Friday, March 26, 2010

As the Teabagger goons become more menacing, could many of those people have been enlisted in a progressive populist revolt?


Another dazzling cartoon by the great Pat Bagley, who
cartoons for, of all places, the
Salt Lake Tribune

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped, and I can't explain it any other way."
-- Chris Reichert, the heckler who taunted a man with Parkinson's

by Ken

Q: How often, from the earliest stages of the 2008 presidential campaign season, did David Sirota write columns screaming that there was a populist revolt brewing in the country which could have been receptive to a no-holds-barred progressive populist platform and campaign?

A: I don't know the exact number, but I know it's the exact same number as the times such columns were ignored by the whole bleeding roster of Democratic presidential wannabes. Even when David pointed out that on the GOP side, Minister Mike Hucksterbee was racking up some astonishing poll and primary numbers with -- can you guess? -- a full-out populist appeal.

This was, of course, political eons before The Crash. Nevertheless, after seven-plus years of Bush misrule, the level of discontent in the land had reached the percolating stage. It was, after all, basically the same seething discontent that had cost the GOP control of both houses of Congress, whereupon the new Democratic bosses of those houses proceeded to ignore almost all of the seething frustration with Beltway ways that had put them in the driver's seats.

(And just this past November David wrote a terrific OpenLeft post about now-raging right-wing populism, in which he wrote: "In the short term, of course, this frothing movement may temporarily self-destruct by virtue of being publicly represented by incoherent and politically unpalatable freaks like Armey and Palin. But in the long term, it's scary stuff, because it represents one expression of authentic anger in the country at large.")

It wasn't their fault, though. As they kept telling us, what could they do? They just didn't have the votes. (It was also David Sirota who made the interesting connection that, when it came to the increasingly costly and deadly occupation of Iraq, which most everyone agreed was the single issue that had cost the Republicans control of Congress, the reason they didn't have the votes to shut it down, as Democrats were supposed to want to do, is that a lot of them really didn't want to end it.)

I've been reflecting on this bit of history as we contemplate the ongoing nightmare of the misbegotten right-wing populist uprising, closed to all reason and now seemingly poised to erupt in violence from coast to coast, engineered by power brokers of the Right. I suspect that Teabagger commandants like former House Majority Leader -- and now high-paid right-wing lobbyist-stooge -- Dick Armey are only now beginning to discover, to their chagrin, that while it's not hard to manipulate those poor dumb, sick bastards into causing a raucus, once you've got them riled up, they're not as easy to control as you assumed.

The familiar image is: You can't stuff the genie back in the bottle. This is a lesson that is thrice-familiar to anyone who has delved a bit into history or psychology. But over there on the Far Right (the only kind of Right we've got these days), where knowledge is assumed to be a scam if not actually a Satanic ritual, they don't go in for that learnin' stuff. They're mostly just into manipulating the peasantry for their personal power -- and maybe along the way shoutin' out some junk religion.

Earlier this week Howie wrote:
Yesterday's NY Times wondered aloud what will happen when the Know Nothings the media calls teabaggers suddenly figure out that the GOP has been lying to them all year about the healthcare bill and that all the "information" they think they have from Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and O'Reilly and Savage and Hannity is nothing but baseless propaganda. "Republicans," they say, will "face the question of what happens if the health care bill does not create the cataclysm that they warned of during the many months of debate."

This drew some really smart DWT reader comments:

Yellow Dog attempted to answer the "what happens if" question directly: "Answer - Nothing, because they'll never figure that out. The world hasn't ended YET - but it's going to, any minute now. That'll last 'em at least 10 electoral seasons."

And Kris, after quoting New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (“When this bill goes into effect, and none of the things Republicans warned about begin to happen-- none of the death panels, none of the government takeover, none of the socialism-- Republicans will have no credibility"), commented: "If only! I know too many self-styled conservatives and teabaggers to believe that they'll actually stop believing RW talking points just because we don't start pulling the plug on Grandma. If anything, Over the next few years before all of the legislation is enacted, they will continue to be rallied by these same cries. Facts, logic and reason are of very little use to the average teabagger."

I have a tough time disagreeing. The one scintilla of admittedly vague hope I can put up against this view is an intriguing report by the Columbus Dispatch's Catherine Candisky of an interview with one of the men who last week ridiculed a man with Parkinson's outside Ohio Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy's district office in Columbus. He's sorry. After denying for days that he was involved, only to have a video of him shown widely on cable news and go viral on YouTube, so that he became a target of widespread Internet wrath, 40-year-old Chris Reichert of Victorian Village, Ohio, acknowledges what he did was shameful. What he did was threw dollar bills at 60-year-old former nuclear engineer Robert Letcher, a Parkinson's sufferer, and berate him while purporting to give him the "hand-out" that another, still unidentified sicko had announced Letcher was looking for.

Reichert says he's made a donation to a local Parkinson's group, "and that starts the healing process." Of course he had the misfortune of getting caught on that video, and becoming Public Enemy No. 1. It's been kind of hard to find even the wingiest wingnut to defend his behavior. He's seen online that "People are hunting for me," and says, "I wanted this to go away, but it won't, and I'm paying the price." (Note that no apology appears forthcoming from the unidentified bozo, the one who told Parkinson's victim Letcher: "If you're looking for a hand-out, you're on the wrong end of town."

