“Tea Bagging” as Seen Through a Community Organizer's Lens

By Al Giordano

Protests on “tax day” are certainly nothing new, nor particularly novel. In my salad days as a cub reporter, I used to cover, every April 15, the picket outside a local IRS office by late friend Wally Nelson and other “war tax resisters.” They’re Americans who feel so strongly against contributing for military adventures that they refuse to pay for them; an economic version of conscientious objectors. They never sought to hide it or “evade” taxes. To the contrary, many wrote letters to the IRS explaining why they had refused to pay, saying essentially to the authorities, “come and get me.” Many, like Wally, lived simply enough on subsistence farming and such that they owed almost nothing anyway, but I still thought that it took guts to hold themselves up as targets in Gandhian tradition. And some did lose their homes and bank accounts as a result of their convictions. 

Today’s Fox News-promoted “tea-bagging” protests across the country don’t carry any similar risk for the attendees, yet they are are being hailed – whether naively or disingenuously - by conservative pundits and bloggers as some kind of second American Revolution, or at least as the beginnings of one.

As a student of organizing and movements, my ears perk up at any suggestion of grassroots rebellion. Whether or not I agree with a cause is a separate consideration than the cold and rational study of the tactics and, if any, strategy that deployed by movements, whether authentic or merely aspiring. Most tactics are not ideological; they can be deployed by right and left alike. So if the right comes up with a new innovation in organizing, I think it’s worth studying and, if it works, appropriating.

Blogs are a good example of such appropriation: post September 11, 2001, the popularity of blogs first skyrocketed as a mostly pro-war genre with “conservative libertarian” tendencies. Before the Daily Kos and the left side of the screen came to dominate the blogosphere, the most widely read bloggers were from the right. Some on the left saw that the tactic worked, and appropriated it as our own. The rest is history.

In that light, is there anything to be learned – tactically or strategically – from today’s tea-bagging protests said to be taking place in between 300 and 500 locations across the USA?

The short answer is, “so far, no.”

From a community organizer’s perspective, the only “innovation” to be found in the tea-bag protests is available only to a very narrow group of people: If you’re a billionaire – and therefore among the top five percent of Americans who are the only ones about to pay higher taxes under the Obama tax policies – and if you also own a TV network, you can wield that network as a weapon to create the illusion of a grassroots protest.

But not even that can really be called an American innovation: TV networks in Venezuela and in Mexico have been pulling off these kinds of charades for years, with mixed results. In Venezuela in 2002 commercial TV station stoked “protests” were used as a cov er for an attempted military coup d’etat. It failed because there was an authentic grassroots organizing movement that countered it (literally overwhelming military troops and re-taking the public TV station from them). And in Mexico in 1999, the national network, TV Azteca, tried to use the assassination of one of its on-air personalities to drum up a citizen revolt against the center-left Mexico City government, only to have its poutrage fall apart and backfire when it turned out the slain figure was involved in narco-trafficking and was likely killed because of it

Authentic organizing projects always have clearly stated goals, whether to have a stoplight put up in the neighborhood or to, as in 2008, to take the White House.

But what are the goals of today’s tea-bag protests? Is there a list of grievances or demands around which the participants will rally?

That there is no such clear platform is our first indication that something is amiss.

Tea-baggers generally raise a few vague themes to explain their complaint. I just watched Fox News interview two of them waiting for the protest to begin in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. One asserted that he was protesting against “the government not respecting the Constitution.” No detail was offered - nor asked by the reporter – as to what exactly he meant by that claim. The other said he was protesting against “the government spending our tax dollars on things we don’t want them spent on.” The tea-bag events have thus become the Mad Libs of right-wing protest: “We’re united and marching against ______________.” What is lacking is coherency. And as the French Situationist Guy Debord said, the first duty of a revolutionary is to be coherent.

Instead, they’ve served up a menu of (some of them contradictory) complaints and conspiracy theories (some rail against “socialism” and “world government,” with large doses of the same paranoia and victimhood of that kept the United States left self-marginalized for three decades and more until now). In other words, the tea-baggers are now repeating every mistake made by the “activists” of the US left in their own string of failed attempts at launching effective political movements throughout the 80s, the 90s, and in the first years of this century.

