Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Meditation on the Tea Party Movement

by Charles Hugh Smith

The Tea Party movement is neither fully formed nor monolithic. Perhaps there is more going on here than is generally credited.

I have yet to read an account of the Tea Party movement which makes any sort of comprehensive sense. What passes for "commentary" on the subject is mostly ideologically-driven spin from the "left" or "right," both of which see the movement as a handy rhetorical device they can mock or co-opt to make their same old tired "talking points."

My own sense is that a coherent account of the Tea Party movement must be far more nuanced and historically informed. The standard-issue pundit/commentator's ignorance of American history is so abysmal that it is little wonder that commentary on the movement is so threadbare.

To the frustration of those MSM pundits and Party ideologues seeking a sound-bite summary, the Tea Party movement is neither fully formed nor monolithic. There are Democratic Tea Party types, quasi-Libertarians--an entire spectrum of causes and emotional drivers loosely bound up under the one banner.

The comically self-serving frenzy of the Democrats and the blatant desperation to co-opt the movement by the Republicans are less reflective of the Tea Party than they are of the parties' own fears and failures.

The "progressives" either ignore the Tea Party's influence and gatherings, hoping not to encourage it with exposure, or they mock and discredit it by focusing on the inevitable self-aggrandizing grand-standers who appear like locusts whenever a new political movement is self-assembling.

What is striking to me is how the MSM coverage reflects--but does not comment on in a self-aware fashion--the stark terror aroused in the status quo by the Tea Party movement.

The Tea Party is creating fear and loathing in the status quo (Demopublicans and Savior State/Financial Plutocracy partnership) because it is the only potential political threat to the Savior State's protected fiefdoms and the financial/corporate Elites.

The Savior State is unprepared to deal with anyone who can't be bought off with a few crumbs of entitlement/bread and circuses. As I discuss in Survival+, the Savior State is partnered with the nation's Financial and corporate/cartel Power Elites.

To keep the lower-income masses politicially subservient, compliant and thus complicit in the rule by Elites and Savior State fiefdoms (public unions, sickcare and defense cartels, etc.), the Savior State distributes food stamps, extended unemployment, tax credits and other forms of "free money" to the underclass to keep them distracted, fed and politically neutered.

The status quo's private-sector propaganda division, the Mainstream Media (dominated by a handful of global corporations), provides plentiful "entertainment" to the masses while the Government Ministries of Propaganda distribute endless reams of phony data and manipulated statistics to support the "confidence building" view that the status quo is firmly in charge and thus resistance is both needless (because everything's going great) and futile (because you're so powerless and we're so powerful).

The ideal state of affairs for the Savior State status quo is complacency, complicity and a pervasive fatalism that the status quo is permanent and godlike and there is no point in resisting it.

The incentives are all to join in the fun and game the system as rapaciously as you can via liar loans, credit card debt you never intend to pay off, speculation in stocks and housing as a replacement for actually producing value in the real world, trumped-up resumes, bogus balance sheets, cheating on entrance exams, etc.

Into this comfortable world of protected State fiefdoms, Financial Overlords and fatalistic complicity in an economy based on lies, debt and speculative bubbles comes the Tea Party. The Tea Party participants are fueled by a deep and abiding awareness that the country is going down the wrong path, not just in a political or financial context but in a moral, values-based sense. (The three are interconnected, after all.)

The standard-issue sneering "progressive" pundit openly mocks the working-class roots of the movement, and spares no smear in attempting to discredit it: it's racist, led by show-boaters and nutters, etc.

This terrible need to trash the movement reflects a deep-seated fear that it might threaten the cozy dominance of "progressives" in the Savior State. Of course those same "progressives" have been delighted to enable the pillaging of the nation by various fiefdoms and cartels; as long as their power base and fiefdoms remain in place, nothing else matters. Even more revealing, the "progressives" refuse to grant any moral core to the Tea Party movement. The "progressives' and the MSM are studiously devoid of moral foundations; that sort of "opiate of the masses" stuff is for the poor, who are supposed to buck up via private prayer and do-good church functions like bake sales.

The "conservatives" are hypocrites of the first order, claiming the mantle of "free enterprise" while brown-nosing the "too big to fail" banks and Wall Street at every opportunity; the chains of their corruption clank loudly with every step.

Most importantly for both Zombie Parties, the "poor" and "middle class" alike are supposed to not vote and not resist their oppressors; and if they do vote, they're supposed to vote for the Democratic or Republican machines.

What is also striking is how quickly the Republican half of the status quo is moving to co-opt and defang the Tea Party movement. Their "me-too's" are truly pathetic. "You don't like higher taxes? Me, too!" Meanwhile, the Republicans oversaw the greatest expansion of government borrowing and spending in U.S. history, all the while giving endless corporate welfare to their Power Elite cartel pals and partners, even as they endlessly proclaimed "deficits don't matter."

