Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They are a Death Cult: How the Tea Party GOP is the Poltergeist of American Politics

They cheer at the thought of an uninsured person dying. They cheer at the thought of State sponsored murder. In all, the 2012 Tea Party Republican debates have revealed that they are a death cult, a cabal of ghouls.

Some observers were shocked and surprised by the behavior of the Tea Party Republicans and its supporters during the primary debates. Others have complained that CNN's surrender of air time to the Tea Party is a compromise of journalistic ethics.

I would suggest that to the latter, CNN performed a public service by providing a window into the Tea Party Republican soul. And to the former, there should be no surprise here: in the Age of Obama, contemporary Conservatism has surrendered itself to a particularly virulent, dystopian, and pathologically hyper-individualist state of nature, "all against many," type of populist Right-wing ideology.

From the proclamations of Republican officials that the unemployed are poor because they lack spirit and drive, an Orwellian political vocabulary of "job creators" and "non-productive citizens," opines that poor people in America have it relatively easy (thus austerity politics ought not to be that painful), and a belief that the social safety net (basic programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance) has destroyed the United States and made people "lazy," contemporary Conservatism has fully embraced a politics that are utterly and totally bereft of human empathy.

My claim that the Republican Party is a death cult demands some explication and transparency.

"Cult" is a signal to the narrow thinking and state of epistemic closure that has come to dominate conservative politics. As I have suggested elsewhere, populist Conservatism is also colored by an unflappable instinct that faith should be the guiding principle in political decision making--what is a belief in the unprovable--that fuels a theocratic vision of public policy under the umbrella of Christian Nationalism and Dominionism.

Because the Tea Party GOP's foot soldiers, as well as the Bachmanns, Palins, Perrys, and Cains believe a thing to be true--often in the face of all available evidence and data on the subject--it must in turn be as they imagine. Reality must always bend to their will: the anti-intellectualism of populist Conservatism demands that the facts are to be damned; empirical reality is to be discounted as some type of plot by the mainstream media, "liberals," or "elites."

The cultish behavior of the Republican Party is made manifest by a rigidly orthodox political ideology. Those who do not pray at the mantle (and in the approved position) are labeled heretics. Any conservative who challenges the far Right agenda or believes in pragmatism and normal politics, i.e. working with President Obama and the Democrats in the interest of the Common Good, is labeled a traitor.

Likewise, those who dare to suggest that taxes should be increased on the wealthiest Americans to increase revenue, or that the government has a role to play in providing some relief during the worst economy since the Great Depression, are cast out of the tribe for daring to utter words and hold ideas that are verboten to the high acolyte "true believers" in the Republican Party.

The "death" in my use of the phrase "death cult" is both literal and symbolic. The symbolic aspect works in a number of ways. First, it is present in the Right's support for rampant militarism abroad and how the Tea Party GOP has skillfully used the "national security" narrative, the mass public's fear of terrorism, and an almost pornographic appeal to the tragedy of September 11th to seduce low information conservative voters and Independents into supporting their political agenda.

Second, "compassionate" conservatives are against extending basic income supports and humanitarian assistance to the neediest Americans. As recent data suggests, poverty leads to death and a diminished life span. When the Tea Party Republicans stand against food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and other programs for those displaced by the Great Recession, through actions both direct and indirect, they are in fact killing people.

The literal embrace of death by the Tea Party Republicans works as follows. When supporters of the Republican Party howl that they "want to take their America back" they are signaling to an America that is dead and gone. Their halcyon colored Leave it to Beaver dreams of a country where Whiteness was unchallenged and central in all things, and where "those people" stayed out of the way (or were preferably either invisible or fully subservient to the whims of white folks) is gone.

With immigration, the "browning of America," and a black President, the white racial frame is upset. The cognitive map of the Tea Party Republican faithful is forced to deal with the unthinkable--that in some impossible way they could be marginalized in "their own" country. Of course, this is untrue. But the fear is real and palpable.

