From time to time, you come across articles or studies which argue that conservatism is steeped in mental illness or a byproduct of so-called authoritarian personality. Last summer, this academic drivel was extended to the Tea Party.
Today, Dr. Justin Frank, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center in D.C., penned an article in Time arguing the Tea Party fears contamination:
The fear-based purism of the Tea Party brings to mind the developmental phase we see in toddlers who insist on keeping separate the different foods on their dinner plate; in their quest fo certainty, a fleck of green parsley in their plain spaghetti will ruin the entire meal. The extremist drive for political absolutism is driven by a similar fear of contamination.
On a different psychological level we see a fear of being force fed – that the mother or father is going to make the child eat the spaghetti despite that speck of parsley. This perspective equates compromise with surrender, a recent theme in primary races with Tea Party candidates. Recently, Indiana Republicans defeated long-time stalwart senator Richard Lugar in favor of a man who promised never to compromise with any Democrat. Texas Tea Party Senate candidate ran ads portraying his Republican opponent as a “moderate”, meaning he’s someone willing to work across the aisle.
This anxiety is also expressed in adulthood as the fear of having to mix with people who are different from self. A high percentage of Tea Party extremists to whom (Alan) Simpson refers still can’t accept someone as different from them as Obama as their president. And what goes far beyond a simple bit of parsley is that Obama is experienced as a living, breathing contaminant that threatens to force-feed his other-ness down the throat of America.
Fear-based purism? Tea Party extremists? It’s not exactly the kind of detached, sober clincial analysis that one would expect of a psychiatrist. If Dr. Frank likens Indiana Republicans who voted for Dick Mourdock over Dick Lugar to children who refuse to eat spaghetti because of a speck of parsley then what of Democrats in Connecticut who jettisoned Joe Lieberman in favor of Ned Lamont a few years back? Or for that matter Texas Democrats who yesterday dumped longtime Congressman Silvestre Reyes? Indeed, it would seem that Dr. Frank is projecting his own biases and prejudices towards a group of people with whom he disagrees.
Speaking of biases and prejudices, Dr. Frank makes the not so subtle suggestion that Tea Partiers dislike President Obama because of the color of his skin (i.e. “the fear of having to mix with people who are different from self”). That Dr. Frank would make such a statement tells me that he has never met a Tea Partier in his life.
It would be great if a local Tea Party group were to invite Dr. Frank to join them for a spaghetti dinner with all the parsley he wants. That is if he’s willing to break bread. I wouldn’t want Dr. Frank to feel contaminated in the presence of Tea Partiers.
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