Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why I Loathe The Tea Party GOP Brigands and How Sadly, Sometimes "Regular People" Do in Fact Make History

What democracy has brought us. Is this the face of excellence in responsible leadership and politics?

I had a moment of clarity while sitting in an airplane, reading, somewhere over flyover America the other day. As I have written about here and elsewhere, I find the Tea Party to be one of the most pernicious, dangerous, and disturbing elements in American political and social life. A few of us were sounding the alarm about their mischief when the tea baggers first emerged as a movement several years ago.

Some suggested that they were a flash in the pan, and should best be ignored. I hate being correct on such matters, but I rightly argued that the New Right is a symptom of a bigger malaise and a deep, existential crisis in American public and social life. The tea bagger's mischief making and brigand, economic terrorism during the debt ceiling fracas is their ejaculatory moment, one to be followed up by more blind groping and trouble making in the months to come.

Even while sounding the alarm, one should maintain perspective.

The bigotry and anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party GOP are centuries old. Bachmann Palin and crew are mere updates of the 19th century Know Nothings. Their evolution as 21st century John Birchers is old wine in a new bottle: the Tea Party GOP New Right alliance is just a festering boil on the ass of America, one that has long been there and occasionally needs to be lanced.

In reflection, I am also none too moved by their racism. Me and my tribe of Respectable Negroes are experts by necessity in the various flora and fauna of White Trash America. From the Southern redneck lynching tree Jim and Jane Crow variety of North Carolina, to the anti-busing, angry white ethnic rock throwing restrictive housing covenant signing PWT of Boston and Rhode Island, my kin folk have been fighting with and busting those skulls for generations. We give as good as we get.

Echoing James Baldwin's The Ways of White Folks, we have a gifted vision for seeing the Tea Party GOP for what they are, and thus can deal with them accordingly.

In all, it is the out sized influence and emergence of the Tea Party GOP at this key moment in the decline of American Empire which ultimately gives me pause. The use and abuse of the language of "patriotism" and a dishonest, although not new, manipulation of the icons and imagery of the Founding and American Exceptionalism are other signals that something is very and deeply wrong in this country.

Moreover, how the Tea Party GOP so casually rapes The Constitution is chilling. The Tea Party GOP's belief in their own radically democratic possibilities (where facts are inconvenient as the tea baggers are a top down organization and funded by the Koch brothers) and the reinforcement of this meme by the Right-wing propaganda machine is head-shaking in its effectiveness.

In sum, it is the synergy of these variables where the risk for all Americans of good conscience and the Common Good lies.

Don't get it twisted: I am all for the little guy. In fact, the politics of the subaltern and how regular folks find ways to fight Power has long animated my interest in race, popular culture, and American politics. Regular people can and do make history all of the time. Herein lies the danger of Right-wing populism: regular folks are often manipulated and tricked; false consciousness is real; and we do not all have the equal capacity, ability, or expertise to lead well...or even govern beyond our own narrow and petty self-interest.

To point, why I call (and will continue to do so) the Tea Party GOP a faction. They are the very definition of the Federalists' worries. Nothing more and nothing less.

As a qualifier, I do not believe that every freedman or runaway slave was a perfect person, that the foot soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement were motivated by purely selfless ends, nor do I suggest that the suffragettes at Seneca Falls, or labor organizers at Matewan and elsewhere were gods and not men. But, collectively they were on the Right side of history. By contrast, the Tea Party GOP is on the wrong side of history as they fight to destroy the social safety net in the interest of the very political and economic forces that have gutted the American middle class and ushered in a new Gilded Age.

Here is the crux. Most folks want to make history, to be something more than an anonymous name, or one of the unknown masses. This want has been refined and polished by the dream merchants on Madison Avenue and nurtured by the Facebook reality TV show culture of (very) late capitalism in 21st century America. In this world we can all be famous, even if we are in fact utterly mediocre.

The sale of products are secondary to the sale of lifestyles, emotions, sentimentality, and feelings. These frameworks have been skillfully applied to politics. Obama's "hope and change" was one side of that coin. The Tea Party GOP and their rage machine is the other. The lie of false equivalence cultivated by a 24 hour news cycle which elevates all opinions and beliefs to the level of reasonable discourse is the ether that the Right-wing echo chamber both lives in and is ultimately dependent upon for sustenance and circulation.

But, what if the little guy is not fit, nor prepared or trained to be more than that anonymous soul in the back of the crowd, finger raised, testing the winds to see which way he or she will go? What if he or she is working in the interest of Power as opposed to against it? What if this person, moved by the language of "democracy," "take our country back!" or some half digested treatise written in another time, by a man or woman long dead and now recycled by Glenn Beck, does not even realize that they are being gamed by the System?