The Tea Party is self-organizing, and that also terrifies the status quo. Like the Chinese Communist dictators who were stunned and horrified to find the Falun Gong had self-organized under their noses, the status quo is absolutely terrified by the self-organizing structure of the Tea Party movement, for it is outside the Elites' control.

Like the ChiCom dictatorship, the U.S. status quo must disrupt, discredit, undermine, infiltrate and co-opt the Tea Party movement because it poses a large-scale threat to the absolute political control of the "one-party state" which controls the U.S. for its own benefit: the Demopublican-Savior State/fiefdoms/Power Elite cartels status quo.

Like the Chinese Communist Party, their over-reaction is a measure of their panic at discovering a political movement in their midst which they do not control.

From this point of view, the desire to mock/discredit/co-opt the Tea Party is evidence of just how threatening it is to both corrupt, venal parties.

At this early stage, the Tea Party is not a "party" in the sense of being dominated by a national structure of command and control. Nor does it have a coherent set of principles which every "member" agrees upon. It is bound by a powerful awareness that something is deeply wrong with the nation and its financial/political leadership, something which neither the Democrats or Republicans have any interest in fixing as they are part of the problem.

Implicit in the Tea Party movement's anger is an awareness that 80% of the nation's households own virtually no assets. Yes, there is $1 trillion left in home equity spread among 50 million households ( Housing and the Collapse of Upward MobilityApril 16, 2010), but it can no longer be tapped. There are a few trillion in IRAs and 401K retirement funds, but the vast majority of these funds hold less than $10,000. Those with larger accounts lost 40% of their value in the 2008-09 timeframe and have not recovered their previous value, despite the tremendous rally in stocks.

Also implicit in the anger is a dismay that the nation's economy, government and media are all based entirely on webs of lies and fraud. People may not understand derivatives but they do grasp the moral rot that this reflects: How We Get Ahead Now: Gaming the System April 20, 2010)

Fixing the nation requires bypassing the existing parties and wresting control of the levers of governance from the State's protected fiefdoms (public unions, et al.) and the Power Elites' cartels (finance, banking, sickcare, defense/global Empire, et al.)

Pundits from the entire political spectrum--from "progressive" to tight-jawed Survivalists--cannot see that the Tea Party movement has much in common with the spiritual revivals in U.S. history which led to Revolution or Civil War.

While it is trendy to espouse cheap "follow the money" "explanations" for the American Revolution and the American Civil War, these mono-explanations miss not just the nuance of what actually happened but the core of what powered the participants.

Great political upheavals are not caused by people examining their pocketbooksand rationally concluding that the risks of revolution are worth some sort of future financial payoff. By that measure, fomenting Revolution against the world's greatest Empire (The British Empire) was a completely stupid "pocketbook" calculation: if you lost, then not only would you forfeit your possessions but very likely your life.

Remaining in the Empire offered numerous financial benefits and guarantees. It was the "obviously sound" pocketbook calculation, and that's why some 40% of the Colonies' residents were Royalists who supported the Crown and who resisted the Independence movement.

New political movements are powered by an emotional understanding that the status quo is untenable in some profound way. At some key juncture, the alternatives crystallize in a politically coherent fashion. In Colonial America, dissatisfaction with British policy and politics did not necessarily require a war of Independence; that "solution" only crystallized when moral revulsion at perceived British corruption and greed sparked by the Great Awakening (circa 1740s and 1750s) reached a powerful coherence with Enlightenment ideas of self-governance and liberty and a fear of indebtedness and loss of autonomy.

While it is fashionable to dismiss the Civil War as some sort of financial battle for dominance by the Northern Elites, that is not what the participants felt or what motivated their actions.

The status quo political powers are mystified by the Tea Party; we're giving them unemployment, tax credits and healthcare/sickcare coverage; we're buying them off with the same entitlements we offer our other constituencies; why aren't they silent and complicit like everyone else? Why don't they just take the swag and shut up like everyone else?

Lost in their moral rot, the status quo "leadership" cannot understand the Tea Party's anger. The Elites do not understand why the Tea Party rebels don't have the self-serving sense to just take the swag and go back to watching TV. What fires their enthusiasm for rebellion?

The British Parliament was equally confounded in 1773. The Colonists are well-off, and protected by the Empire; what is their problem?

The Tea Party is as yet an unformed movement. It might fade, gutted by co-option or intense factionalism, or it might transform one or both of the zombie parties, or it might eventually coalesce into a true political party. No one can say, but what powers the Tea Party--a sense that the nation has lost its moral bearings and its Elites have over-reached--will not fade. Those truths cannot be mocked, discredited, or co-opted out of existence; regardless of whether the status quo manages to quash the Tea Party or not, those truths will only gather force as the status quo's "nascent recovery," its deeply corrupted governance and its over-reach fail, and the status quo's foundation is revealed as a sandy sinkhole of fraud and lies.

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