From MATT TAIBBI
Thanks to Todd Walton
(See update below)
How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it…
“Let me get this straight,” I say to David. “You’ve been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?”
“Well,” he says, “there’s a lot of people on welfare who don’t deserve it. Too many people are living off the government.”
“But,” I protest, “you live off the government. And have been your whole life!”…
Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them…
A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC…
It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They’re completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I’m an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I’m a radical communist? I don’t love my country? I’m a redcoat? Fuck you!..
This, then, is the future of the Republican Party: Angry white voters hovering over their cash-stuffed mattresses with their kerosene lanterns, peering through the blinds at the oncoming hordes of suburban soccer moms they’ve mistaken for death-panel bureaucrats bent on exterminating anyone who isn’t an illegal alien or a Kenyan anti-colonialist…
[...] The Tea Party movement represents largely (but not solely) the unfocused anger of people who know they have suffered, or are about to suffer, substantial losses, but do not (typically) understand the system well enough to understand why. The movement is casting about for someone to blame, as such movements always do on the verge of a trust collapse. The danger is that someone with facile populist answers will come along, offering a target for the urgent desire to blame someone for what has happened and is happening.
This is already happening, as powerful funding sources and nascent populists circle around and seek to tap into the trend for their own purposes. It is absolutely to be expected that existing top-down power structures, or political opportunists with their own agenda, will seek to hijack bottom-up movements as they develop. My primary concern is that in doing so they will lay the foundation for a society attempting to live far beyond the trust horizon, and where there is no trust, and consequently no political legitimacy, there will be surveillance, coercion and repression instead.
It will be easy for movements grounded in negative emotion to gain a foot-hold in the coming environment, as this is very much where the collective mood will lie in the aftermath of a Ponzi collapse. Blame-games will be very tempting (and populists have their own prejudicial ideas as to who should be blamed). However, this would not be compatible with maintaining the constructive and cooperative mindset we need if we are to have a hope of avoiding an over-reaction to the downside that has the potential to magnify the impact of what is coming enormously.
Personally, I would like to encourage the development of a different kind of grass-roots momentum for change, along the lines of what is being developed (albeit not nearly quickly enough so far) by the Transition Towns movement and other comparable initiatives. The key advantages that this kind of approach has are two-fold – the scope of its component activities, based on relocalization, match where the trust horizon is headed, and its driving force is the desire to build rather than to tear down.
Working within the trust horizon is important, as it means individual small-scale initiatives can benefit from the same kind of social support at a local level that larger-scale ones once did at a societal level, when trust was more broadly inclusive. Local currencies work for exactly this reason. While the task will still be difficult, it has a chance of being achievable, especially where the necessary relationships of trust have been established before hard times set in. It is very much more difficult to build such relationships after the fact, but relationships built beforehand may actually strengthen when put to the test.
Trying to maintain a positive and constructive focus at the local level, where trust has a chance to survive, and perhaps even thrive in hard times, and to avoid being drawn into a blame-game, will be an uphill battle. It is nevertheless something we need to do as a society, if we are to have a chance to preserve as much as possible of who we are through what is coming.