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Why You Shouldn’t Compare Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party (by Ishaan Tharoor)

October 18, 2011

With the Occupy Wall Street protests gaining steam in the U.S., it seems obvious to link it with the other grassroots movement that recently shook up American politics — the Tea Party. My colleagues’ pieces number among a flurry of others pondering the parallel. Michael Scherer recast Occupy Wall Street as the Tea Party of the American left. Roya Wolverson suggested how the two movements, coming from diametrically-opposed sides of the political spectrum, could find common ground (and perhaps actual policy influence) in their mutual distaste for a Washington dominated by the vested interests of corporations. But while the similarities are noteworthy, they obscure more relevant truths about Occupy Wall Street, the supposedly inchoate movement that has transfixed the American media in recent weeks. I enumerate these truths after the jump.

1. Occupy Wall Street is an expression of a global phenomenon. A cursory glimpse at newspapers over the weekend would have shown scenes of mass protest across European capitals and cities elsewhere in the world, all in solidarity with the anti-greed protesters in New York. The Tea Party, for all its early brio, commands no such solidarity, nor does it care for it. It’s a hyper-nationalist movement in the U.S., lofting the totems of the Constitution and the flag. Few viable political factions across the Atlantic advocate the Tea Party’s anti-big government, libertarian agenda (though the xenophobic, culturally-conservative wing of the Tea Party would perhaps see eye to eye with Europe’s Islamophobic far-right). (See photos frome the Occupy Wall Street protests.)

Many of the Occupy Wall Street’s participants, on the other hand, consciously see themselves as part of a worldwide uprising, a flame first kindled by the Arab Spring and borne across the Mediterranean by anti-austerity protesters in Europe. In all three settings, social media has played a vital role in mobilizing and organizing the disaffected and the disenfranchised. In all three settings, activists and protesters have drawn to varying degrees from a toolbox of leftist, anarchist protest tactics and made do with minimal institutional support or funds. And in all three settings, the protesters have pulled together sympathizers from across myriad political camps within their countries and somehow made a virtue out of their movement’s lack of central leadership. The U.S. economy may not be facing the same existential pressures as those of Greece or Spain, nor are American protesters facing the sort of desperate brutality meted out on brave dissidents in Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria. But the call for social justice echoes the same across continents.

2. Occupy Wall Street is fueled by youth. Reporters covering the ongoing occupation of Zuccotti Park have encountered and profiled a host of characters from all walks and stages of life. One of my favorite interviews so far has been Marsha Spencer, a 56-year-old grandmother who can be found on weekends at the Park’s western edge, knitting gloves and scarves for fellow protesters. She makes no bones about what’s driving Occupy Wall Street — young people: college students saddled with years of debt, 20-somethings struggling to land a job, and an entire generation banging its head on what seems to be the ever-lowering ceiling of their possibilities. “It’s all about them,” Spencer told me on a rainy morning last week in Zuccotti Park.

Not true for the Tea Party, whose typical supporter is older, wealthier, and whiter than the American demographic average. It is a movement, by and large, of the haves — not the have nots. “It’s essentially reactionary,” says David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, who helped set up Occupy Wall Street’s much-heralded General Assembly and is one of the first people to push the movement’s now ubiquitous slogan ‘We are the 99%’. “The Tea Party core group is white middle-class Republicans who are angry that they seem to be losing their position of preeminence in society.” The ranks of Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, are most heavily populated by young people, who, says Graeber, “are supposed to be the ones at the forefront, re-imagining their society.” Their protest fits into a long continuum of student and youth rebellions, most recently seen in the Mediterranean rim countries mentioned above. (See “‘The Whole World Is Watching’: Occupy Wall Street Stares Down the NYPD.”)

3. Occupy Wall Street may prove much harder to co-opt into the political mainstream. Many have speculated what direction Occupy Wall Street will turn as it picks up momentum and encroaches on the U.S. 2012 Presidential campaign. Will the protest get co-opted by the country’s big unions? Will D.C.-based advocacy groups like try to exploit for its own ends the success of motley, diverse bands of protesters occupying dozens of downtowns across the U.S.? And, most importantly, will Occupy Wall Street radicalize the Democratic base the way the Tea Party energized the far-right of the Republicans?

