby Boomer generation is the current group of people trying to cram this stuff down our throats. Many of which were in college or to young to fight in Vietnam so they stay home and created turmoil as young adults. Now they are a generation or two older and they have the power to create turmoil in our municipal, county, state, and federal governments. The best we may be able to do is fight the good fight, weather the storm and prepare for a new beginning. Time for God to return to our homes, then our schools and make it's way back into our government.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM

LibertarianAMG said:

From the Article linked to by Republicanblack on the Tea Party being established on a lie:"It is a fact that a republican controlled law-making body devised policies that bankrupted the country, granted spending and facilitated the loss of industry to overseas markets"Really? I didn't know Clinton was a Republican!http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/30/business/fannie-mae-eases-credit-to-aid-mortgage-lending.html?pagewanted=1"Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits."and the 1999 article points out the 'bail out' that did in fact come during less prosperous times"In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's."True Tea Party backers are not left or right or Republican or Democrats. They are against Government spending pure and simple.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 10:11 PM

kev said:

republicanblack: I disagree with you wholeheartedly. I think you've fallen into the crowd of leftists who believe (or at least say they believe) that if you oppose obama, you are de facto racist. I oppose obama form many of the reasons I opposed john kerry and al gore. Additionally, obama is a product of chicago politics, which is arguably the most corrupt in this country. Then, there's his close working association with known communists, domestic terrorists/murderers, and his socialist agenda. I will vote for a good conservative candidate no matter what color or sex he or she may be. And I believe I fit into the category of rabid right winger given what's on the left.

Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 9:06 AM

angrywhiteman said:

RepublicanBlack--I recognize your link. Stopped by one of your blogs t'other day, and let's just say I had to stop and take a smoke break. I don't know where you got your information or your ideal, but a more misguided person I have not met. Come out of your mother's basement and see what's happening in the real world. You, sir, are the "educated class" that we are talking about. Ileanna, chill out, no one was talking about you. I understand EXACTLY where RuthAnn is coming from. Yes, you are educated, and yes you believe in God, good for you. But you are not in the "ruling class" trying to shove your "educated" ideas down our collective throats whether we want it or not. You, ma'am, are the kind of "inellectuals" that we need. Someone who understands that their wisdom is not a result of something they did, but a gift from God.

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 1:42 PM

jeff said:

BIG GOVERNMENT-Rudy Giuliani-type police state tactics.thought i would correct your typo mr. Barone.

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 8:20 PM