Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A (comparatively) cheerful post, for once: Naomi Wolf and the Tea Parties

My feelings towards the Tea Party movement, and the public protests against the current administration's policies in general, have generally been favorable but pessimistic: It's nice to see a popular movement opposing the galloping statism of the bailouts, the stimulus, and health care "reforms," but my expectation has been that the movement would be taken over and neutered by establishment conservatives or simply fade away once Obama was out of office. I remember the Right during the Clinton years, and there was a lot of simmering antistatist anger that I still think might have remained a significant force were it not for the fact that the growth of government and outrages like Waco and Ruby Ridge became too identified with the Democratic Party and especially with a specific person, Bill Clinton, rather than with statism as such.

The hostility to the Tea Party movement shown by the media and liberal political establishment has been more ferocious than anything I can remember in American politics in my lifetime. It should never be forgotten that, beneath the cheery blather about "dialogue" and "conversation," the romantic rhetoric about average Americans making themselves heard, and the sticky spots on the backs of their cars where their "Dissent is Patriotic" bumper stickers used to be, mainstream American liberals/progressives are every bit as intolerant, hysterical, and fascistic as any neocon.

So, here's some news that I find heartening: Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth, The End of America, etc.), who has been a vociferous critic of the Bush administration, has been saying some favorable things about the Tea Party movement. Wolf has already demonstrated more principle than a lot of the Left, in that she actually thinks that things that were wrong when Bush did them remain wrong enough to speak out about even when the president is not a Republican. Wolf has shown some sympathies with libertarianism before- she actually had a podcast discussion with Lew Rockwell where the two got on remarkably well. (The fact that she was able to actually conceive the possibility of someone opposing the current administration for reasons other than racism, greed, corporate brainwashing, or sheer wickedness and took the unorthodox step of actually talking and interacting with a number of Tea Party supporters and trying to understand why they would think and feel the way they do also helped, I'm sure.)

She's commented on the movement in this article and in an interview at Truthout, and I was favorably impressed. She points out some essential issues that are usually ignored in commentary on the Tea Parties, such as the tension between the movement's libertarian-leaning members and establishment conservatives. She also points out the fact that the Tea Parties began not because of the health care debate, but from opposition to the hundreds of billions spent by both parties on bailouts and government "stimulus"- an orgy of cronyism and corporate welfare that makes the Democratic Party's condemnations of greedy "special interests" seem like a bad joke. She even has good things to say about the Tea Partiers' support for property rights and the right to bear arms.

As usual, the reality of Obama's administration- as opposed to the rhetoric- has no shortage of things people on the Left who are genuinely anti-plutocracy (as opposed to merely pro-state) ought to abhor as much as any libertarian. It could be quite valuable to have them as part of popular opposition to Obama's polices, as a counterweight to conservative attempts to turn the movement into an appendage of the Republican Party.

If nothing else, it's nice to be reminded that there are, in fact, people on the Left who consider a government that continues to gut civil liberties and due process, hand out billions upon billions upon billions of dollars to rich crony capitalists, and rain death on innocent people in senseless wars more objectionable than peasants with the temerity to say mean things to their rulers.

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