At present, it’s hard to see how Occupy Wall Street can generate the left-wing, Democratic versions of Rand Paul or Michele Bachmann. Few of the protesters one speaks to have any tolerance for either political party, which they say are both equally enmeshed in a political system entirely beholden to vested corporate interests. The Tea Party, boosted by financial titans and one of the U.S.’s most influential cable news network, was able to make the leap from grassroots anger to effective Beltway politicking. Occupy Wall Street has no such benefactors nor mouthpiece, and will have to undergo a massive — and potentially divisive — transformation should it become the sort of tempered, streamlined (what many would deem ‘compromised’) political player that can actually throw its weight behind the Obama Administration. For the time being, it remains a social movement far more interested in the sort of “direct democracy” practiced during occupations than that which gets negotiated in the corridors of power in D.C. The sentiments below may have been expressed by an exasperated Greek blogger in June, but they reverberate around Zuccotti Park today: (Watch TIME’s video “The Friday Showdown at Occupy Wall Street.”)

We will not suffer any more so that we can make the rich, even richer. We do not authorise any of the politicians, who failed so spectacularly, to borrow any more money in our name. We do not trust you or the people that are lending it. We want a completely new set of accountable people at the helm, untainted by the fiascos of the past. You have run out of ideas.

4. Occupy Wall Street still believes in politics and government. And this is where another important line has to be drawn. Whereas much of the Tea Party’s programmatic ire seems directed at the very idea of government — and trumpets instead the virtue of self-reliance and the inexorable righteousness of the free market — Occupy Wall Street more sharply decries the collusion of corporate and political elites in Washington. The answer, for many of the protesters I’ve spoken with, is never the wholesale dismantling or whittling away of the capabilities of political institutions (except, perhaps, the Fed), but a subtler disentangling of Wall Street from Washington. Government writ large is not the problem, just the current sort of government.

Because, at the end of the day, Occupy Wall Street, like most idealistic social movements, wants real political solutions. Excited activists in Zuccotti Park spoke to me about the advent of “participatory budgeting” in a number of City Council districts in New York — an egalitarian system, first brought about in leftist-run cities in Latin America, that allows communities to dole out funds in their neighborhoods through deliberation and consensus-building. It’s the same process that gets played out every day by the activist general assemblies held in Zuccotti Park and other occupation sites around the U.S. To the outside observer, that may seem foolishly utopian — and impracticable on a larger scale — but it’s a sign of the deep political commitments of many of the motley protesters gathering under Occupy Wall Street’s banner. They want to fix government, not escape from it.

Ishaan Tharoor writes for TIME and is the editor of Global Spin. You can find him on Twitter at @ishaantharoor. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEWorld.

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Occupy Chicago – A View from the Streets

October 17, 2011

Media Lies; Praise the Corporate Led Tea Party Movement, Trash the True People’s Movement

October 8, 2011

…those same Wall St. and corporate shills on Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and across all of the media, who sang the praises of the false Tea Party movement as being an example of American exceptionalism and the common man standing tall, will show just how dishonest and duplicitous they are as they rail against what is a real movement to fight against the real threat to America and our Democracy; the abject greed and lust for power that resides on Wall Street and in the corporate boardrooms of America.

Shortly after the bail out of Wall Street and the nation’s largest banks by the government to avert economic disaster, and in the immediate aftermath of Obama taking office, Rick Santelli, a rich Wall Street fat cat who until then was an irrelevant and embarrassingly untalented media personality on CNBC, went on an alleged ‘spontaneous rant,’ blaming everyone from Obama to the Congress for being irresponsible, promoting bad behavior, and screwing the average person, and in the process suggesting that perhaps people should do what the Patriots did in Boston to protest taxes and have a Chicago Tea Party. In that rant he conveniently neglected to mention the real culprits that had brought the country to the brink; the rich and powerful Wall Street interests of which he was, and still is, a part.

