Is Mandated Therapy Next For Tea Party Delusion Addicts?

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Pop psychologist, lawyer, and addiction expert Stanton Peele set the blogosphere awag when he appeared on MSNBC diagnosing Tea Party members as delusional addicts and potentially violent psychotics irrationally bent on returning to an unattainable idyllic past. He went on to warn that in his expert medical opinion when the movement doesn't get its way it could easily become violent, following in the footsteps of the Norwegian mass murderer.

How's that for fair and balanced?

Forget about demonization. That's so yesterday. Only ankle biters playing to the base waste ink calling Tea Party members "cannibals, vampires, zombies, and metallic beasts," as did New York Times calumniest Maureen Dowd. Comparing Tea Partiers to terrorists didn't seem to work either as it just invited pithy comebacks like, "If we were terrorists, Obama would be hanging with us."

To truly marginalize political opponents one needs to diagnose and "treat" them for their own good, and the good of society. After all, the Soviet Union locked vocal opponents of communism in psychiatric hospitals for years hoping to forestall change. If winning elections can no longer be relied on to maintain the exponential growth of federal spending, why not give gulags a try?

OK, that conclusion is admittedly as extreme as Peele's but where else does his logic lead? Peele's remarks that opponents are "mystified" and unable to understand how the Tea Party succeeded in fending off another attempt at raising taxes even though the Republican leadership was ready to cave speaks volumes. It would never occur to Peele, or the rest of the progressive establishment, that some sort of principles might be involved.

If the belief in a constitutionally limited government of strictly enumerated powers is a form of mental illness because it signifies a yearning for "goals that can't be achieved," what kind of treatment would Peele prescribe to ensure that citizens accept the transformation of Uncle Sam into Uncle Zorba? Force feed refuseniks Paul Krugman columns? In what mental asylum would he have locked Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, and George Washington? I mean, let's face it, they actually did become violent over taxes.

Peele believes that political discourse has been reduced to functioning at a purely symbolic level, with the Tea Party dangerously in control of the symbolism. In an article he wrote last year for Psychology Today he called the Tea Party a cargo cult whose members "pray to totems hoping it will bring them wealth." Speaking as a professional psychologist who apparently studied at the school of Keynesian psychotherapy, Peele opines that "The free market is the talisman that the Tea Party is praying will re-establish the good times."

I've heard the U.S. Constitution called a lot of things but this is the first time I've ever heard it called a totem. Sadly, that may be what it has been reduced to after decades of erosion. Once the Constitution's plain words are stripped of all meaning, replaced with an elastic standard designed to suit the political whims of whichever party has the upper hand, it may as well be a totem for all the power it has to constrain the growth of government.

According to Peele, evidence of Tea Party derangement is that members want to "relive the glory years when the United States was awash in goods, services, rising home prices, and a previously unmatched standard of living for the average American." In order to have a firm grip on reality, Peele insists that it is essential to accept the fact that "life is getting worse, and there's no returning to the past!"

Now there's a campaign slogan to run on. Do you think progressives could get the Democratic Party to adopt this as its motto? It would certainly be a more truthful description of where runaway federal spending is taking us than "Winning the Future." An explicit call to class warfare demanding increased government allocation of a diminishing pie would at least be an honest platform offering voters an informed choice. Then Peele and his friends can try to throw anyone who disagrees with them into an insane asylum on the grounds that they refuse to acknowledge reality. If his pals win the next election they surely won't have to worry that some wizened totem of a Constitution will stand in their way.


Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a Boston-based venture capitalist. You can find all of his columns, TV, and radio interviews here.  If you would like to have his weekly columns delivered to you by e-mail, click here or follow him on Twitter @BillFrezza.

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