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October 22, 2010 3:17 AM   Subscribe

In a follow on to her 2009 series "Fascist America" (part I, part II, part III) Sara Robinson asks "Is this election the next turn?"

Bonus Robert O. Paxton links.

*"The Five Stages of Fascism" (pdf)
*"What is Islamofascism?"
posted by IvoShandor (93 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 


A nice sentiment, except when you're actually dealing with Hitler. Guarding against the next Hitler is like the anti-fascist's version of Pascal's Wager: sure it's a really slim chance that the person you despise is the next Hitler, but it would really suck to fall asleep at the wheel on that one!
posted by hincandenza at 3:36 AM on October 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Time to move to Canada!
posted by londonmark at 3:43 AM on October 22, 2010


I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler.

You know who else wasn't Hitler? Mussolini. Neither was Franco.

I understand the rhetorical problems that come about from calling your opponents Nazis and fascists -- it tends to shut down debate. But that doesn't mean legitimate parallels can't be drawn. In fact the crazy anti-Muslim stuff that's coming out of the right right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 AM on October 22, 2010 [30 favorites]


In fact the crazy anti-Muslim stuff that's coming out of the right right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

When this is understood in the context of the Right attempting to link Obama (and liberals in general) directly to Muslims, it sounds even more like what happened in Germany. But, as the article points out, people with Fascist tendencies are always with us. It is not enough to point out that they are around - the argument is about whether they will achieve and hold power. I find the prospect simultaneously unlikely and terrifying.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:24 AM on October 22, 2010


I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler.

From Part II:
Writing about fascism for an American audience is always a fraught business. Invariably, a third of the readers will dismiss the topic (and your faithful blogger's basic sanity) out of hand. Either they've got their own definition of fascism and whatever's going on doesn't seem to fit it; or else they're firm believers in a variant of Godwin's Law.
posted by klue at 4:28 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fascism came about as a direct result of two pretty rare and devastating events: the first world war and the Great Depression. The destruction of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy largely destroyed the fascist movement driving its few supporters back to the fringe where they would mix with other far right groups, but never returning to prominence (though creating some odd and nasty fringe organizations).

So, when I hear people on the left scream fascism, I tend to roll my eyes. To me it is equivelent to people on the right seeing communism everywhere. By taking a policy you dislike and then associating it with the most extreme behavior of the left or right you are really removing any sense of nuance and sort of Godwining the debate. Which is sad, because there are real concerns about Tea Party ideas that need to be confronted. But labeling people fascists really shuts down debate. A bunch of crazy white people with some biggoted ideas and poor sign making abilities does not a goose-stepping menace make.

I mean, I consider Bush to have been Stuart like in his disregard for the law and abuse of executive privilidge. But you don't see me shouting down Republicans as being Jacobites. I'm not complaining that we need a Dutch Prince to come and save the day. History provides all sorts of sound lessons, but you really have to be clever with it. And calling Tea Partiers fascists is hardly clever or correct.
posted by boubelium at 4:30 AM on October 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


For Fuck's Sake.
posted by empath at 4:41 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's funny he should ask. Because this coming election may, in fact, be a critical turning point on that road.

If the apocalypse doesn't arrive in 2012, maybe it will come after that.
posted by chavenet at 4:42 AM on October 22, 2010


But labeling people fascists really shuts down debate.

I thought that really needed correction. I hate to admit it because I am guilty of it myself, but blanketly labeling folks as Tea Baggers shuts down debate just as much as the Tea Party's labeling of everything they dislike as Socialist.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:48 AM on October 22, 2010


Calling your political opponents fascist is essentially saying that they must by stopped by any means necessary. If you truly believe that they are fascist, then you'd be justified in killing them, throwing them in prison, doing whatever it takes to keep them out of power.
posted by empath at 4:52 AM on October 22, 2010


Fascism came about as a direct result of two
pretty rare and devastating events : the first
world war and the Great Depression.

I agree it's a bit melodramatic to compare the tea party with national socialism but it's also possible to view its emergence in the context of two similarly rare, if not quite as devastating, events: the war on terror and the global financial crisis.
posted by londonmark at 4:56 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you truly believe that they are fascist , then you'd be justified in killing them, throwing them in prison , doing whatever it takes to keep them out of power.

That's a fascist rationale; it's absurd to turn it on opponents of fascism.
posted by londonmark at 5:03 AM on October 22, 2010


In fact the crazy stuff that's coming out of the Muslim world right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

In fact the crazy stuff that's coming out of the Christian world right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

In fact the crazy stuff that's coming out of the Republican world right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

In fact the crazy stuff that's coming out of the Israel right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

Turns out, crazy stuff is crazy. It's also in the minority.
posted by stavrogin at 5:23 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've noticed that anybody who dislikes Jews sort of sounds like a Nazi.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:26 AM on October 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I agree it's a bit melodramatic to compare the tea party with national socialism

Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, dude, at least it's an ethos.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:27 AM on October 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


So you don't think your 'fascist' opponents are going to get us involved in WWIII, eliminate democracy and commit genocide if they get into power?

What's your point? Are you trying to ask me if I think it's ok to kill or imprison people who have a different political viewpoint to my own? Do I even need to answer that question for you?
posted by londonmark at 5:43 AM on October 22, 2010


The trouble with everything getting measured up next to fascism is that it tends to drown out other comparisons to other historical precendents that may in fact be more instructive. In the Tea Party's case, Poujadism.
posted by WPW at 5:45 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Franco and Salazar didn't get involved in a world war. They just completely shut down political freedom in Spain and Portugal for half a century.

Fascism doesn't mean Nazi.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:49 AM on October 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm convinced that the human race is running up against a serious lexographical crisis, though because of the nature of the problem, most people are not aware of it. What am I talking about?

I'm suggesting that we need to stop using words which are out of date and which were created at times in history and are specific to those times and those events.

Why are we still using the word fascism in the modern age? It's an Italian word, used by Mussolini, based on some bullshit idealization of an ancient Italian ethnic group's bundle of sticks indicating authority. It was then applied to other movements which could be considered similar at the time, Nazi Germany, Franco, et cetera.

Similarly, communism doesn't exist. North Korea is not communist, it's a bizzare personality-cult totalitarian regime built on pseudo-Confucian filial-piety propagandist philosophy and ubiquitous surveillance. Stalinism was not communism, and Stalinism is over.

Socialism is what? No one can agree on a definition. Scholars will protest: "No, it means this" but almost no one in the real world understands or uses the word to mean what scholars say it is. And five scholars in a room will have five different definitions.

Capitalism doesn't exist. I mean, what is it, really? Every 'capitalist' country has different economic systems, different laws, different politics. The United States is capitalist, and so is England, but they're very, very different in fundamental ways. Ditto for Canada, Australia, South Africa, Iceland, Russia. I mean, is Russia a capitalist country now? Really? Or something else? Japan is some weird blend of extreme consumer capitalism and extreme conservative socialism. What is China? Seems like the most capitalist country on Earth when I visit there, and yet people insist on calling it communist.

My point is:

We need new words.

Seriously.

I am begging you, scholars of the word, economists, sociologists, political scientists, whoever and where-ever you are - please make some new words so we can start actually having meaningful discussions about what is really going on.

/wipes furrowed brow
posted by jet_manifesto at 5:50 AM on October 22, 2010 [76 favorites]


I think the point empath's making is that if you're talking about the country descending into fascism, you have to presume that this will involve purges of unwanted elements, up to and including death camps or the like. Not to mention the country with the most powerful military in the world turning into an aggressive, ultra-nationalist dictatorship. In the face of that threat, "When do we buy guns to make this stop," is not an idle question.

Short version: It's time to "kill or imprison people who have a different political viewpoint to my own" when that viewpoint is that I should be deported or killed.
posted by dellsolace at 5:51 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the Tea Party's case, Poujadism.

