This is not your country. Nor is it mine. That we were born here, along with our forebears hardly matters. This has been the message of the Tea Party since its incorporation — and of conservatism itself for more than a generation — to anyone who doesn’t’ fit their demographic, in terms of race, religion, politics, etc.
It is most often expressed by the Tea Party’s declared desire to "Take our country back." This is not your country. Nor is it mine. It’s theirs, and they’re "taking it back." This raises a few very important questions: "Who are they taking it from?", "Who are they taking it for?", and "How do they plan to take it?"
The first two are easy to answer. Just look at whom they attack. The most recent incident, in which supporters of Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul attacked a MoveOn activist who sought to present Paul with a satirical "Award." The video and images of Paul campaign volunteer Tim Profitt literally stomping on the head of Lauren Valle have received widespread attention.
But the Kentucky head-stomping is just the most recent in a series of incidents that go a long way towards answering two of our three questions. As Michael Moore explained, it is an Orwellian "boot to the head" for a great many of us who still don’t know better than to call ourselves Americans and call this our country.
The young woman’s name is Lauren Valle, but she is really all of us. For come this Tuesday, the right wing — and the wealthy who back them — plan to take their collective boot and bring it down hard on not just the head of Barack Obama but on the heads of everyone they simply don’t like.
Teachers union? The boot!
Muslim-looking people? The boot!
Thinking of retiring soon? The boot!
Living in a house you can no longer afford? The boot!
Doing a bit better with your minimum wage? The boot!
Stem cell research, the bullet train, reversing global warming? Ha! The boot for all of you!
What? You like your kids being covered by your health plan ‘til they’re 26? The boot for them and the boot for you!
In love with someone of your own gender? A double boot up the ass for every single one of you sick SOBs!
Hoping there’s a few jobs left here in the U.S. when you graduate? How ’bout just a nice boot to your head instead?
And most importantly, the last boot is saved for the black man who probably wasn’t born here, definitely isn’t a Christian and possibly might be the Antichrist sent here to oversee the destruction of our very way of life. A boot to your head, Obama-devil!
Yes, one big boot is poised to stomp out whatever hopey-changey thing we might have had two years ago and secure this country in the hands of the oligarchs and the culture police.
It’s hard to expect much else from people who, had so much great fun mocking the very idea of hope two years ago that they haven’t been able to stop. But it reminds me of a Maya Angelou quote I used in a previous post, "When people show you who they are, believe them." The Tea Party has been telling us loudly and often both who they are and who we are not. (Here’s a hint: There’s "Real America" — the America to which they recently pledged alleigance — and there’s the rest of us.
Those of us who fit among those in Michael Moore’s litany are the people from whom they are taking their country back. They’ve told us — and shown — us that much themselves.
Their willingness to threaten and use violence is a partial answer to the question, "How do they plan to take it." It is part of a longstanding patter. Media Matters compiled a list of right wing violence and threats just in this political cycle. It is also, as I’ve said before, it is the fulfillment of rhetoric we’ve heard for years. It is an old pattern with an old purpose.
The model is one of fear and intimidation employed to keep people from upsetting the status quo. In the South, decades ago, it was an effective terrorist tactic employed against African Americans even suspected of transgressing a status quo in which their "place" was strictly defined, by asserting their personhood and demanding recognition of their civil rights.
It was the tactic, fueled by anger and entitlement, employed when the escalation of fear failed to stop the momentum of movement toward justice. What those who employed it could not stop through persuasion or the democratic process, they sought to stop through violence and terror. What they could not defeat with reasoned argument, they sought to silence.
…It was effective, serving its purpose well. So it was tolerated, accepted, even encouraged by those in authority, rather than condemned. It remains to be seen if the thundering storm of fear, anger and violence will be enough to hold back progress. But no one from among Republican leadership has stepped forward to clearly and forcefully condemn the increasing venom now veering into threats and violence.
As Bob Cesca point outs, it’s an old tactic being put a new use; not merely to intimidate and discourage dissent, but perhaps even to distract the Tea Party foot soldiers of the right from the cognitive dissonance of their politics and the likely consequences.