As one who suffered through those Lost Decades of the Left, banging my head against that brick wall of ineffective “activism,” I confess to be thoroughly enjoying this day when we get to watch the right stumble through the same clueless and boneheaded maneuvers that already failed for our own ideological siblings.

Lacking coherency – without which, authentic and effective political movements have never emerged – what are the goals of today’s tea-bagging events? Roger L. Simon of Pajamas Media (a conservative blogging consortium that has championed today’s protests) gropes at a goal for today, which turns out to be merely a personal and self-serving one:

“I was interviewed early this morning by CNN’s Jim Acosta (for broadcast Wednesday morning - don’t know what they will use) and he asked me if I thought the Tea Party movement was the right’s response (via the Internet) to the ‘netroots. It well may be. And if it is anywhere near as successful as moveon.org, Kos, etc., we are headed for some big changes indeed.”

In other words, for Simon and other wanna-be intellectual authors of a “grassroots” movement from the right, the goal is imitation: they want to be “as successful” as Daily Kos and MoveOn. For Simon, it’s about getting himself interviewed on CNN, adding web traffic, page hits, and the blogger ad revenues that would come if he could somehow put himself forward as a leader of these tens (but not likely hundreds) of thousands of discontented folk gathering in vague protest today.

The major recruitors of most of today’s protest attendees are, truth be told, outside of the conservative blogosphere: Fox News in first place and the followers of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in competition with it to define these protests. Thus, the aspirations of Pajamas Media are strictly parasitical: It is happening, therefore we want to lead it.

As such, they’re the equivalent of the many aspiring socialist fringe party “vanguards” that hand out their newspapers and literature at anti-war protests: the ones that imagine that by offering a “party line” they can step out in front of the parade and take credit for it, thus setting themselves up to reach and inspire the masses (although it never quite works out that way). The front page of Simon's Pajamas Media seeks to make it Tea Bagging Central. Atop the page this morning were headlines like these: “Revolution Rekindled: Tea Party Movement Blossoms, " and, “Why You Should Attend a Tea Party," and,“Why I Am Attending a Tea Party.”

Yep, Roger L. Simon and Glenn Harlan Reynolds are the new version of the “socialist with a shopping bag,” ready to show you their collections of dog-eared manifestos as evidence that they can lead you to the barricades; aspiring leaders without followers, spokesmen without a platform, protesters unable to articulate a single grievance that anybody is going to rally around. We already know these people on the left (and most of us cross the street when we see them coming). How much more fun could we have than to see the right wing now wander into the same activist cul de sac?

Here’s an interesting clip from Fox News this week in which a fly enters the ointment in the form of Faiz Shakir of the center-left Think Progress, a critic of the “tea party” faux-movement, laying it strictly at the feet of Fox and three well-funded top-down lobbying outfits on the far right:

The best coverage so far of the tea-bagging protests has from the beltway political humor site Wonkette, which has demonstrated journalistically how the Republican National Committee is also in on promoting the protest-of-the-vague and how the many organizations on the right are already fighting with each other over who began and/or is leading the tea-bagging protests.

The most interesting point that emerges from Wonkette’s snark coverage is a journalistic scoop: that it’s the followers of former GOP presidential candidate US Rep. Ron Paul that started the ball rolling and will swell the rank-and-file at today’s simulation of protest. And this will get interesting as many of their positions (regarding theories of what happened on 9/11, the Iraq war, gold standard economics, etc.) are at odds with those of the more traditional right wing networks trying to jump out in front of them.

Tea Bag Day is, so far, a non-starter in terms of capturing public interest or imagination. The fascination with it on the right and left sides of blogdom simply is not matched among the masses, even with the life-support offered by a major cable news network. Google News is a pretty good indicator of what news stories are being followed most closely by the most members of the public, because it ranks placement of top stories according to how many clicks the topic gets via its pages.

As of 8:30 a.m. today the top stories were the clean-up on the rescue from Somalian pirates, the announcement by former US Rep. Pat Toomey that he will challenge US Senator Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Republican primary, and the trial of a defendant in the case of last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. That’s what people around the Google universe are searching for today.