Wait, the Tea Party is like the French? I am filled with delight!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:57 AM on October 22, 2010


I think the point empath's making...
For Fuck's Sake.
posted by empath at 7:41 AM on October 22 [1 favorite +] [!]
I think people are aware of the quality of the point being made.
posted by ServSci at 6:02 AM on October 22, 2010


When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and riding a mobility scooter.
posted by ryoshu at 6:10 AM on October 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


ryoshu: "When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and riding a mobility scooter ."

The Redcoats are coming!

You realise that's a video from the UK, right?
posted by Happy Dave at 6:19 AM on October 22, 2010


jet_manifesto: "North Korea is not communist, it's a bizzare personality-cult totalitarian regime built on pseudo-Confucian filial-piety propagandist philosophy and ubiquitous surveillance. Stalinism was not communism, and Stalinism is over."

How does North Korea fail to qualify as fascist? They have a laughable title for the guy in power, lots of sabre-rattling, zero political freedom, and state control of industry, just for starters. In the case of NK, I disagree that we need a new word.
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:22 AM on October 22, 2010


jet_manifesto, you make a susust point, but I think your ered is vletto, and so you are just too monobovucucist to really snup this chreas. Perhaps you are a fluggist, and so itirizate furrin quardor this post.

As a scholar of words, I beg you all to learn what they mean. Capitalism, socialism, fascism, these all describe real things and patterns. Yes, things are different from other things, but there are also similarities. We don't need new words, we need people to start using words properly. This means you.
posted by fuq at 6:25 AM on October 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


Fascist is not the same thing as Nazi, and no one is saying that Fascism in America would be a repeat of Hitler's Germany with different insignias. Paxton's definition of fascism, used in the main link (the one some of us have actually read before commenting) is:

...a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Robinson is not saying that we are necessarily going all the way to fascism. She makes that very clear. But she does insist it's a possibility that needs to be monitored and worked against. (By such extreme measures as voting and talking to your friends--you guys who are going on about killing proto-fascists are constructing a straw man far removed from anything Robinson ever dreams of advocating.)

We may not get there and I hope we don't. But in light of the fact that America is now the home of:

-warrantless wiretapping
-GPS tracking devices placed on the cars of Arab-Americans
-waterboarding and other means of torture
-secret prisons in Europe
-Gitmo, specially created as a place where we can hold people without representation or the rights they might exercise inside our borders
-a war (Iraq) begun for no justification that holds up to scrutiny
-protests against mosques or even Islamic cultural centers
-Fox News, which is basically the propaganda arm of the extreme right
-increasingly extreme rhetoric/proposed solutions regarding illegal immigrants
-extreme anti-science and superstitious views on climate chance and evolution

and given the fact that most of this stuff--if not all of it--is supported by the most influential and powerful voices in the Republican party, and that they are calling liberal (really, centrist) leadership traitors, socialists and, well, fascists, anyone who tries to mentally extrapolate where this could lead in the next decade and comes up with less than a 10% chance of outright fascism just isn't paying attention. The tools are there, and I don't have any reason to think that the right combination of GOP/Tea Party leaders wouldn't put them to use.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:30 AM on October 22, 2010 [37 favorites]


Rat Spatula, I think you just confirmed my point. North Korea is rarely called fascist. In the media they are consistently labeled communist, or, if the political journalist is feeling particularly proud of his/her historiographical profundity, Stalinist. Which of the three do you think applies best? My opinion is that none of them do, and they are all loose and often misleading labels that allow us to put the object in question in a neat little box and file it away under "Understood" when in fact we understand it not at all.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:31 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The destruction of Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy largely destroyed the fascist movement driving its few supporters back to the fringe where they would mix with other far right groups, but never returning to prominence


Complete and utter bullshit. After WWII Fascism just became institutionalized and morphed into corporatism. The Tea Party movement was strategically planned by American corporate hierarchy as a weapon to stem what they saw as a reckoning to the abuses they have been given carte blanche to launch on the American public by a complicit and complacent Congress for the last 30 years. Mussolini defined fascism as the perfect marriage of government and corporate power - does anyone here believe that idea is not prominent in America culture?
posted by any major dude at 6:33 AM on October 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fuq, I agree that people should use words correctly. The problem is, they never have, never do, and never will. Words are tools. They can be used for good or ill. What I see a lot when people raise certain "loaded" words (for example, fascism, communism, capitalism, terrorism, conservative, liberal...the list is very long) is manipulation of words for rhetorical (read: mind-altering) purposes. It's the bread-and-butter of the propagandist/PR/political psychology/marketing/mind-control business. I worked in marketing for years, and know just how conscious that manipulation is.

To state my point more clearly, I'm suggesting is that these words have become so saturated with distorted, misleading and multiple significations as to be (possibly) beyond redemption. I'm not talking about discussions between academics, of course. I'm talking about discussions between members of the general public, in places like internet boards. When everyone in the conversation has wildly divergent and heavily loaded definitions of half the words being deployed, conversation devolves into a meaningless mess of dueling monologues and oblivious misunderstanding.

Perhaps I will restate my point: we need fresh words, to describe the situation of the here and now. The political philosophy of the extreme right in [insert country] may be analogous to fascism, but it is not actually fascism.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:44 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Calling your political opponents fascist is essentially saying that they must by stopped by any means necessary. If you truly believe that they are fascist, then you'd be justified in killing them, throwing them in prison, doing whatever it takes to keep them out of power."

I don't think that's true. In fact, I'm quite sure it's not true.

It's entirely possible to vote would-be fascists out of power by legal means, up until the moment they've established political power and begin dismantling democracy by means of state-sanctioned violence. In fact, that's what she's advocating.

Things have origins. They arise from conditions. She's saying that current conditions in America are increasingly similar to ones which have led some states into fascism -- and, crucially, failed to lead other states into fascism, either because the would-be fascists bungled the takeover or because everybody else woke up and reacted against them in time.

She's writing in the hope that we can be one of the latter states.

Saying "if they're fascists it must be OK to kill them!" seems to be a sentiment that proceeds from the "nazis were the ultimate evil upon the planet Earth" theory, which is pretty common in America. We didn't go kill all the Nazis even after we won the war; we put them on trial (and did kill some of them, but only if they were convicted of capital crimes). Nazis were human beings and they were doing things that human beings do under certain circumstances. Thinking that they were some kind of force of ultimate Satanic evil both fuels the notion that the forces of Good ought to stop them by any violence necessary, and that ordinary humans like modern Americans could never go down that path. Neither is true.
posted by edheil at 6:50 AM on October 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Perhaps I will restate my point: we need fresh words, to describe the situation of the here and now.

The fresh words that we need to describe the here and now will be manipulated and distorted as feverishly as the old ones.
posted by blucevalo at 6:50 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, blucevalo, they will, and they are. Kinda scary, isn't it?
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:55 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fascist parties almost never enjoy majority support at any stage -- but being a minority faction is only a problem in a functioning democracy. It's no problem at all if you're willing to use force to get your way ... There are only a few days left before the election.

So...the solution is what? Knocking on doors? Convincing people to vote Democrat? If this is a real threat, and part of the reason it emerges is because, in part, the right "refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner"...and if people are burned out on that Left as it moves steadily rightward, what, exactly, are we supposed to be offering as an alternative when we knock on those doors?

The problem isn't a right-wing splinter group gaining power. The power has always been there, it's just getting shuffled into shiny new boxes for better marketing.
posted by mittens at 6:58 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fresh words that we need to describe the here and now will be manipulated and distorted as feverishly as the old ones.

Right, but I think he's saying that just as we didn't declaim the Axis Powers as 'the new feudalism!' but rather used contemporaneous language to describe them, we shouldn't use words that describe things that are now dead 70 years in order to explain why we dislike something.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:07 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


From the great interview with John Le Carré from RogerB's post the other day:

"Mussolini, I think, defined fascism as the moment when you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between political and corporate power. He assumed, when he offered that definition, that media power was already his."
posted by Trochanter at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


jet_manifesto: Yes, blucevalo, they will, and they are. Kinda scary, isn't it?