Writer Martin Booth has a great observation that rings so true in these matters. From his book A Very Private Gentlemen, where the protagonist anti-hero observes that:
These were people who could not make the tiniest mark on history, could not affect their world--the village, the parish--no matter how they tried. The best they could hope for was to share vicariously in others' petty achievements. Their ambition was to be able to say, 'Him? I knew him when he bought The Glebe,' or 'Her? I was with with her when it happened,' or 'I saw the car skid, you know. There's still a hole in the hedge: a nasty corner: someone should do something about.' Yet they never did and if I were a betting man, prone to taking a gamble, I should wager tyres still squeal on the bend, doors dent of a frosty morning.
The New Right Tea Party GOP are these folks elevated to prominence and given just enough power to believe that they have the right and privilege to alter destinies and make history. Normal politics and good sense be damned by their jihad and yearnings for ideological purity.

Participation for participation sake in a democracy has never appealed to me. The rabble of the Tea Party GOP have fulfilled the prophetic worries of The Framers regarding the perils of mass democracy and have gummed up an already broken system.

Because the Tea Party brigands play with concepts and ideologies they have little understanding of in either the macro-historical sense (e.g. a government's budget should be run like a household...or a pizza company), as a practical matter grounded in reality (there will be no real consequences for a debt default and this controversy is inconsequential political theater), or that can go beyond shallow talking points and Right-wing memes ("job creators" or "cut, cap, and balance"), no good can come of them, except as a barometer for the existential crisis the United States is experiencing as her position in the world is challenged and reevaluated.

The Tea Party GOP fancies themselves the heroes in the debt ceiling debate and free of responsibility for the financial storm their economic terrorism and hostage taking directly helped to unleash on the American people. In reality, they are villains. And like most villains, the Tea Party GOP imagines that they are good and noble, and maybe just a little understood. Sadly, we will all pay for the Tea Party GOP's little exercise in dysfunctional democracy, as they prove once more that the lumpen rabble are often best left to the footnotes, a sideshow in history.


Plane Ideas said...

Rich narrative comprehensive and nuance ....A brillant essay unencumbered by fiction or dogma..A template for group workshop and foundational narrative to inspire and to enhance the tools of those in the vanguard..

Outstanding collection of powerful constructs, words and inferences worthy of making it a staple of one's memory and resource portfolio.

A oral lesson to the crew before the dawn releases the propaganda of the ruling class..

wierd beard said...

Alright, the Tea Party sucks, point conceded. But what do we do about it? Form a left version of the Tea party and hope to have as much success as they have? Spend all of our time and cognitive energy being professional Tea party bashers? One of the reasons I think Bush was a turd of a president was that he seemed to go off on his own agenda without being bipartisan or compromising, but just yosimite samming his way into wars accross the globe. At that time I thought the idea of a president who could compromise and listen to both sides of the isle would be refreshing. Do we want the equvilant of a leftist Bush, or a leftist Tea Party in office? I feel like Obama is constantly blamed for the effects of right wing obstructionism. It seems like people want Obama to act just like the Tea Party except with a left agenda. Is he supposed to be reasonable and compromise, or is he supposed to be the left Bush? Also, I hate how the Tea Party sucks the oxygen out of a room. What about some words for Brother Smily and Dr. West's Poverty Tour?

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Sounds like you are taking a pretty Hamiltonian position. But our supposed elites are deranged fucken assholes, too.

Frank said...

The Know Nothing comparison is an apt one and one that I have made often.

I really do not have words for how I contemn that bunch.

They make my skin crawl.

chaunceydevega said...

@Thrasher. Always kind. Came out in a lark. The substantial piece should be out tomorrow.

@Weird. Cool name btw. I have so many thoughts and back and forth on President Obama. Check out some of the recent back and forth on there. I am doing something on Obama's communication crisis tomorrow or for the weekend. The Right works because they are great at repeating their meme, simplifying policy, and crafting arguments that fit with the personality types and cognitive habits of their followers. The left, reasonable right, and centrists need to learn those lessons. But again, we also don't have a professional propaganda arm on TV 24/7.

@comrade. I don't have too much love for the "experts" either. But, and may lightening strike, I have more faith in a few of them as opposed to the mouth breathing masses of the New Right.

@Frank. They embrace their ignorance as a virtue and those who call them out are "evil" "elitists." Damn the world of facts!

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]Rich narrative comprehensive and nuance ....A brillant essay unencumbered by fiction or dogma..A template for group workshop and foundational narrative to inspire and to enhance the tools of those in the vanguard..[/quote]

Bravo young lad!!!

Let me ask you, Sirs DeVega and Thrasher.

While we all understand who you HATE and you doggedly contest their ascent to you spend enough cerebral investment in scrutinizing WHO YOU LIKE and their impact when you ASSISTED THEM INTO POWER based on some affirmative assumptions of what this might translate to you?

From what I can tell you live in metro-Chicago and metro-Detroit. Are there two more NON-Tea Party Towns in America?

Isn't it more of a rational regimen to sell your congregation on the glories of progressive-fundamentalism than to give them daily chum by erecting an effigy of the congregation's enemy for them to swat at every day?