The death of American Empire is a close cousin to the death of the Tea Party Republicans' memory of a country that never really was. America is facing unprecedented challenges from China. We rank increasingly low on educational attainment, class mobility, health care, and other measures. Where we are exceptional, in our debt and military spending on a bloated imperial project, the United States looks more like the British at the turn of the 20th century, a country in decline and struggling to manage how to fall with grace as opposed to in a hellish crash.

The Tea Party base is also quite literally dying. Although the fancy social science phrase is "generational replacement," the reality is that the Tea Party is overwhelmingly comprised of white Americans who are much older than the general public. As America changes and they walk off into the sunset to receive their just rewards, the political values and beliefs which are a product of a political moment long past will quite likely become less of a force in American politics. Death for the Tea Party Republicans is a fact that lives in the present.

Ultimately, the sum effect of death's role in the political ideology of the Tea Party Republicans is akin to that of the five stages of grief. They are stuck in the anger stage of the process: the Tea Party has not yet moved on to the step that is "acceptance."

Tea Party Republicans are brought to a mouth frothing rage and madness by fictions such as Birtherism and a belief that whites are oppressed in the Age of Obama because a black man is President. They rage about "class warfare" but look at unions, the working class, and the poor as the causes of America's economic calamity as opposed to the kleptocrats and the rich who have benefited from one of the most maldistributive economies in the world. In their eyes, government is the problem and never the solution. The State is to be torn down by secession and revolt. Tea Party GOP is angry about everything, but they do not know how to transform that energy into productive behavior and good governance.

There is an additional metaphor at work in my suggestion that the Tea Party GOP is a death cult. Despite claims to the contrary, the Tea Party is not a grassroots movement. They are funded by corporate interests such as the Koch brothers. These conservative corporate elites who drive the faux populism of the New Right are acting as the hand on the Ouija board, a group of necromancers who play with death as channeled through the Republican Tea Party.

In their Thanatos game, the corporate Right has unleashed a force that the mainstream of the Republican Party is not able to fully control. The Tea Party is extremely unpopular and their lack of acceptance by the American people is damaging the future electoral fortunes of the Republican Party as a whole.

Or stated differently, the Tea Party is the poltergeist of American politics. It is angry and destructive. The Tea Party poltergeist was summoned up by a crisis of faith, a decline in America's standing in the world, and a system shock brought about by the combination of the Great Recession, failed misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as poor political leadership at home.

Some have suggested that American politics is suffering from an autoimmune disease: the Republican Party's abandonment of normal politics is a symptom of this illness. I do my best to avoid eliminationist rhetoric. Unlike populist conservatives I try not to call my political foes a "sickness" or a "virus" to be destroyed. Nor do I suggest that conservatives are possessed of a mental illness that ought to be cured.

However, I do think that Americans in this political moment are witness to a crisis in spirit and an existential malaise. We are a country in pain. We as a people are angst-ridden. The Ayn Randian dream of the Tea Party GOP, the death cult that they are, is not a solution to the challenges America faces in the 21st century.

The goal of Republicans and populist conservatives in the present is a victory at all costs, one that is Pyrrhic and couched in the language of a glorious struggle or a political holy war, right-wing jihad, and free-market austerity crusade. Consequently, an exorcism is the only viable solution to this abhorrent type of abnormal politics by the Tea Party GOP, one brought about by their fixation on the politics of death. The Tea Party Republicans will cheer death, just as they did during the last two debates. And the Tea Party will bring the roof down upon us all as their poltergeist-like politics works to destroy the common good.

The challenge for liberals, progressives, pragmatists, and reasonable conservatives is how to reclaim life, and by doing so America's future, from the jaws of the death cult that is the populist-infused Republican Party.


Plane Ideas said...

Brilliant Manifesto to inspire, invoke and take to the streets...

I am all end..

nomad said...

Republican Nihilism http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=land_of_the_free_home_of_the_turncoats

chaunceydevega said...

@Thrasher. Inspire? Maybe disturb.

@Nomad. Saw that. Devastating argument.

CNu said...