It is. (I wasn't disagreeing with you.)

shakespeherian: Right, but I think he's saying that just as we didn't declaim the Axis Powers as 'the new feudalism!' but rather used contemporaneous language to describe them, we shouldn't use words that describe things that are now dead 70 years in order to explain why we dislike something.

That assumes that we're capable of coming up with new words. We can describe "staycations" and "zombie bankers." We can describe "unfriending" and "tweetups." Hardcore complex political situations, not so much.
posted by blucevalo at 7:14 AM on October 22, 2010


Pater Aletheias, the problem with lists like that is that they've always been true.

Before the exclusionary rule was forced onto the states in 1961, you will find that beating (ie, torturing) confessions out of prisoners was woefully common, and that state governments violated the privacy rights of their citizens with comical frequency. You will find many wars taken with no good reason, or indeed explicitly to conquer someone else's land. You will find not protests against mosques or religious buildings from minority religions, but rather find them simply being burned to the ground and their worshipers killed or run out of town with the tacit approval of the government. You will find the Klan proudly marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. You will find numerous and popular publications that make Fox News look moderate. You will find immigrants reviled. You will find Jim Crow in all his glory. You will find people actually punished by the state for teaching evolution.

As boubelium notes, it's not that different than getting email forwards about how "HERE ARE THE ELEMENTS OF SOCIALISM" and OMG look how many Obama is doing!!!

In fact the crazy anti-Muslim stuff that's coming out of the right right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

So did the crazy anti-Irish stuff and the crazy anti-German stuff and the crazy anti-Scandinavian stuff and the crazy anti-Italian stuff and the crazy anti-black stuff and the crazy anti-Jewish stuff that has flowed like a river from American mouths almost without pause since approximately forever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:14 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


if you're talking about the country descending into fascism, you have to presume that this will involve purges of unwanted elements, up to and including death camps or the like

"purges of unwanted elements": I would say that the Republican party has already had/is already having its own internal purges.

"Up to and including death camps and the like": I don't think this is necessarily true at all. The U.S.'s most recent flirtations with fascism - McCarthyism (which was kept at bay by the separation of powers) and Eisenhower's anti-immigration policies and political repression (most famously embodied in Operation Wetback) never reached the heights of European fascism, but these things come in all shapes and sizes.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 7:24 AM on October 22, 2010


-warrantless wiretapping
-GPS tracking devices placed on the cars of Arab-Americans
-waterboarding and other means of torture
-secret prisons in Europe
-Gitmo, specially created as a place where we can hold people without representation or the rights they might exercise inside our borders
-a war (Iraq) begun for no justification that holds up to scrutiny
-protests against mosques or even Islamic cultural centers
-Fox News, which is basically the propaganda arm of the extreme right
-increasingly extreme rhetoric/proposed solutions regarding illegal immigrants
-extreme anti-science and superstitious views on climate chance and evolution


There's a very important item left off your list:

- the ongoing agenda to drastically undermine Federal government as a tool serving the interests of the general public, and shifting previously governmental functions to private corporate entities that both have drastically reduced public accountability and also funnel what was public money directly to wealthy private interests.
posted by aught at 7:26 AM on October 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


Nothing to see here. Move along people.

As soon as there's something to worry about, somebody will crack you over the head with it.
posted by General Tonic at 7:27 AM on October 22, 2010


America is proto-fascist in it's foreign policy. The question is whether the secret prisons, extra-judicial assassinations, for-profit eternal war, and destruction of human rights is coming inside the border to save the homeland from terrorism. Some of that has happened in the past and I'm not sure I understand why anyone believes it can't happen again.

In related news, the Pentagon is warning media not to cover the WikiLeaks Iraq War documents that are coming out tomorrow. What sort of democracy are we supposed to have when the government is pushing around the fourth estate?
posted by notion at 7:27 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]




In the middle of the article, Sara points out there are three broad outcomes and we'll know which is which in a couple of weeks:

1) Total slapdown of the right.

2) They get a piece of the action, but not total control.

3) It's a sweep for the Tea Party and we're screwed.

#2 seems most likely. We've been on a several-decades long journey to the fringes of the right here in the USofA. This is spooky because we now have the most dynamic faction in the Republican party (and the Tea Party has always been entirely inside the Republican universe) is driven by the most batshit insane issues on the American political scene. None of them are new, but never before have so many been so crazy and been able to get so far with it.

My best guess is that we'll see #2 and the really crazy ones, the infiltrators and subverts with revolutionary right motives, will peel off into overt terrorism next spring. The level of political violence is about the same now as it was in the 1990s - the odd mass murder shooting, a plane crashing into a government building, the arrest of a some really inept terrorist cells like the Hutaree, etc. ad nauseum.

So the election will split off the people who were attracted to the noise but never had any commitment to the electoral process (Tim McVeigh wasn't ever engaged in elections) and they will start acting out violently.

The violence will have a sobering effect on a handful and most will go into denial, but the momentum will ebb. None of this lends itself to a leftward shift, only a decline in rightward momentum. So it will stop getting worse but it won't start getting better.

The underlying concern is that the pendulum theory of politics is just a description of what's gone on in the past. The swing goes back and forth. But there are times (and times not too different from now) when the swing doesn't reverse itself and instead it loops right over the bar.

There's no invisible hand limiting extremism and the persistence of forms of government is often determined by chaotic and unpredictable forces. And occasionally Dr. Pangloss gets stood up against the wall instead of just maimed.
posted by warbaby at 7:41 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]



Turns out, crazy stuff is crazy. It's also in the minority.


This is true but the problem is that crazy sells papers and advertising. You've got a buttload of 24/7 news channels that need to fill the air with something. Crazy is compelling. The fact it's on tv makes it look like the crazy is taking over.
posted by spicynuts at 7:57 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, so leaving aside arguments about terminology, let's talk about the actual subject at hand: a growing and potentially dangerous political movement that might take the country to a Bad Place.

To avoid the complaining about whether or not it is actually proper to call this proto-Fascism, and whether the end result could be legitimately called Fascism [1], let's just call it "Bad".

There is no denying that the Tea Party is following a pattern we've seen in previous Bad political movements, and we know that while these movements are almost always around they often fail to take power and become Fully Bad.

The question before us, therefore, is "can we stop the Tea Party from taking enough power to make America Fully Bad? Or, for that matter, to even get us Partially Bad?"

A big part of the problem is that we do have a lingering governmental problem, namely that the filibuster in the Senate permits a minority party to completely shut down the government [2].

Another big part of the problem is that the country is still in a deep economic crisis, a social crisis due to our insanely high prison population, etc. The basic social contract is breaking down, that encourages the growth of Bad political movements.

The economic problems, especially when coupled with the virtual shutdown of the government by the Republicans, produces a legitimate feeling that the country is seriously messed up and that something must change. I argue that we should get rid of the filibuster so the government can actually function again, and the class war being so successfully waged by the ultra wealthy on everyone else. The Bad political movement, however, argues the exact opposite. Being a minority they like, indeed depend on, the fact that they can keep the government frozen and use that inaction as grounds for expansion of their own power. The Bad political movement also likes the widening gap between rich and poor as it funnels more people into their camp.

Which brings us to the real question: is there any chance at all that the good guys, both Republican and Democrat, have the whatittakes to do what needs to be done, to end the filibuster and stop various things that are being done to exacerbate the economic and political problems facing us?

Frankly I'm doubtful, and that scares me.

warbaby I'm not so confident of #2 myself, nor that they will wait for violence and outright intimidation until 2012. We're already seeing death threats being sent to groups registering poor and black/hispanic voters. We're already seeing Tea Party goons at early voting places in poor, black and hispanic districts. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see violence from the Tea Party this time around in an attempt to prevent brown people from voting. Heck, back in 2008 we saw armed thugs in Florida scaring away black voters.

Look to Texas especially. The Tea Party is heavily invested in Perry, and he's unpopular even among moderate Republicans so his chances are a lot more slim than you'd expect in a state as deeply Republican as Texas. Houston Tea Partiers are already trying to stop brown people from voting in that city.

