Are “Tea Parties” Overthrowing Conservatism?

Question: Is the “Tea Party” movement factionalizing the GOP?


Dick Armey: No. Not at all. I think a lot of people don't understand this at all. First of all, understand that in the state of New York there has been a very active Conservative Party for decades. It elected Senator Buckley in the 70's. And if you look at the history of Congressional races in New York and probably a lot of other races I've seen it through two Congressional races, the Conservative Party oftentimes nominates a person. Historically, they've been the good sports that have been willing to step back and throw their support to the Republicans in the interest of stopping a more liberal Democrat from getting into office.


Now what happened in New York 23rd, was a handful of people got into a backroom, and nominated a Democrat. And the first thing we heard, for example in my shop at Freedomworks, is from our grassroots activists in the north country in New York. They said, "The Republicans have just lost this race. This woman can't possibly win this race. She would not have won a Republican primary."


She was too liberal. There's no way she would have won a Republican primary.


So, what happened was, the Conservative Party said, "Oh, my gosh, the Republicans are about to lose this race." And they fielded a candidate. So, what happened was, there were three candidates from three different parties in the race, two liberals in the Republican and Democrat nominees, and one Conservative.


The Conservative candidate, although he was a first-time candidate, quite naive and innocent in the ways of politics, he grew so fast in his standing with the electorate, that she got knocked out of the race. Once she got knocked out of the race, what did she do? She made a deal with the White House and Chuck Schumer and endorsed the Democrat.


So, the first validation that I see in this is, our grassroots activists called that correctly, didn't they? They did in fact nominate a Democrat. And the Conservative Party failed to win that election.


Now, this is a short-term victory for the Republicans. They can celebrate it all they want because a year from now, the Democrats will lose that seat because the Republicans will have an open primary, they'll nominate a conservative Republican, or at least a middle of the road Republican, and that person will win the race back from the Democrat. So, that Democrat will only sit in that office for about a year.


And when that happens, the conservative party will once again play their role of being in support of their principles and working the Republican nominee a little bit more to their perspective on public policy and then helping him beat the Democrat.


Question: Was the candidate “too liberal” for the party fiscally or socially?


Dick Armey: No, that was a very – social issues were so much – I was up there. I mean, socialists were just simply not a part of the debate in that race. The Democrat candidate, when it was just the two of them in the race, the Democrat was running against her as a big spender. And so, her first transgression was, she was for big budgets, she was for cap and trade, she was for card check, the mandatory union plan that denied workers a secret ballot. On economic issues – and I saw no discussion of social issues in that race. On economic issues, she was so liberal that even the Democrat was running against her for being too liberal.


Question: How can the Tea Party movement help Republicans?


Dick Armey: Well, at some point, everybody who is seeking office, or wanting to hold office, at some point they have to respond to the voting constituency whose votes they want. And right now, the Republicans who are in office are kind of confused about that. This Tea Party Movement which is what you see right now is most visible at grassroots conservatism, is a thousand points of entrepreneurial light in advocating small government constructivism has popped up all over the country and it is the most genuine, largest grassroots movement I've ever seen on particularly the economic issues.


The officeholders are starting, "Oh, I get it. If I want to be reelected, I better be responsive to what these guys are telling me." That's what all the energy – there’s no greater source of energy in public policy discourse and politics today then the small government conservatives.


The orthodox Republican Party is dispirited and confused and going through a massive identity crisis where they're trying to basically ask the questions, "Who are we, and what are we doing here?" The Democrats are inflicted with probably the most severe case of buyer's remorse they've ever had, even worse than with the Clintons in '93 and '94, and they have no energy to bring to the field. So, the field is right now is dominated by the extremely big tent of small government conservatism, which has Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Evangelicals, people of all stripes and color and religious orientation, and they're all happily joined in resistance to a growth in the power of the state that they find frightening for their personal liberties.

Recorded on November 11, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Tea Party backer Dick Armey believes the movement that ousted a Republican Congressional candidate is actually resolving the party's "massive identity crisis."

Are we really addicted to technology?

Fear that new technologies are addictive isn't a modern phenomenon.

Credit: Rodion Kutsaev via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink, which has partnered with the Build for Tomorrow podcast to go inside new episodes each month. Subscribe here to learn more about the crazy, curious things from history that shaped us, and how we can shape the future.

In many ways, technology has made our lives better. Through smartphones, apps, and social media platforms we can now work more efficiently and connect in ways that would have been unimaginable just decades ago.

But as we've grown to rely on technology for a lot of our professional and personal needs, most of us are asking tough questions about the role technology plays in our own lives. Are we becoming too dependent on technology to the point that it's actually harming us?

In the latest episode of Build for Tomorrow, host and Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer takes on the thorny question: is technology addictive?

Popularizing medical language

What makes something addictive rather than just engaging? It's a meaningful distinction because if technology is addictive, the next question could be: are the creators of popular digital technologies, like smartphones and social media apps, intentionally creating things that are addictive? If so, should they be held responsible?

To answer those questions, we've first got to agree on a definition of "addiction." As it turns out, that's not quite as easy as it sounds.

If we don't have a good definition of what we're talking about, then we can't properly help people.


"Over the past few decades, a lot of effort has gone into destigmatizing conversations about mental health, which of course is a very good thing," Feifer explains. It also means that medical language has entered into our vernacular —we're now more comfortable using clinical words outside of a specific diagnosis.

