As congressional elections loom President Obama has launched the Democrats’ 2010 campaign. The fear within Washington is that the Democrats and President Obama have been so milquetoast, so compromising, so middle-of-the-road, so pro-corporate and have represented so little progressive change that the unprecedented, massive base that swept Obama into the presidency is going to, as they did in Massachusetts, sit the vote out in dejected apathy. This is to be feared and it is to be placed within a more serious context than all of the white-noise being broadcast by the bourgeois, corporate media.
The corporate media have for some time now been parading the tea party movement as though it were of some real significance relating to a “populist uprising” of the disenfranchised working class and that a much broader segment of society either agreed with the movement or identified in some ways with it. However, as recent research derived from national data illustrates, the tea partiers are overwhelmingly rich, white males. 76 percent of them have incomes above $50,000, 59% are males, 75% are 45 or older, 54% are Republican supporters, 66% usually or always vote Republican, 57% have a favorable view of George W. Bush, 66% have a favorable view of Sarah Palin, 92% believe Obama is moving the country towards socialism and, taking the specific example of the Chicago protest, 99% of them are white(Paul Street and Anthony Dimaggio).
The “populist uprising” of the tea party represents nothing even remotely similar to a populist movement, rather, it represents the last, drowning fragments of what remains of the GOP’s base for which was issued the “southern strategy”: predominately rich, white constituents who opposed everything progressive about the sixties and who wished to dismantle “the left hand of the state.”
As Paul Street and Anthony Dimaggio observe: “The Tea Partyers are mainly people of overlapping racial and socioeconomic privilege. They are intent on maintaining that privilege at the expense of disproportionately poor minorities. The ugly message at Tea Party rallies is clear: ‘keep your hands off my money; social welfare is fine, as long as I’m the beneficiary, but if my taxes go to the poor and needy, I’ll scream in the street until they’re cut off.’
This is a toxic brew. It reflects a culture of greed, narcissism, nationalism, white supremacy, and self indulgence. The Tea Party at its heart is a tool of the neoliberal corporate-imperial state, singing praises of ‘small government’ and ‘free markets,’ while quietly demanding massive state welfare subsidies for oneself, and demanding ‘market discipline,’ ‘personal responsibility,’ and ‘rugged individualism’ for the less fortunate. On the global stage, it is worth adding that, as Ford notes, ‘all but a sliver of the Tea Party crowd are belligerent hawks, as racist in their global worldview as in their domestic outlook.’”
This all plays out in the foreground of the looming elections, rather than the background where it so certainly should be. As the reactionary results of the election in Massachusett’s indicates there is serious trouble ahead for everyone if those who voted in 2008 stay at home on election day, as they did in Massachusett’s, ensuring the election of the reactionary and clearly incompetent Scott Brown. Undoubtedly the Democrats are spineless, pro-corporate shills, however, they differ from the other variant of the business faction, the Republicans, and, it should also be noted, it is not simply the standard Republican candidates and party that would be winning in the upcoming elections, it would be the crazed, proto-fascist, reactionary fringe represented by the Tea Party and their mouth-pieces and representatives, unless, of course, the Republican party is so thoroughly broken and splintered by the extremists, as they are now, that they are unable to cobble together enough unity to beat the Democrats. The latter result is a for sure one so long as people take the time to merely go mark a piece of paper and go back to what they were doing, so long as they don’t stay at home stewing in dejection and apathy.
What progressives and activists should be doing and should be preparing to do is, as always, educating and organizing. They should be organizing autonomously from either faction of the business party and building an independent movement that will hopefully eventually forcefully move the Democrats to substantively progressive and rational policy. A popular slogan now heard is “don’t vote, organize.” There is value within the slogan, but there is also, as with any slogan, a simplicity that obfuscates the nuances and complexities of our sociopolitical reality. The value is that one should be organizing, always and regardless, the obfuscation is the call for voter abstention, which, within our current situation, is an implicit endorsement of the opposition, in this case, potentially the reactionary elements manifested through the tea party. Such self-masticating is the content of the opposition’s wildest dreams and is inconsistent with even some of the most thoroughly revolutionary movements in history.
The Spanish Anarchists were certainly some of the most thoroughly principled revolutionary actors in human history, yet even they departed from their doctrine of complete voter abstention in order to secure the death of Spanish dictatorship and the initiation of the Spanish Republic (which they rightly viewed as similarly their antagonist, yet, righty, as one which afforded them more breathing room). Noam Chomsky, the greatest polymath since Denis Diderot, and the greatest revolutionary intellectual, perhaps ever, observes that when the difference is little yet existent nonetheless, a difference as between two factions of the business party when one is boiling over with elements that cannot but recall elements of late Weimar Germany, it is not inconsistent to be educating, agitating and organizing and to also go into a voting booth for a few moments and help to ensure that the more reactionary of the ruling parties does not succeed in securing a position with which to even further severely beat down the efforts one is making autonomously as well as the minor gains that have been won and then return without a moments pause to the very same work. The CNTistas did it in Spain and they did so within a trajectory that directly preceded the fascist revolt and the Spanish Revolution (nothing the least bit counterrevolutionary about that).
The stakes are becoming rather serious. It is not for nothing that serious, sober commentators, many of whom are not in the least given to hyperbole, are discussing analogies of the current condition to late Weimar Germany, analogies of what the Tea Party represents, it’s constituents, it’s mouth-pieces and it’s representatives to that situation and movement that saw to the end of Weimar Germany. Bearing in mind that the overwhelming majority of the Tea Party is made up of rich, while males and recalling, as Street and Dimaggio rightly suggest that we do, Trotsky’s diagnosis of fascism as a reaction of the petty bourgeois, voter abstention is a grave threat that could well ensure the victory of what is now only the swirling detritus of proto-fascism. Everyone who is at all concerned about these things and more should make absolutely certain that they condemn the opposition to its proper place at the fringe of society and make sure that they convince everyone they know to do the same as well. Then, of course, we should all continue to pressure the Democrats to pursue a sane, progressive policy through organizing an autonomous movement beholden only to the communities, workers and people directly involved.