That's just for early voting, wait until we get to election day. We'll see the most violence, of course, in the more conservative places where they're already a majority. I doubt we'll see Tea Party taking much violent action outside their strongholds. But if it works this time it will be much more widespread in 2012, and even limited vote suppression in more conservative areas can greatly increase the number of Tea Party candidates winning this year.

Remember the Republican riots during the vote recount back during 2000? Back then they had to start and organize the riots themselves, the rioters were almost all Republican Congressional pages and interns bussed down for the explicit purpose of rioting. This time they don't need to do that, they've got readymade rioters. Expect to see recounts on any tight race disrupted by 2000 style riots and worse.

But I do expect to see increasing voter intimidation this time around. The big news story will be Tea Party thugs "exercising their second amendment rights" outside polling places in majority black and hispanic areas.

[1] For the record, yes and yes, but I don't want to argue about that right now.

[2] Note that, for example, Obama still doesn't even have all of his Executive positions filled due to never ending Republican filibustering of all appointments. He's two years into his presidency and he doesn't even have a full staff yet because of the filibuster, think about that for a moment.
posted by sotonohito at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's not just the Democratic Party and liberals who have something to fear from the Tea Party movement - the establishment Republican structure does as well, just ask Bob Bennett or Mike Castle. The Republicans will use the inchoate anger of this movement as a means to power, but will do everything to prevent them from taking control. New Tea Party-endorsed Congresspeople and Senators will be welcomed with open arms and then told how to vote - and they will do it or find out just how powerless they are. It's the same relationship the Republicans have had with the Christian Right for decades.

The difference here, I think, is that most of the Tea Parties are focused on economic issues rather than social, which fits into the general Republican plan of deregulation and tax breaks much better than the anti-gay and anti-abortion message of the religious. So they will exert more influence, but they will never be in control - populist movements of any ideology never do.
posted by thewittyname at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2010


in the 1990s

Remember this was followed by (mostly perceived) wealth growth in this country in the forms of real property and finance equity that aren't likely to be in the pipeline for the foreseeable future.

This absence of this makes warbaby's 'loop over the bar' scenario more probable.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:15 AM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


For clarity, I'm not suggesting that the Tea Party organizations will become violent, but rather that the violent revolutionary fringe that is infiltrating the Tea Party will become violent in frustration due to their not being able to get what they want by participating in Tea Party stuff. Much like McVeigh attending a few militia meetings, but never finding what he wanted there.

Don't confuse the bulk of people attracted to Tea Party rhetoric with the smaller number who are very troublesome. This is common in movements and it's necessary to distinguish factions from the whole or you just get dragged down into name-calling.
posted by warbaby at 8:34 AM on October 22, 2010


warbaby I disagree, it is the Tea Party itself that will conduct the violence to the cheers or, at best, indifference, of most of its membership. Look, for example, at how so many Republicans in America reacted to the Kent State shootings, their general attitude was contempt for the victims and sympathy for the poor National Guardsmen who were being so mistreated by the media and public.

I work in the same office as the head of my local Tea Party, I have no doubt at all that she'd be delighted if some of her followers took their guns down to voting places in black/hispanic neighborhoods and scared away a lot of voters. I'm equally certain that, in the event of her people perpetuating outright violence, she'd be able to rationalize it as her fellows valiantly defending themselves against some niggers thugs.

Never underestimate the ability of such people to blame the victim.

Part of the problem is that they see goodness as an attribute, something inherent, rather than an action. From her POV some people and groups simply **ARE** good, thus anything they do is, at absolute worst, a misunderstanding. She doesn't see goodness as something people do, she doesn't say "ah, this person has done good things", but rather "this person is good, therefore what they do must be good as well".

The counterpart to this is the view that other people simply **ARE** bad, nothing they do can ever be more than a ruse to garner undeserved sympathy or a trick to make the foolish think that they possess the attribute of goodness.

She knows that the Tea Party is good (definitonally), ergo any violence they commit is courageous and necessary.
posted by sotonohito at 8:50 AM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Opponents of a movement rarely get to define and label the opposition with a tag that sticks.
The movement defines itself and comes up with it's own terminology. We didn't come up with the words Nazi and Fascism. The movements came up with them themselves. They could have called themselves the Happy Pink Bunny Party, but if they did the same things, with the same result, then Furries might be outlawed all over Europe.
Some day, Tea Party might just be a reviled term like Nazi and Fascism, but only if opposition is vigilant.

(Exceptions exist, modern right for example have been doing their best to re-define socialism, freedom, etc. with complicit co-operation from right wing media outlets. They know that if they can redefine the terms used in debate, they win, or at least cover the entire debate with stinking schadenfreude thick enough to hide their true motivations.)
posted by Balisong at 9:03 AM on October 22, 2010


Time to move to Canada!

Bad Move. When the shit hits the fan guess who's gonna get pinned in an oil sands headlock and forced to wear the France Pants?
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:23 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


CynicalKnight, this is a total derail, but apparently that thought has been around for a while. The opening movie of the first game in the Fallout series depicts "Our dedicated boys keeping the peace in newly annexed Canada" with a video obviously mirroring the iconic photo of Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting Nguyen Van Lem.

I'm a concerned American citizen and therefore I keep a very close eye on American politics. If I were Canadian I'd watch American politics almost as closely.

There's advantages to having a strong neighbor, but if that neighbor goes bats there's big disadvantages too....
posted by sotonohito at 9:37 AM on October 22, 2010


Related: Climate Change Doubt Is Tea Party Article of Faith

“Carbon regulation, cap and trade, it’s all just a money-control avenue. Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too" - Kelly Khuri, founder, Clark County Tea Party Patriots

“Being a strong Christian, I cannot help but believe the Lord placed a lot of minerals in our country and it’s not there to destroy us" - Lisa Deaton, founder, We The People Indiana
posted by gompa at 10:24 AM on October 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Republican House Candidate: Violent Uprising Is 'On The Table' ... and he is just saying what others have been saying in slightly more circumspect way.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:26 AM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When Hitler was really angry, who did he compare his enemies to?

"Sie! Sie sind schlimmer als .... als ... Sie sind ein wirklich, wirklich, schlechter Kerl!"
posted by Xoebe at 10:39 AM on October 22, 2010


> Time to move to Canada!

Earning merely a reprieve ... Harper is Bush-lite (OK, maybe a bit smarter). Anyway, we're about 6 years behind you fucked-upness-wise.
posted by doublesix at 11:29 AM on October 22, 2010


Xoebe, if I run that through babelfish, am I gonna get Rick Rolled?
posted by Trochanter at 12:04 PM on October 22, 2010


CynicalKnight, this is a total derail, but apparently that thought has been around for a while.

The US drew up plans for a Canadian invasion prior to WWII.
posted by empath at 12:12 PM on October 22, 2010


Part of the problem is that they see goodness as an attribute, something inherent, rather than an action

That's an interesting insight, and meshes well with a tendency I have seen in Republicans to believe that life is fair.
i.e. if you're poor, it must be from something you did and deserved. If I'm wealthy, then it's from my own brilliance and skill, not luck or accident of birth.
posted by bitmage at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, backing up Warbaby's position, at least one Republican House candidate is on the record saying that "violent uprising is an option on the table," if he and his ilk don't get the electoral results they want in the midterms.

Lazy talk about Democrats trying to hold progressive votes hostage just makes me laugh in light of stuff like this.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:48 PM on October 22, 2010


oops--madamjujujive beat me to it.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:49 PM on October 22, 2010


In fact the crazy anti-Muslim stuff that's coming out of the right right now sounds -- to me -- a lot like the crap the Nazis spewed about about Jews.

I was actually surprised that there was not more of a backlash after September 11th, but suspect a lot of people have maintained a smoldering anti-Muslim feeling since then, which has become a little more politic to display in the last couple of years. Of course, a great deal of that resentment and disinhibition has to do with the President ethnic and cultural identity. But the trend is not limited to Christianity vs. Islam or even the right particularly. Consider the issue of illegal immigration - not to compete with the observation about Muslims, but to supplement and expand on it.

