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Tea party versus puppies

Friday, October 8th, 2010



For the latest episode in our long-running sitcom Its Always Batty in America, we take you now to the heartland state of Missouri, where tea-party activists have crafted a principled constitutional stance in opposition to healthy puppies.

You think I’m kidding here? Not.

There are times when it’s vital that I highlight the stupidity factor in American politics. This is one of those times, because it’s so emblematic of what is happening these days in certain precincts of the conservative movement.

I suppose I could simply cite the usual evidence – for instance, the GOP’s persistent denial of climate change science, even at a time when conservative European leaders are acknowledging the science and warning (in the words of the new British foreign secretary, a conservative appointee) that “climate change is perhaps the 21st century’s biggest foreign policy challenge.” But you know that story already. The tea-partiers’ stance against puppies is way more fun, if only because it demonstrates that political satirists need not bother to target a movement that’s so adept at inadvertently satirizing itself.

A referendum on the Missouri November ballot is aimed at cleaning up the state’s squalid puppy mills. Animal advocacy groups have long targeted Missouri’s commercial breeders, who are reportedly among the most notorious nationwide – given their well-earned reputation for cramming too many dogs into small unsanitary cages, forcing the breeding females to crank out litter after litter with virtually no respite between pregnancies, and neglecting the basics such as regular food and water. As one Missouri animal advocate also noted the other day, the dogs “become so matted in dirt and feces that they can’t move their legs.”

Accordingly, the Missouri ballot referendum would “prohibit the cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills by requiring large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with basic food and water, adequate shelter from the elements, necessary veterinary care, adequate space to turn around and stretch his or her limbs, and regular exercise.”

Nobody could possibly object to that, right?

Send in the clowns. The Missouri Tea Party, and two other tea-party groups, are furious about this referendum. They’ve got a big meeting next week to ratchet up their campaign to defeat puppy reform. Ready for their argument?

The pro-puppy measure is really just another example of the “government trying to tell people what to do.”

And who better to make the tea-party argument than Joe Wurzelbacher – better known, in 2008, as Joe the Plumber. Having long exhausted his 15 minutes of fame, John McCain’s designated Everyman has loaned his wisdom to the cause. In his words, the pro-puppy referendum is apparently a symptom of the socialist conspiracy that is “taking our constitutional rights away – one state at a time.”

That’s downright cerebral when compared to a statement such as “I’m not a witch.” But still. Joe subscribes to what I like to call The Next Thing You Know school of argument – to wit: If a government is allowed to protect puppies, The Next Thing You Know it might be capable of all kinds of tyranny. Joe, writing online the other day, put it this way: “Think about this for a minute…Should the government have the right to limit the number of houses a realtor can sell? Or the number of cattle a rancher can raise?”

I read some of the small Missouri newspapers, figuring that some average citizen might be smarter than Joe the Plumber. It was an easy job. Say hello to one Ellen Cox:

“I was shocked when I went to the Greentree Festival and found (anti-referendum) literature being given out at the Republican booth. I talked to (a Republican lawmaker there) and he said many people feel the current laws are enough and this is just more big-government interference. We have 10 times the number of puppy mills in Missouri as the next worst state, Arkansas. It’s embarrassing to see Missouri held up as worst in the country when it comes to treatment of our best friends.

“I lean right in my politics. I don’t see this as a right or left political issue. I see this as about acting humane. This is about the torture of God’s creatures.”

Maybe it’s also worth detailing the tea-partiers’ belief that the puppy referendum plot goes all the way to Barack Obama (naturally!), because one top Obama appointee (Cass Sunstein) has in past writings condemned cruelty to animals…nah, forget it.

Forty six years ago, the famed political scholar Richard Hofstadter wrote about what he called ‘the paranoid style in American politics,” a cyclical affliction characterized by “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.” He might just as easily have listed stupidity. How else to explain a mode of thought that now stands in opposition to healthy puppies?

But surely the tea partiers will point out that the word puppies never appears anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, and therefore that the Founding Fathers surely never intended any government protection…Well, I guess they got me on that one.


42 Comments

  • F. Inahoy says:

    There are times when it’s vital that I highlight the stupidity factor in American journalism and I must say, that three days later when I reread Polman’s column, it still strikes me as one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.

