Mark Small Takes Paul Ogden to Task on the Tea Party’s Role in Romney’s Defeat

Sometimes the Indiana blogosphere seems way too lethargic. Maybe I’m just not reading the write right blogs. But, in any case, here I am like a schoolyard gawker yelling “fight! fight!” Mark Small of Civil Discourse Now wrote a blog post entitled Yes, Paul Ogden, the “tea party” played a big part in Romney’s loss. This is a response to Ogden’s post entitled the Future of the Tea Party Movement.

In a lot of ways, the Tea Party has been to political observers as words were to Humpty Dumpty.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’?” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’?”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

Small does a good job of describing the Tea Party as it was observed in the wild. I think Ogden’s concept of the Tea Party is more of a vision he’d see in Plato’s cave.


  1. Carlitop Brigante says

    Small sizes up the tea party fairly well. Ogden’s arguments remind me of the marxist arguments that I heard back in the late 1970s in college. “Well, the Soviet Union is not truly a marxist state. If only someone would get it right. Right. Maybe it will succeed in Albania. North Korea. Cambodia.”

    The Allegory of the Cave is interesting. Life as poorly understood forms.

    Then pull the prisoner into the sunlight and see what happens. The illumination. I think the tea party has been dragged out into the sunshine, the best disinfectant.

    • steelydanfan says

      How is that a bad argument as applied to the U.S.S.R.?

      Please show me evidence of workers’ ownership of the means of production, the end of class differentiation, the absence of a state, and the breakdown of national and ethnic divisions.

        • steelydanfan says

          Perhaps, first, you should give the Wright Brothers evidence that powered heavier-than-air human flight ever succeeded. Then perhaps you’ll start to see how absurd of a requirement that is before advocating something. It’s utterly reactionary.

          Not to mention the fact that, to be pedantic, talking about “Marxism” “succeeding” misses the whole point of Marx (as well as non-Marxist communists) altogether.

          • Carlito Brigante says

            Go ahead, be as pedantic as you want. I only studied Marxist econmics as part of my undergraduate Economics minor. I wouldn’t have spent a second on Marxism if it had not been a component of Comp. Econ.

            And extraordnary claims like whatever “ism” that promoted collective ownership of the system of production requires extraordinary evidence.

            And the logic that underlies your point about the Wright brothers is beyond recognition. Stick to the Marx brothers next time.

            • steelydanfan says

              > Go ahead, be as pedantic as you want. I only studied Marxist econmics as part of my undergraduate Economics minor.

              Fundamentally, Marxism is a paradigm for understanding history. It’s a paradigm that I don’t totally buy myself, though I often find it useful for making rough sense of things–but it’s more than “Rich people bad, poor people good” that uninformed people make it out to be.

              Really, Marxist history is quite positivistic rather than normative. History is seen as a progression of stages defined by the dominant form of economic organization, each one providing improvements over the previous one and a major leap forward in terms of material abundance and well-being, but not indefinitely sustainable and ultimately doomed to collapse from the contradictions it engenders. To claim that “Marxism” has “failed” or “succeeded,” is (aside from ignoring that there are differing schools of thought, both among Marxists as well as between non-Marxist communists and anarchists such as myself, of just what exactly Marx was claiming, how much of it must be modified or rejected entirely to take into account advances in knowledge over the last 130-160 years, etc.) to completely ignore the fact that at its core, Marxism is not a political program advocating for what should be, but rather a historical analysis of what is and has been.

              > And the logic that underlies your point about the Wright brothers is beyond recognition.

              The mindset that insists upon prior examples of success before an idea can be taken seriously/should be tried/can be reasonably advocated is a mindset that would have told Willie and Orvie not to bother building a plane, because no one’s ever succeeded before.

              It’s a mindset that would halt all social and technological progress.

              It’s a fundamentally reactionary mindset.

        • varangianguard says

          Not so hard as all that, steelydanfan. Marxism has succeeded in college campuses all over the country.

          Many tenured professors, in certain sciences, stand steadfast in their solidarity with the proletariat masses every day in class. Afterwards, they drive home to their suburban ‘dachas’ alone in their minivans.

          • Carlito Brigante says

            The Marxist professors I knew usually threw good parties, though. And scored on more attractive undergrads their Hayekian colleagues. I would call that a success.

            • says

              I think I might have attended some of those parties. I would go home, in awe of the teachers who were enjoying themselves as I repaired to my lonely room at the frat. That was why I studied the works of Marx—primarily Groucho. I thought if Marxists got that lucky, the ideology was something to consider.

              • varangianguard says

                The cruel hoax of it all was that the professors were enjoying the benefits of “authority” rather than any benefits from adhering to academic Marxism. So, they really are (were?) just more like petite bourgeoisie swilling about with the peasants.

      • steelydanfan says

        Do you understand the difference between a formal and informal fallacy?