With high unemployment, skepticism about cross-border trade flows, and legitimate anxiety about the growing power of organized crime in Mexico, it's not surprising that there has been a lot of negative press about illegal immigrants over the last 2 years. It's politically fairly safe to say what you like about illegal aliens because they can't vote and because there's no mileage or even common sense in chanting 'say it loud, I'm illegal and proud,' and thus no spokespersons for the ~11 million or so people in that position. Although it is not necessarily a crime to be in the US without papers, admitting to such places someone outside the civil rights framework most Americans take for granted - sometimes very far outside it. At a class I attended recently exploring the legal relationships between immigrants and the US government, an experienced criminal defense attorney exclaimed 'it's as if the last century hadn't happened!'

The only members of this demographic that can participate directly with relative confidence are younger college-bound people who were brought to the US as infants and thus lack a legal identity, but who have an overwhelming moral case for being granted one. While the GOP members of Congress are shit-scared of voting against the nativist movement, the Democratic party is somewhat at fault too - they kept postponing a legislative response, and when they did introduce the DREAM act it was as a rider to a defense appropriation bill, and that made it easy for Republicans to vote against it but hide behind a figleaf of respect for legislative process.

As an aside, this has been the major strategic error by the Democratic congressional leadership - not the immigration issue in particular, but the practice of legislative coupling. This is essentially a defensive tactic, unbecoming to a party of winners. It confuses and frequently alienates the public and obscures the moral arguments for a policy - a particular failure with policies like ending DADT or the DREAM act, where Democrats can lay claim to the moral and constitutional high ground. It's a complete mystery to me why Harry Reid doesn't set aside several days from every session for GOP filibusters instead of just going along with the outcome of every cloture vote. Let them spend an entire 24 hours explaining why they're afeerd of teh gay, or whatever the issue is. you'd think an ex-boxer would know the value of the 'rope a dope' strategy.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform face several tricky problems. First, they're not just arguing with the GOP or even the right wing. There are many on the left who see free trade only as a corporatist conspiracy, hate NAFTA, and consider illegal aliens to be nothing but job thieves. This is a naive economic view, but politicians are generally terrible at explaining economics or making the case for trade. I'm pro-trade, as you can probably guess, and think that it would work better for everyone if there were free movement of labor as well as capital. Restricting the former while freeing the latter is almost guaranteed to result in economic imbalance. But most people don't want to hear that in a time of high unemployment, and it's only very recently that some large unions have decided to make common cause with working immigrants instead of calling for more protections against them. I'm sorry to say that anti-trade arguments from the left can get mixed up with racism and xenophobia too; sometimes discussions about trade and migration between the US and India, China, or Mexico take an unexpectedly ugly turn. Not that often, but the rational fear of economic insecurity can manifest in irrational ways. For some people it's cognitively easier to focus their resentment downwards, rather than upwards at the source of jobs and paychecks.

Then there's the border. Of course no country wants a free-for-all on its boundaries, it eats at the basic idea of a nation's integrity. We've experienced some horrific terrorism in the US and multiple attempts at more, so worries about security have some basis in fact. And organized crime is a huge problem in Mexico right now, and more prevalent near the US than in the interior. It's not total anarchy as some say, and the US bears far more responsibility than it would care to admit, being a primary exporter of both automatic weapons and cash in exchange for drugs. But those facts are no comfort when one reads of Mexican gangsters flaying the skin off the face of a murder victim and sewing it onto a football. Although violence seems to be abating somewhat, and the US is slowly beginning to think rationally about the drug trade, it's an ongoing problem which has claimed about 30,000 lives so far, including many Mexican public officials. You can't blame people for worrying about it.

But the US has some of the world's longest land borders, and on a practical level it is just not possible to achieve total security along the 2,000 miles that divides the US from Mexico. Look at how much difficulty Israel has had with sealing off Gaza, a small area comparable to a typical US county. The idea that the southern border can simply be fenced of is laughable. When I've challenged fence advocates about this, the least crazymaking response has been 'well, then we'll build two fences - in parallel!' The less-grounded proponents start in on how effective the East German government were when they built a wall, and babbling about minefields and machine gun towers. This is (almost) amusing, since they usually profess to hate socialism but see no irony in the fact that the border became a massive drain on the East German economy. But the less crazy opponents of immigration reform are quite well aware that fully securing the border is impossible; and so every proposal for overhauling the current system is met with a demand that the border be secured first. Of course, even if we did make the whole border look like a war zone, a few people would still get across, just as a few people managed to beat the East German security every year. And so, we would be told, more security would have to come first...

Finally, there's the basic reality that the US is one of the richest countries in the world, and people in other countries appear to be more interested in coming to the US than Americans are interested in being able to settle abroad. So it's natural to assume the US would get swamped if it opened itself to all comers, that selective immigration would lead to backlogs just as long as those which exist now (and let's face it, a lot of people hate those H1b visas even though they're selective), and that regularizing the status of 11 million people at once is going to throw the nation's finances into an even worse mess. I think these assumptions are mistaken, but explaining how and why is difficult when opponents of reform can reach for nice simple slogans like 'secure the border!' or 'enforce the law!' or (when they're feeling intellectually stronger) 'what part of illegal don't you understand!' Except for a few unique cases, comprehensive immigration reform just doesn't lend itself to such soundbite solutions. 'Leverage demographic trends in our favor' isn't much of a rallying cry, nor is 'Reduce economic disparities and promote growth via reciprocity!'. OK, I admit snappier slogans are possible, but snappy is generally shallow, and the sad fact is that bleeding-heart arguments are not very effective - especially not against xenophobic nationalism. Anti-authoritarian arguments are better, but they are also quite difficult to make on behalf of illegal aliens, whose defining characteristic is the lack of official permission to be here.

Politically, the illegal alien population is the perfect target. Un-American as a simple matter of fact, distinctively foreign in appearance, accent, or both - but ethnically diverse enough to derail charges of simple racism; unable to vote or overtly assert any kind of legal rights; poor; present in violation of the law, and frequently guilty of specific criminal acts directly arising from that; lacking a regular tax or credit record; more difficult for the government to track effectively than citizens, especially when the government wants something; usually competing with the least economically successful Americans; and there are over 9000 ten million of them OMG WTF. These basic facts bias debate heavily against illegal aliens from the outset, and given the numbers there are always outrage-worthy news stories from which to cherry-pick specific examples with plenty of scare value. So xenophobic or constituency politicians can harp on about the issue endlessly without fear of major contradiction or need for a coherent policy response, and even progressive reforming politicians have to make a show of how sternly they disapprove.

This is way too long already (as usual...sorry). So I won't attempt to even outline the legislative complexity, judicial frustrations, political absurdities, legal ambiguities and administrative tangle of the US immigration system; it is the Gordian knot of US politics.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:13 PM on October 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


A little perspective on Sara, she moved to Canada during the Dubya years. So she may be a little unhinged, but it's nice to have people like her keeping an eye on things.

(Actually had a bit of a tiff with her while she was posting on Orcinus about her move to Canada, something along the lines of, you left, you can't tell us here in the states how to respond to the "encroaching danger" yada yada yada...)
posted by Max Power at 3:23 PM on October 22, 2010


at least one Republican House candidate is on the record saying that "violent uprising is an option on the table,"

Not that there aren't others making inflammatory comments, but more than anything else this dumb shit like this is what happens when there's nobody sane who'd want to challenge the incumbent and you have to go trolling for a sacrificial lamb. Doubly so in a plurality-black, majority-minority district like the 30th, where you aren't just trying to pry a non-too-embarrassing Republican out from the woodwork, he also needs to be black.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:08 PM on October 22, 2010


Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform face several tricky problems. First, they're not just arguing with the GOP or even the right wing. There are many on the left who see free trade only as a corporatist conspiracy, hate NAFTA, and consider illegal aliens to be nothing but job thieves. This is a naive economic view, but politicians are generally terrible at explaining economics or making the case for trade.