Even in the US News section, the top stories are the Blagojevich indictment in Chicago, Obama’s economic speech yesterday, and the California rape-murder trial of Melissa Huckaby.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds (the blogger known as Instapundit, and part of, with Simon, the leadership of Pajamas Media) has a column in that esteemed populist pamphlet (cough), The Wall Street Journal, today, in which he simply bullshits his way through trying to explain this Astroturf as a legitimate grassroots movement:

Today American taxpayers in more than 300 locations in all 50 states will hold rallies -- dubbed "tea parties" -- to protest higher taxes and out-of-control government spending. There is no political party behind these rallies, no grand right-wing conspiracy, not even a 501(c) group like MoveOn.org.

So who's behind the Tax Day tea parties? Ordinary folks who are using the power of the Internet to organize…

"There is no political party behind these rallies," Glenn?

Oh, my:

As Shakir of Think Progress, in the video above, and others have documented, that’s demonstrably untrue: there is a political party (Republican National Committee) pushing its troops to participate. There are beltway based PACs and lobbyists behind it, pushing their email lists to come out and tea bag. And most significantly, there is Fox News, property of the billionaire Rupert Murdoch, which today is pretty much all-tea-bagging-all-the-time.

Reynold’s optimistically concludes:

This influx of new energy and new talent is likely to inject new life into small-government politics around the nation. The mainstream Republican Party still seems limp and disorganized. This grassroots effort may revitalize it. Or the tea-party movement may lead to a new third party that may replace the GOP, just as the GOP replaced the fractured and hapless Whigs.

James Wolcott is having none of it, and takes Reynolds to the woodshed:

In a drivelly press release masquerading as an op-ed, Glenn Reynolds did his bit to drum up the dramatic and political import of the forthcoming Tea Parties that he and his colleagues at Pajamas Media are fanfaring. The faux populism of this project is conveyed with this rhinestone:

“These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches. These are people with real jobs; most have never attended a protest march before. They represent a kind of energy that our politics hasn't seen lately, and an influx of new activists.”

How lately is "lately"? I would think that even a pseudo-libertarian righty would concede that the Obama campaign possessed energy and attracted a fresh crop of recruits. It may be hard for Reynolds and his allies to credit, but liberals have "real jobs" too, or least jobs as real as being employed as a law professor with enough leisure to blog all day.

But let that slide…

Wolcott then moves in for the kill, exposing the disgusting underbelly of the tea-bagger movement as a mere cover for its racially based indigestion:

It's remarkable and telling how some of the biggest peaceful political rallies this country has ever seen took place only three years ago, only to be flushed down the memory hole. I'm speaking of the tremendous pro-immigration rallies that took place in 2006, with an estimated half-million people assembling in downtown Los Angeles alone. Those rallies did not lack energy, enthusiasm, or organization, and I daresay among those hundreds of thousands of people lobbying for enlightened immigration legislation were low-income workers with "real jobs."

Of course, their groundswell efforts were mocked, attacked, derided, and dismissed by the likes of CNN's Lou Dobbs and the right blogosphere, who had a righteous snit over the presence of Mexican flags. "Welcome to Reconquista" blared Michelle Malkin, the strands of whose fearmongering were disentangled and tox screened by David Neiwert at Orcinus. (Mickey Kaus, putting on his thinking cap and then taking it off again, mused that the immigration issue might very well be the stealth bombshell issue to boost Republican chances in the 2006 midterms, and we know how niftily that worked out.)

Three years later, the scope and sweep of the pro-immigration rallies has been erased from the record books and general discourse as the Tea Party movement is augured in as the first authentic grassroots stirring of protest from the American heartland since, like, whenever.

Jill Tubman at Jack & Jill blog finds the same undercurrent:

I’m starting to become pretty convinced at this point that “socialist” is a some kind of code word for “nigger”.

Wolcott and Tubman have hit the nail on the head: “Tea-baggers,” without agreed-upon grievances to unite them, are merely groping for a stage upon with to vent what really has them upset but they know they can't say aloud: ooh, scary, there's a black man in the White House.

That the divided factions of the right choose tax day to make their play – when the wheels are set in motion for each of their households to receive an $800 tax-cut check, thanks to the President whose mere incumbency causes them irrational panic – is a pretty thin cover for their nostalgia for more racially segregated times. Well, most of us knew they’d be out there. And it’s just too much fun to see them borrowing the worst and least effective tactics that made the American left so irrelevant for so long, ushering in what very well may become the Lost Decades of the Right.