After Santelli’s amateurish performance, the Tea Party Movement was born and immediately went viral. People who for 8 years could have cared less about a Republican Administration that drove the country deep into debt, waged two wars we could not afford, endangered our civil liberties with a Justice Department bent on prosecuting political enemies ahead of criminals, and lied to the public on a regular basis, were suddenly enraged by an Obama Administration that was but 60 days old, and following Santelli’s corporate supplied script, began blaming everything that was wrong in the world on the Federal Government. And Wall Street and Big Business, who bore the bulk of the responsibility for almost bringing down our economy? Well, they conveniently got a pass. Go figure!

With websites, chapters and organization seemingly appearing overnight and funded by mysterious and unseen benefactors, the Tea Party Movement leveraged all of middle America’s greatest fears to fuel a movement that whispered a little too loudly about the POTUS’ being a black man for the racists among us; gave rise to ‘birther’ claims for the paranoid conspiracy lovers out there; shouted threats of retribution for immigrants stealing our plush jobs flipping burgers and trimming hedges to satisfy the anti-immigration set; and called for punishment at the alter and in the law for those with alternative lifestyles to the delight of the religiously righteous and homophobes alike.

Some sensed that this new movement was less about government spending and frustration with ineffective government, and more about racism and white anger at losing power and preference. Others charged that it was yet another example of rich, educated and powerful forces manipulating populist anger and fears so average Americans would do their dirty work, even if it was contrary to their own self-interests.

And while the main stream media ignored these concerns, and happily rode the movement’s notoriety and YouTube targeted antics to ratings glory, troubling evidence suggested more at work than a populist uprising. Such as the report in Playboy (that was subsequently pulled under mysterious circumstances from the Playboy site) suggesting Santelli’s rant was not off the cuff “but rather it was a carefully planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign.” In other words, a carefully organized and sophisticated campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for a cabal of right-wing interests including the infamous Koch family, multibillionaire owners of the largest private corporation in America, and funders of right-wing think-tanks and advocacy groups. The scion of the Koch family, Fred Koch, was also a co-founder of the notoriously extreme, right-wing John Birch Society.” And that “Big Business was pouring tens of millions of dollars into their media machines in order to destroy just about every economic campaign promise Obama has made,” and that what is at stake “isn’t the little guy’s fight against big government, as Santelli and his supporters claim, but rather the “upper 2 percent”’s war to protect their wealth from the Obama Adminstration’s economic plans.”

So yeah, it was pretty clear then, and is even more clear now that the whole Tea Party thing was not a wave of outrage from the proletariat standing up against oppressive government and injustice. Nope, it was the rich and powerful basically doubling down to make sure they would continue becoming richer and more powerful on the backs of the average Joe and Jane. And guess what, with the help of the mainstream media, Fox News, and the almost pathological avoidance of the American voter to even question what they’re being told, let alone take the time to actually investigate the facts, the Tea Party plan worked beautifully….UNTIL NOW!

What the masterminds from Wall St. and in America’s corporate boardrooms didn’t count on was how ugly and dangerous the movement would become. One only had to look at Tea Party signs and the rhetoric displayed at the well funded rallies that sprang up to know the movement was getting pretty ugly. Or the town hall meetings where the movement came equipped with scripts and talking points provided by insurance companies and lobbyists, which they used to stifle discussion and shout down elected officials as they set the standard for thuggish behavior and mob mentality intended to intimidate and threaten. Or the spectacle of Tea Party enforcers, some wearing Americans for Prosperity logos on their hats and shirts, attacking a man with Parkinsons at a healthcare reform rally, or three male supporters of Tea Party darling Rand Paul stomping on the head of a woman who was protesting at one of his rallies.