It's not particularly naive, because workers generally understand that "free trade" means that while the wealthy get to keep their jobs, every other job that can reasonably be outsourced, will be. No one is outsourcing doctors, CEOs, or bankers, nor are the folks in those positions in competition with illegal immigrants for their jobs. And while those immigrants are not job thieves, they do allow employers to drop wages to a degree most of us would find unlivable, so that we get the added benefit of pundits proclaiming there are jobs out there that American workers just don't want to do, as though anyone would be a neurosurgeon for 3.25 an hour.

You'd think a politician could make a good case here: Let's make a fast, easy path for immigrants to become citizens, who, now on the books, can help force wages up. But that politician would have to be backed by supporters who weren't profiting off the combination of outsourcing and artificially low wages.
posted by mittens at 4:22 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mittens, what you describe is more of a sociopolitical problem than a purely economic one. Let me expand a little on why I characterized a popular stereotype of trade as economically naive.

First, while it's true that corporate management outsource lots of job and it doesn't keep them awake at night, I disagree that this is part of a deliberate conspiracy to wreck the middle class or suchlike. Rather than conspiring, they are indifferent to the effects here because their goal is to drive costs down. One can point out that with no good jobs here, there won't be as many buyers for their product and this is true. However, the size of a product's market is generally much bigger than the size of the workforce which produces it. So by the numbers, firing all domestic workers and moving production to China where it's much cheaper will only have a marginal impact on sales revenue; if one's job is to maximize revenue, it makes total sense.

Unfortunately, when a large number of firms do this at once, each looking only at their own cost/sales numbers, then we get the current situation where the whole manufacturing sector falls into decline. Economics has unfortunately failed to provide us with a clear answer on how to avoid this or what to do about it, and we need to think up something in a hurry. If we knew what the answer was, we'd have done it by now.

It's not tariffs, for two reasons. One is that we need to export as well, and if other people won't buy our stuff then that will hurt our economy just as much. No company can keep making stuff that people won't buy - whether because of trade policy or because it's just too expensive. The other is that when we use tariffs or subsidies to protect a domestic market from competition, it perpetuates the weakness in our economy instead of overcoming it. When you take all the subsidies and sweatshops out of the equation - which is happening, slowly but surely - labor costs are still much lower overseas because there are a lot more healthy ambitious workers there than here, and their cost of living is also much lower because they live more simply.

You and I, as customers, can vote with our wallets and pick an american-made product over a foreign one when the option is available. But we don't pay that premium if the American product is very bad value, and I have never seen any customer demand a retailer increase prices because they're too low. It's the same for manufacturers. If you have to pay $25 here for the same thing you can get in China for $10, you'd better have a damn good explanation for where the $15 went. If you are Harley-Davidson, maybe you can justify that by saying H-D is the heart and soul of America and bikers are willing to pay $$$$ for their hogs, which they would never spend on an import. If you sell plastic toothpicks, this is not going to work. The thing about a lot of manufacturing jobs is that they are not so specialized that some Chinese person can't do them equally well. That's not a slur on the American worker, but a recognition of the fact that the average Chinese person is also a capable human being, and there are a great many of them who want to work hard and make money. If you won't hire them, one of your competitors will, in the US or in some other country.

This is exactly how America got to be rich in the first place - being able to make products as well as or better than others' offerings for less money. When I was growing up there were still British companies with a tradition of building cars mostly by hand rather than on some soulless assembly line. Did the customers use their hard-earned pounds to uphold this fine tradition of craftsmanship? No, they bought cheaper cars made by Ford and had money left over to spend on other things. Like it or not, the vast majority of consumers around the world buy on price and any company that doesn't take this into account will go out of business. And this is happening across all industries, not just manufacturing but even in the professions.

Another part of the stereotypical view that's naive is illegal aliens being job thieves. This what's called a lump of labor fallacy, the idea that there's only x jobs in the economy so every time somebody is here there are now x-1 jobs remaining. But this overlooks the fact that when people come here to work, they still need to eat and sleep etc., which costs money. So this new arrival increases the level of demand for housing, food and so on, and as demand goes up, more is produced. This is not true for everything; if supply is limited then prices rise instead. But in general it's quite easy and more profitable to increase supply than to raise prices. More production in turn leads to more job creation, and more upward pressure on wages. Those who do complain about job thievery (not you) are only looking at pay and not at how that pay is spent.

You'd think a politician could make a good case here: Let's make a fast, easy path for immigrants to become citizens, who, now on the books, can help force wages up. But that politician would have to be backed by supporters who weren't profiting off the combination of outsourcing and artificially low wages.

Close...but no cigar. First, that devalues citizenship and makes people mad. It takes 5 years of having a green card before you can apply for citizenship in the normal way of things: what you want to do is give people a path to green cards now, and let the people who really want apply for citizenship later. When Obama or whoever talks about a 'path to citizenship' what the nativists hear is 'a path to lots of new voters in the next election cycle who will vote for me!' Immigration reformers would do better not to discuss citizenship at all, because the mechanism for someone who is a permanent resident to become a naturalized citizen actually works OK, more or less. It's the one bit of the system that doesn't need major fixing - because green card holders can be treated just like Americans for everything except voting, and so turning them into citizens is a very minor bureaucratic adjustment compared to taking a completely unknown person and deciding whether or not to give them a green card.

Second there's not much point in talking about rising wages because people interpret that to mean 'higher prices.' Although your observation is mostly true, as the majority of illegal do low-wage jobs, the way to sell this is to talk about having them pay more taxes. Actually it's estimated that about half of all illegals pay taxes now and the social security administration gets to keep the money, so they won't jump up as much as people imagine - but tax revenue will go up. That's not what will push wages up for everyone though - if it was, that'd just be like saying wages are going up because the government is greedy for taxes and people are demanding employers bear the cost.

What really improves wages (and in the economically healthiest way) is the freedom illegal aliens will gain to apply for the jobs where they can make the best money. Right now, it's too big of an economic risk to quit (or not accept) a low-paying job; an immigrant applying for a good job or wanting to start a business has to decide between being shut out due to having no papers, or breaking the law further and using fake documents (which is a felony in most cases). So you might find people working in construction simply because they were unable to get work as a teacher or in an office job or whatever. This doesn't describe all illegal aliens, but it describes enough that it lead to maybe 500k-1 million job changes within the first year as people were able to sell their skills legally to larger businesses. That would be a big economic boost.

Employers do sometimes drop wages, but not nearly as much as you imagine. Usually what happens is that someone wants to start a new business, and illegal labor is all they can afford. Restaurants are a case in point: almost every single kitchen worker in San Francisco is working off the books, regardless of what kind of food the restaurant sells. They didn't have expensive cooks before that they decided to fire; they hired under the table when they got started. Running a restaurant is very difficult; most go under within a year or two of opening and it usually takes 3+ years to recover the initial investment and make any serious money. Similar thing in construction, you have some skills and tools but you need another two pairs of hands; and as a new plumbing/electrical/drywall firm you have to offer low prices to get customers. Illegal labor doesn't so much pull down the wages of existing workers, as it lowers the barriers to entry for new businesses - thus, the majority of illegal hiring is at tiny businesses with less than 25 workers (as opposed to the government's definition of 'small' which is anything under 100).