"We've all got that one friend who says, 'Oh, I'm a little bit OCD' or that friend who says, 'Oh, this is my big PTSD moment,'" Liam Satchell, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Winchester and guest on the podcast, says. He's concerned about how the word "addiction" gets tossed around by people with no background in mental health. An increased concern surrounding "tech addiction" isn't actually being driven by concern among psychiatric professionals, he says.

"These sorts of concerns about things like internet use or social media use haven't come from the psychiatric community as much," Satchell says. "They've come from people who are interested in technology first."

The casual use of medical language can lead to confusion about what is actually a mental health concern. We need a reliable standard for recognizing, discussing, and ultimately treating psychological conditions.

"If we don't have a good definition of what we're talking about, then we can't properly help people," Satchell says. That's why, according to Satchell, the psychiatric definition of addiction being based around experiencing distress or significant family, social, or occupational disruption needs to be included in any definition of addiction we may use.

Too much reading causes... heat rashes?

But as Feifer points out in his podcast, both popularizing medical language and the fear that new technologies are addictive aren't totally modern phenomena.

Take, for instance, the concept of "reading mania."

In the 18th Century, an author named J. G. Heinzmann claimed that people who read too many novels could experience something called "reading mania." This condition, Heinzmann explained, could cause many symptoms, including: "weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, asthma, apoplexy, pulmonary disease, indigestion, blocking of the bowels, nervous disorder, migraines, epilepsy, hypochondria, and melancholy."

"That is all very specific! But really, even the term 'reading mania' is medical," Feifer says.

"Manic episodes are not a joke, folks. But this didn't stop people a century later from applying the same term to wristwatches."

Indeed, an 1889 piece in the Newcastle Weekly Courant declared: "The watch mania, as it is called, is certainly excessive; indeed it becomes rabid."

Similar concerns have echoed throughout history about the radio, telephone, TV, and video games.

"It may sound comical in our modern context, but back then, when those new technologies were the latest distraction, they were probably really engaging. People spent too much time doing them," Feifer says. "And what can we say about that now, having seen it play out over and over and over again? We can say it's common. It's a common behavior. Doesn't mean it's the healthiest one. It's just not a medical problem."

Few today would argue that novels are in-and-of-themselves addictive — regardless of how voraciously you may have consumed your last favorite novel. So, what happened? Were these things ever addictive — and if not, what was happening in these moments of concern?

People are complicated, our relationship with new technology is complicated, and addiction is complicated — and our efforts to simplify very complex things, and make generalizations across broad portions of the population, can lead to real harm.


There's a risk of pathologizing normal behavior, says Joel Billieux, professor of clinical psychology and psychological assessment at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and guest on the podcast. He's on a mission to understand how we can suss out what is truly addictive behavior versus what is normal behavior that we're calling addictive.

For Billieux and other professionals, this isn't just a rhetorical game. He uses the example of gaming addiction, which has come under increased scrutiny over the past half-decade. The language used around the subject of gaming addiction will determine how behaviors of potential patients are analyzed — and ultimately what treatment is recommended.

"For a lot of people you can realize that the gaming is actually a coping (mechanism for) social anxiety or trauma or depression," says Billieux.

"Those cases, of course, you will not necessarily target gaming per se. You will target what caused depression. And then as a result, If you succeed, gaming will diminish."

In some instances, a person might legitimately be addicted to gaming or technology, and require the corresponding treatment — but that treatment might be the wrong answer for another person.

"None of this is to discount that for some people, technology is a factor in a mental health problem," says Feifer.

"I am also not discounting that individual people can use technology such as smartphones or social media to a degree where it has a genuine negative impact on their lives. But the point here to understand is that people are complicated, our relationship with new technology is complicated, and addiction is complicated — and our efforts to simplify very complex things, and make generalizations across broad portions of the population, can lead to real harm."

Behavioral addiction is a notoriously complex thing for professionals to diagnose — even more so since the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the book professionals use to classify mental disorders, introduced a new idea about addiction in 2013.

"The DSM-5 grouped substance addiction with gambling addiction — this is the first time that substance addiction was directly categorized with any kind of behavioral addiction," Feifer says.

"And then, the DSM-5 went a tiny bit further — and proposed that other potentially addictive behaviors require further study."

This might not sound like that big of a deal to laypeople, but its effect was massive in medicine.

"Researchers started launching studies — not to see if a behavior like social media use can be addictive, but rather, to start with the assumption that social media use is addictive, and then to see how many people have the addiction," says Feifer.

Learned helplessness

The assumption that a lot of us are addicted to technology may itself be harming us by undermining our autonomy and belief that we have agency to create change in our own lives. That's what Nir Eyal, author of the books Hooked and Indistractable, calls 'learned helplessness.'

"The price of living in a world with so many good things in it is that sometimes we have to learn these new skills, these new behaviors to moderate our use," Eyal says. "One surefire way to not do anything is to believe you are powerless. That's what learned helplessness is all about."

So if it's not an addiction that most of us are experiencing when we check our phones 90 times a day or are wondering about what our followers are saying on Twitter — then what is it?

"A choice, a willful choice, and perhaps some people would not agree or would criticize your choices. But I think we cannot consider that as something that is pathological in the clinical sense," says Billieux.

Of course, for some people technology can be addictive.

"If something is genuinely interfering with your social or occupational life, and you have no ability to control it, then please seek help," says Feifer.

But for the vast majority of people, thinking about our use of technology as a choice — albeit not always a healthy one — can be the first step to overcoming unwanted habits.

For more, be sure to check out the Build for Tomorrow episode here.

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Credit: World Values Survey, public domain.
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