…This is evidently how the Republicans intend to handle dissent should they gain any sort of congressional majority. When they’re not avoiding press scrutiny or party opposition, they’re arresting dissenters. And when they’re unable to rationally debate the issues, they lash out with violence.
It’s a special brand of cowardice that’s symptomatic of their utterly inexplicable and contradictory positions.
…Seriously, it has to be mind-bendingly frustrating to have to defend some of this nonsensical hooey. Couple all of it with the umbrella contradiction that the original Boston Tea Party was a protest against a tax cut in favor of the British East India Company, allowing the corporation to import tea to the colonies tax-free and therefore undercut the prices charged by independent importers. I always hesitate to mention this because I don’t want to be held responsible for the subsequent far-right noggin meltdowns. Yes, the original Tea Party was in opposition to a corporate tax cut. Chew on that one, Tea Partiers.
So in the absence of rational and factual arguments, what are they left with? Inchoate violence and flailing rage directed at anyone who chooses to observe the nation’s problems through the prism of objective reality and facts. We live in a counter-factual era, and no matter what arguments are made, and no matter how many sources we have on hand to make the case for reality, the far-right is more content to throw fists and fits. It just so happens that Stephen Colbert is right: "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
If kept angry enough, they might be so busy "taking their country back" from people like you and me, that they have time to think about who they taking it for.
The answer to that question — "Who are they taking it for?" — is becoming increasingly obvious, if only the Tea Partiers asked the right questions. They might ask why many high-profile Tea Party candidates have gotten so much money from Wall Street. They might ask why so much corporate money is funding their "populist" movement.
On the second page of its foreword, in between photographs of the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, his pledge likewise vows to permanently end bailouts. But since well before the official new blueprint, and even without considering the great vengeance and furious anger of the Tea Party wing, Republicans have been crusading against government support of Wall Street.
That hasn’t deterred Wall Street’s leaders, exasperated by a president who called them "a bunch of fat cat bankers," flabbergasted by intricate new regulation and insulted that tax rates for the wealthy may go back to where they’d been before Bush. Beginning in February, when 17 of the top 25 federal beneficiaries of the industry were Republicans, financial industry money has seesawed neatly from left to right.
…But between dread about sovereign debt, the housing market, unemployment, third-quarter losses and deflation—if not inflation, too—it does not seem impossible that another financial crisis could somehow happen again. And if Wall Street gets its way, it will have nudged into power a party that has deafeningly proclaimed the evils of government intervention.
Does Wall Street’s support of a party that’s openly pledged not to save them mean it has accepted it shouldn’t be bailed out again? Interviews with executives suggested not, for three reasons. They think that another crisis won’t happen, or that if it does, they will not need another bailout because of reforms, or that if they do, our country’s leaders would oblige, no matter who’s in power.
But they are not inclined to ask, and the "boot to the face" is tactic intended to keep you, me and anyone else from asking, and thereby point out that they might be getting played.
As Mike Lux pointed out, the violence on the right is reflected in the lawlessness of the very "corporate persons" paying the Tea Party’s bills, and it is not just delivering a "boot to the face" of you, me, Lauren Valle, but to our Democracy itself.
I think the lawlessness reflected in the physical violence on the campaign trail coming from so many on the right, and the blatant disregard for the rule of law by the big banks trying to railroad so many people out of their homes without the proper paper work, are more related than conventional wisdom would suggest. The fact that banks and their "servicers" have apparently committed massive document fraud and have in some cases actually hired thugs to break into people’s homes and change their locks during foreclosure proceedings, and the fact that they lied to and bet against their own clients in investment deals is all part of a pattern: people with too much power and an Ayn Randian view of the world. Ayn Rand, the Social Darwinists of the 1880s, the big Wall Street banks, libertarian candidates like Rand Paul and these thugs who work on their campaigns all make the same arguments: power is morality, greed is good, compassion is weakness, buyer beware. While they call for civility, and argue against class warfare and populism, they believe in turning the Golden Rule of the bible on its head and replacing it with another one: he who has the gold, rules. And if the rule of law gets in their way, they just ignore it or use their political power to change the law. If politicians or public opinion create a problem for them, they use their money to dump millions into lobbying to change the law, or dump millions into secretive groups to buy elections.