This ugly and hateful foundation then spawned a class of GOP Tea Party candidates, many of whom were unfit to hold a job at McDonalds let alone hold elected office, like deadbeat dad Joe Walsh of Illinois and Witchy Woman Christine O’Donnell of Delaware. With a remarkable number of them combining the Tea Party rage with the limited attention span of the American voter and getting elected, the country found itself once again teetering on the edge of economic Armageddon due to the Tea Party fueled phony Debt Ceiling crisis. Only this time the creators of the Tea Party movement, the Wall St. elite, found themselves also facing disaster as a result.

But perhaps the biggest miscalculation the wealthy Wall St. and corporate Tea Party founders made was underestimating the awareness, intelligence and resolve of the American people. They seemed to believe that if they controlled the message by securing a stranglehold on the largest and most powerful media outlets, distracted us with an endless array of mindless entertainment, and continued to play on our most intimate and deepest fears, nothing could touch them.

Well Wall St., that is no longer working.

Starting with a small group of Americans who knew the truth and could see what was going on, the Occupy Wall Street Movement began to take shape, and launched September 17 2011, it has slowly begun to grow in size and in strength. Of course, the corporate controlled media, at first tried to ignore it. But as it has grown, and as more Americans join on a daily basis, it can no longer be ignored. Now, the empty suits and talking heads in the media and in the press are trying to demonize it, calling the organizers and participants thugs, anarchists, revolutionary zealots, crackpots, druggies, hippies and socialists. But the movement has continued to grow, and more and more mainstream Americans are joining, including labor unions who have seen their rights stripped by Republican legsilators at the behest of their corporate overlords, teachers who struggle to educate as budgets for schools and education are slashed in favor of tax breaks for the wealthy corporations that still withould jobs, students who face a lifetime burden of financial debt in pursuit of higher education as governments choose to underwrite big business instead of higher education, and Americans of all stripes who have watched the wealth of our nation continue to flow to those who nearly brought the country to ruin through malfeasance and deceit, yet who have never been held to account at any level.

As more and more Americans become aware and realize how they have been duped by the Tea Party Movement and the lies being told by politicians in the pockets of corporate lobbyists and by corporate leaders on Wall Street and in Big Business, the anger will continue to grow, and the movement will continue to swell. And yes, those same Wall St. and corporate shills on Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and across all of the media, who sang the praises of the false Tea Party movement as being an example of American exceptionalism and the common man standing tall, will show just how dishonest and duplicitous they are as they rail against what is a real movement to fight against the real threat to America and our Democracy; the insatiable greed and lust for power that resides on Wall Street and in the boardrooms of America.

The Tea Party doctrine of hate makes the movement less popular then Gays and Muslims!

September 6, 2011

…as the recent polling has shown, it is far, far too late for the Tea Party Movement to save itself or the hateful doctrine it embraces. It was always a movement founded on lies, disinformation and fear, and such a movement cannot, and will not survive in the greatest country on earth.

Here at old DTOM, we have long held the view that the Tea Party is a faux grass-roots movement that was really a creation by the core of the Republican Party, otherwise known as rich and very powerful corporate interests intent on stripping our democracy, and our democratic institutions of any power to effectively govern. The reason being, of course, that in that environment, the Republicans would be able to regain their hold on power that was squandered by the disastrous Bush Presidency, and the wealthiest Americans that make up the core of the GOP could continue to get richer at the expense of everyone else.

We also held the belief that the Tea Party movement was inherently dishonest, and certainly dangerous. One need only look at their signs and their rhetoric at their so called rallies. Or the town hall meetings where they set the standard for thuggish behavior and mob mentality intended to intimidate and threaten. Or how they attack those they disagree with, like the man with Parkinsons at a healthcare reform rally or the woman that three men from the Tea Party beat up at a Rand Paul political rally.

Given the movement’s evil and hateful foundation, we also thought the movement would implode on itself at some point and for any number of reasons. Perhaps the abject greed that is its foundation would cause it to feed on the very people who supported it. Or maybe the core of hatred that sustains it would result in internacine warfare. Or with so many Republican ‘Tea Party’ candidates having taken advantage of the limited attention span of the American voter and getting elected, America would finally see the despicable character of the individuals who expediently rode the anger and vitriol of the movement for their own personal, and the GOP’s gain, like dead-beat dad Joe Walsh of Illinois, and realize they had been duped into supporting people that represented a movement that could care less about effective governance, or the well being of the United States of America as a whole.

