Three days after he decried the lack of civility in American politics, President Obama is quoted in a new book about his presidency referring to the Tea Party movement using a derogatory term with sexual connotations.
In Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” President Obama is quoted in an interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year ... That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”
Tea Party activists loath the term “tea baggers,” which has emerged in liberal media outlets and elsewhere as a method of mocking the activists and their concerns.
Well, as Marshall points out:
this isn't true, though a number of conservative pressure groups have tried to claim as much. The phrase "tea bagger" was originally a coinage of the Tea Party folks themselves. Their opponents picked it up from them after they chose it and continued using it after the right-wing activists ditched it in favor of "Tea Partier" since 'tea bagger' can be taken as a reference to a particular sexual practice.As far as I know, that's accurate on the history of the term. It's awkward for the Tea Baggers that they chose such a name in the first place and given their attitude in general, it's hard to feel sympathy for them reaping these consequences.
But think about how this contrasts with another pattern of change in names for groups: There's of course a trend for groups to claim (reclaim?) disparaging names that have been given to them by others. Because it was (is?) a derogatory name for gays and lesbians, the word 'queer' no longer gets used by most people, even in the traditional meaning of 'odd, unusual'. Yet you have to use it as the label for "Queer Theory". In this mirror-image situation, the Tea Baggers chose a name for themselves that turns out to be offensive to them and they've tried to change it, and object to those who use their own original choice. In the current context, Tea Partier, with 'Bagger' still lurking in the background, may still evoke the image. Dudes, you brought it on yourselves.
Image from here.