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...., in all that metaphorical "lack of empathy" shit, you neglected to mention that they simply want to kill you.

CNu said...

Oh, and responsible negroes are already busily crafting the post hoc narrative....,

Plane Ideas said...


Many things can take place at same time it is the nature of the universe....Given the themes of the GOP/TEA PARTY....I am fueled to continue my activism as a FREE BLACK MAN in the face of this disturbing postures of the GOP/TEA PARTY

rental mobil jakarta said...

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Constructive Feedback said...

My Best Friend In The Whole World Mr DeVega:

How are you buddy?

If I told you that, having just read your last few postings - I am starting to have more empathy for your untenable position would this move you?

I mean - here you are with a blog who's name intrinsically but subtly makes reference to the opinions of White folks and yet close inspection shows that your content is made necessarily focused upon White and Black Conservatives.

In as much as this forces you to not talk about 90% of what is actually going on WITHIN the Black community - lest you be forced to indict your fellow travelers - you are then left to make posts of desperation.

Do you ever think about calculating the number of Black people who don't have insurance BECAUSE the promised benefit that we were to receive as a community for the investment of our VOTES did not pan out?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, CdV, pulling together many disparate threads.

As for the commenter who calls himself "Constructive Feedback" -- his comment is no more "constructive" than Fox News is "fair and balanced." His usage of the McCarthyist phrase "fellow travelers" unmasks his pretense of being friendly.

There is a history here. Civil rights activists experienced sabotage from FBI operatives in the 1960s. But now, these activities have been privatized, as we saw from HBGary Federal's CEO, Aaron Barr, who proposed to create fake commenter identities to discredit online forums. Just as the Tea Party is a collection of fake grassroots groups, so perhaps we have a fake commenter.

In any case, his comment fails the test of academic rigor.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cnu. Be nice. We know that Cobb went to Europe and now has super secret Stockholm negro status. You didn't know that he is the first black person to ever go to the continent? You heard it here first.

@Constructive. Insurance? Huh? If you desire as it burns you up I will be on Ring of Fire this weekend. You are my best publicist by the way.

@Anon. Educate me a bit. Me and a dear friend have an ongoing convo on this topic. Has it been documented that the Right is paying trolls to shut down and derail posts they may find problematic? Do you have some links on this one? I would love to share them with the readers of WARN.

Anonymous said...


...[Are they] paying trolls? "...to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas:"

We know how Tea Party lobbyists create opinion "sock puppets" and astro turf (fake grass roots groups). This article explains how corporate entities engage high tech consultants for opinion management in public forums, such as Twitter and blog commenters:


To summarize: In an email about a proposal to Bank of America, CEO Barr spoke of "...creating a set of personas on twitter,‭ ‬blogs,‭ ‬forums,‭ ‬buzz,‭ ‬and myspace under created names that fit the profile..."

HBGary is an IT security firm usually engaged by the
Defense Department. This is a proposal to Bank of America that was intercepted and leaked by the hackers at Anonymous.

There are several links to reputable (mainstream) news sources. For an overview, see the Forbes article at:http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2011/02/28/hbgary-federals-aaron-barr-resigns-after-anonymous-hack-scandal/

For another example, USA Today disclosed how the Bush Administration paid $240,000 to columnist Armstrong Williams to promote NCLB:

Conclusion: Once a blog has reached a sufficiently high profile, a forum will probably be infiltrated by private lobbyists and corporations through their "government-relations" and public relations budgets.
We need to be aware of this practice in critically reading news stories, blog posts, and comments.

G Newman said...

CdV, sir, here are wwo examples of opinion manipulation by on-salary professionals, above and beyond normal p.r. spinning:

1. Armstrong WIlliams, an allegedly independent conservative journalist who formerly clerked for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, was outed by "USA Today" for having received $240,000 to promote the policy of "No Child Left Behind" in his syndicated columns.
Source: "Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law." http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-01-06-williams-whitehouse_x.htm

Buying loyal journalists and planting stories is old hat; the CIA has been doing that for decades. What is new is using technology to create "onlne personas," as can be seen in the two sources that follow.

