A Response From a Clued-In American to a Clueless Brit

16 April, 2009

Yunshui asked (on my post Happy Teabagging Day!) for an explanation of what the hell the right was trying to do with the whole teabagging thing:

Somebody fill me in here – as a Brit who, frankly, can’t be arsed hunting through an infinite pile of porn sites to find the current (political)definition of “teabagging”, I’m at a loss as to what all these teabaggers clogging up the intertubes are actually protesting about. Something to do with taxes? Can somebody please explain to me what “teabagging” is (I know enough slang to realise that it’s a very unfortunate choice of moniker, but I’m not entirely sure what the Republicans mean by it)?

Cheers in advance, clued-up Americans!

In formulating the response to our clueless British cousin, I realized that the explanation I had come up with not only made sense (in the bizarre pseudo-reality way that anything on the right makes sense) and would make a good post.  So, rather than rewrite the thing (which would lose the spontaneity (and (most likely) invite rewrites on my part which would cloud the answer) I decided to do a new post with the explanation:

Basically, the right has their panties in a knot over the idea that millionaires and billionaires may have to pay just a little bit more in taxes to help clean up the mess that conservatism has created. Apparently, jumping the top tax rate up to a level that is still lower than during the reign of Saint Ronald will destroy their version of America. And cutting taxes for virtually the entire middle class is also unacceptable.

Of course, conservatives aren’t real good at actual grass-roots protesting (can’t you just picture mobs of students marching down Pennsylvania Avenue holding up signs saying, “Save the Millionaires”?). So Fox News and some really rich families decided that they can tap into the fear created by the economic chaos (created, in large part, by the policies of the past 8 years) and generate anti-Obama protests.

In order to make the protests look legitimate, and since they concern taxation, the right looked to America’s revolutionary past. They seized upon a moment about 3 years before the Declaration of Independence, the Boston Tea Party (colonials were protesting the fact that England was imposing taxes and the colonists had no say in the taxation (how different do you suppose the world would be if George and the parliament had just said, “Okay, you want representation? You got it”?))

Of course, we no longer buy our tea in large chests. Now it (usually) comes in tea bags (another British invention (Twinings, I believe)). The right seems to think that if thousands of tea bags are sent to Democratic leaders (who were democratically elected) they will suddenly forget who won the last election and vote for the same policies which created this chaos over the last 8 years.

It has morphed beyond a tax protest. The birthers have gotten involved. As has the militia movement, the gun nuts, anti-sex nuts, anti-woman anti-choicers, and even the Birchers. It has gotten so weird that, among the right, the Libertarians are sounding sane.

That, dear Yunshui, is as close as I can get to making sense out of this whole thing. Does that help?

Again, it makes about as much sense as anything else the anti-tax and anti-government zealots have been doing.



  1. What struck me about this silliness was that as I watched the news about these”demonstrations”, it seemed that they were mainly comprised of middle class Americans who seemed to willingly desire to be taxed into oblivion just so the upper class (of which they seem so envious of)can get off with not paying their fair share to clean up the mess they created.

  2. What a good thing there wasn’t a tax on wolves in the mid-18th century…

  3. Tau: Yeah, the whole “Middle Class for Millionaires” just strikes me as odd. Why are we (and by we, I mean the middle class) protesting our taxes going down while millionaires taxes go up? Absurd.

    Yunshui: I think that wolf party would not have worked, either. There is a, shall we say, alternate definition there? (or at least there was when I was in high school).

  4. Thank Gawd for small mercies. At least the anti-immigration folks didn’t get involved and call them Dirty Sanchez Parties.

  5. At least the anti-immigration folks didn’t get involved and call them Dirty Sanchez Parties.


    Just you wait… I’ll not put anything past them after this.

  6. Postman: What makes you think they weren’t? I think every single right-wing talking point was part of the protest. Anti-immigration, anti-gay, anti-liberal, anti-French — I could have gone on ad nauseum, but really didn’t want to do that to my brain.

    Craig: No blogger has ever been wrong overestimating the stupidity of today’s conservatives?

  7. Well, I certainly didn’t quite say that. But since the election they’ve managed to reach heights of stupidity and irrelevancy that have surprised even me.

  8. Craig: Sorry, I took your comment and the polemicized it to the maximum. I really have reached the point where nothing the right does surprises me. The governor of Texas is talking secession. No surprise. I can’t put anything past them.

  9. Ah. Well that was what I was getting at, but I shy away from absolutes. I’ve had bad experiences with absolutes…

  10. Craig: I’ve had bad experiences with absolutes… That is why I drink scotch. Vodka (actually, it was a punch called Green God Damn (vodka, pure grain, limeade, lime sherbet and apples) was my first drunk) and I don’t get along.

  11. Teabagging? Heh heh – gaffaw!

    Well for years I’d understood it to be a term used when sailing a dinghy with the crew hanging out on the trapeze wire on the windward side. If the helm doesn’t pull the mainsheet in fast enough when the wind lulls, the boat heels to windward causing the crew to be dunked (like the proverbial teabag) in the water.

    However, I’ve since been informed, when using this term in (relatively) polite company, that teabagging is when a woman “dunks” a man’s ballsack in her mouth.

    This is presumably just after she says, “Hello Sailor”…

  12. Yunshui is obviously not a cockney.
    ‘Yunshui’ is yer monika, ‘teabagging’ is yer soubriquet, innit?(You would think Dick van Dyke was actually here in the room, wouldn’t you?)

    A clear explanation of teabagging for us foreigners, though: thanks.

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