Resistance vs. tea-baggers

The Tea Party targeted liberal incumbents in conservative seats, resulting in more Senators and Reps to their liking.  The progressive “resistance” appears prepared to target the same type – liberal incumbents in conservative seats – and are also going to get more Senators and Reps to the Tea Party’s liking.  Here’s how Kimberley Strassel puts it:

The original tea party was about making conservatives in this center-right country act like conservatives again. The progressive tea party is about making Democrats in this center-right country act like Bernie Sanders.

Varad Metha digs into this notion of “resistance” a bit more.  The opposition to Trump is getting much better press than did the opposition to Obama, even though the former are breaking stuff and setting cities on fire.  The “tea baggers” mostly just wore funny hats and picked up after themselves.

The depiction of the march as a manifestation of opposition to President Trump didn’t bother me; that’s what it was. What stoked my ire was the implicit, casual assumption that this opposition constituted a “resistance.” Garber’s article was one of many published around the inauguration proclaiming not only the existence but the virtue of the anti-Trump movement, virtue signaled by its designation as a “resistance.” Such unthinking credulity is galling…

This is absurd, of course, but its absurdity is not the demonstrators’ fault. They are exercising their right to organize and protest, and it is only to be expected that they would have a generous view of themselves. No, the blame for turning the Trump opposition into the Trump resistance lies squarely on the media, who bought the claim wholesale and have been retailing it ever since.

By now, you may well be wondering: Didn’t we see this movie already? Didn’t we just live through eight years of resistance to Barack Obama? Don’t be silly. There was no anti-Obama resistance, because the media never said there was. There was, however, plenty of obstruction. And this rose with a different name did not smell nearly as sweet.

The word “resistance” appears in few if any stories on the opposition to President Obama. It’s missing from reports about the earliest tea-party protests in April 2009, which critics dismissed at the time as “represent[ing] the most extreme adherents of American conservatism, hardly representative of the average American.” Such language, it goes without saying, is wholly absent from mainstream coverage of the Trump “resistance.”  …

Democrats in Congress may behave toward Trump exactly as Republicans did toward Obama, but only one will be a resistance. Nor has the so-called resistance been subjected to the same skepticism of its motives and associations that the Tea Party was, even though the Women’s March unapologetically embraced some of the more controversial progressive causes.

The key difference between reporting on the Tea Party and the resistance is that the media adopted the latter’s self-conception in a way it never did the former’s. The media called the GOP “obstructionists” because that’s what the media thought Republicans were; it called the anti-Trump groups the “resistance” because that’s what the anti-Trump groups thought they were.

If you think I’m making a mountain out of a semantic molehill, you’re wrong: It was already a mountain. Very simply, language matters. How we describe something can confer a profound moral valence upon it. Conservative opposition to Obama was framed as “obstruction,” which betokens something irrational, nefarious, or even dishonest that needs to be overcome. “Resistance,” on the other hand, is noble and heroic. It conjures visions of brave, self-sacrificing Europeans standing against the Nazi terror or General Leia withstanding the First Order.

The media got one thing right: The Tea Party was never a resistance. But the anti-Trump Left isn’t one, either, because there’s no place for such a thing within the American political order.

From the moment Donald Trump won the election, he has met with protests, marches, demonstrations, pickets, letter-writing campaigns, petitions, phone banks, jokes, speeches, and harsh media scrutiny. In other words, he has been treated exactly like his predecessors. Admittedly, the volume and celerity of dissent are novel, but then so is Trump…

Moreover, when opposition to Trump is elevated to the level of resistance, Trump too is elevated: Resistance is for existential threats, meaning Trump must be one. But while the term says too much and does too little, making it particularly ill-suited as an appellation for Trump’s opponents, its grandiosity and romanticism are precisely why it appeals to them.

The biggest problem with resistance as a moniker for Trump’s opponents, though, is that what they’re resisting is the outcome of a free, democratic election. As Ed Morrissey writes, they have “decided to pretend the loss of an election amounts to oppression and have adopted the language of revolution to rally themselves.”

In the context of American politics, resistance of this sort is a nullity. You can’t “resist” your own legitimate, duly elected government. The idea is a non sequitur. None of the marchers has abrogated their allegiance to the United States. None is seeking the overthrow of the American government. The conceit of resistance may draw ego-boosting parallels with the French Resistance, but the latter movement arose to fight a mortal confrontation with a hostile foreign power that had invaded and occupied France. If anti-Trump protesters believe that they, too, are in battle with an alien power, they are delusional.

The idea of a resistance to Trump is thus a category error: There can’t be a resistance because there is nothing to resist…

However one chooses to define “resistance” in this political sense, the usual functioning of our electoral processes can never qualify. Otherwise, any and every form of protest or participation becomes an act of resistance… What seems never to have occurred to the protesters or their media champions is that a vote for Donald Trump was a form of resistance against them; that, in his supporters’ eyes, he represents a revolt against the “front-row kids,” the establishment, the media, cities, coastal contempt for fly-over states, and what one columnist appositely labeled “no-choice politics.” …

Trump voters are resisting, anti-Trump voters are resisting. What does it say about the health of the body politic when everyone is resisting the routine operation of its organs?


This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Resistance vs. tea-baggers

  1. Paul Marks says:

    The term “Tea Bagger” is offensive – and was coined to be offensive.

    The Tea Party members were just saying they were “Taxed Enough Already” – TEA.

    The “Resistance” are not really saying anything – other than “Kill Trump”.

    By the way original Tea Party group members should remember the other side of the movement – being opposed to wild GOVERNMENT SPENDING.

    If President Trump engages in wild government spending (on “infrastructure” and so on) then he should be opposed.

    Sadly the “Resistance” just wants to smash, burn and attack people. They do not oppose President Trump for being too Big Government, they oppose him for not being Big Government enough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s