If a scientist works daily to find a SOLUTION - you must be an "anti-scientist" because your ENEMY is inspected more than your solution.

I thought that it was conservatives who are hostile to science due to their entrenchments?

Chris Sharp said...

"Bachmann Palin and crew are mere updates of the 19th century Know Nothings. Their evolution as 21st century John Birchers is old wine in a new bottle: the Tea Party GOP New Right alliance is just a festering boil on the ass of America, one that has long been there and occasionally needs to be lanced."

Another excellent post CD, and one of the best descriptions I've seen of the Tea Baggers in some time, you definitely have a way with words.

Know Nothings, John Birch, the Federalists, the Gilded Age....where else can you get so many historical references tied together in one post? As I've said here before we should all study history since there is a lot to be learned from it, as this post demonstrates.

Your reference to the Know Nothings is spot on. They were formed in the mid-1850's from (mostly) disgruntled southern Democrrats and Conservative
Whigs who left their own parties to form a new party with a one issue anti-immigrant platform. They hated just about everyone who was not a white Protestant, including the Irish, German, Catholics, free blacks, etc. Basically anyone who supported the free labor movement. Sound familiar?

The Know Nothings only lasted a few years as a party, but their peculiar brand of divisive politics, grounded in a visceral hatred and the demonization of their opponents, has haunted us to this day.

As far as learning from history, a few years after the Know-Nothings had their "ejaculatory moment" as a political movement, we we had a little conflict called the Civil War, which I think we are still fighting today, albeit with a lot less killing, at least for now.

I would love to think we can lance this Tea Party boil one and for all, but reality tells me that is unlikely to happen. Even if we do, I think their legacy of hate and anti-intellectualism will always be lurking in the shadows, ready to boil up as a pus filled sore that we will once again need to lance.

All in all, a good example of history repeating itself. I just hope we can avoid what is looking more amd more like the Second Civil War after they fade way, which due to the number of guns in our country, will be alot bloodier and costly than the first.

The recent riots in London are a good example of Tea Party chickens coming home to roost, i.e., government austerity and screw the working class after blaming them for all the problems. Luckily gun ownership in England is rare. Just imagine if those riots happened in a large U.S. city where the population is aremed to the teeth with better weapons than the police.

If you take the 600,000 or so deaths in the Civil War and extrapolate to today, it would be about 5 million. And all they had to kill each other with were some single shot rifles, cannons and bayonets.

My wife and I bought property in Belize a few years ago in part so we would have a safer place to go when this country finally goes to shit. I'd suggest that anyone who can should do the same, but there is always room at our house for the members of your Tribe. I'm sure we'd have some great discussions on the deck watching the sun set over the mountains while downing a few cold beverages!

chaunceydevega said...

@Chris. Kind words. You are also on point with your analysis and writing which I have appreciated. On Belize, if you are going all Mosquito Coast on us, do you have room for any folks who want to so sub-lease? Sort of a time share for when it all goes down ;)

Chris Sharp said...

CD, thanks for the kind words on your end, I just turned one of my black clients (employment and civil rights lawyer here) and friends onto your blog....And no I am not raising the "I have black friends" defense here, just sayin'.

As for Belize, you are in luck, we just bought a second house next door to ours so there is room at the inn! Seriously though if you are ever interested in going there, let me know, we are looking to rent out the second house but it would be free to friends and Tribe members. I think we are planning an end of the world party for 12/21/12 since Belize was the center of the Mayan world.

Belize has its problems to be sure, but it truly eye-opening to go to a place where the race issues that we have are non-existent, and us white folks are just a tiny minority! Oh and I have black friends there too!

Plane Ideas said...

CF...I live a life of being a Black Man not consumed with having a civil war with Whites.....My politics are a very fringe part of my personhood of course I excell and have passion for every moment of my life...

Get a grip ..Life is not all about crisis and,lol,lol

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]I live a life of being a Black Man not consumed with having a civil war with White[/quote]

My beloved "Brother From Another Mother" Greg Thrasher:

What if I told you that I sharped my system integration skills by developing an application that acted as a "web spider", indexing the words of every "Anti-White Conservative Site That Poses As A Pro-Black Portal" so that a computer algorithm could do the leg work that I used to do manually?

What if I told you further that it appears that despite what you claim - it is INDEED the case that what the "White Tea Party Militia" plays a greater interest in you and my dear friend Chauncey DeVega's consciousness attention than what you focus upon in the way of direct governance upon the Black Community?

Plane Ideas said...

CF..I don't give a fuck if the White Tea Party Militia knows where the moles on my balls are..


Oh Crap said...

@Constipated Facepalm

What if I told you that I sharped my system integration skills by developing an application that acted as a "web spider", indexing the words of every "Anti-White Conservative Site That Poses As A Pro-Black Portal" so that a computer algorithm could do the leg work that I used to do manually?

Who really gives a damn? Please. Lol!