erik lundegaard

Wednesday February 24, 2010

From PC to Protests: How the Right became everything it despised in the Left

A week ago Friday I was walking through downtown Seattle on my way to work when I noticed, from 6th and Olive, a small group of protesters standing with signs over on 6th and Stewart. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I couldn’t tell what exactly they were protesting, and gave a momentary thought to checking them out, but kept going my usual way. At 5th I saw two of the protesters talking to some folks. One of the them held a sign I could now read:


Lord, I thought.

So: Engage them? Ask them where they’ve been during the last eight years—when our national debt more than doubled from $5 trillion to over $10 trillion? Ask them if they voted for George W. Bush, whose policies and lack of foresight and accountability brought us to this place? Did they double-down in 2004? Instead I continued on 5th Avenue, where, under the monorail, I saw a few cops, then a few more, then a larger contingent. They were there to protect the protest, or the march, or whatever it was—I didn't see any reports on it. Then I noticed how much traffic was backed up. I thought of the time lost and the tax dollars and oil wasted for these 50 or so protesters. And I thought this of members of the tea party:

“Get a job.”

Has the right-wing become everything it used to despise? They’re all whiners and protesters now. They attack authority—judges, Congress, Democratic presidents. They’re politcally correct, scouring media and movies for signs of the slightest offense. (Some even objected to “The Blind Side,” a positive story about a white southern Christian family, because there's a quick W. joke in the middle of it.) The recent Conservative Political Action Conference called itself "Woodstock" for conservatives. Remember “Easy Rider”—the hippie-biker film from 1969? Its tagline: “A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere." That’s how these guys feel. They keep wondering where their America went. They keep talking about getting it back.

But they’re repeating history as farce. The marches of the civil rights movement were borne because a group of people had no voice in government and second-class status everywhere. The tea party protests—at least the wing of it most concerned with fiscal responsibility—seem to have been borne because the voice they had in government led to a place they didn’t want to be: with the country overwhelmingly in debt and foundering on the brink of economic disaster. In this way they could be like anti-war protesters of the 1960s, who most likely voted for LBJ over that nuke-loving extremist Barry Goldwater and wound up in a place they didn’t want to be: in a full-fledged war in Vietnam. The difference? These folks protested LBJ. They took to the streets in ’66, ’67, ’68. They didn’t wait for Nixon to get into office. The Tea Partiers were silent for eight years while their guy wrecked the country, then took to the streets as soon as he left.

Last week before going to bed I read Ben McGrath’s piece on the tea partiers in the Feb. 1st New Yorker and got so angry I couldn’t fall asleep until after 1 a.m. I guess I was mostly angry at McGrath and The New Yorker for giving deluded, potentially dangerous people a prominent place to air their views. Fanning the flames in the piece was U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, 4th district, Kentucky, who says cap-and-trade legislation would be “an economic colonization of the hard-working states that produce the energy, the food, and the manufactured goods of the heartland, to take that and pay for social programs in the large coastal states.”

Jesus. Can we have a discussion in this country? Can we have a back-and-forth? The above is like Reagan’s welfare mother with her Cadillac: an urban myth that won't go away. Time and again, statitistics show that the states who get more tax dollars back than they put in tend to be the quote-unquote heartland states. For the last year available, 2005, Davis’ Kentucky is at no. 9 on this list. Kentuckians got back $1.51 for every $1.00 they put in. For which they're complaining. Or Davis is. Here are the big winners in the federal tax game, as per the conservative, anti-tax Tax Foundation:

1. New Mexico
2. Mississippi
3. Alaska
4. Louisiana
5. West Virginia
6. North Dakota
7. Alabama
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Virginia

Meanwhile the states that get the least bang for their tax buck? The ones who get screwed in this game? Those awful coastal and liberal Midwest states:

41. Colorado
42. New York
43. California
44. Delaware
45. Illinois
46. Minnesota
47. New Hampshire
48. Connecticut
49. Nevada
50. New Jersey

The tea-partiers actually have a legitimate gripe—about the power of corporations and government—but they're not griping legitimately. Some of them are just plain nuts. They’re “we didn’t land on the moon” nuts. John McCain is a communist. All political parties bow down before George Soros. And many believe in Edgar Cayce? Really? So the tea partiers are full of discontented New Agers? Who were, what, discontent hippies? No wonder they seem like hippies.

This is even nuttier. From McGrath:

An online video game, designed recently by libertarians in Brooklyn, called “2011: Obama’s Coup Fails” imagines a scenario in which the Democrats lose seventeen of nineteen seats in the Senate and a hundred and seventy-eight in the House during the midterm elections, prompting the President to dissolve the Constitution and implement an emergency North American People’s Union, with help from Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, Canada’s Stephen Harper, and various civilian defense troops with names like the Black Tigers, the International Service Union Empire, and CORNY, or the Congress of Rejected and Neglected Youth. Lou Dobbs has gone missing, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh turn up dead at a FEMA concentration camp, and you, a lone militiaman in a police state where private gun ownership has been outlawed, are charged with defeating the enemies of patriotism, one county at a time.

The final straw for the left was domestic terrorism, the Weather Underground, etc., which pretty much destroyed any progressive movement in this country for decades. Is that where the right is now? Anti-tax proponents emulate al Qaeda by flying planes into federal buildings, killing innocent people. Their actions are sympathized with by Republican congressmen. Republicans running for president condone such violence.

I don’t want this. I really don’t. I want a strong, smart opposition, and the right is becoming a dumb, dangerous farce. And all the while our country suffers.

Posted at 06:29 AM on Wednesday February 24, 2010 in category Politics  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard