Best political line of the decade?

It’s a little early, but Steve Benen may have uncorked the classic line of the 2010s.

I know it’s early, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that Steve Benen has uncorked the classic line of the 2010s:

If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you’d only see one circle.

And thank Hermes there are bloggers out there who do their readers the credit of assuming we know what a Venn diagram is.

Author: Andrew Sabl

Andrew Sabl, a political theorist, is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics and Hume’s Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England, both from Princeton University Press. His research interests include political ethics, liberal and democratic theory, toleration, the work of David Hume, and the realist school of contemporary political thought. He is currently finishing a book for Harvard University Press titled The Uses of Hypocrisy: An Essay on Toleration. He divides his time between Toronto and Brooklyn.

38 thoughts on “Best political line of the decade?”

  1. I actually think there's more wisdom in his observation later in the post that "It's inherently challenging to create a lasting, successful political movement predicated on literally nothing more than ignorance and rage."

  2. I think the competition is going to be tough. They keep throwing hanging curve balls so sane people will keep hitting grand slams. I'm not even sure Benen wins the day. In fact I'm not even sure that Benen wins the day even if we restrict our attention to posts which include the word "Benen"

    Not to beat Drum's drum but

    "Likewise, Steve Benen finds Sen. Scott Brown (R–Mass.) explaining that he can't support financial reform because it's 'going to be an extra layer of regulation.' Which is like saying that you don't want better brakes on your car because 'they're going to slow me down.' "

    is pretty good.

  3. If you were to create a Gannt Chart to plot an American financial destruction scheme, it would correspond nicely with the Gantt Chart for most of Obama's major initiaves.

  4. Bux:

    Isn't that what Beck does on his blackboard every time he's on the teevee? Not really Gantt charts, but then linking stuff up with arrows can make anything look like anything else.

  5. This implies that they understand everything that they don't care about, and that's just silly!

  6. Actually, John, it does not imply that. Pull out your logic 101 textbook, read the chapter on Venn Diagrams, and then re-read the syllogism. Benen's one-circle Venn diagram would suggest that either a) tea party members care about every issue and are also confused about every issue or b) tea party members care about no issue and are also confused about no issue. And that, my friend, is just silly! Thanks Steve Benen for another hollow one-liner from the left.

  7. Actually, yep, I'd say that A) is the proper interpretation…every issue they seem to be worked up about, they seem to be horribly confused about.

    I haven't seen any issues that they are NOT worked up about.

  8. It is really more acurate to say that the issues the teaparty folks seem to rail about at their rallies are all things that they seem to as a group have little care or understanding about the facts of: taxes, healthcare, personal freedoms, gun rights and well regulated malitias, etc. Steve Benin was using a rather broad rhetoric brush on a group that seems to use the broad brush pretty much all of the time (and doesn't mind how far outside of the lines the paint flies) so I think we can cut him a bit of slack here.

  9. I think it is really more accurate to say that, while the tea party people are probably confused about some things, (Inherent in the nature of a mass movement.) all your list demonstrates is that they're worked up about a lot of things you disagree with them about.

  10. I'll see your Benen and raise you this line from Michael Lind: "The Tea Partiers put the 'petty' in petty bourgeoisie."

  11. Yes Brett, I do disagree with people who believe their taxes have been raised when in fact their taxes have been reduced. I disagree with people who believe the HCR bill puts government "death panels" in control of their health care when that is not true. I disagree with people who believe the constitutional right to bear arms is not linked to "WELL REGULATED malitias" when in fact that is the qualifier stated. I disagree with people who believe the federal govenment is building concentration camps for the internment of "conservatives" without any evidence to support that idea.

    I'm also in diagreement with the twenty-some percent of the global population that believes space aliens are walking among us in disguise as humans. Now I can't prove that claim to be wrong but I somehow doubt it is true. I'm funny that way. Ideas that seem rediculous and have no evidence to support them or have evidence to refute them I tend to disagree with.

  12. Bux: according to the quote, didn't Benen restrict the issues at hand to those the Tea Party people care about? And then said that those are also the ones they don't understand?

    You may not agree, but I think it's a proper use of the chart.

  13. NGC, If that's your interpretation then logically that means that for all of the issues Tea Party people do not care about, they also have perfect understanding of.

  14. If the inside of the circle is "don't understand", then the outside is "do understand"; That's how Venn diagrams work. So, yes, it does amount to a claim that everything they don't care about they understand.

    You'd really want to draw it as two circles, "understand", and "care about", that don't overlap at all. That would get the idea across accurately, without impling that Tea party members are, save for certain subjects, omnicompetent. It would still be childishly stupid, but it would be a proper Venn diagram.

  15. I'm afraid the logicians are correct to find fault. The correct expression of what Steve meant to say would have been "If you were to make a Venn Diagram of the issues Tea Party members care about, and the issues Tea Party members are confused about, you’d see a couple of concentric circles with the former circle lying completely inside the latter." He meant to say that Tea Party members are confused about everything they care about, not that they care about everything they're confused about.

    But notice that correcting the logic only makes the substance of the claim more damning. The corrected Venn diagram expresses the following: "Tea Partiers are confused about everything they care about—and about a hell of a lot of other things too."

