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|March to Keep Fear Alive|
The buzz in some of the nicer unisex bathrooms around town is that there are new campaigns in America to either (a) restore sanity or (b) stage a march to keep fear alive.
Happily in Australia there are strong moves for (c) making irrational political analysis an art form.
Come on down Chris Berg, sock it to us with your fickle finger of indiscriminate fate, and hit us with Tea Party conservatives are brewing up a storm.
Here's some fine chop logic:
He (Mike Castle) lost to the deeply conservative Christine O'Donnell, who carried a Sarah Palin endorsement. Defeating Castle scored her one of the biggest victories of the Tea Party so far.
Uh huh. So Sarah Palin carries some clout with Tea partiers?
A CBS/New York Times poll found Tea Party supporters tend to be more educated than the general public. And they're not bad judges of character. The majority believe Sarah Palin is unqualified for the presidency. Bear that in mind when you next hear the Tea Party dismissed as a crazy fringe.
Uh huh. So a crazy fringe defeated Mike Castle on the basis of a Sarah Palin endorsement, delivering one of her biggest victories, but the majority of the crazy fringe think she's unqualified for the presidency.
Is this sheeple analysis, or what?
Of course polls in America come and go like confetti, spring rain and ice storms, and if you heeded The Washington Post-ABC News poll of February 2010, you'd find that tea partiers are overwhelmingly white, mostly conservative, and generally disapproving of Obama. But then since some twenty per cent of Americans cling to the notion that Obama is a Muslim, there's little wonder that some of the more finely educated Americans disapprove of a Kenyan Muslim with a fake birth certificate running the country.
And depending how you cared to phrase the results of that poll in relation to Palin, you could say that forty five per cent of all Americans agree somewhat with tea partiers on some issues, and that while some seven in ten Americans thought she was unqualified to be President, forty five per cent of conservatives considered her qualified for the presidency, with thirty seven per cent holding a "strongly favorable" opinion of Palin.
We hate to refudiate Berg, but the media keep on pumping up Palin for no particular reason, always contrasting her poll figures with her results on the ground, and fuelling the speculation that she's lining up a tilt at the presidency. Here's how it's done:
Guess who's coming to dinner, Iowa? Sarah, from Alaska.
Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote speech at the Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines Friday night, the GOP's biggest fund-raiser, fueling speculation the former Alaska governor will run for President in 2012.
She's heading to the Hawkeye State on a political roll: Of the 43 candidates she has endorsed for 2010 elections, 25 have won primary races, mostly against establishment politicians.
Attendance at the event is expected to top 1,000, according to an Iowa Republican Party official.
Still, it's just dinner. (here).
Well as Chris Berg might say, I guess that's just a dinner with good judges of character, all one thousand of them.
Bear that in mind when you read someone rabbiting on about how a crazy fringe isn't a crazy fringe intent on storming the Republican castle. Or even being most welcome within the tent ...
Berg notes that the Tea partiers are an incoherent bunch, but when it comes to incoherence, Berg proves he's right up there with the Tea partiers when he tries to draw conclusions relevant to Australia.
In Australia, we just saw how potent a conservative grassroots can be. The implosion of the parliamentary Liberal Party late last year over climate change was driven by a membership which saw Malcolm Turnbull's support of the emissions trading scheme as unacceptable.
Thousands of emails were sent by party members and others calling for the position to change. In the end, they had to change leaders. Hopes for bipartisan climate action disappeared, and Kevin Rudd's prime ministership died in the Liberal party room. A conservative grassroots destroyed a Labor prime minister.
Yep, we've suddenly clicked our heels and ended up, lordy lordy, lah di dah, in Kansas, and what do you know, it wasn't the faceless men who did down chairman Rudd, it wasn't the mining billionaires and their campaign against his tax on mining, it wasn't Labor getting nervous about the polls, it was a Tea party type conservative grassroots movement that did him down.
Wash the blood off the knife Julia, if only we'd known it was the inspiring power of thousands of emails that took Kevin Rudd out. And take a rest Tony Abbott, relieved to know that you're energetic negative campaigning had nil impact, and so there's little for you to do now that enraged conservative grassroots movements are on the march across the land.