If this comes across as self-pity, I don't think that's what it is, because what really interests me about Candisksy's piece is her lead quote from her inerview with Reichert:

"I snapped. I absolutely snapped, and I can't explain it any other way."

And Candisky concludes her report:
Reichert, a registered Republican, said he is not politically active. He said he heard about the rally on the radio and a neighbor invited him to attend.

"That was my first time at any political rally and I'm never going to another one," Reichert said.

"I will never ever, ever go to another one."

Now nothing excuses the guy's behavior, and it's pathetic that he's drawn such a foolish lesson from it. But we're beyond niceties like excusing or defending. What's modestly hopeful about this incident is the suggestion that (a) a portion of the people caught up in the swirl of mob violence really don't know what they're doing, and (b) are capable of waking up from the trance, even feeling genuine regret.

Because otherwise I see nothing hopeful at all about the vista of all those whipped-up, over-the-edge mob members.

This morning I clipped excerpts from columns by two of our best observers, the NYT's Paul Krugman and the WaPo's Gene Robinson, and they're both pretty apprehensive too. If you haven't read the full columns, I encourage you to do so. Meanwhile, I think these excerpts speak for themselves.

First Krugman -- the conclusion of a column titled "Going to Extreme":
[T]oday’s G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan — not Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare would destroy American freedom. It’s a party that sees modest efforts to improve Americans’ economic and health security not merely as unwise, but as monstrous. It’s a party in which paranoid fantasies about the other side — Obama is a socialist, Democrats have totalitarian ambitions — are mainstream. And, as a result, it’s a party that fundamentally doesn’t accept anyone else’s right to govern.

In the short run, Republican extremism may be good for Democrats, to the extent that it prompts a voter backlash. But in the long run, it’s a very bad thing for America. We need to have two reasonable, rational parties in this country. And right now we don’t.

Then Robinson -- the conclusion of a column titled "Stopping the health-care madness":
On Thursday, tea party leaders around the country issued statements strongly denouncing threats or violence against members of Congress or anyone else. A number of the leaders said there was no proof that the perpetrators were members of tea party organizations.

But this strikes me, and probably will strike others, as disingenuous. The tea party movement is fueled by rhetoric that echoes the paranoid ravings of the most extreme right-wing nutcases. When tea party leaders talk about the threat of "socialism" and call for "a new revolution" and vow to "take our country back," they can say they are simply using vivid metaphors. But they cannot plausibly claim to be unaware that there are people -- perhaps on the fringe of the movement, but close enough -- who give every sign of taking these incendiary words literally.

And does anyone doubt that the movement attracts the kind of people who take these words literally?

Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have documented the troubling rise of right-wing militia and "patriot" groups. Political leaders who appropriate and reinforce the extremists' language -- who urge angry people to "reload" -- are being reckless. They must stop this madness before someone gets hurt.

We've already got one casualty, carried off on a stretcher and on life support: our hope for a functioning democratic government.

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At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Teabaggers are unafraid to show their irrational ids and racist asses in public by day, but are shame-based cowards so must act out their violent paranoid fantasies under the cover of darkness.

They are a newly spawned entity, rather than directly connected to any particular one of the previous incarnations of right-wing angst and paranoia. They've cut loose and are floating free, like a helium balloon with a bomb attached. They are a new animal entirely, and they are becoming their own Klan, transitioning into predator.

They are the ignorant followers and intentionally gullible enforcers of American totalitarianism as described in Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here" in the 1930s. He was extremely prescient, in this and in other aspects of that 'fiction'. To review: As said above, the Teabaggers are closed to reason. And their fuse is lit.

And how about the white racist who threw dollars at the white man with Parkinson's? You don't think he was racist? Then why did he accuse the man with Parkinsonism of trying to get a "handout" (welfare) on "the wrong end of town" (three guesses as to whose end of town he is talking about, and the first two guesses don't count).

Meaning, Teabagger agitation is mostly and foremost about racial intolerance and resentment, and fear of sinking so deeply into personal economic depression that they'd eventually became as stigmatized as they make poor minority people. They fear their karma and can't handle reality in a rational, sane way.

- News Nag

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beware of candidate for Governor "Chelene Nightingale" california...if it were not bad enough that she was not wanted by the AIP to be their candidate...she has forced herself to be in the primary running against the chairman of the AIP Markham Robinson, in a frantic bid to try to take over a political she can have more recognition in her Hate filled ranting about Immigrants. She has for years hung out with radical san diego the border with bullhorns spewing hate..she now hangs the moniker of "Christian" around her neck...and "patriot" watch a youtube video of this lunatic talking about how the goverment was behind 9-11!!! Yet she wishes to actually run for Governor of California?? An unemployed fake..with about 12 people following her. The scary part is she has upped her game..and started harassing forums that don't want her at their speaking engagements. She should be monitored closely and frequently. Type in Chelene nightingale Nativist....for more info on her past radical life.


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