 

Comments

Their rallying cry

I've been thinking about the cries of "socialism!" and while I think it's possible that when directed at Obama it's a racial attack, I don't think that's it's racial in a broader context.

Instead, I think it harkens to the right wing movements of the 1990s, when the black helicopter crowd was paranoid about all sorts of things.  It's eerie how much rantings from Timothy McVeigh sound like some of the stuff coming from Fox News these days.  (Take for example this McVeigh quote: "The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.")

Also, isn't Obama's tax cut a payroll tax cut (so no check is cut, instead there's just less withholding)?

Breaking out the popcorn now...

My favorite line comes from a "Beware of Disrupters!" pamphlet given to the teabaggers:

Netroots interviewers might ask leading questions about
immigration, President Obama, etc., to bait you into making
comments they can paint as racist. Remember: the Tea
Party is about responsible government and liberty for all
Americans, regardless of our differences. (Emphasis not mine.)

So in other words, they have to warn their supporters specifically to not sully the "message" with their hatred of brown and black people.

Yes, yes, YES!

...The tea-bag events have thus become the Mad Libs of right-wing protest: “We’re united and marching against ______________.” What is lacking is coherency. And as the French Situationist Guy Debord said, the first duty of a revolutionary is to be coherent.

Instead, they’ve served up a menu of (some of them contradictory) complaints and conspiracy theories (some rail against “socialism” and “world government,” with large doses of the same paranoia and victimhood of that kept the United States left self-marginalized for three decades and more until now). In other words, the tea-baggers are now repeating every mistake made by the “activists” of the US left in their own string of failed attempts at launching effective political movements throughout the 80s, the 90s, and in the first years of this century.

As one who suffered through those Lost Decades of the Left, banging my head against that brick wall of ineffective “activism,” I confess to be thoroughly enjoying this day when we get to watch the right stumble through the same clueless and boneheaded maneuvers that already failed for our own ideological siblings.

Yes, yes,

YES!

During the civil rights movement, African-Americans who took part in marches, sit-ins, or any sort of public action, knew that they had to appear in their best Sunday churchgoing clothes. (As Maha of the Mahablog notes, this was done at Dr. King's express request: http://www.mahablog.com/2007/01/16/augment-the-objections/#comments)

This was the ultimate job interview, and their goal was to impress the people reading about them in the newspapers or watching them on TV with how sober-minded, serious and responsible they were. Even the signs they carried came from professional print shops.

It worked: Their fellow Americans saw the marchers and were impressed by their responsible demeanor. LBJ was able to push through the Voting and Civil Rights Acts in large part because of the sober-minded and adult demeanor of the marchers.

Then came the hippies. The "levitate the Pentagon" types. The trust-fund babies who rebelled against their parents by going around with long stringy hair and beards and an aroma of pot and unwashed body. They did a very good job - of turning off Middle America. They helped elect and then re-elect Richard Nixon, who then proceeded to keep America in the very war the Pentagon-levitators protested. Eric Alterman notes: (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14134971/#060808)

The first serious historical research I ever did was when I was researching my honors thesis as an undergraduate. I wanted to study the origins of neoconservatism, the Six Day War, and Vietnam-this was back in 1981-and my adviser, Walter LaFeber-insisted that I learn a little context first by examining the attitudes of the entire country to the war and the antiwar movement. I poured over the polling data and found to my surprise, that in many ways, the antiwar movement was counterproductive. Many Americans didn't like the war but they really hated the counterculture. If supporting Nixon was a way to get back at the hippies and protesters and rioters, they were willing to do it, even if it meant extending a war they thought to be already lost.

This is borne out by a study done in the immediate aftermath of the Kent State shootings. It may be shocking to some of us today to realize that a non-trivial portion of Americans had no problems with students and protesters being shot to death by the National Guard, but the study shows exactly that (http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/000...). This was in large part because many Americans feared that - in the wake of the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, RFK, and other prominent figures - the country was falling apart, and order had to be restored somehow.