  • Still Independent says:

    swedesboromike: not that it matters, but when you say “the 4.8 % unemployment we enjoyed on the Eve of Democratic control of Congress”, what month are you referring to? I could only find two months at 4.8, Oct 07 and Feb 08, neither of which would be the “eve” of dem control on congress. Just curious.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Still, what am I missing here. According to the proof source that you provided unemployment was 4.4% in December of 2006. The article I read was 4.8. Great numbers btw. Numbers of which Obama would most certainly trumpet. 9.6% is very bad in my view. We are nearly 4 years into Democratic control of Congress and nearly 2 years of Obama’s presidency. Unemployment has gone up, not down. Liberal policies aren’t working. All snarkiness aside, the party in charge is going to be in trouble with the economy in this shape. We are far to far into Democratic control for it to be anyone’s fault but Democrats.

  • swedesboromike says:

    Great article on how liberals keep people in poverty. How many more people must the liberals put on food stamps until everyone can see how horific their policies are…………………………http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/lloyd-marcus-tea-party-blog/2010/oct/08/lloyd-marcus-tea-party

    • yobill626 says:

      How does making sure puppy mills breed their animals in a reasonable fashion helping to keep people in poverty? How many people who own & operate these puppy mills live below the poverty line? (Thats an easier bet to make than the Phils beating the Reds). In theory, your “no governmental interference” dogma makes sense, until one factors in the realities that some people are scumb*gs & need laws & regulations agreed to by a majority to adhere to in order to do the right thing.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Yobill- The article I posted is about how liberal policies keep people dependent on government. I find it amusing that Polman is writing about puppy mills on the same day the last unemployment figures come out before the mid-terms.

    • Still Independent says:

      swedes: and here’s an article from someone else that was on public assistance who says Lloyd Marcus is full of it. What’s the point of posting opinion pieces where someone relates their own little slice of reality? It’s as ridiculous as your proclamations about global warming based upon what the weather is at your house… Fine. HE found that to be true (oh, and the situation for blacks in the 50’s was a bit different than it is now). Others may not have. Listen, I’m against free school breakfasts and lunches. I’m against a lot of assistance that people receive. But this article you linked doesn’t make the case one way or the other, except for this author.

    • NE Philly says:

      The Democratic Party is the party of Food Stamps! Just sayin’ :)

      • swedesboromike says:

        I’m with you NE Philly. When the Democratic Leader of the house is clamoring that food stamps are an economic stimulus then you know they are in trouble. What is really stimulative is to actually have a JOB! Then one can not only buy food but purchase other things.

  • F. Inahoy says:

    As Polman states, “there are times when it’s vital that I highlight the stupidity factor in American politics”, and this column is one of those times.

  • Logathis says:

    People are opposed to regulating puppy mills? Seriously? The truth is stranger than fiction.

  • Nalaka says:

    I generally agree with Mr. Polman’s blog that it is a bit much to campaign against laws that would improve regulation of puppy mills. But what really struck me about his post is that it could be viewed, by the tea party segment, as an example of intellectual snobbery. That is, someone from outside their region (Missouri in this case) that is just another intellectual telling them what to do. One factor that drives the tea party is its disdain for intellectuals, and it manifests as their “hands-off”/deregulation policies (which they justify by claiming that if the Founding Fathers did not mention it in the Constitution, the government should leave it alone). Tea Party folks, like Sarah Palin, tap into that resentment of educated individuals to motivate their base. The sad thing about this approach is that an expert in any given field will always know more about it than the general public, therefore they will often appear to be “talking down” to the public whenever they give advice on a topic. In these modern times, with toxic aluminum sludge contaminating the Danube from Hungary, H1N1 epidemics, and ADHD, there are a lot of problems that do require expert advice. The tea party movements attempts to stick their head in the sand (and make us do so as well) are dangerous for all of us.

  • swedesboromike says:

    9.6% unemployment. 17% real unemployment. And Polman is writing stories about puppy mills. Quite pathetic.

    • Rich says:

      I agree that he could be writing more about the Republican economic mythology that has resulted in the economic destruction behind these unemployment numbers, but it’s his blog, and he gets to choose the subject. How many times do people need to tell you to go start your own blog if you want to choose the subject?

      • swedesboromike says:

        Wow, so Democrats are in charge now for 4 years and some how it is the other parties fault? Good luck running on that in the next 20 days or so.

        • Logathis says:

          Why is it so hard for you to comment on the subject at hand swede? When Polman writes a post about unemployment or the economy, then you can spout your tired talking points. Stay on subject bro. You degrade the conversation on this forum by wildly veering off-topic.

        • Rich says:

          Mike, the economy has been governed by intellectually bankrupt Republican theories from Hayek and the Austrian school of economics since 1980, except during the Clinton years – the only time, incidentally, we had a budget surplus. And Democrats have not been in charge, they can barely pass anything because of Republican obstructionism and filibusters. Give Obama 67 Senators and control of the House and you would see some serious improvements.

