Twin Peaks: The Tea Party’s Economic and Social Agenda

2 Apr

Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert have a new article and paper out that confirm a long-held position of mine: the economic and social agendas of the right are one and the same. As Mike and Bryce show, 12 states are responsible for over 70 percent of the state and local public-sector layoffs since 2011.  Eleven of those states were taken over by Republicans in the 2010 election, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Tea Party. Those 11 states were also far more likely to restrict the reproductive rights of women than were other states. Mike and Bryce don’t talk about how those 11 states compare with other states when it comes to rolling back worker and labor rights (though given the higher rates of unionization among public-sector workers, cutting public-sector jobs is obviously connected to that question).  I have my suspicions, but it’d be good to see more research on that as well.

As Mike writes, the research he and Bryce have done sheds critical light on how we think about the right:

I had two questions about this that I tried to answer in this article.  The first was where these state losses were occurring, and whether there was anything interesting going on with the distribution of lost jobs.

The second question was how the new Tea Party influenced Republican state legislatures, especially Republicans that took over 11 states in the historic 2010 midterm elections, were governing.  There’s two theories I saw.  The first could be called the “social issue truce” theory, based on a statement Mitch Daniels made.  As Dick Morris put it, “No longer do evangelical or social issues dominate the Republican ground troops. Now economic and fiscal issues prevail…It is one of the fundamental planks in the Tea Party platform that the movement does not concern itself with social issues.”  They aren’t interested in restricting voter restrictions or reproductive freedoms.  (A corollary theory is David Frum’s argument that ”these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda.”  They won’t even know what to do as there aren’t independent conservative intellectuals to guide them.)

The second theory could be called the Corey Robin theory, which would argue conservatism is everywhere a “reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.”  In this theory, beyond just shredding the public sector in favor of the private, the movement would be compelled to combat challenges against the family that come from reproductive freedoms and threats to entrenched power that come from expanded democratic access.  They might, for instance, be more likely to pass bills restricting reproductive freedoms as well as voter suppression bills than non-GOP states in this theory, where under the “social issue truce” we wouldn’t see a difference.

I think we were able to get an empirical handle on both questions.

18 Responses to “Twin Peaks: The Tea Party’s Economic and Social Agenda”

  1. Kyle Huckins April 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I would have gone with the “They were fucking lying about the social issue truce the whole time and you’re an idiot if you bought it for a second” theory. Pardon my inelegance.

  2. ed April 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    In regard to the attacks on public sector employment: insofar as there is a method to the madness other than pure partisan hatred for union support for robust, competent governance and the democratic party, reducing the public sector workforce also puts downward pressure on private sector wages as laid-off educated and skilled government workers flood the marketplace. This was actually a stated goal in the GOP’s alternative recovery proposals made in 2009-10 (someone with more patience will have to find the exact document, but I explicitly remember reading it) — dressed up in free-market newspeak of course, something-something about making american businesses more “competitive” by reducing labor costs.

  3. Karl April 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Whinging about the Tea Party again, Professor Robin? Elevating yourself again, by denigrating your Partisan Opponent, again?

    Such meaningless fluff you utter. Bravo, oorah, huzzah! to the notion of hating on Evil Rethuglicans –and that alone– as if it will fix things!

    Yes, if only people voted for and posted blog blather for The Right (by which I mean, “Correct”) Team instead of allowing their Better Selves (the “liberal” and “progressive” impulses you are sure they harbor) to run the show! Damn those Evil Rethuglicans and their psych-out arm-twisting rhetoric and threatening promises to Privatize More Bureaucratic Bungles!

    I agree, good sir Corey. It really is simple. Vote Democrat, think Progressive… and the world will be a better place for those of us who wear woolen topcoats atop a J Crew wardrobe and live in nicely understated brownstones in Park Slope.

    Yes. I agree with that. And with the idea that we should shoot everyone who doesn’t fluff God-Emperor Obama.

    • Lifelong Learner April 4, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      Karl, I would strongly recommend you address Corey Robin’s actual argument instead of an endless satirical rant on a caricature/straw man of his position.

      And calm down, too. If you were calmer, you might be less liable to commit the “Appeal to Ridicule” fallacy.

  4. wisedup April 4, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    just popped in here from the Acton Institute and the rather risible article claiming that conservatives “are more willing to embrace the reality of trade-offs and sacrifice” etc. etc.

    The take away is that conservatism is like communism, sounds nice in theory but in reality it really sucks.

    The 6 moral axes include “loyalty, respect, and purity” none of which conservatives have any clue about until someone tells them what to say. Loyalty forced is not loyalty. Respect cannot be coerced. Purity is so often besmirched by conservatives that Haidt must have had a hard time adding it to the list with a straight face. Bernie Madoff wore woolen topcoats I’m sure.

    • Todd April 4, 2012 at 11:29 am #

      wisedup wrote:

      “The take away is that conservatism is like communism, sounds nice in theory but in reality it really sucks.”

      That’s a sincerely ignorant statement (in more than one way).

      • Lifelong Learner April 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

        If you’re calling his statement ignorant in more than one way, wisedup might benefit from having it explained to him exactly what knowledge he does not possess. Simply calling the statement “ignorant” without explaining why is an Appeal to Ridicule fallacy, like the one Karl made in a post above.