What's that? They didn't turn up at the ballot box, and vote in the Coalition, and somehow we ended up with a hung parliament and wretched independents and Greens holding balance of power positions?
Oops, time to maintain the rage, and get to sending out thousands more emails. Dynamic mechanisms in the social media for change at work.
Bet the left wished they were in on such magic social media, now that they're forced to confront the spectre of Tony Abbott PM from their much diminished perch on the opposition benches. Oops, sorry, that was either an acid flashback or a step into bizarro world:
Compare the attention that movement got to the praise heaped upon the even tiniest left-wing movement. Poor old GetUp! wishes it was half as effective as the Liberal membership last November.
Uh huh. I've always thought delusional thinking was a key part of Tea Party success, and ain't it grand to see delusional thinking spring so full blown from the scribbles of research fellows at the Institute of Public Affairs. Poor old Public Affairs Institute no doubt wishes it's theories about grassroots action were twice as effective when it came to actual election day ...
Yes, as Stewart might say, with a mysterious look and a wave of his hand, Jedi knight style, the force of the Palin is strong in young Chris Berg:
Technological change has given conservative popular movements the power to challenge their establishment in the same way left-wing movements have for half a century. That's the real story of the Tea Party.
Which shows a total and profound ignorance of American political life, since it's fair to think of the rise of agrarian populism back in the late nineteenth century as a right wing, reactionary movement (here), even if perversely many of its pet causes and issues could be identified as left leaning (A Centennial Historiography of American Populism).
At least when it comes to the likes of Father Coughlin, doing his populist ratbag reactionary thing on radio in the thirties, it's clear that he's an icon for a conservative popular movement challenging the power of the establishment (and for a full hour of power blast of Couglin on the radio, go here).
Coughlin was one of the early examples of the power of new media, in this case radio, whereby populists and conservatives have over the decades in America challenged the base ...
That's the real story of America, and the Tea Party is the latest variation on it. Rest in peace Ross Perot, you're gone but not forgotten. There will always be a third way ... Rest in peace Jack Gargan ... there'll always be someone ready to pick up the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" banner, and support your THRO campaign (Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out).
A more astute observer might have noted that this kind of Bergian populist rhetoric, interweb cant of the most cornball kind, ignores the role that traditional media has played in the rise of the Tea partiers. Where would they have been without their own network, and their own master theologians, the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and so their chief patron Fox News and its owner Rupert Murdoch?
That's why, if you want an insight into the rise of the Tea Party movement, forget Berg and his blather, and take a sip of Ben McGrath's The Movement, the rise of Tea Party activism in The New Yorker, a report which got Media Matters upset, or read about the insidious role played by the likes of the billionaire Koch brothers, as outlined in Jane Mayer's Covert Operations, The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, in funding and getting the tea parties on the roll.
Social media? Can I have some freedom fries and upsized billionaire funding with that?
But back to Berg, and his rousing finale:
It may get sucked into the Republican mainstream. Or its candidates may fail at election time. But the Tea Party isn't wrong. America has serious problems. Those problems have energised the conservative base.
Yes, and Glenn Beck and the House of Murdoch have energised the loon base. Which is why if we happen to be in America on the day we'll be observing Stewart's rally.
Sadly, truth to tell, we're more likely to be wandering forlornly around the streets of Sydney wondering how a spike can be driven through the heart of this kind of drivel:
New technology is giving conservative activists the power to form the sort of genuine grassroots movements the left has been for decades.
Um but how was the left a grassroots movement for decades without all this new fangled social media? And why were conservative activists incapable of forming grassroots movements decades ago? And just how did Tony Abbott end up on the SRC?
And please explain Pauline Hanson.
And please explain how Glenn Beck is a grassroots movement social media experiment, as opposed to a cynical ratings exercise?
Bring me a chalk and a blackboard, because I feel a crazed loon pond rant coming on.
No, second thoughts, why don't I just recycle Jon Stewart, to show that I'm a hip radical out there in touch with new technology kind of activist? You know, so I can reclaim the white house, which was stolen from conservative activists for eight long years by George W. Bush ...
Bah, blather humbug.
When you read that Palin is lining up for a tilt at the presidency, and hopefully falls flat on her backside, just remember that Berg managed to simultaneously discount Tea Party support for her, while celebrating the Tea Party movement.