I don't mean that tax avoidance and exploitation aren't an issue, they certainly are. But IMHO it's not as systematic or abusive as you seem to imagine - deliberate large-scale labor scams are somewhat atypical. A lot of economic issues that seem like a conspiracy are just the accumulation of people's individually reasonable decisions on the prices they can afford - consumers, employers, and workers.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:44 PM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crazy is compelling. The fact it's on tv makes it look like the crazy is taking over.
posted by spicynuts at 8:57 AM on October 22

This, combined with the outright anti-rational cant of the Tea Party folks is what worries me. Yes the language of discussion on both sides is heavy with rhetorical baggage, but the media-consuming public is overwhelmed with information, and they've put up with or ignored many years of manipulation already. How can we expect people to vote for a "better" candidate when they really don't understand the difference between Communism and Social Democracy? Or Obama and Hitler? (And yes, I probably don't give people enough credit.)
posted by sneebler at 9:43 PM on October 22, 2010


Tea partying at home and abroad
Mark Lilla has a thoughtful and informative post on the French analogue to the tea-party movement... Mr Lilla suggests at the end of his post that despite the many superficial cultural differences between the American tea-partiers and their French counterparts, both are, in effect, making the same demand: We will be heard! ...what’s most remarkable about the French protests is not only that they are partially motivated by hostility to the rich but also that there is a pretty straightforward line of causality from provocation to action...

The character of the American tea-party movement is very different, and more complicated. Yes, many in the movement talk about deficits and federal spending and rising taxes, but as a number of polls have shown, most tea-partiers are no more willing to accept drastic cuts in government spending—the only thing that will meaningfully slash the deficit and permit responsible tax cuts—than the Republican members of Congress who oversaw and endorsed so much of the government’s growth over the past decade.

This means, I think, that the size of government and the details of public budgeting are secondary concerns for the tea-party movement. What it primarily cares about is cultural identity. Taxes and government spending come in because the tea-partiers feel like "their" America is under cultural assault—and this imaginary America is, among other things, a libertarian paradise...

Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are the enemy of those in thrall to this vision of the country... That’s one reason why so many on the populist right embrace conspiracy theories about Mr Obama being a Muslim or another kind of cultural outsider: it’s more comforting to believe he’s a foreign contaminant that can be purged than to accept that he and his party’s vision of the country is just as American as theirs...

Where the French are pushing back against a public policy with which they disagree, the Americans are out to defend one comprehensive cultural vision of the nation against another, largely incompatible vision. And as far as the tea-partiers are concerned, the contest, like so many elements of our electoral system, is winner-take-all.
posted by kliuless at 8:18 AM on October 23, 2010


You and I, as customers, can vote with our wallets and pick an american-made product over a...

When you talk about "voting with your wallet" you are also saying "poor people do not get to vote."
posted by fuq at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]



Wow...I wasn't expecting my incoherent muttering to get such a thoughtful response!

Rather than conspiring, they are indifferent to the effects here because their goal is to drive costs down. ... Unfortunately, when a large number of firms do this at once, each looking only at their own cost/sales numbers, then we get the current situation where the whole manufacturing sector falls into decline. Economics has unfortunately failed to provide us with a clear answer on how to avoid this or what to do about it, and we need to think up something in a hurry. If we knew what the answer was, we'd have done it by now.

I think this isn't quite true. There's a continuum between tophatted billionaires twirling their mustaches while planning to destroy the lives of workers, and a sort of corporate drone-hood mindlessly cutting costs without any awareness of the larger effect. I think we're closer to the mustache-twirling, because the outsourcing is a coordinated effort requiring laws to be written and passed, networks of firms here and firms there to set up the plants and labor, and a great deal of positive media coverage that slants all of this as inevitable. Because any business that sits out the process can find itself at a competitive disadvantage, there's no incentive to stop or even slow it down...but that's what the government is for, to say hold on, you're earning short-term profits by destroying the nation's long-term viability. There's no reason businesses couldn't be made to factor in the effects of their decisions; if someone decides to put lead paint on their products, we understand that's dangerous, and we have ways to put a stop to it. It seems to me (and of course I could be wrong) that destroying the livelihoods of millions is more dangerous than poisoning a few hundred people...so why not build mechanisms to stop it?


This is exactly how America got to be rich in the first place - being able to make products as well as or better than others' offerings for less money.

Well, here's the part that bothers me. America gets rich in the first place off the backs of nearly-free labor, through slavery, then maintains the wealth through child labor and sweatshops, later through the stimulus of big war, then of being last-economy-standing after the war. Is it possible to maintain wealth without it being exploitative? Has any nation ever managed it? Does someone always *have* to be poor?

Like it or not, the vast majority of consumers around the world buy on price and any company that doesn't take this into account will go out of business.

If that were true, then why are we not all using the same brand of everything? I mean, there's like fifty varieties of toilet paper at the store. Why doesn't everyone flock to the lowest-priced one, putting Charmin out of business? I mean, obviously there's not some Super Premium Brand that costs $15 a square (at least, not where I shop), they're all reasonably close in price...but there doesn't seem to be the same kind of competition-by-price that you're talking about here. Same for...well, everything I can think of that one buys. The fact that something's too expensive might dissuade you from buying it...but the fact that something's the cheapest isn't anything like a guarantee of sales.


And this is happening across all industries, not just manufacturing but even in the professions.

Which ones? I'd love to find a competitively-priced doctor!


Although your observation is mostly true, as the majority of illegal do low-wage jobs, the way to sell this is to talk about having them pay more taxes.

Wait, seriously? Are the words "more taxes" even *allowed* in our political conversations anymore?

They didn't have expensive cooks before that they decided to fire; they hired under the table when they got started.

I think around here the biggest thing is agriculture...not that anyone was getting rich picking peaches, but it does seem like existing farms have replaced their workers with cheaper versions. And those new workers are visible in a way that the factory in China isn't, so when the local plant closes down, there's ill-will, but towards whom? Nobody seems to be publicizing why the plant went away, what the reasons were for it...and what the upside is supposed to be, so that that can be measured and a back-up plan enacted in case everything goes wrong.

A lot of economic issues that seem like a conspiracy are just the accumulation of people's individually reasonable decisions on the prices they can afford - consumers, employers, and workers.

If only there were some body charged with oversight of these things, to put the brakes on when all the individual decisions combine into collective insanity.
posted by mittens at 11:20 AM on October 23, 2010




Try it with the punctuation.

"You! You are worse than .... than ... you are a really, really bad guy!"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:26 PM on October 23, 2010


Way late to this discussion, but: any major dude, wanted to respond to this:

The Tea Party movement was strategically planned by American corporate hierarchy as a weapon to stem what they saw as a reckoning to the abuses they have been given carte blanche to launch on the American public by a complicit and complacent Congress for the last 30 years.

Yes.

Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker - who actually helped originate the idea of the tea party movement - has spent much of the last week lambasting the movement for abandoning the original principles, i.e. bringing high crimes among high finance to account, and turning into the uber-conservative arm of the GOP.

Consider, for example, the Koch Brothers - and how useful the tea party is to them.

The tea party can now be used by the corporate elite to hang onto power. Because if Robinson's #3 happens, if the tea party wins a significant number of races and seizes a big place at the table - we all realize, I think, that prosecuting financial fraud - like mortgage-gate, for example - will not be high, or anywhere, on their agenda.

Instead, it’ll be all culture war, all the time - and this will enable to criminal financial elite to just go on looting.

For that elite, the tea party is a godsend.
posted by kgasmart at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2010


The tea party can now be used by the corporate elite to hang onto power. Because if Robinson's #3 happens, if the tea party wins a significant number of races and seizes a big place at the table - we all realize, I think, that prosecuting financial fraud - like mortgage-gate, for example - will not be high, or anywhere, on their agenda.

Instead, it’ll be all culture war, all the time - and this will enable to criminal financial elite to just go on looting.


I think it's safe to say that prosecuting financial fraud, fixing the economy so it isn't quite so crashy, or really doing anything to prevent the next big redistribution of wealth upwards, isn't on anyone's agenda. If we draw a distinction between the tea party folks who go to these rallies with their signs and t-shirts, ready to get riled up and angry, and the tea party elite who are running for office or funding candidates, you end up with exactly the same picture as when you're looking at progressives in the democratic party. They're corralled. You can have any opinion you want, just don't expect your policies to be enacted...and by god, you have to vote for us, because otherwise the evil ones will win, and Obama will go on drinking the blood of Christian babies!

The culture war is just noise, and it will keep going on, no matter who wins.
posted by mittens at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2010


I think it's safe to say that prosecuting financial fraud, fixing the economy so it isn't quite so crashy, or really doing anything to prevent the next big redistribution of wealth upwards, isn't on anyone's agenda.

