Two new books set up the showdown.
There are two kinds of political movements, the trendy (Single Tax, Grangers, No Nukes) and the transformational (New Left, Moral Majority, 1970s Tax Revolt). In the aftermath of transformational mass movements, politics is never the same. Whereas the trendy movement reflects a snapshot in time, the transformational movement leaves an imprint that outlasts its time.
Two new books by conservative authors offer history-as-it-happens takes on two seemingly transformational, albeit conflicting, mass movements. New Human Events editor Jason Mattera’s Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation dissects the president’s spell over young people, while Boston radio host Michael Graham tackles the tea-party movement in That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom: Team Obama’s Assault on Tea-Party, Talk-Radio Americans.
In case the title or arresting drone-like images on its cover didn’t give away the author’s political sympathies, Obama Zombies liberally invokes Barack Obama’s middle name and employs a thesaurus of insults — “throne sniffers,” “schmuck,” “thug,” “dork,” “toolbag,” “girly boy,” “nitwit” — when speaking of the president or his votaries. It is catharsis through reading for those awaiting January 20, 2013 as impatiently as the Bush Haters awaited January 20, 2009.
Obama Zombies is surprisingly then at its best when praising rather than bashing Barack Obama. Especially instructive is the section on the Obama campaign’s exploitation of new media for votes, donations, and publicity. Mattera relays that Obama’s Facebook Friends outnumbered John McCain’s by almost 4-1, his website’s unique visitors in the week leading up to the election beat the Republican’s by more than 3-1, his campaign videos on YouTube bested his opponent’s by more than 5-1, and his Twitter followers dwarfed the Arizona senator’s by roughly 23-1. Mattera’s point is that Obama’s thrashing of McCain among young people wasn’t just for the superficial reason that the Republican was old enough to be the father of his opponent (who, it should be remembered, was old enough to be the father of most first-time voters). Barack Obama communicated to young people through the media in which they communicate. They communicated their approval by voting for him.
Though conservatives can learn from Obama’s thrashing of them on style points in the 2008 election, they can win young people over with substance in upcoming elections. Mattera sees ObamaCare as a generational wealth transfer, in that caps on insurance premiums for older Americans necessarily boost the premiums of younger Americans. The national debt, which, if current trends prevail, will be greater during an eight-year Obama presidency than during the constitutional regime’s 219 preceding years, sits as a weighty burden upon the shoulders of Generation Y.
Unemployment, which the stimulus package promised to rein in, has gotten more out of control since the passage of the spending bill. The pain is felt acutely by young people, whose unemployment rate is higher than the national average. The “Obama Zombies” whose first votes were cast for a better future ironically now face the bleakest job prospects for college graduates in decades.
“The numbers aren’t looking good,” Mattera concedes. “The GOP is getting older, and younger voters are aligning with liberal candidates.” As Obama offered young people change, Mattera’s message is that conservatives must change tactics if they wish to win young people back.
The Tea Parties are in part a reaction against the success of the “Obama Zombies,” though the runaway spending they rail against certainly predated Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House (or even in Washington). However tempting it would be to see Mattera’s “Obama Zombies” as photographic negatives of Graham’s fellow tea partiers, the equation of an issue-driven movement with a personality-driven movement doesn’t compute.
“Every president has spoken out against his rivals,” Michael Graham posits in That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom. “But I can’t think of another president who treated typical citizens this way — not even Nixon, who at least confined his enemies list mostly to big-name political opponents. No administration before Obama’s has cried ‘Hater!’ and released the dogs of war upon the general population. Trashing politicians is good fun. But political attacks against the American people. That’s a new low.”
The template was evident on the campaign trail with the demonization of Joe the Plumber, the stereotyping of rural Pennsylvanians clinging to guns and religion, and the implication that New Hampshire primary voters cast ballots based on race and not the candidates. In governing, the Obama Administration predictably remains stuck in that mold in its rhetorical attacks on tea-party demonstrators. The script, the book hammers home, has been to paint Obama’s opponents as racist, fascist, terrorist, angry mobsters. The attacks on America’s most listened to radio show and America’s most watched cable news outlet are symptoms of the disease that That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mob lays out. As Graham vividly puts it, “You’re either with the plan, or in the Klan.”
The strategy of attacking the electorate may be suicidal as far as politics go, but as far as naming the enemy, the Obama Administration has theirs correct. The greatest impediment to its designs on issues from health care to Miranda rights for foreign terrorists has not been Washington opinion or media opinion. It has been public opinion.
In round one of Tea Partiers versus Obama Zombies, which took place last month at the U.S. Capitol, the Obama Zombies attained victory by extending health insurance benefits to 32 million uninsured Americans. Round two takes place this November in polling places across the country. The Obama Zombies’ victory in round one foreshadows their defeat in round two. The outcome of round three may determine which of these seemingly game-changing movements will be remembered as more trend than transformation.
Daniel J. Flynn blogs at www.flynnfiles.com and is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left.
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