A number of years back, during the Bush administration, a New York Times columnist (I believe it was Paul Krugman, but haven’t been able to find the article) wrote a piece that began with the recounting of a story of a group of aggrieved peasants in some eastern European country raiding the house of the local noble who owned their land, murdered him and his family, and razed his land, all in predictably gruesome fashion. This, the columnist described, was a meaningful instance of class warfare, wherein the poor and the rich were quite literally locked in battle. In contrast, Democratic proposals at the time to not extend tax cuts to the super-rich were not class warfare in any meaningful sense of the word. The value of this column and this story was that it called to question the lunacy of describing relatively minor disagreements on taxation policies “class warfare,” a term that the GOP and the press were happily using.
When I read a piece like the one in today’s Times on the growth of rightwing Tea Party activism in the face of an African-American Democratic President, I wish Krugman or whoever it was would write a column about actual tyranny. Reporter David Barstow describes the evolution of a retired woman in Idaho as such:
The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.
Teabaggers may think they are “bracing for tyranny,” but there is no reasonable explanation that tyranny is coming to America. I get that Barstow is just repeating what he’s hearing from his subject, but the paper of record shouldn’t be helping to further such an inflammatory and falsifiable claim as President Obama is moving the US towards tyranny. Perhaps a reminder of what tyranny looks like would be a helpful reminder for both political reporters and the Teabaggers themselves.