Kenny Steven Fuentes is a freelance actor/director, activist, and blogger who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. His work can be seen on ‘The Activationist’ blog at TheActivationist.com, and periodically he will also be sharing his ideas here at SmellsLikeHumanSpirit.com. Check out Kenny’s appearance on the podcast in Episode 74, follow him on Twitter @activationist, and enjoy his latest article, ‘The Tea Party Chickens Coming Home to Roost’:
This is what they came to Washington to do — to break the government of the United States. It doesn’t matter any more whether they’re doing it out of pure crackpot ideology, or at the behest of the various sugar daddies that back their campaigns, or at the instigation of their party’s mouthbreathing base. It may be any one of those reasons. It may be all of them. The government of the United States, in the first three words of its founding charter, belongs to all of us, and these people have broken it deliberately. The true hell of it, though, is that you could see this coming down through the years, all the way from Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address in which government “was” the problem, through Bill Clinton’s ameliorative nonsense about the era of big government being “over,” through the attempts to make a charlatan like Newt Gingrich into a scholar and an ambitious hack like Paul Ryan into a budget genius, and through all the endless attempts to find “common ground” and a “Third Way.”
Sounds about right. Well, it seems that in some ways, the chickens have come home to roost. Pierce is correct to warn us not to assume that the Tea Party’s “let’s burn this mother down
!” approach will result in a pendulum swing back to the democrats. Moreover, a swing of power to the democrats doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the contemporary era of post-Clinton Democratic policy, which speaks the language of populism but legislates in the language of neo-liberal, light austerity. Decades of this hybrid, small government liberalism, and the establishment Democrats have failed to articulate an actionable plan out of this era of perpetual crisis, and the allowed a minority, radicalized right-wing to steer the national narrative at the level of electoral politics.
One can argue that the Tea Party faction of Congress were bankrolled and put in power by powerful, right-wing corporate interests targeting gerrymandered districts, but that only tells part of the story. When the Tea Party protests first began in early 2009, many on the left, particularly the liberal left, derided and mocked the protesters. I have distinct memories of watching Rachel Maddow barely contain herself, smirking and tossing innuendos while repeatedly uttering the words “tea-bagger”, “tea-bagging”, and so on. These people were not taken seriously, and yet here we are four years later, dealing with the real consequences. At the time, Noam Chomsky warned against this approach
The tragedy is that the protests are being organized by pretty much the same sectors that are creating the crisis… It’s a real failure of the activist movements, the left, the peace movements, and so on, that we’re not organizing them. I think that’s the question we ought to ask.
These people have real grievances… I listen to them a lot, they’re interesting. If you sort of suspend disbelief, you forget about reality of the world, and just [listen]… the message that comes across has an internal logic to it. It’s coherent, it gives answers to people who want answers, who need them, and deserve them. They’re crazy answers, but they’re not hearing any others. These are people who have done everything right, Christian, god-fearing, take care of their families, and for 30 years they’ve been shafted.
The memory that comes to my mind, I don’t want to press the analogy to hard but I think it’s worth thinking about, is late Weimar Germany. These were people with real grievances, the Nazis gave them an answer. It’s the fault of the Jews, and the Bolsheviks, we gotta protect ourselves from them, and that’ll take care of your grievances. And we know what happened Germany in the 1920’s was the peak of civilization in the arts, and sciences, highly democratic, functioning democratic institutions… a decade later, it was the pits of human history. Again, the analogy is not close, but it’s frightening.
Clearly, the shut down of the government over the Affordable Care Act is an insane act of political euthanasia, and the Tea Party faction of Congress is pulling the trigger. But how did we get here? I take the Chomsky position on this one: It’s a collaborative effort between establishment liberals in the Democratic Party, and the failure of the activist left to organize working people before the right could. Many of these areas were once union strongholds, and the current political generation is the child of the death of working class movements.
In a week and a half, we face the prospect that the Tea Party faction will prevent the raising of the debt ceiling. As if the shutdown wasn’t enough, this could screw our economy pretty badly. No rational actors want this to happen, neither voters nor corporate business interests. Under normal circumstances, one could hope that the political game of chicken would lead to a rational outcome, one way or the other. But the Tea Party congressmen don’t appear to be rational actors
On Wednesday, Obama hosted 14 chief executives from the nation’s biggest financial firms for more than an hour of meetings. Moreover, the Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Congress signed by about 250 business groups urging no shutdown and warning that a debt ceiling crisis could lead to an economic disaster. They say that the policy disputes over health care and spending that are separating Democrats and Republicans should be debated later.
At the time of writing, it appears that John Boehner is going to attempt to prevent or delay this from happening
. But even if it doesn’t, the Tea Party faction of Congress will remain relevant for at least another year, and likely for a couple more cycles. This is a game that’s been going on since 2011, when the debt-ceiling fight first raged, and it’s possible we’ll have a government on the verge of shutdown every two years, if the left doesn’t offer an alternative vision to the cult of the “free-market”.
Essentially, we have a right-wing corporate class that has lost control over it’s own creation. The base is angry, concentrated, and radically anti-government. The elected officials are so incredibly stupid and ideological, that we can barely call them rational actors. In addition, we have an establishment Democratic Party that pays lip service to working people, while taking no action on jobs, and stagnant wages, and ignores or actively persecutes grassroots, working class social movements.
So what does that mean for the rest of us? In the short term, the Democrats must hold the line and even radicals such myself ought to support them. The ACA is problematic, but brings us a step closer to single-payer. While the Democratic Party remains a left-wing variant of corporate, pro-austerity neo-liberalism, the ACA is one of the few substantial (if half-hearted) achievements of the establishment left in decades. The recent upsurge in populist social movements, as well as the rise of populism in electoral politics at some local and municipal levels, is a sign that we may again possibly hope to pressure the Democratic Party into taking serious action to restore employment and raise wages, but only if we continue to agitate. No more compromises to the right, neither the right of the GOP nor the right of the Democratic Party.
Otherwise, we’re faced with two paths: the slow death of the working class via the Democrats, or a fast catastrophic death of the working class via the Tea Party GOP.
Then again, if all else fails, there’s always revolution. And don’t pretend like you weren’t thinking it in the back of your head, even as a joke. Because sooner or later, it will come to that.