Tea Party Tax Day. I’ll let others comment on it for me.
1) I think Ed gives the best rant he’s given in a while:
The level of historical ignorance necessary to adopt this term is difficult to conceive. In the Boston Tea Party, wealthy colonists protested a tax on tea by dumping their tea in Boston Harbor – cutting off their noses to spite the King’s face. They took something that was worth a lot of money and said “We’d rather piss away a thousand dollars worth of tea than allow you to tax it.” Where is the connection to what is happening in 2009? Is this gaggle of sheep going to dump their paychecks, their SUVs, their HDTVs, and their iPhones in a body of water? Toss them in a bonfire? Commit any kind of self-sacrificing act of protest? No…
Did Sean Hannity get out from behind a desk and attend the immigration amnesty rally in Los Angeles to which 500,000 people showed up last year? Did Fox News dedicate around-the-clock coverage and nearly unbearable homerism to the Iraq War protests which over a million Americans attended (150,000 in San Francisco alone) five years ago? Did Glenn Reynolds claim that government needs to Listen Up and Get the Message and Pay Attention and all this shit when 800,000 people (NYPD estimate; protesters claimed over a million, but such estimates are inevitably high) marched in New York City in 2004 to protest the RNC? Do any of these hacks wax patriotic about the millions upon millions of people who did something real and substantive in electing the new President – not standing around bitching, not listening to talk radio millionaires give speeches in a park amidst misspelled, homemade signs – last November? Of course not. Why? Because “those people” aren’t Real Americans. See, Real Americans means white people. Angry, middle-aged, rural or suburban white people.
2) I saw somewhere that people in Nebraska were protesting “No Taxation Without Representation” recently. The balls on those guys! They get 2 Senators for having a 1.5m people; California, with 33m people, 2 Senators.
Compare, for example, the web page of Americans for Prosperity, the artificial and inauthentic corporatist attempt to direct the Tea Party movement with the widely distributed and much-mocked video of a truly grass roots organizing meeting cited by Charles Johnson above. You won’t see me mocking that video. The people in that video are angry, frightened and betrayed;and they have every right and reason to feel angry, frightened and betrayed because the political economy has not served their interests. Or rather, I suppose, it has stopped doing so when the choice was reduced to serving the elites or serving the working and lower middle classes.
The Americans for Prosperity page features as its TOP ISSUE opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, the proposed legislation that would make it easier for Unions to organize. But if you go to an authentically grass roots Tea Party page, you can see that the grass-rootsers don’t really care about EFCA one way or the other: As of this writing, not a single one of the hundreds and hundreds of user-submitted slogans refers to EFCA. And you’ll note that the AFP-organized Michigan Tea party (featuring Joe the Plumber, the poster-child for false consciousness) strangely doesn’t seem to reference the anti-Union rhetoric of the front page at all. Odd that. Not.
The astroturfed Tea Party sites don’t seem to have posted a single word about illegal immigration on any of their multiple and multifarious sites despite the fact that the briefest glance or eavesdrop at any of the grass roots commentary would indicate that this is driving issue for many Tea Partygoers.
He’s right – you should click through above to see the AstroTurfed pressing issues on the corporate site and the pressing issues on the regular site. That’s a clever observation, seeing how the corporate interests trying to organize and harness the energy are misaligned with the movement, such as it were, on the web.
4) I think sometimes we try too hard to pinpoint economic interests, and social interests, as if they are marbles drawn from two jars, and the person is a shopper at the Democracy Mall trying to get the best deal with his vote. Wendy Brown, American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization:
[In What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas] Frank argues that neocon leaders who “talk Christ but walk corporate” mobilize a working-class constituency on the basis of moral issues never delivered on but which keep this constituency bound to them. Hence the episodic revisitation of proposed constitutional amendments and other mostly doomed legislation to ban flag burning, abortion, homosexual unions, stem cell research, or the required teaching of evolution as science and commitments to secularism in public schools. While Frank is clearly correct about the neocon leadership’s hand waving over such issues and its pursuit of policies at odds with the economic welfare of its working- and middle-class base, his analysis assumes rather than queries the “interests” he imputes to this base. Neoliberal de-democratization produces a subject who may have no such interests, who may be more desirous of its own subjection and complicit in its subordination than any democratic subject could be said to be.27 That is, even as Frank explains compellingly how the rich and powerful have exploited the disappointment and frustration of working- and middle-class America, this explanation hews to a model of objective interests on one side and ideological obfuscation and manipulation on the other. Thus it resurrects a certain political hopefulness through the worn figure of “false consciousness” and eschews the more troubling possibility of an abject, unemancipatory, and anti-egalitarian subjective orientation amongst a significant swathe of the American populace.
To see this more clearly, let us revisit four aspects of neoliberal de-democratization, considering them now as the seedbed of the new political form that I’m suggesting is produced at the intersection of neoliberal and neoconservative rationalities: (1) the devaluation of political autonomy, (2) the transformation of political problems into individual problems with market solutions, (3) the production of the consumer-citizen as available to a heavy degree of governance and authority, and (4) the legitimation of statism.