Sunday, October 17, 2010
Searchlight Magazine: Tea Party nationalism
The Tea Party movement as a whole is a multimillion dollar complex that includes for-profit corporations, non-party non-profit organisations, and political action committees. Collectively they have erased the advantage that Democrats once enjoyed in the arena of internet fundraising and web-based mobilisation. They have resuscitated the ultra-conservative wing of American political life, created a stiff pole of opinion within Republican Party ranks and have had a devastating impact on thoughtful policy making for the common good, at the local and state level as well as at the federal level.
These Tea Party organisations have given platforms to antisemites, racists and bigots. Further, hardcore white nationalists have been attracted to these protests, looking for potential recruits and hoping to push these (white) protesters towards a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy. One temperature gauge of these events is the fact that longtime national socialist David Duke is hoping to find enough money and support in the Tea Party ranks to launch yet another electoral campaign in the 2012 Republican primaries.
Their self-designated spokespeople in Washington DC claim that their movement concentrates solely on budget deficits, taxes and the power of the federal government. Nevertheless, concerns about race and national identity and other so-called social issues permeate Tea Party ranks. It is inside the Tea Parties that an abiding obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate is often a stand-in for the belief that the first black President of the United States is not a “real American”. Rather than strictly adhering to the Constitution, many Tea Partiers challenge the provision for birthright citizenship found in the 14th Amendment. While Tea Partiers and their supporters are concerned about the current economic recession and the increase in government debt and spending it has occasioned, there is no observable statistical link between Tea Party membership and unemployment levels. And their storied opposition to political and social elites turns out to be predicated on an antagonism to federal assistance for those deemed the “undeserving poor”.
The incessant depiction of Obama as a non-American began before the 2008 election among those who regard him as a non-native born American who should not rightly (constitutionally) hold the presidency. The permutations have continued from there: Islamic terrorist, socialist, African witch doctor, lying African, etc. If he is not properly American then he becomes the ‘‘other” that is not “us”. Further, the oft-repeated Tea Party call to “Take it back, take your country back” is an explicitly nationalist refrain. It is sometimes coupled with the assertion that there are “real Americans”, as opposed to others who they believe are driving the country into a socialist ditch.