Well, it took a little longer than we expected, but all the things we expected would contribute to the Tea Party’s demise, and more, have come to fruition to one degree or another, and the result is the movement is now in its death throes as the 2012 election approaches, which does not bode well for the Grand Old Party. And as far as DTOM is concerned, we couldn’t be happier.

As proof, look at the results of a recent New York Times poll about how people regard the Tea Party. The unfavorable rating for the Tea Party now stands at 40%, a 120% increase over the unfavorable rating the movement received in April 2010! And why should Tea Party’s unfavorable rating be a concern to Republicans? Because, as revealed in research by David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, which was first done before the Tea Party ever existed and then updated this past month, the single biggest predictor of who did and did not join the Tea Party was whether or not they were a Republican.

What is even more telling is in this same research, completed as part of a book titled “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” it turns out that across a cross section of twenty-four high-profile groups and individuals on the American scene, the Tea Party doesn’t just score poorly, IT COMES IN DEAD LAST! Yep, behind Muslims, Atheists and Gays.

Of course, this does not mean that the Tea Party is gone, or that it won’t still pose a threat to fair minded and patriotic Americans. In the months ahead, we can expect to see the movement become more angry, more volatile, and even more dangerous as it desperately seeks to remain relevant. However, as the recent polling has shown, it is far, far too late for the Tea Party Movement to save itself or the hateful doctrine it embraces. It was always a movement founded on lies, disinformation and fear, and such a movement cannot, and will not survive in the greatest country on earth.

The Billionaires’ Tea Party (DVD)

August 22, 2011

Surprisingly, it took an Australian – filmmaker Taki Oldham – to put together the documentary that exposes how the Koch brothers created the Tea Party.

Although the Tea Party member of the documentaries – ranging from demented birthers to calm pawns – view themselves as being a spontaneous uprising, “The Billionaires’ Tea Party” makes a persuasive case that this movement – saturated in corporate media coverage – was orchestrated strategically by right-wing organizations, most notably Americans for Prosperity, the chief front operation for the Kochs.

With access to Americans for Prosperity meetings and “straightforward” interviews with key figures in Americans for Prosperity, Oldham builds the case that the Tea Party was anything but a spontaneous uprising.

For those who still doubt – or need to be reminded – how a well-financed right-wing infrastructure is manipulating democracy through the use of emotional hot buttons to advance a plutocratic agenda, this is a must-see documentary.

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Guest Editorial: The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism (by Michael Lind)

August 2, 2011

The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremismThe Tea Party movement takes its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when American patriots dumped British tea into Boston Harbor to protest British imperial power. But while New England was the center of resistance to the British empire, there are few New Englanders to be found in today’s Tea Party movement. It should be called the Fort Sumter movement, after the Southern attack on the federal garrison in Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12-13, 1861, that began the Civil War. Today’s Tea Party movement is merely the latest of a series of attacks on American democracy by the white Southern minority, which for more than two centuries has not hesitated to paralyze, sabotage or, in the case of the Civil War, destroy American democracy in order to get their way

The mainstream media have completely missed the story, by portraying the Tea Party movement in ideological rather than regional terms. Whether by accident or design, the public faces of the Tea Party in the House are Midwesterners — Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann and Joe Walsh of Illinois. But while there may be Tea Party sympathizers throughout the country, in the House of Representatives the Tea Party faction that has used the debt ceiling issue to plunge the nation into crisis is overwhelmingly Southern in its origins:

The four states with the most Tea Party representatives in Congress are all former members of the Confederate States of America. The states with the greatest number of members of the House Tea Party caucus are Texas (12), Florida (7), Louisiana (5) and Georgia (5). While California is in fifth place with four House Tea Party members, the sixth, seventh and eighth places on the list are taken by two former Southern slave states, South Carolina and Tennessee, and a border state, Missouri, each with three members of the congressional Tea Party caucus.