  16. It's a damning accustion, certainly. Whether it's damning the tea party people for their near supernatural ignorance, or damning the people who take the accusation for their inclination to believe the worst of anybody do dares to disagree with them, that's the question…

  17. Actually the diagram would have two concentric circles, because the things the Tea Party care about is a proper subset of the things they're confused about.

  18. This only works if you start on New Year's Day 2010. If you go for the decade for which this is the mid-point, 2005-2015, jeez, 'wide stance'? 'the governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail'?

  19. Actually Bux, Venn diagrams represent the domains of multiple data sets and shows the logical interaction of those domains as the meaningful data of study. Two data sets are mentioned (1- issues Tea Party members care about, and 2- issues Tea Party members are confused about), meaning there are two data sets on the diagram. The fact that you only see one circle is indicative of the intersection encompassing both data sets and there being a perfect logical alignment between the two. The logic to the analogy is solid and damn funny!

    Now, thanks for playing. I'm sure we have some wonderful parting gifts for you. Johnny, tell him what he's won!

  20. It would be better as either:

    "If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the things Tea Partiers care about, and the things Tea Partiers have accurate knowledge of, you would see that these two do not overlap."

    "The set of things Tea Partiers care about and have accurate knowledge of is a null set."

  21. We can take it that Tea Partiers are confused as to whether any object, class, element or set constitutes an issue. We have noted that Tea Partiers are trivially confused by issues. Hence the set of issues that Tea Partiers are confused about is the universal set. Therefore there would only be one circle, that of issues which they care about.

  22. Since I can't be bothered to actually attend a tea party, or spend much time sifting through the copious amounts of mental manure piled all over their growing corner of contemporary conservatism, I admit my ideas are less than scientific.

    But I have noticed that a common theme among attendees is that they A)were never all that interested in politics and generally considered themselves independent and B)are really angry about government actions since the financial crisis. This is a fascinating combination because it means that A)these people generally don't know shit about the history of political thought (how many could really tell you who Keynes was?) and B)they are entirely ripe for the taking by intellectually dishonest conservative fearmongering because they don't understand liberalism. Cue: tyranny, czars, deathpanels, birtherism, socialism, communism and all the rest… oh god… brain… hurts…

  23. Tea party protest_1

    I went to the Oceanside Tea Party to protest them, and it was me against the mob. Yeah, mob. There were signs saying “proud member of the angry mob.” Yeah, mob. I received many harangues and reactions, but not a single person I encountered had an intelligent idea about anything. Believe me, I had a thousand people who wanted to talk or yell at me. All fury without any content.

    When I said that an advocate of “drill, baby, drill” should know how much oil we have and how much we use – they said we didn't say that. That's a lie. One said “A Black Man said that …” Huh? One confused ignorant woman chased me around with a sign saying “government out of my body.” It's the Right-Wing that wants to interfere in a people's procreation and sexual lives.

    These fake “Independents” are just the rabble Republican base, played for fools by their leaders. Fake self-deluded Libertarians who don't understand Freedom or our Constitution, defining Libertarianism as “my way.”

    They threw me out. I'm an American Tax Payer and those people threw me out. I doubt their notion of “Freedom.”

    My sign? "the Stupids are here."

  24. They can't be too stupid Richard Crews, because they motivated your sorry ass to go out and actually protest them. I usually just ignore stupid people.

  25. Bux, that's the dillema: what do you do with people who won't listen to reason? For example, no matter what you show a birther, they'll deny it. Yet throughout history horrendous things have been done by stupid people.

    My only hope is that the tea partyists are actually smaller in influence than they appear to be, and come November they won't do too much damage at the polls.

    (btw, I know you don't actually think they're stupid… I was merely making a political point on the dangers of an ignorant citizenry)

  26. "Yet throughout history horrendous things have been done by stupid people."

    Smart people have done some pretty horrendous things throughout history, too. Maybe more horrendous, in as much as being smart made them more effective. I think maybe the relevant difference isn't how smart you are, but how willing you are to let other people live their own lives, rather than the life you're prefer they led.

  27. Eli & Brett – History is littered with many examples of people that have done some pretty horrendous things. Smart does not equal good or evil. But ignorance, fear, and rage are best buddies with evil.

    And I don't think that the tea party people are stupid in general, only about politics. Too bad for America that many people and institutions prefer to stoke ignorance, fear, and rage about politics, rather than defining facts about political subjects. Fox "news" (in my opinion) is one of the institution of which I speak.

  28. Remember this soundbite from Hillary Clinton shreiking back in 2003: . And I quote "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration then somehow you're not patriotic. we should stand up and say 'we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration'". Well said Hillary.

  29. re Bux @ 8:44 —

    Yes? And? So? No one here has said the tea-party folks don't have the right to speak — just that they don't know what they're talking about.

    If you're responding to BuzzMon @ 7:57, your comment still misses the point: according to him, the tea-partiers came to protest, he came to disagree with their protest, and they threw him out.

  30. Brett Bellmore says:

    "Smart people have done some pretty horrendous things throughout history, too. Maybe more horrendous, in as much as being smart made them more effective. "

    That sounded a lot better before Bush II; now it just sounds Republican.

  31. Barryaran says:

    re Bux @ 8:44 –

    "Yes? And? So? No one here has said the tea-party folks don’t have the right to speak — just that they don’t know what they’re talking about."

    And what I've been saying is that these people were conspicuously not protesting during the Bush II reign. They seem to have rediscovered all sorts of sh*t when the other party won an election.

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