        When there are established, objective criteria that must be met to be a Y, and X fails to meet those criteria, then it is not at all fallacious to point that X is not a Y.

        Otherwise, you’d be able to say “HA! NO TRUE SCOTSMAN! FALLACY! BAD ARGUMENT!” if I claimed that no six-footer is 5’10”. Which is clearly absurd.

  2. says

    Mark Small used copious amounts of illegal substances in high school and college. His brain may have been hitting on all six cylinders in grade school, but he’s down to about one cylinder today. That explains his claim that Mitt Romney, who couldn’t even spell Tea Party if you spotted him with a “T”,”A” and “Party” (well that joke went off track) could be considered a Tea Party candidate with his failure being the responsibility of the Tea Party. The point in my original piece was that the Tea Party made enormous strides when it focused on the economic populism. Movements don’t succeed when they try to do too much. The Tea Party can’t succeed trying to be a coalition instead of a focused movement.. It is the job of the political parties to bring together various elements into a winning coalition. The Tea Party needs to get back to its core issues. I’m not dissing those social issues, as Mark does, as being important. (Indeed Republicans cannot win nationally without embracing social conservative issues…though there is a legitimate debate what those issues should be.) Those social issues just shouldn’t be Tea Party issues.

    • Carlito Brigante says


      Don’t be so hard on Mark’s brain cell’s. He likely laid quite a few back for his working years.

      I would argue that policial movements of most kinds do not fair well in this country’s two-party system. Most fall away, and handful get some of their agenda addressed. And none that I can recall get co-opted in their current form.

      If the tea party is around in 2022, I will be shocked and somewhat awed, at least by their methods.

    • jharp says

      The Tea Party is nothing more than ultra right wing republicans too embarrassed to admit it.

      Soon enough they will be too embarrassed to call themselves Tea Partiers.

      So far they have cost republicans 5, count em, 5 Senate seats. And with the next Senate being composed of 55 D 45 R they have done the Democrats a pretty significant favor.

      Long live the Tea Party!

    • says

      My impression is that the economic populism of the Tea Party was always mostly a pretext. Obviously, you’re going to have almost as many motivations as you do individuals in a particular group. Some were just as concerned about spending under Bush as under Obama. Some are just as concerned with tax dollars getting spent on unnecessary wars as with dollars getting spent on poor people with dark skin. Some don’t care at all that white, male heterosexual Protestants are losing their social and political dominance. But that’s not the vibe I get from the movement as a whole.

      • says

        You may suffer from the dreaded ‘epistemic closure’ on this point – you seem to be seeing what you are predisposed to see.

        Or maybe its me – I see ‘tea party’ as a label for a trend, rather than as the name of any monolithic group. And the trend is expressing a belief that government takes too much, and tries to do too much, while not delivering enough real value to us.

        You impute more of a racial/sexual/religious agenda than I believe exists – although I do think there’s a correlation of this trend with conservative social values.

        Of course, I also think you can espouse conservative social values on pragmatic grounds without being racist/sexist/generally hateful – so maybe I’m just not a true Scotsman…

  3. says

    On the whole, I have to agree with many of the points Paul Ogden makes about the Tea Party.

    Like Paul, I find that it is a group that is more effective promoting economic issues than social, which is where the hypocrisy over ‘limited government’ starts to bog them down.

    Like most groups, they aren’t a monolith. They cover a spectrum- even if it seems exceptionally limited to the other side of the broader spectrum. It fractured badly this election due to a lack of focus, which pretty well dismisses the notion of being strictly Republican Party operatives. If they were purely Republicans, they would have been enthusiastic for Romney. They were not. Again, like Paul, I see that the Republican Party failed to keep Tea Partiers in their coalition by offering a country club Republican in Romney, who stood fully athwart TP’s economic ambitions. Enthusiastically anti-Obama is only half of the contest, especially when time to GOTV. In sum, the TP fractured within itself, and the GOP fractured across its tent.

    And really, readers of this blog should have picked up and delighted on one thing in particular that Ogden pointed to about the GOP as a coalition party: Without the social conservatives, the GOP is the party of Goldwater, a minority party. That is to say, limited government is a minority view. I agree that it is plainly a minority view in the USA. Holy crap, but do I agree!

  4. Henrietta says

    Those old enough to remember will recall the Silent Majority and Rockefeller Republicans of the late 60s and early 70s. Today we call them Teabaggers and RINOs. Truth is, if the GOP loses either they will lose more elections.

    Paul Ogden has a long history of astute observations. Even if I agreed that his take on the Tea Party were baloney (I don’t), I’d take any criticism of him with a grain of sale.

    Concerning cyberbullying, I have no use for it. There’s a guy up in Ft Wayne who has a long history of trashing scores of notables for no apparent reason other than to feed his ego. Sad.

    If you can’t play nice, at least play fair.

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