And yet we have, four decades later, the same people doing the same schtick with the same utter lack of awareness at how (or worse, utter indifference as to how) the rest of the country sees them. Dale Carnegie they're not.

If you're going to do protest-as-theater, as opposed to protests that might actually have a chance at changing hearts and minds, at least do it intelligently. The Yes Men are the experts at this sort of thing, and they don't do it with ten-foot-tall puppets, but with Armani suits and planning on the order of the Normandy invasion.

 

Spoke to few...

teabaggers today, when their mouths weren't full.

Played role of curious onlooker leaning toward their side.  Dropped a bunch of the Ron Paul/Alex Jones 9/11 conspiracy stuff, gold standard, legalize drugs and prostitution, etc.  A winning hand I must say for anyone in a similar situation.

Divide and conquer, baby.

Lots of stuff to wrap my brain around...

...with this one Al. Good stuff. I'm looking forward to the equally thought-provoking comments too.

The racial component was apparent and is a bit scary to me.

Tempest Meets Teapot

One would have thought that a vocal, disenfranchised minority recently swept from the halls of power could have put on a better show. So far it is about as spontaneous and genuine as a Popeil studio audience. Apparently trickle-down organizing doesn't work any better than trickle-down economics. The double entendre factor alone doomed the effort from the start. If anyone remembers this bit of dumb show six weeks from now I'll be stunned. 

Couldn't resist, but...

a big one was happening a block away, so went back as they were letting out.  Was surprised at how many people were there, and seemed that the overwhelming majority were bussed in (parked those busses at city bus stops causing massive problems...hello?!?!).

Big stages set up with audio soundboards and big PA systems, and some elaborate protest signs that must've cost a lot.  I know this is all a coordinated PR effort with big, big money bankrolling it, all the way back to the Rick Santellitubby staged hissy fit, but it's always a little disturbing to see how many rubes live among us.

Especially since it was so difficult to get 20 people to show up at an event in the same supposedly "liberal" town to protest US-sponsored torture.

The "Is this a Ron Paul thing?!?" line did work well again though.  Amazing the amount of cognitive dissonance within these ranks.  I really feel, just as with terrorism, we can kill off this mentality with kindness, rather than getting into arguments with these people.  Sure, there are some dead-enders that you'll never reach, but it seemed to me that there's a large percentage, even within this group that would attend something as silly as this, that we of the more Liberal persuasion could work with.

*fake* grassroots but *real* psyop

This little operation may be faker than a plugged nickel as a grassroots movement, but it's as real as cancer as a threat to real progress in this country.

Right-wing activists groups never have significant numbers or coherence. Never. I'll even stand by that on interwar fascism.

They're always ragtag splinter groups of half-wits, know-nothings and psychopaths.

By themselves, they're not much of a threat, other than to those immediately around them. But when they get financial and media leverage, they can be a powerful tool of counterrevolution.

Look at the Cuban-American ultraists. Or the Italian far-right. Or the Turkish Grey Wolves. Or the Japanese uyoku-dantai. None of them have real members. None of them have real support or popularity.

But they have(/have) enough financial and political leverage to keep their societies completely paralyzed away from genuine progress.

Like Al said in the Venezuelan example, a tiny but highly-levered psyop front group can take a vast popular movement to defeat.

Not THAT kind of protester

You hit on the issue that will make organizing tough for the right.  They have spent decades villifying, deriding, mocking and marginalizing anyone who dares step out into the street to express their grievance. Now obviously the right has shown they are very adept at transforming their principles based on the current wind direction, but I just don't see many GOPers wanting to be seen as one of "them", some kind of commie faggot protester.

So I imagine all those teabaggers will be back in the closet before too long...

excellent discussion of community organizing

Al,

Kind of off-topic but I wanted to alert you - and anyone else interested - to this very interesting discussion about community organizing posted at the Democratic Strategist.

http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2009/04/the_movement_r...

The discussion includes lessons learned from the 60s.

Did they just not ask?

Seriously, did they just not check to make sure that the nickname they had chosen for themselves and their activity wasn't a current sexual term? I am completely astounded at the cluelessness displayed in just choosing the name of the activity. This reminds me of the commercials where a jumble of clueless corporate folk go on about "youthenizing" their audience. It almost seems like someone sarcastically suggested the name and the sarcasm was simply lost.  What's next? Barebackers for Immigration Control?