2. Internet security firm HBFederal sent a proposal to Bank of America, offering to create fake online identities to infiltrate and discredit progressive groups such as U.S. Chamber Watch.
Source: "HBGary Federal CEO Resigns." http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/03/hbgary-federal-ceo-resigns-hounded-by-anonymous/20907/

3. These fake grassroots operations (called "astroturf") by the various Tea Party lobbyists, such as Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, have their counterparts in paid-for trolling and spoofing of online identities. How widespread these are is currently unknown, but there is solicitation for "Online Persona Management Software" that "enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered."
Source: At the end of a Daily Kos diary about the HBGary exposure, the author has found this notice, soliciting sockpuppet software bids from appropriate IT contractors.
Source: "UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All" http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/16/945768/-The-HB-Gary-Email-That-Should-Concern-Us-All

We therefore need to maintain a critical attitude toward online commenters, asking ourselves "What is the agenda promoted by this viewpoint?" and "Who benefits from the spread of this particular view?" Conversely, "we should be mindful of "Who benefits from the *discrediting* of this viewpoint?"

This is no longer your father's Internet, circa 2003.

StewartIII said...

NewsBusters| Daily Kos Week in Review: Shake the Disease

marco22 said...

2008: If you don't vote for Obama, you're a racist

2012: See 2008sessin

Anonymous said...

The thought process of tea baggers is the same as the typical abuser, the "if I can't have her nobody can". It is embodied in their desire to destroy the country if they can't completely dominate it. Yes they are nothing more than abusers, demanding complete control of every move and reacting violently when obedience isn't instant.

CNu said...

anonymous gets it...,

The Exasperated Curmudgeon said...

What can I say? From time to time I read on the internet, writing that is brilliant in a lightbulb -coming-on-in-my-head kind of way. This is one of those times. Brilliant sir. Brilliant. And dare i say, Brilliant.

john scarbrough said...

Wow, This is clear and cogent and hits just the right tone.
Although I'm prime tea bagger recruitment material, being old, white(mostly), male and living in a red state (Arizona), I think about things long enough to adopt an opinion based on facts and evidence.

Too young to be a beatnik, too old to be a hippy, I also just missed the baby boomer epithet. I cannot even qualify for outsider.
But Thank you for this great piece of writing and for the clarity that you bring to the issue. I'm very grateful

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. Control.Group authority. Position.

@EC.. Be careful, you may trick me into believing that I am coherent ;)

@John. Thanks. You got to do you...and things will somehow be okay.

BobbyV said...

Many of the Tea Party faithful bristle at the accusation of being racist. One can almost hear their defensive pleas; “I’m not racist – I have no problems with blacks.” However, it’s what remains unsaid that exposes the Tea Party’s subtle brand of racism. These crypto racists have no issues with black Americans that show proper deference to the dominance of the white Christian culture that granted freedom, although begrudgingly and over 200 years late, to a people whose only crime was the color of their skin. Theirs is a zero-sum world wherein the equality of one can only be offset by a loss of freedom of another. The unimaginative Tea Party faithful anguish over sharing in what they believe is a fixed cache of national assets when they should be supporting an expansion of opportunities for all citizens. They are without dreams and bereft of hope.

ed waldo (Hart Williams) said...

Good take.

I guess great minds must think alike.

Inside the Death Cult of the GOP (part i.)

Inside the Death Cult of the GOP (part ii.)

madewar said...

John I think you and I may about the same age (born in 41) and I agree with your assessment about this article. I live in TX and ran an Obama Store for a local Dem group during 2008 and 2012. Last year there was so much right wing talk about older white women would never vote for a black man that we started selling a button that stated Old White Women for Obama. It quickly became our top seller.

madewar said...

@Anon, I don't know about the Right buying trolls, but I do know that here in TX the Right Wing backing Perry started buying up as many of the small town papers here in TX as they could to editorialize for foreign owned toll roads that almost everyone was against.