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Understanding the Current Populism
My point in focusing on the “Tea Party” is to deconstruct what is really at play and not allow the Kabuki “right-left” partisan divide of the two business parties to enable the system by scaring people that the lunatics want to take over the asylum so to speak. We have to distinguish the real issues from the diversionary branding and wedges of parties and politicians.
There is nothing new with the Tea Party milieu . It is the same old reactionary shit in a new package. Old style (paleo-) conservatives are rebranding and selling the same old shit in a populist package and that brand is reacting to the Obama brand.
I want to keep this separate from the discussion of political violence committed by the unstable and focus on what is happening with the relatively stable. The violence is a related issue, but the source lies in capitalism’s effects and not just individual psychology. The inherently violent authoritarian mindset is at play in both cases. I’m not saying we pity them in a paternalistic way that we somehow know the truth because we don’t. We just have a more whole analysis of where we are that gets all their psychological societal baggage they are stuck in out of the way. Much has been said of the “insanity” of the Tea Party, but to paraphrase liberal professor Mellisa Harris-Perry: Insanity is an individual characteristic but insanity can also be an appropriate response to situations of oppression, inequality, and a truly crazy system in which people are simply trying to cope.
Focusing on psychopathic and psychotic individuals and corporations is ultimately too narrow because they are just a symptom. Of course it goes further, to the very structure of capitalism, because that is what propels its atrocities not corrupt or psychopathic individuals. The system of capitalism creates and nurtures those personalities and creates an environment to thrive in. We can focus on the horrific beliefs of its psychopathic individual supporters removed from that perspective too often and move away from institutional analysis when we forget many of their beliefs are merely an extension of how capitalism functions. The logical consequence to anti-human belief systems such as capitalism and the politics it inspires is dehumanization and murder. Some suffering the alienation and atomization of this politically shattered society lash out at the managers, leaving the system intact. That is why the eliminationist notion of targeting individuals is also so wrong-headed beyond the obviousness of why it is wrong to maim/murder. We are dealing with a system and institutions of capitalism, authority, domination, and imperialism not some individual who twisted the benevolent system to become a tyrant that only needs to be removed to revert to some benevolent status quo. The teabaggers see Obama as that tyrant they need to depose to gain national renewal rather than grasping it’s the whole system. That is the problem with building a politic around ignoring institutional analysis or conspiracism. Alienated people in our society end up on the internet finding paranoid conspiracies of evil individuals secretly ruining their lives to salve their pain.
The reactionary core beliefs of the far right as manifested by the “tea party” rebranding of the GOP has been unleashed by the capitalists to deal effectively with the working class. In the same type of class manipulation, Brand Obama has been brought in to neutralize resistance from liberals, progressives, unions and the African-American community. This is all intended to divide working people so that an organized movement against the capitalists can’t be waged. What teacher or anybody is going to strike or protest against austerity cuts if they fear being shot by the tea party? Obama makes those cuts easier to swallow for others. This austerity propaganda is powerful. I am seeing non-talking heads internalizing this call for “sacrifice” to save the nation from right, centrist and even some uninformed liberals all over the place.
In normal times nobody listens to these bigots and fringe freaks, but in times like now they’re going to be given endless coverage in the mainstream media. This is why the media won’t lay the blame on them for any of their acts of violence and will de-politicize the crimes of Loughner and others.(and whitewash the racism) The “tea party” groups and the media are owned by the same oligarchic interests. The tea party is like a faux vanguard made up of puppets of the real vanguard pulling their strings.The Tea Party organizations involved in Astroturf campaigns like the “I support Scott walker” and the various Koch groups are literally protesting against their own human rights on behalf oligarchs. Given that and the authoritarian mindset I think it’s safe to call that proto-fascism. The working people of Wisconsin and around the country have articulated the inspiration of the Egyptian protesters and these teabaggers have taken their cue from the Mubarak goons and throughout the protests to back up the elites against fellow citizens and their own interest. The right will label anything that helps ordinary people “socialism” to scare people away from things we can all agree on like social security or universal healthcare. That is why they are pointing their followers at liberal churches, unions, working class organizations like ACORN, and progressives in their corporate propaganda. That’s what’s behind all the cries of “socialism” when we listen to them and realize they understand nothing of the subject. They don’t grasp in their attacks on redistribution of wealth as a communist plot, that they in fact argue in favor of redistributing wealth into concentrated hands at the top. Noam Chomsky has essentially called these people social democrats in denial that they are and that’s quite evident in their support of Social Security and Medicare. The idea that social safety nets would extend to the undeserving people of color and poor motivates their faux anti-government “libertarianism”,so their anti-statism really isn’t a point of agreement that could create a tea party-left libertarian/anarchist alliance as some misguided individuals had initially floated. These are statists that only support the right hand of the state. They have made clear they really want to totally destroy any social welfare system and the labor movement. The Kochs are pushing the propaganda to ease this and are pushing to make sure it kills unions. There is a state bankruptcy scheme underway being enabled by Obama that would allow states to do what walker is doing and would automatically cancel out union contracts to “balance budgets” The GOP is refusing federal aid and GOP governors are refusing to receive aid so they can push this scheme to declare bankruptcy. Obama passed something that signaled or allowed the states to go down that path even though states cannot declare bankruptcy. We’ve also seen the dictatorial bill in Michigan that allows the governor to dissolve municipalities for privatization.
Gallup polling released new survey results on April 29 2011, showing that negative opinions of the so-called tea party movement have risen sharply in the US. For all their claims that most teabaggers are Independents not Republicans, Independent voters have turned away from the Tea Party.