If states with significant white Southern diasporas were included, the Southern proportion of the House Tea Party caucus would be even bigger. Many of the other states with Tea Party representatives are border states with significant Southern populations and Southern ties. One is Maryland, a state with Confederate sympathies during the Civil War, which, because the Census Bureau defines it as “Northeastern,” is responsible for the only Northeastern member of the Tea Party caucus, Roscoe Bartlett. The four Californian representatives come from the Orange County area or inland California, both regions whose political culture was shaped by Southern political culture, in the form of the “Okie” diaspora that settled there during the Depression.

In the entire House Tea Party Caucus, there is not a single representative from New England.

The fact that Tea Party conservatism speaks with a pronounced Southern drawl may have escaped the attention of the mainstream media, but it is obvious to members of Congress who have to try to work with these disproportionately-Southern fanatics. One is Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California. As a guest on a radio show, she mocked the Southern accent of the typical congressional Tea Party caucus member:

The congresswoman, who represents Anaheim and other parts of Orange County, laughed and said she knows how to get along with people. Then she used a mock Southern accent to describe how conversations with them play out.

“Hey what’s your name? ‘My name is M-o-e,'” Sanchez said, feigning a Southern drawl that drew howls of laughter from Miller and her co-host. “Ok Moe. Moe-ster, how you doing baby? What are we going to do today? What’s your interest? What can we work on together?”

“‘Well, it’s unconstitutional,” she said, using her faux Southern accent.

Contradicting the mainstream media narrative that the Tea Party is a new populist movement that formed spontaneously in reaction to government bailouts or the Obama administration, the facts show that the Tea Party in Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern right under a new label. The threat of Southern Tea Party representatives and their sidekicks from the Midwest and elsewhere to destroy America’s credit rating unless the federal government agrees to enact Dixie’s economic agenda of preserving defense spending while slashing entitlements is simply the latest act of aggression by the Solid South.

Here is how the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that favors Southern secession from what it describes alternately as “the yankee empire” and “the South-busting American regime,” describes the South’s pattern of voting in Congress in recent years (note the author’s British spelling of “favour” — Noah Webster, who tried to Americanize spelling, was a Yankee):

Another stark Southern – US split occurred when the Senate voted on President Clinton’s impeachment verdict. The whole Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both impeachment charges while Southern Senators voted two-thirds in favour [sic] of convicting Clinton of obstruction of justice (18 to 8). If the South had been in charge, President Bill “the Lecher” Clinton would have been the first president in U.S. history to have been removed from office by impeachment.


If the South had had its way, however, Clinton would not even have been elected in the first place. In both 1992 and 1996 the South voted for the Republican nominee for President, i.e., the candidate generally perceived to be more conservative (regardless of the reality).


On tax policy, the South almost always votes for lower taxes, and is sometimes overridden by the US congress. In 1998 the thirteen State South voted by the required two-thirds margin for a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of both houses of congress to raise taxes. Southerners voted in favour [sic] of this constitutional amendment 90 to 41. In the full House the amendment failed by 238 to 186 opposed, far short of the constitutionally required two-thirds margin.

Religious Freedom

Also in 1998, Southern Representatives voted by the requisite two-thirds “super majority” to submit to the States the Religious Freedom Constitutional Amendment. It would have guaranteed an individual’s right to pray and recognize his religious beliefs on public property, including schools. The house of representatives [sic] as a whole rejected this amendment by a vote of 224 in favour to 203 opposed, falling miserably short of the necessary two-thirds margin.

States’ Rights

In 1997 Senator Hutchinson of Arkansas offered an amendment to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and transfer its fiscal 1998 funding directly to the States. The South voted for this State Rights proposal by the ample margin of 17 to 9, whereas the full Senate rejected this affirmation of the rights and duties of the States by the almost equally strong margin of 63 against to only 36 for.