On another note, I am wondering how happy this makes the Obama folks. It's telling that there's been no direct comment on this.

DC was a disaster

Excerpts from the WaPo article:

There will be no tea-dumping in the Potomac River -- that's illegal -- but organizers of today's national tea party tax protest found out this morning that so is their plan to dump a million tea bags in Lafayette Square to demonstrate displeasure at government spending and tax policies.

Protesters, using a rented truck to haul the million tea bags, began unloading their cargo at the park this morning but were told by officials that they didn't have proper permits and must move the tea . They complied with the order but are still considering what to do with the load.

(snip)

The protesters got more bad news when security officials also told them that they did not have proper permits for a rally in front of the Treasury building.

(snip)

Despite the setbacks, and the dreadful weather, hundreds of protesters gathered in Lafayette Square midday under a cold rain to voice their displeasure with Obama administration's economic policies, which critics say have plunged the country deeper into debt and increased taxes and government regulation. They carried American flags, and sodden signs bearing such slogans as "Socialism -- Change we can't afford," "We will not bow to higher taxes," and "Defend Our Constitution."

About midafternoon, the rally was temporarily suspended after what appeared to be a box of tea was thrown over the White House fence and officials evacuated the park as a security precaution, police said. The park was reopened shortly afterward.

How stunning is it that in Washington, DC, in the direct line of sight of the US political media, a "movement" bankrolled by Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, Don Wildmon and the Republican Party couldn't manage such Organizing 101 tasks as securing the necessary permits?  Grassroots is hard!

If only someone had written some kind of rule book to conducting effective grassroots movements that the leaders could consult for tips, that would have been really helpful...

@John N.

That's why there's this part in the "Beware of Disrupters!" pamphlet I cited earlier:

The term “teabagging” has strong sexual connotations. Be wary of anyone with a camera asking you if you are a “teabagger” or if you enjoy “teabagging” or similar leading questions – they are trying to make a fool of you. (Again, emphasis not mine.)

Although I have to admit, the horse has been beaten to a bloody, unrecognizable pulp by now.

In Denver, they had hundreds, along with the token aborted-fetus-mobile. Classy.

20th District Race

In more relevant news, Democrat Scott Murphy pretty much nailed down a win this afternoon in his race against Republican Jim Tedisco to fill the House seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand.  Saratoga County was Tedisco's last hope, and when they reported the result of absentee ballot counting today there just weren't enough votes for the Republican to overcome Murphy's lead.  This was a big win, as the GOP enjoys a 70,000 vote registration edge in the District, and has pretty much held the seat since 1776.

All the tea in China

I find a certain irony in the "tea-bagging rebellion."

The original Boston Tea Party was organized to protest the the British tax on tea and was directed at the British East India Co. — which imported the tea into the Colonies [and later, of course, got into the opium trade]. But that's not the irony.

Here's where I see it. As in the 1700s to today, almost all tea is imported -- meaning its purchase supports foreign governments, at least indirectly, such as China [which holds a substantial portion of the U.S. debt]. Hence, "all the tea in China" has literal meaning. And how do you pay off U.S. debt to China by buying its tea with credit cards — as I'm sure was done if Wal-Mart was involved?

And, how does purchasing millions of tea bags as a symbolic "patriotic" protest against taxes and deficits, or some other nebulous objection against the Obama administration or as an expression of generalized economic angst, really advance that cause, at least on a symbolic level, when the money being laid out for the tea bags is actually in large measure going to support the economies of foreign governments where the tea is produced?

In that light, it seems rather unpatriotic. When the Boston Patriots dumped the tea into the harbor, they did it at great risk and as part of an effort to cost the British East India Co. money -- not to make them money.

Here we have hoards of self-proclaimed patriots who are actually payng money to support foreign governments and costing our government, and the taxpayers, a bunch of money to pay for "protest" security [cops on overtime aren't cheap] and to clean up the tea bags they're dumping all over the landscape.

It's just symbolically a total mess.

Socialist...

