Michael Lind grew up in Texas, which apparently gives him an advantage in understanding Tea Party-ish people.
Lind argues that there are a number of common misconceptions about Tea Party supporters. First, they aren’t merely a group of ideological extremists. Second, they aren’t populists – the average Tea Party supporter is more affluent than the national average. Third, despite their silly costumes and bizarre beliefs, they aren’t stupid or uneducated – they’re actually better educated than the average voter.
If the Tea Party isn’t best understood as a case of “abstract ideological extremism”, “working-class populism” or “ignorance and stupidity”, how should it be understood?
According to Lind, the Tea Party is simply the latest example of white right-wingers, mostly Southern, doing whatever they can to maintain their privileged position. He prefers referring to this movement as the “Newest Right”. They are merely the traditional right wing “adopting new strategies in response to changed circumstances”. The social base of the Newest Right consists of “local notables”, i.e.: “provincial elites whose power and privileges are threatened from above by a stronger central government they do not control and from below by the local poor and the local working class”.
Basically, it’s a continuation of the Civil War carried on by mostly Southern county supervisors and car dealers, “second-tier people on a national level but first-tier people in their states and counties and cities”, without the armed rebellion part.
Before describing their current strategies, Lind outlines some history:
For nearly a century, from the end of Reconstruction, when white Southern terrorism drove federal troops out of the conquered South, until the Civil Rights Revolution, the South’s local notables maintained their control over a region of the U.S. larger than Western Europe by means of segregation, disenfranchisement, and bloc voting and the filibuster at the federal level. Segregation created a powerless black workforce and helped the South’s notables pit poor whites against poor blacks. The local notables also used literacy tests and other tricks to disenfranchise lower-income whites as well as blacks in the South, creating a distinctly upscale electorate. Finally, by voting as a unit in Congress and presidential elections, the “Solid South” sought to thwart any federal reforms that could undermine the power of Southern notables at the state, county and city level. When the Solid South failed, Southern senators made a specialty of the filibuster, the last defense of the embattled former Confederacy.
It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, to see Republicans using similar methods now in order to maintain their economic position and insure a supply of cheap, compliant labor. Lind highlights these four strategies (although there are others, such as providing limited funding for public education):
Use partisan and racial gerrymandering to maintain a Solid South;
Employ the filibuster and the “Hastert” rule to sabotage Congress;
Disenfranchise politically unreliable voters; and
Localize and privatize federal programs.
It’s an excellent article if you want to understand today’s political environment:
At the Globalist, Stephan Richter places the government shutdown and debt ceiling mess in the same historical context:
One of the biggest hoaxes of American history is that the Civil War ended back in 1865. Unfortunately, it has not ended yet. What was achieved back then was an armistice, similar to the situation between the two Koreas.
As the current logjam in the U.S. Congress makes plain, the Civil War is still very present in today’s America – and with virulence that most other civilized nations find as breathtaking as it is irresponsible.
The reason why the Civil War was declared finished, according to the history books, is the military defeat of the South and its secessionist forces. But can anyone seriously doubt that the same anti-Union spirit is still to be heard loud and clear in the halls of the U.S. Congress today?