      • Mike April 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

        umm, sincerely ignorant is better than ignorant? I’ve heard all the claims as to the moral superiority of conservatives, Haidt is merely the latest, and like all claims as to the superiority of communism none can withstand direct observation.

        If you want to prove that conservatism generates a statistically significant greater number of moral people and greater social peace than than liberalism please introduce the data and arguments. Man up and enter the ring.

  5. Todd April 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Lifelong Learner wrote:

    “wisedup might benefit from having it explained to him exactly what knowledge he does not possess.”

    I didn’t explain it because I didn’t/don’t know precisely who made the ignorant claim: wisedup or whoever wrote the rather risible article.

    If someone’s interested enough, I figure they’ll ask plainly what I meant instead of couching it in terms that reduce my comment to the same level of drivel Karl demonstrated.

    (Damnation, but that ignorance is _everywhere_, eh?!)

    • wisedup April 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      so you do not remain in ignorance my statement “The take away is —” mine, as is the reply with signature “Mike”.

      So expound upon all the ways the statement is ignorant (BTW, I believe you meant profoundly ignorant).

      • Todd April 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

        (No, no; I used the term “sincerely” properly, I think: you made a statement based in pure ignorance ie not knowing a thing about the subject of your statement [at least insofar as communism's concerned]; you weren’t making a joke; your ignorance was quite genuine.)

        Nobody can say with much certainty what the “theory of communism” looks like. Marx himself barely ever wrote about it except in passing; the closest he ever came to outlining “the theory of communism” in a complete manner was that “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” line in The Critique of the Gotha Program, and that’s not anywhere near what’s been argued on this blog as a defining element of conservatism.

        As for the “reality” of communism, what actually happened in the fSU and the other “communist states” didn’t have many links to communism as such (I’d say it was more a “negative reflection” of it, defined more by what it was betraying, than anything else, but that’d be putting too much strain on what little there is to its theory). Every day we can see the reality of conservatism in the operation of class society.

        That’s why I called the statement a sincerely ignorant one.

  6. Todd April 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    Mike wrote:

    “If you want to prove that conservatism generates a statistically significant greater number of moral people and greater social peace than than liberalism please introduce the data and arguments.”

    Except that I don’t believe this in the slightest.

    Would you mind pointing out to me where I even hinted that?

    “and like all claims as to the superiority of communism none can withstand direct observation.”

    Last I checked, what little that can be said about communism (the volumes written about the fSU don’t count) didn’t include as its raison d’etre the increasing of freedom for the powerful few at the expense of the less powerful many. I think it’s been established (at this blog if nowhere else) that conservatism (even liberalism) can’t sincerely make that argument.

    • wisedup April 4, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      ah, cross-posting, lovely.
      Do we appear to be suffering from term confusion here?
      Re. your “the increasing of freedom for the powerful few at the expense of the less powerful many”. Are you saying that this is the core concept of communism or the result of its implementation?
      Since conservatism demands that ‘social/historical’ superiority be respected regards of how it is earned then your statement appears to be equally applicable to conservatism.

      • Todd April 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

        What cross-posting? I was replying to what I thought were two different people.

        “Are you saying that this is the core concept of communism or the result of its implementation?”

        No. I’m saying that communism and conservatism should never be compared in the manner you did.

        “Since conservatism demands that ‘social/historical’ superiority be respected regards of how it is earned then your statement appears to be equally applicable to conservatism.”

        ??

        I’m _really/sincerely_ not following you at all.

        I stated that communism _did not_ include as its “core concept” the increasing of freedom for the powerful few at the expense of the less powerful many. How do you see this as being equally applicable to conservatism, which can’t even begin to make the same argument?

  7. wisedup April 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    umm, doesn’t the simple claim that they “should never be compared in the manner you did” lack punch? Is it ever permitted to compare the two?
    Which part of the comparison do you object to? Too simplistic?

    Please explain what you meant by “which can’t even begin to make the same argument”

    • Todd April 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      “Which part of the comparison do you object to? Too simplistic?”

      I object to comparing them at all in the category of “what sucks”.

      It looked like you were trying to come up with some clever, facetious throwaway line, never expecting to be confronted by a non-conservative who might call you on it.

      “Please explain what you meant by ‘which can’t even begin to make the same argument'”

      Conservatism is all about increasing the freedom of the powerful at the expense of the less powerful; communism isn’t.

  8. wisedup April 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Actually I went fishing for a conservative — caught a non-conservative instead. LOL.

    The true conservative would argue that the powerful don’t have freedom, they carry such “heavy responsibilities” that we should cry and thank them for their selfless devotion. Enough of that crap.

    Have you read Haidt? The latest in a long line of apologists. What we need – I am assuming that no such work is extent – is an assessment of the costs vs. benefits gained for the different philosophies.
    How costly is it to establish? seems that communism demands 100% literacy and political engagement or saintly leaders. Liberalism is intermediate and conservatism is the cheapest.
    How costly is it to maintain? Communism is the hardest due to the lack of effective corrective systems. Conservatism basically matches the cost of communism – the elimination of heresy and unions is a never-ending task.
    How much benefit does it offer? – the floor is open.

    • Todd April 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

      “What we need – I am assuming that no such work is extent – is an assessment of the costs vs. benefits gained for the different philosophies.”

      That’s nice. Have fun with that.

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