@BR: While I agree with you about the echoes of the militia-movements of the 90's in the current teabagging crowd, I fully concur with Jill Tubman about the way "socialist" is being deployed by the placard-vanguard. It's coded invective because unlike their daddies' responses to a mass movement aimed at social justice (the civil rights movement), more salacious words are simply anathema today. (That's progress, right?) To suggest that McVeigh-ites are not racists or anti-Semites is simply wrong (and, yes, I am collapsing the two names for hate). The C.A.N.D.L.E.S. Holocaust museum in Terre Haute (home to the death house where McVeigh was executed) was destroyed by fire in fall 2003 and the arsonist (who was caught) spray-painted the exterior wall with "Remember Timothy McVeigh." The stony and cowardly hatred of perceived difference by the likes of that arsonist, the black helicopter paranoiacs, or the McVeigh/Shamwow hucksters dumping socialist teabags today is very real and very racist. 

Anti-Socialism and Racism

I've been thinking about the cries of "socialism!" and while I think it's possible that when directed at Obama it's a racial attack, I don't think that's it's racial in a broader context.

I have to disagree. And I'm doing so as a sometime libertarian. For whatever reason, the libertarian/anti-socialist impulse in American politics has almost always walked hand-in-hand with racism.
That was true in Andy Jackson's day. It was true of Democratic constitutionalist rhetoric after the civil war. It was true in the New Deal era, when the most effective opposition to FDR's agenda came not from the Republican party but from segregationist Democrats. It was true in '64, when libertarian Barry Goldwater (though apparently free of racial animus himself) carried the Deep South, and only the Deep South.
"Big government", "socialism" and like terms are seen as code for empowering blacks and minorities. 

Wonkette got it right.

The LP and Paulistas here had been planning a tax day event long before Fox or the regular Republicans got into the act. Shared their venue, then got frozen out of speaking slots. Not happy at all.

 

 

Democrat for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)

The Texas Governer's succession cries fit directly

This is the outline of the right resistance - top down, with the exception of the Paulistas (worrisome to me since they actually do organize) and willing to whip up racial fears.

 

In addition to the teabaggers, there's this line from Governor Perry of Texas...

"Where’re you gonna’ stand? With an ever-growing Washington bureaucracy, or areyou going to stand with the people of this state who understand the importance of state's rights".

So with an explicit callout to the racist policies of the Southern past, he puts himself in the 'socialist = nigger' camp.

(Full rant here)

http://nihilix.blogspot.com/2009/04/texans-to-nigger-president-fuck-off....

a conservative take

Hi Al, wanted to share this: http://cunningrealist.blogspot.com/2009/04/cheap-tea.html.

This is a conservative blogger that I admire for intellectual honesty - his blog like yours is among my favorites. Some of the comments by his (conservative) readers are worth looking at.

Dan in Europe

PS: Yes, I'm still a regular visitor here, notwithstanding some past differences and a rather different political orientation from yours. Can't help it, having lived in a communist country. But Obama's appeal was never limited to those sharing all your views, as you well know.

secessionist talk

How can the party of Country First tolerate a big state governor of its own discussing openly the idea of seceding from the union?  Maybe Perry and Co are correct and we've got a union divided--the 28% who approved of the job Bush was doing (and are probably disproportionately represented at Tea Parties) and the rest of us sane Americans.

 

Do the math

fivethirtyeight.com has been toting up the crowd estimates and they're around 250K nationwide and counting. Give them the benefit of rounding and call it 300K. After what seemed like a month of relentless shilling on their primary news organ, they managed to turn out one-tenth of one percent of the US population for their rallies.

That's about ten percent of the viewers watching Fox News at any given time, one half of one percent of the voters who cast ballots for McCain, fewer than the number of votes cast for Nader or Barr (but more than for Baldwin or McKinney), about equal to the number of individual donors to the Obama campaign, and about the total attendance of just THREE of Obama's best attended rallies combined (St. Louis, Denver, and Seattle).

Remember back to the anti-war demonstrations in 2003 that drew millions to the streets, or the 2+ million who turned out in April 2006 to protest US immigration policy, both of which had clearly articulated objectives. And how much did they influence US policy?

Context is always helpful.

In this interview, an

In this interview, an 'organizer' of the protests boasts of reading and following Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals.'  He also distances the protests from Fox News a bit...

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About Al Giordano

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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