There is more than one kind of "boot to the face," and the Tea Partiers don’t even own the "boot" with which they willingly and gleefully stomp the face of anyone with the temerity to tell them otherwise. The Tea Partiers don’t have the gold, and thus even if they "take the country back" it won’t be theirs. They are merely taking for people who believe they should own it by virtue of nothing more than their monetary might.
I asked before just how far back the Tea Partiers want to take America, because what they think of as the good old days were not good for everybody. During the "golden eras of freedom" they idealize, a great many of us would have been decidedly less free than we are now. Of course, that’s not going to be of concern to Tea Partiers. (See the title of this post, and Michael Moore’s blog post.)
But Harold Meyerson recently pointed out that the the "good old days" weren’t all that good for the Tea Partiers themselves.
When the Tea Partyers get around to identifying how America has changed and to whose benefit, however, they get it almost all wrong. In the worldview of the American right — and the polling shows conclusively that that’s who the Tea Party is — the nation, misled by President Obama, has gone down the path to socialism. In fact, far from venturing down that road, we’ve been stuck on the road to hyper-capitalism for three decades now.
The Tea Partyers are right to be wary of income redistribution, but if they had even the slightest openness to empiricism, they’d see that the redistribution of the past 30 years has all been upward — radically upward. From 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans — effectively, all but the rich — increased from 64 percent to 65 percent, according to an analysis of tax data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Because the nation’s economy was growing handsomely, that means that the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent was growing, too — from $17,719 in 1950 to $30,941 in 1980 — a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.
Since 1980, it’s been a very different story. The economy has continued to grow handsomely, but for the bottom 90 percent of Americans, it’s been a time of stagnation and loss. Since 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent has declined from 65 percent to 52 percent. In actual dollars, the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent flat-lined — going from the $30,941 of 1980 to $31,244 in 2008.
In short, the economic life and prospects for Americans since the Reagan Revolution have grown dim, while the lives of the rich — the super-rich in particular — have never been brighter. The share of income accruing to America’s wealthiest 1 percent rose from 9 percent in 1974 to a tidy 23.5 percent in 2007.
In fact, they may be poisoned by their own politics. Literally.
In their zeal to live free from outside interference, the tea parties are shooting at the wrong target.
They would be right to be angry with an oil industry poisoning their water, an auto industry polluting their air and agribusiness providing unsafe food.
Instead they are attacking the government, the only entity that can protect their water, their atmosphere, their food.
Powerful corporate interests are taking advantage of tea party anger for their own self interest. They are funneling vast sums to fuel and steer an anti-government campaign that would gut the rules protecting people from dangerous products and the environment from poisonous emissions.
What if they succeed? Just consider the menu at their tea party: Scrambled eggs with salmonella, a cup of arsenic-laced tea and orange juice with a dash of cryptosporidium in the ice cubes. And if you are driving to the party in your SUV, watch out that it doesn’t roll over.
Nobody likes to think they’re getting played, much less playing themselves. Yet, the Tea Partiers have employed populism to serve corporatism so successfully that Sinclair Lewis may never stop spinning in his grave. (If you haven’t read Lewis’s prescient 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, you can read it for free here.)
The Tea Partiers have poured their anger into serving corporate power that has its own interests at heart and nothing else. They may "win", but only to deliver power into the hands of politicians and interests who will betray them (along with the rest of us), as usual.
It’s pretty clear that the Tea Party members are being set up for a big disappointment. There is little chance that the politicians they are supporting are going to do what the members think they’re going to do once in office. The members might supply the votes, but the big corporations behind so many of the things that the Tea Party members hate are the ones supplying the money and organization. These politicians, once in office, will understand that the big money can go after them just as well is it went for them this time, if they don’t do what they’re told by their big corporate funders. But on the other hand, there will be lucrative lobbying jobs waiting for them if they play along. They are going to disappoint the Tea Party members, no question. What will Tea Party members do then?
This may not be our country, according to Tea Party, but it’s not going to be theirs either. They may believe they "took it back" if they have significant wins in the midterm elections. But they fill figure out sooner or later that they "got taken," when they signed on to take the country for Wall Street and corporate interests who will use that power against the very people they employed to get it.
How angry will the Tea Party be then?