Interesting and cogent argument being made here at Truthout by Mike Elk – Martin Luther King Would Have Loved the Teabaggers, Not Called Them Racists. What Mr. Elk is saying is that a good part of the Tea Bagger movement is being driven by nothing more than fear, a good part of which has been developed through the 30 year decline in real income and purchasing power of the working class. I agree with some of his argument – but there are a couple of sticky points along the way –
A few weeks ago, I attended the teabagger protests in DC. The thing I noticed the most about the folks there was that, for the most part, they were friendly, nice, hardworking people. Sure, there were some crazies; sure, there were some racists. For the most part, though, they looked like the type of folks I grew up with in the labor movement, coming to DC to enjoy a protest and spend the rest of the weekend taking in some monuments and museums. These weren’t rich suburbanites; the teabaggers I saw were mainly poor people, whose trip to DC were probably the only the vacation they would be able to afford this year.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, I had known many poor white people, but they all seemed to vote for Democrats because they had manufacturing jobs and were union members. Gradually, though, the unions – which were a means of educating people about politics – evaporated under the anti-union policies of Democrats and Republicans alike. I saw more and more strong Democrats turn Republican as they began to distrust a Democratic Party that took away their jobs with policies like NAFTA and one after another massive corporate giveaway.
Even recently, my own grandmother, a lifelong Democrat, admitted to my mother that she was unsure about health care reform because of the “death panels.”
Is my grandmother some sort of stupid, racist, teabagging reactionary? I think not. This is the woman who, after all, told me stories about how she was called a “Mediterranean n**ger” growing up and was sympathetic to the experience of African-Americans. But has my grandmother been lied to by Democrats and Republicans alike and seen her standard of living decline over the past 30 years? Sure. And has this led my grandmother to the point where she is so confused about what to believe that she simply doesn’t trust government because, mostly, what government has done is hurt her over the last 30 years? Without a doubt.
As Sara Robinson argues in her must-read piece analyzing the rise of the teabagger movement among working-class Americans:
No democracy in history has ever survived with our current levels of inequality. There’s no reason for the middle and working classes to trust anything about a system that’s so clearly rigged to suck money straight out of their pockets into the tax-free offshore bank accounts of the wealthy – who, of course, turn right around and use that money to buy off our government, so they can suck up even more of our economy for themselves.People are confused. They are angry, and they have little faith in government. … (more)
No small part of the mess we are in as a country right now stems from the white working class allegiance to conservatism and Republicans, starting with Raygun. This very same group sold their soul to Raygun, largely based on Carter’s failure as a President to preserve national pride. Raygun’s ascension marked the beginning of the massive decline in earning and buying power of the middle class in America. Bush Uno continued that, selling those manufacturing and blue collar jobs to China – ending an era of Post WWII economic growth for the middle class which didn’t show any signs of resuscitation except for a few short years under Clinton. And NAFTA is the problem?
The Bushit massively empowered the corporate hegemony in the country – including massive giveaways to the banks which created credit facilities, and collected interest rates to 36%. Interest rates which the Mafia couldn’t loan money on. The result of this was to burden the middle and working class with a debt structure that stole any possible opportunity to improve themselves. Then conservatives kneecapped the working class with a restructuring of Bankruptcy Laws – creating the modern form of a Debtor’s Prison.
Now, there is no question that some Democrats (in some cases a whole lot of) Democrats sold out along the way, and functioned as enablers – but that isn’t the whole story here. The story goes like this –
As a Progressive, you can sit down with some of the “Tea Bagger” folks, and you can lay out in statistics, and with numbers, and with correlating irrefutable evidence point by point scientifically. The beauty of the Internet is you can research this isht from Universities, Government Agencies, and real economists – and lay out the whole freaking ugly picture of how they have been reamed again and again…
And every single time, their answer isn’t based on the logical, or reason – but the emotional – it is ALWAYS, “I feel pain, and it is Obama who f’ed up”.
Now, MLK also said –
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
Mark Twain, paraphrasing Ben Franklin said –
You can’t reason a man out of a position that reason didn’t get him into in the first place.
So no – MLK wouldn’t have any respect for the Tea Baggers. And it is in no small part racism which drives them. Just because it isn’t the put on the white hood, and lynch Emmit Till type – doesn’t man it isn’t the same old problem.