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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Tea Party: take the country back « Previous | |Next »
November 7, 2010

Ronald Dworkin in his Americans Against Themselves post in the New York Review of Books blog has a go at interpreting what the Tea Party--a rightwing populist movement--- are saying with their slogans “Save America.” “Take the country back.” “Armed and dangerous.” “Lock and load.”

These populists not only reject Obama administration policies, and political liberalism in general, but also cast their rejection in questing, confrontational language as an epic battle for the soul of American democracy, which they accuse liberalism of defiling.

Dworkin says:

We must take seriously what so many of them actually say: that they feel they are losing their country, that they are desperate to take it back. What could they mean? There are two plausible answers, both of them frightening. They might mean, first, that their new government is not theirs because it is not remotely of their kind or culture; it is not representative of them. Most who think that would have in mind, of course, their president; they think him not one of them because he is so different. It seems likely that the most evident difference, for them, is his race—a race a great many Americans continue to think alien. They feel, viscerally, that a black man cannot speak for them.

The Tea Party want to take their country back by taking its presidency back, by making its leader more like them.

The other interpretation of what the Tea Party mean is that they want a strong America. Dworkin says

All their lives they have assumed that their country is the most powerful, most prosperous, most democratic, economically and culturally the most influential—altogether the most envied and wonderful country in the world. They are coming slowly and painfully to realize that that is no longer true; they are angry and they want someone to blame...For many Americans losing America’s preeminence means losing the country they know. They want America to stand alone on top again; they want politicians to tell them that it can, that God has chosen us but false leaders have betrayed us.

Unfortunately the American empire is in decline, weakened by a structural economic crisis that has resulted in 15 million unemployed American workers.Since the Democrat arm of the political class will not turn against Wall Street and the entrenched corporate globalization doctrine, it may well be an America-first movement coming out of an increasingly radicalized “nativist” Republican base.

In Real Americans in the Boston Review William Hogeland in his review of the history of American populism's shift from left (economic fairness) to right (cultural conservatism) says:

Then as now, the hottest blast of populist rhetoric was directed less at specific policies than at elites’ dismissal of ordinary people’s judgments, determinations, and desires; at what populists saw as the undemocratic, un-American claim to superior expertise; at forestalling decisive action through discussion and debate.

What we have is populism’s war on liberalism. Populism equates goodness with the ordinary, working-class, democratic values that it declares fundamentally American and in protecting those values, it announces itself ready to fight to the death the arrogant social superiority that it views as institutionalized in liberal thought. Hogeland argues that:
history suggests that American populists’ rejection of liberalism is a matter of principle, not of interest. Liberalism has long defined itself from a position of expertise and wisdom that it justifies as meritocracy, and for which it keeps reflexively congratulating itself...liberal claims to a monopoly on knowledge may be even more undemocratic than conservatives’ policies for distributing wealth upward.

What populists see in liberalism's privileged expertise is dismissal, mockery, and disdain, an assumption of superiority not found even in pro-business conservatism.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:53 PM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

If the Republicans are competent enough to drive and manipulate the Externalised Self-Pity Party in the first place, it's safe to assume they're also competent enough to destroy them should things backfire.

Quite simply they want their leader to be a narrow-minded, uneducated mediocrity. A person they can identify with.

There's no room for someone like Obama (and his fancy talk) in the Oval Office.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."~H.L. Mencken, 1920

mars08
re your comment: " they want their leader to be a narrow-minded, uneducated mediocrity. A person they can identify with."

A Sarah Palin?

Ross Douthat in his The Unready Republicans in the New York Times says:

The United States is facing three overlapping crises — the short-term challenge of a jobless recovery, the long-term crisis of entitlement spending and, in the medium term, an economy that wasn’t delivering for the middle class even before the financial crisis struck. The Democratic Party may have the wrong answers to these problems. But the Republican Party as an institution often seems to have no answers whatsoever.

The United States may have finally lost its ability to adapt politically to the systemic crises it faces.