Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Tea Party

Watch this video on Samizdat Broadcasts.

So, a mass of protesters have very recently descended on Washington, protesting the recent election of a president whom they feel - rightly or wrongly - is a threat to their constitutional freedoms.  Expressions of this worry have gone as far as comparisons to Hitler and fear that fascism has truly come to America.  There were protest signs - some of them hilarious in their misconstruing of the intent of the POTUS, many of them very bright and colorful, along with costumes, music and performing artists. 

I'm referring, of course, to the Taxpayer's March on Washington, that took place back in 2009, following the election of Barack Obama.

Had you fooled, didn't I?

Can't say I didn't feel a whole lot of deja vu when I watched footage of the Women's March on Washington yesterday.  Their ideologies differ wildly, of course, but I can't help but think that the two protest movements are cut from similar cloth, when you get right down to it.  One wonders how much influence a mixture of envy and admiration towards the Tea Party influenced the emergent "SJW" movement online, and now as a reflection of an anti-Trump protest movement made, not necessarily consciously, in the image of the anti-Obama mania eight years ago. 

I personally have a low opinion of both movements, but I suggest this not so much as a personal judgement as much as it is a deeper question regarding politics more generally.  Do we ultimately fashion ourselves in the image of our enemies?

Consider the similarities.

  • The constant allusions to fascism and Hitler vis-à-vis the respective presidents.  Obama was Hitler because of broadening the scope of government, to cover things like health care – a sign of fascism to the Tea Party libertarians.  Trump threatens abortion rights and is about the reassertion of patriarchal power over women’s reproductive freedom – a sign of fascism to the SJWs behind the women’s march. 
  • Related to this, a preoccupation with encroaching dystopia and repression.  The flakier elements of the Tea Party were fearful of Obama coming to take their guns way, FEMA camps, government surveillance of the population, outlaw of Christianity and economic decline.  The Women’s March is fearful of Trump cracking down on the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, Muslims and the LGBTQ community.  
  • Mass demonstrations, complete with colorful signs and, in some cases, garish costumes.
  • A tendency to demonize their political opponents, to see the President they’re protesting as being the devil incarnate, quite literally in the case of some Tea-vangelical types vis-à-vis Obama.  The Women’s March hasn’t gone quite that far, of course they’re a much more recent thing, but I have seen comparisons to Voldemort from the Harry Potter series – the next best thing, I suppose.
  • Because their opponents are seen in the most starkly evil of terms, both causes tended to avoid the give-and-take of political engagement with their foes and instead present demands upon which there can be no compromise.  The obstructionist behavior of the Tea Party supporters in congress is well known, as is the obstructionist behavior of leftists on college campuses.  Whether the women’s march supporters can create something comparable in congress remains to be seen, but come the 2018 midterms that’s a possibility worth watching for. 

Hell, there’s even rumors that the organizers of the Women’s March used Tea Party tactics and organizational guides to pull the march together, and to sustain it as a movement that can make its presence felt in congress.  Plus, to a lot of leftists bitter at how dogmatic and obstructionist the Tea Party was vis-à-vis Obama’s legislative agenda, now it’s payback time, and this Women’s March movement seems like the perfect vehicle to do it.

The  big question, of course, is whether the momentum can last.  This is a disparate coalition, and the ideology of intersectional feminism lends itself to infighting between marginalized groups over who has it worse: white feminists vs people of color, Black Lives Matter vs. Pride, like recently happened at the Pride Parade in Toronto, Canada.  Already some white women allegedly didn’t attend the march due to a strong focus on minority identity interests.  The Tea Party gradually lost popular support due to their ideological rigidity and obstructionism, especially after the debt ceiling fiasco.  Intersectional feminism is no less rigid and obstructionist, and the militant rhetoric and tactics of groups like Black Lives Matter have polarized the nation in a similar way.  They have a lot of support, but they have a lot of criticism too. 

The Women’s March and the movement it will spawn is likely to be the decisive toss of the dice for identity politics on the US left, and by extent, the left in the western world.  This march, galvanizing the numbers and the support that it has, has renewed the lease that Identity Politics has as the leading style of dissent on the US left, just as paleo-conservativism did for the US right back in 2009 due to the Tea Party.

But something else happened in 2010 as well – the launching of the alternative right – much more statist, nationalist and racist than the Tea Party, which has since become a significant power in the Republican party as the Tea Party has faded into memory.  The comparable event of 2016 on the other end of the spectrum was the birth – for all intents and purposes – of the alternative left – much more socialist and laborite than the identity focused intersectional feminists behind the Women’s March.  If the pattern keeps up, which it may well if this revived women’s movement and the Trump administration fight each other to ineffective standstill in a way similar to Obama vs. the Tea Party, I think the alt-left can look to 2024 to be its year.  

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