        • Rich says:

          P. S. Have you ever been checked for ADHD? Just a thought – maybe a good dose of Ritalin is all you need to stay on task.

        • swedesboromike says:

          Rich- great that you are still channeling Bill Clinton from a decade ago. He had a Republican Congress. Something that this current President sorely needs.

        • sick of swedesboro mike says:

          you need to go away.

    • landscape says:

      If you really mean it Mike, stop reading and stop commenting.

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Must be a sign of just how bad things are for Dems. In a news cycle that had Jerry Brown’s campaign referring to Meg Whitman as a female street walking salesperson, when 95,000 jobs were lost and the total unemployed rose to 17.1% (those looking and those not looking for work), when a new CBS poll shows only 38% believe Obama is handling the economy well and the Repubs have an 8 point lead in the generic ballot, when the Missouri Repub Senate candidate is leading the Dem by 13 points, when the Dem candidate for Senate launches a suit against Obama over EPA mining regulations and comes out against Obamacare (after having been in favor of it before), Polman writes about Missouri puppy mills. Yep, must be tough writing about something other than the trouble Dems are having this election.

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      Dem candidate in West Virginia launched the suit against Obama’s EPA.

      • mw56 says:

        That same Dem candidate (Manchin) a popular governor who has found out that supporting the extreme liberal agenda will make him lose to a relative unknown. We it passed he was for Obamacare. Now says knowing what he knows now he would not have voted for Obamacare. In fact he supports the repeal of certain parts of the bill including provisions that allow for the funding of abortions, the provisions that are cumbersome to small businesses, and the section that takes away people’s personal responsibility and health-care choices with overreaching regulations (i.e. mandates)

        • mw56 says:

          Something I would like to know. When the people clicked on the thumbs down on the factual statements made about WV Gov Manchin. What didn’t you like about it. What Manchin was doing or learning the truth.

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    NEPhilly, yep, not only that, but Republicans, wanting to cut federal funding, are also against Teachers, Police, Firefighters and protecting our children.

    • NE Philly says:

      Of course Tom, how could you interpret being against big govt. any other way? It is too much.

    • Rich says:

      Tom, I think you meant to be sarcastic, but you have inadvertently revealed the GOP’s true agenda there.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Yes, getting us back to the 4.8 % unemployment we enjoyed on the Eve of Democratic control of Congress. I see, your way is much better at 9.6%. Good luck running on that record.

    • landscape says:

      Tom Your stock has really taken a hit in the last week! Get your water tested. You keep it up and you’ll be a penny stock. What happened to the actual discussions?

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    What is so ineffective about the current laws, which seem to not be enforced, that a whole new law is necessary? Other than that, upon reading the referendum, it seems rather simple. Just vote for it and force it to be enforced. Being the owner of a Bernese Mountain Dog and formerly a Golden Retriever, both bought from Lancaster County Amish breeders, this touches close to home.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      Tom, did you know that people in the dog world call those dogs Amish dogs? And not in a kind way. My beloved mastiff was one, too, and I had to put him down because he became aggressive and crazy due to very poor breeding habits. I still could cry sometimes when I think of it. He just had bad genes. Mastiffs, if they are true representatives of the breed, are gentle creatures. And my Nigel was very gentle with me, but he was very fearful and acted aggressively as a response to that fear. You already know I’m a big dog lover, so I have little patience with people who don’t want to help abused dogs.

      • tom - wilmington de says:

        Nigel, I know of what you speak. Bailey is very nervous around strangers, anyone who comes into the house or comes near her. She is great with the kids, but is very protective and anxious around anyone she does not recognize, and it takes a few times for her to get to know the person. The vet says it is common in her breed since they are farm dogs, but it still keeps us on our toes when we take her out.

  • jmc says:

    I have no problem with the statute, but what I learned most from DP’s post is that the Tea Party is in the left’s head, big time.

    • landscape says:

      No, the Tea Party is in the GOP’s head and is destroying the party. Sad

    • Warrick Sawyer says:

      If by “in the left’s head” you mean stepping back and saying “whoa, dude. Fur real?” then I agree. Landscape’s got it right, they’re in the GOP’s head and that head is shaking in disbelief as well.

  • NE Philly says:

    Oh no, the tea party is against puppies! It is almost comical:) Have a nice weekend everyone!

    • landscape says:

      It would be funny if not true. It is true and what’s the old saying abut cutting off your nose?

  • F. Inahoy says:

    Maybe we can send our quarterback Michael Vick off to Missouri to take care of those rascally puppies.

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