Well, and that's Denninger's thing - saying that this was supposed to be the tea party's agenda, but the tea party was co-opted. Conveniently.
posted by kgasmart at 5:50 PM on October 23, 2010


That's weird, if true...not that a movement was co-opted, but if it was, wasn't it almost immediate? The first time I heard about the tea party was spring of last year, at which point it was already getting treated as non-independent, already part of the Republican party. How long did it last before that?
posted by mittens at 6:26 PM on October 23, 2010


Try it with the punctuation.

Weird. Hitler sounds like a complete dork that way.
posted by fartknocker at 11:07 PM on October 23, 2010


What's really kind of crazy about these discussions is just how completely different perspectives can be - while I am more sympathetic to this interpretation, we have to recognize that to some people (including Naomi Wolf) it is the Tea Party that is fighting fascism. And there's sort of no way to conclude the argument until one side or another does something so ugly that no one will embrace it in retrospect...
posted by mdn at 12:24 PM on October 24, 2010


mdn I'm not sure how it could be argued that the Tea Party is fighting fascism.

The first major action taken by the Tea Party was disruption of town hall meetings on the subject of health care. Note that the Tea Party explicitly gave instructions to its membership on how to best disrupt the meetings and to prevent discussion from taking place. I generally don't associate preventing discussion with fighting fascism, rather the opposite actually.

Today we see that Tea Party is involved in efforts to prevent people they perceive as likely voters for non-Tea Party approved candidates from voting via intimidation and harassment. Again, this is not activity I usually associate with anti-fascist efforts, again rather the opposite.
posted by sotonohito at 2:08 PM on October 24, 2010


I'm not gonna get stuck being the devil's advocate again, so I'll just point out that in that link I posted above, Naomi Wolf argues for why the Tea Party is fighting fascism. Of course there are people who disagree. The point is, it's never as simple as saying "wake up, people!" - it's not just that those not responding are being lazy or complacent or think it's not as bad as it really is. There are also those who honestly think that the Tea Party is solving the exact problem that this FPP suggests it is causing.
posted by mdn at 6:04 AM on October 25, 2010


A war of elites - "Very roughly, churchgoing non-coastal rich people are Republicans, while the more secular coastal rich are Democrats. What we are now seeing is not a showdown between the vast non-ideological middle-class and some rising Acai-swilling, assortatively-mating bobo aristocracy, but a standoff between rival elites. The tea party is a movement of relatively well-to-do, relatively religious citizens aroused by the conservative identity politics of a handful of elite right-wing opinion-makers who seek to unseat their liberal counterparts."
posted by kliuless at 9:21 PM on October 25, 2010




What worries me is that the head stompers in question will get away with it, and that will encourage more of the same. Unless the violence is cracked down on, it will spread, and if the police are taking sides and refusing to do a serious job of investigating because they dislike the victim that means we're really in trouble.

mdn Sorry, I should have made it clear that I was disputing the article you linked, and did not assume that it represented your position. That said, I wonder if Wolf continues to think the Tea Party is anti-fascist with the new revelations of voter intimidation and the latest bit of Tea Party assault and battery.
posted by sotonohito at 7:40 AM on October 26, 2010


That's weird, if true...not that a movement was co-opted, but if it was, wasn't it almost immediate? The first time I heard about the tea party was spring of last year, at which point it was already getting treated as non-independent, already part of the Republican party. How long did it last before that?

It's not a "real" movement that was coopted. From the very start, former Republican legislator Dick Armey's Freedomworks and similar conservative political organizations were spurring on the Tea Party movement. If anything, it may have been a Republican astro-turf movement that later to some limited degree was partly co-opted by an actual angry mob, but either way, it very much began life as a manufactured, fully-funded movement of certain extremist factions within the Republican party.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


sotonohito, I'm sure you're right that Wolf is less comfortable with some aspects of the movement and perhaps with the current overall tone (though I don't know that anything's changed so much as that certain events get highlighted) but there are definitely still some members who are convinced they're the good guys...
posted by mdn at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2010


mdn I'm sure that 100% of the membership of the Tea Party thinks they're the good guys. People almost always think they're the good guys. The KKK thinks they're the good guys. Timothy McVeigh thought he was a hero saving America from an unspeakable evil. Every one of the people in Lawrence Beitler's photo of the aftermath of a lynching thought they were good guys. Osama Bin Laden thinks he's the good guy as does every suicide bomber out there.

I think the Tea Partiers are mostly misinformed. I was especially depressed about the part about "no more takeovers" in the video you linked, which implies that the government has been taking over private enterprise when, of course, that is simply factually not true.

What we have is a large subset of people who are politically motivated, and taking unpleasant and dangerous action, based on lies and misinformation.

I couldn't say if any of the people in that video would stomp a liberal's head if they got a chance or not, maybe they would maybe they wouldn't. But I'll bet they will all come up with excuses for the Tea Partiers who stomped Lauren Valle's head. They might disapprove, but they won't condemn. They'll tisk tisk, but they won't denounce. At the absolute most they'll pull True Scotsman and claim that the people who stomped her weren't really conservatives, but I doubt they'd go that far. Those boys were just fed up with the Washington takeover of our lives and anyway that girl was probably being really threatening and had it coming. Or she just wanted to make them look bad so she provoked it.
posted by sotonohito at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2010


What is especially disturbing is the calm and methodical approach that Tim Profitt took to his vicious and unprovoked attack on a woman who was immobilized. If you haven't yet, watch the video. It really is quite shocking. Nevermind the insanity of wrestling Valle to the ground, what is horribly disturbing is Profitt. He sees Valle taken down, he carefully walked around someone to get to her head, and he calmly started stomping on her head and neck. There was no heat of the moment panic or fight or flight reflex involved, it was a deliberate decision to take action that could kill or cripple Valle.

And then we get the way Rand Paul and his staff have decided to play the "both sides" game rather than acknowledging that their side committed an ugly act of political violence and taking steps to try and prevent such events in the future.

Here's Paul's statement:
We understand that there was an altercation outside of the debate between supporters of both sides and that is incredibly unfortunate. Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election.
My emphasis. He actually had the gall to blame "both sides" for the incident, after all if Valle hadn't been out there peacefully distributing fliers she wouldn't have provoked his guys to stomp her head.

We also get:
"I'm sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand's safety,"
That's from Tim Profitt himself, the man who calmly and deliberately began stomping on the head of a woman being held down by two of his large buddies. He was just worried about Paul's safety and, of course, the concern that his attempted murder might have appeared overly forceful.

Then we get:
"The Paul campaign has disassociated itself with the individual who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind."
My emphasis. That's Paul's campaign manager, Jesse Benton. He's doing his best to spread the blame around, to turn it into "both sides" being violent.

Notice what is missing from the Paul campaign's response is a strong condemnation of the attack without any weasel words and attempts to claim that "both sides" were the aggressors or bear equal responsibility. I can't help but suspect that they want this to continue, that they want their followers to know they won't be cast out if they curbstomp a few helpless liberals. We are seeing an escalation of violence on the right, and an increasing tacit acceptance of that violence from the politicians on the right.

This does not bode well for the future.
posted by sotonohito at 3:13 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. That is unbelievable. The video is disgusting and the reaction seems just bizarre...

Yes, I know everyone tends think they're the good guys - I think what I meant was, these ones think they're the good guys against fascism specifically. Although maybe the fact that everyone thinks they're the good guys was kind of the point to start with...
posted by mdn at 7:49 PM on October 26, 2010


If a literal boot stomping down on an actual human face in response to a nonviolent expression of political opinion can't be considered an unambiguous tell of the fascist impulse in action, where the hell have our standards gone?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:59 PM on October 26, 2010


It was a reebok.
posted by Trochanter at 6:31 AM on October 27, 2010


If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot [reebok] stamping on a human face -- for ever.
posted by Trochanter at 7:00 AM on October 27, 2010


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