Friday, April 16, 2010

Left/right alliance with the Tea Party?

Unlikely in the extreme.

But it's an idea that some people are kicking around. Noam Chomsky seems to have something like that in mind in what's quoted from him in Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America by Matthew Rothschild The Progressive 04/12/10:

“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.

“The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain,” he said. “They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are “fine guys” and assured the business world: ‘I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.’

People see that and are not happy about it.”
The reason I'm generally unimpressed with Chomsky's political analysis is that he's always playing verbal tricks like this. It's one thing to make a sociological analysis that unemployment, job uncertainty and other social insecurity, and anger at the wealthy create a volatile political climate with various potentials.

But the Tea Party movement is not the diverse movement of political newcomers that it's participants like to picture themselves as being. It's heavily funded and promoted by official and unofficial Republican Party funding, organization and publicity. See, for instance, GOP operatives crash the tea party by Kenneth Vogel Politico 04/14/10.

Joan Walsh (The Tea Partiers' racial paranoia Salon 04/15/10) and Digby (Teabag Nation Hullabaloo 04/14/10) have recently posted about the politics of the Tea Party movement with reference to the polling data described in Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated by Kate Zernike and Megan Thee-Brenan New York Times 04/14/10. Joan also references this analysis, The Tea Partiers: Older, richer and more resentful Salon by David Jarman 04/15/10. Digby puts it this way:

There's nothing particularly surprising about the rest of them either. These people are nothing new. They have different iterations, but when you get right down to it they are, quite simply, the far right. They hate poor people (especially blacks) and they hate government that helps poor people (especially blacks.) They are deluded about taxes and spending and are paranoid about the government being infiltrated by "the other." They believe they are the only "true" Americans and alternate between insisting that their "traditional values" are best represented by the Bible or the Constitution, both of which they believe they are ordained by God to properly interpret. And they do not really believe in democracy which is really why they hate the government.

When they lose they stage a national hissy fit of epic proportions and persuade the [Beltway] Village (where they are perceived as the personification of the heartland of America) that they are something very important. Now that they have their very own TV and radio networks featuring crazed right wing demagogues 24/7, they are more successful on those terms than ever. But they are nothing new, nothing new at all. They are mostly a bunch of cranky, white men with money who are trying desperately to hang on to their privileges. Same as it ever was.

They are what we have called "Republicans" for at least the last 30 years. [my emphasis]
As I've said before, the United States currently has a two-party democratic system in which one of the two parties, the Republicans, have become an authoritarian party. And, we have to now add, one in which the Democratic President is continuing to claim Executive powers of the kind which led to some of the worst authoritarian abuses under the Cheney-Bush administration.

Joan accurately describes the basic nature of the Republican-front Tea Party movement:

I've written before that I find it galling when the wealthy, white Pat Buchanan (who by the way spent much of his adult life on government health insurance) lectures me about being "condescending" to the Tea Partiers, as though they're a grass-roots uprising of the vulnerable against the elites. That's garbage: They are a well-funded uprising of the elites against the vulnerable. And they'd be nowhere if their mission wasn't largely supported by the top of corporate America (and the GOP shadow government in waiting). [my emphasis]
In other words, the facts we know about the Tea Party from their own spokespeople, newspaper coverage, polling information, interviews with Tea Party activists and so on, just don't support the notion promoted by Chomsky and a few other left-leaning optimists that the Tea Party is somehow a movement that can be directly co-opted by the Democrats, much less by leftwing activist groups.

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