This isn’t to say that health care reform, reproductive rights, immigration reform, and civil liberties for women and ethnic and sexual minorities aren’t important. But with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve issue, these are issues that affect everyone, and both liberals and conservatives can mostly agree on.
This is not a trivial challenge. A few years ago Slavoj Zizek wrote in a somewhat meandering critique of both Alexander Bard’s and Jan Soderqvist’s Netocracy and Michael Hardt’ and Antonio Negri’s Empire:
Is it then true that these tendencies (these lignes de fuite, as Deleuze would have put it) can coexist in a non-antagonistic way, as parts of the same global network of resistance? One is tempted to answer this claim by applying to it Laclau’s notion of the chain of equivalences: of course this logic of multitude functions – because we are still dealing with RESISTANCE. However, what about when – if this really is the desire and will of these movements – “we take it over”? What would the “multitude in power” look like? There was the same constellation in the last years of the decaying Really-Existing Socialism: the non-antagonistic coexistence, within the oppositional field, of a multitude of ideologico-political tendencies, from liberal human-rights groups to “liberal” business-oriented groups, conservative religious groups and leftist workers’ demands. This multitude functioned well as long as it was united in the opposition to “them,” the Party hegemony; once they found THEMSELVES in power, the game was over.
This is not, I don’t think, an insurmountable problem, but it must be kept in mind. These conflicts could destroy a coalition.
You might recall this essay by fascism scholar and futurist Sara Robinson from last year. Robinson has just published a rather dismal follow-up examining how the Tea Party is shaping up to be a legitimately scary fascist party.
Here is the part I found rather unsettling (emphasis mine):
The successful fascisms, on the other hand, were the ones that held together and to gained enough political leverage that capturing their governments became inevitable. And once that happened, there was no turning back, because they now had the political power and street muscle to silence any opposition. (Fascist parties almost never enjoy majority support at any stage — but being a minority faction is only a problem in a functioning democracy. It’s no problem at all if you’re willing to use force to get your way.)
Americans who support the Tea Party brim with contradiction. An October Bloomberg National Poll found that while 83 percent of Tea Party supporters favor repeal of the health-care reform bill, majorities would keep key provisions of it. Fifty-seven percent would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with preexisting conditions, 52 percent would add more prescription drug benefits for Medicare users, and 53 percent would require states to set up plans for people with major health problems. “The ideas that find nearly universal agreement among Tea Party supporters are rather vague,” says pollster J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the survey. “You would think any idea that involves more government action would be anathema, and that is just not the case.”
Tea Party candidates show no such ambivalence. When it comes to government, they don’t want to trim fat, they want to amputate limbs. Angle says she would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Buck says he would get rid of the Energy and Education Depts. And candidates across the country say they aim to eliminate the web of special tax breaks, earmarks, and subsidies that benefit industries from golf cart manufacturers to the largest automakers.
In other words: The Tea Party rank-and-file support politicians they don’t even agree with. Why? Based on the data from the NYT/CBS poll and the Bloomberg poll: Because they don’t know what’s in the health care bill they’re so afraid of. They don’t realize their taxes have actually gone down since Obama was elected. They don’t know how their tax money is spent. And they don’t even seem to know what the politicians they support actually plan on doing.
Here’s what I wrote last year on our chances of getting out of this one:
I don’t share Robinson’s faith that we can pull out of this. I don’t have her faith in the Democratic Party, which I think plays the role of “good cop” in what’s actually a one party system. I think the entire establishment media, not just Fox News, is a party of that system and can never be made to “get the story right.” I don’t think we can rely on the police to do the “heavy lifting.”
I haven’t seen much to change my mind in the past year, except possibly that the non-News Corps owned mainstream media has been getting somewhat better.
Robinson proposes three different possible scenarios, this one being the “worst case”:
A solid majority of the Tea Party candidates win their races, cementing the movement’s lock on the GOP and turning it into a genuine political power in this country. They’ve already promised us that if they take either house of Congress, the next two years will be a lurid nightmare of hearings, trials, impeachments, and character assassinations against progressives. (Which could, in the end, backfire on the GOP as badly as the Clinton impeachment did. We can hope.) Similar scorched-earth harassment awaits officials at every other level of government, too. And casual violence against immigrants, gays, and progressives may escalate as the Tea Party brownshirts become bolder, confident that at least some authorities will either back them up or look the other way.