Tea Party influence:
“The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven’t heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.The views of Republicans split 60% positively to 24% negatively toward the Tea Party; conservatives’ views split 56% to 29%. Substantial majorities of Democrats and liberals view the Tea Party unfavorably. Views of the Tea Party became more negative between January and April among both Republicans and independents; there was very little change in Democrats’ already negative views.”
Gender breakdown: “The Tea Party has a relatively strong appeal to men aged 50 and older, 49% of whom have favorable opinions of the movement. By contrast, women aged 50 and older are the most negative, with more than half holding a negative opinion.”
More proof of Glen Ford’s contention there is no Tea Party in the South, just the same Southern rightwing politics:
“Southerners are most positive about the Tea Party across regions, with essentially equal favorable and unfavorable opinions. Americans living on either coast are the most negative.”
While the Gallup data bolsters the factual claim that the tea party is the GOP, they make the paradoxical claim that it is not officially connected with the Republican Party as if that makes a difference. So much for that tea party influence on the GOP the MSM fakes. The media hoax that the Tea Party is an independent movement pushing the GOP to the right serves centrist neoliberal propaganda that the Democrats must move to the center/right to meet the mood of the country. There are no Tea Party candidates, no Tea Party policies, and no Tea Party voters. They are all Republicans. They run as Republicans and vote for Republicans. Much has been made of the 2010 electoral sweep, but as Paul Street has pointed out the Tea Party will be dissolved into the party again after accomplishing their electoral goals. Maybe teabaggers will get trotted out every election season, but it was pretty much to run its course to get the current politicians back into Congress and maybe for the 2012 election. Once they get in they shake off the teabaggers but they don’t want to leave.
Democratic and independent voters also paved the way for the 2010 GOP wave by abstaining from elections after burning out on the Hopium and false change of 2008. Voters decided that voting was pointless and stayed home. Desperate people in personal and economic pain reached out to the tea party branded GOP for a lifeline to deal with the real problems of unemployment and foreclosures affecting them and all they get is anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-union, privitization, racist immigration, “Birther”, and anti-Sharia laws. People aren’t stupid—they’ve been hoodwinked and now they are waking up with buyers’ remorse and demanding the beef at town halls. The Koch groups are now scrambling to undermine genuine populist outburts by citizens(including conservatives) against their politicians.
These rallies were the first rallies most these people attended and their first taste of political engagement and activism. As Paul Street has pointed out in his upcoming book on the subject,they are completely adverse to organizing which would benefit their goals and probably wouldn’t work towards anything with us either anyway. This proto-fascist milieu and Obama’s do nothing economic plan for the poor/working/middle class leaves us wide open for popular fascism as both parties discredit actual democracy while forcing more managed democracy on us. I think the financial class panic-inspired tea party “populism” ran its course so we go back to straight nationalism as evidenced by the nationalistic political boost the assassination of Osama Bin Laden created.
Countering this rightwing populism
Another great point by Paul Street : In the absence of organized opposition to the recession and economic injustice, many people stung by the recession have been attracted by the Tea Party movement — an exercise in confusion and distraction focused on government abstractions like “the founding fathers” and details about “the Constitution,” rather than economic issues. The Tea Party actually demands more economic hardship for the poorest people while it distracts attention from the failures of the capitalist economic system, and subtlely implies that immigrants and minorities are the real problem with its demands to “take American back.” From whom? Certainly not the Fortune 500 or the richest 1 percent who make their income from stock dividends, not working a job — the Tea Party never mentions them. The Tea Party demands small government, but ignores Big Business.
Rage and a lack of radical analysis gives us teabaggers. The failure and suppression of an American left or any kind of class consciousness is to blame. It’s also our fault as radicals. We need to critically examine what we have failed to accomplish as radicals and activists that fails to speak to other working class people in pain,that inspires hitching their wagon to their abusers to seem like a better idea than class struggle. Radical solutions to the crisis would (at the very least) involve feeding the hungry and homeless, urban farming, organizing unions, taking over the resources people require to live foreclosed people squatting houses, strikes,walkouts, occupying workplaces, expropriating and creating co-ops. I think if we work on all these things people who would otherwise fall victim to the siren call of the Kochs and take interest in what we are doing because we are addressing real needs.
The subject of mocking teabaggers needs more nuance and critical thought in my opinion. If we are just laughing at abused people we are part of the problem. In this regard ,Liberals and Democratic partisans I fear will make this worse by gloating and mocking too harshly those that don’t deserve it and thus any working class folks subject to this kind of thinking will see us as the same as the liberals by virtue of being perceived as being on the left, etc. Like Chris Hedges has pointed out the pathetic failure of the liberal class is a key point of rage for these people. They may be interested to hear our take on liberals. I recommend we save our snark and venom for the liars and opportunists and punch Nazis. We should avoid lashing out at people who are really in a Plato’s Cave mentality shielding their false consciousness, because it only reinforces their cognitive dissonance. When we engage and argue with them, It’s like reverse propaganda strengthening their beliefs. I can’t say I wouldn’t argue back without being mean if somebody just parroted insanity/lies. We are only human. The frustration can be superhuman when reacting to some attitudes that you just can’t help but lash out against the bullshit. It’s hard to rationally debate bullshit.
In closing I want to read this Tim Wise quote:
“We’d best commit to a recognition that most of us are just trying to do the best we can, in a world that can be tough and unforgiving. Trying to raise families, keep our heads above water, and do what we think is right. Occasionally we get it wrong, and so do our neighbors. But that doesn’t make us, or them, terrorists, or zombies, or stealth Stalinists, or baby-killers, or gun nuts, or Klansmen, or whatever. It makes us, and them, human. ”