In light of this recent history, it is clear that the origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right.

From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 asserted the alleged right of states to “nullify” any federal law that state lawmakers consider unconstitutional. This obstructionist mentality led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832, when South Carolina refused to enforce federal tariffs. Civil War was averted only when President Andrew Jackson, a Southerner himself, forced the nullifiers to back down.

In 1820 and 1850 the South used the threat of secession to force the rest of the United States to appease it on the slavery issue. In 1861, the South tried to destroy the United States, rather than accept a legitimately elected president, Abraham Lincoln, whom it did not control.

Following defeat in the Civil War, the former Confederate states regrouped as “the Solid South,” a one-party region, first Democratic and now Republican, that has tended to vote as a bloc in national affairs. The South sought to block the federal civil rights revolution by a policy of “massive resistance” to court orders ordering racial integration. Some Southern states went so far as to try to abolish their public school systems rather than integrate them. It is hard to avoid seeing a link between this racist rationale for privatization and modern conservative plans to scale back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, relied on disproportionately by black and brown Americans and low-income whites, while increasing taxpayer subsidies to private retirement and healthcare accounts enjoyed mostly by affluent whites.

As white Southerners, upset with the Democratic Party’s racial and social liberalism, migrated into the post-Goldwater GOP, they brought their Dixiecrat attitudes into the party of Lincoln. The Kemp-Roth tax bill of 1981, which inaugurated the policy of creating permanent deficits by slashing taxes without cutting spending, had its strongest support among Southern and Western members of Congress and the least support in the fiscally conservative Northeast.

The Republican Party’s attempted government shutdown of 1995 marked the new domination of the Republican Party by Southerners like Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. The impeachment of their fellow Southerner Bill Clinton was an attempted coup d’état by the Southern white minority in the United States, which, as in 1860, was frustrated because its candidate lost the presidential election.

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the radical right in the South has held America hostage until its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near future to extort concessions from America’s majority by sabotaging America’s government.

Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of “The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution.” More: Michael Lind.

The Tea Party Threat Grows by the Day

July 27, 2011

For quite sometime, this blog has taken the position that the Tea Party, while not terrorists in the strictest sense of the word, are beginning to supplant groups like Al Qaeda as the greatest threat facing the U.S. And as the Tea Party infected GOP drives the nation’s economy towards disaster, there are others who are coming around to that view.

On example is John Thorpe of Benzinga, who recently wrote:

Emulating the terrorists’ actions, the House Republicans have decided to hold the President — and 300 million Americans — hostage as they demand tax cuts for the wealthy and spending cuts for everyone else, in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling by just enough to avoid the United States government from defaulting on its debt. That’s right: Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and his Tea Party caucus are driving a jumbo-jet 747 into the world’s tallest economy, and no one on the right-wing seems to give a damn.

And the much respected William Kristof, in an OP/ED peice in the NY Times titled ‘Republicans, Zealots and Our Security’ suggested as much when he wrote this:

We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.

Now, further buttressing the growing realization that the corporate led Tea Party is a very dangerous threat to America, we have the Tea Party’s beloved media darling, Glenn Beck and his veiled support for the murderous animal Anders Breivik, who gunned down scores of young people in Norway after setting off a bomb outside a government building in Oslo that killed seven. Yep, it seems that Glenn Beck, Tea Party stalwart and Fox News personality has likened the victims of that heinous attack to ‘Hitler Youth,’ thus suggesting that perhaps there was a righteous element to the murderers motivations:

There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing

Glenn Beckinstann

Now, without old Glenn, even the most ardent anti-Tea Party forces would be hard pressed to establish any sort of link between the Norwegian maniac and the Tea Party movement but incredibly, as a defacto spokesman for the Tea Party, he has married the beliefs of the movement with the tragic events in Norway, and not in a positive way.

Would anyone be surprised if the CIA, as it digs further into the files and computers pulled from Bin Laden’s lair in Pakistan, came across a reference to the Tea Party in America, one that is in support for the what it stands for and what it is doing to our nation?