Unfortunately, the only alternative to the Tea Party seems to be the Democratic Party. And what happens if we do vote down the Tea Party and keep the Dems in power? I must admit to being surprised at how fickle the American public is. After only two years, we’re suddenly ready to give control back to the Republicans just because the Democrats haven’t been able to reverse the damage that the GOP spent eight years creating? But, even with a near super majority, the Democrats haven’t enacted anything even approaching progressive reform. No wonder people are getting impatient. Even with a majority in the House and Congress, it still feels like the GOP is still running things.
And yet I know this is exactly what perpetuates the problems we have. Both the GOP and the Dems get people to vote for them out of fear of the other party. “Sure, we suck but are you really gonna let THEM take office?”
There’s a scenario that Robinson doesn’t mention: the Tea Party candidates get elected, and they get gobbled up by the Washington DC machine and nothing much changes. The Tea Party base are just as disappointed with their candidates as liberals have been with Obama and the various “netroots” candidates.
The NAACP has released a report on racism in the Tea Party movement. From a press release:
Based on exhaustive research, a new report “Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size Scope and Focus of it National Factions,” demonstrates that despite Tea Party claims that its solely concerned with budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government, Tea Party membership and actions are permeated with radical views about race, national identity and other so-called social issues.
What’s in it:
*The report’s website, teapartynationalism.com identifies and maps Tea Party membership, provides an interactive map, and breaks down membership of different factions state-by-state, town-by-town;
*Analyzing the work of the party factions, demonstrating how racism, bigotry and the dismantling the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th amendment dominate their agendas, far outweighing fiscal policy concerns. (can we move this up)
*Demonstrating the lack of influence of the widely-quoted and fiscally-oriented FreedomWorks faction, which is run by Dick Armey and has the second-smallest membership of the groups.
*Listing all Congressional members who are part of the Tea Party caucus, as well as those in support sponsoring of a law aimed at birthright citizenship that aims to would challenge the 14th amendment;
*Documents the long history of connections and interactions among various Tea Party factions and their connections to right-wing fringe groups such as Stormfront, David Duke and others, which are essential to understand the character of this movement;
*Showing leaders of five of the six factions subscribe to the “birther” theory that President Obama is not a natural born American
By now you’ve probably seen the above video of Christine O’Donnell’s disbelief that the First Amendment establishes the separation of church and state. If not, start the video around the 5 minute mark and see for yourself.
O’Donnell’s campaign and the right are trying to spin this by saying O’Donnell was only expressing disbelief that the words “seperation of church and state” appear in the constitution (which they don’t). It’s clear, however, that that’s not what Coons is saying. Coons quotes the amendment and says that decades of procedural law establish the separation.
So it sure sounds like a gaffe. But a belief that the Constitution doesn’t separate church and state is a widespread belief in certain parts factions of the right.
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.
It’s a strange statement, since the Constitution is anything but replete with references to God.
Number of references to “God” in the Constitution: 0
Number of references to “Jesus”: 0
Number of references to “Christ”: 0
Number of references to “Lord”: 1 – in reference to the “year of our lord”
Number of references to “Providence”: 1 – In reference to how many representatives the Providence Plantations get.
Number of references to “Religion”: 1 – in the first amendment when stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
The Declaration of Independence does make one reference each to God and one to Divine Providence. But what of it? The Constitution is the law of the land, not the Declaration.
The idea that someone could be elected senator and not know what the First Amendment says is scary. But here’s another scary idea: the Tea Party knows what it says but still does not believe in the separation of church and state. That’s clearly the case with Ron Paul, though he seems to have little influence over the Tea Party movement anymore. However, according to the NAACP’s Tea Party Nationalism paper released today, there are a number of leaders within the movement who also believe that. And it all ties back, rather uncomfortably, to the Christian Identity movement.
So what do we have here – simple ignorance, or a theocratic agenda?
PS – Wes Unruh is doing a good job of following this stuff on Twitter.