Well then, Michele and I have something in common; I have truly extreme ideas too. Big deal. This preoccupation with crazy-ass clowns on the Right is a favorite liberal campfire narrative. Rrraaaw head and
bloody bones! Make my skin crawl, NPR!
My lefty mailing lists are a mixed bag on this subject, but I'm not entirely a voice crying in the wilderness there. On Doug Henwood's list, recently, a chap with whom I agree more often than not wrote, quite cogently,
I continue to believe, as I have since about 1967, that radicals should stop paying so much attention to the far right. It wasn't the far right that gave us the Wr on Drugs, the War on Crime, and the Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act.Hear, hear.
The reference to 1967 rings true to me. It was shortly before that -- 1965, I think -- that I travelled from my little Kentucky town to Southern California and met my first Teabaggers. They weren't called that, then, but it was absolutely the same species -- middle aged suburban white-collar white people who were furiously pissed off at everything, for no very obvious reason in their fairly comfortable lives.
I remember being very puzzled at the idea that these people were somehow "conservatives". My home town was intensely conservative, in the straightforward sense of being much attached to existing institutions and ways of life. But the Teabaggers of 1965 were quite deracinated -- they had nearly all come to SoCal from somewhere else, and really had no stable matrix of social relations, apart from the office, and no established folkways, apart from driving in cars a lot. Their "conservatism" wasn't a matter of clinging to what they knew and liked; it seemed largely a matter of resenting what other people were doing elsewhere -- a heavily mediatized engagement with the great social spectacle as seen on TV.
It struck me then and strikes me now as a chimaera bombinans in vacuo -- a sort of maelstrom of furious mental energy expending itself without effect in railing at phantoms -- a titanomachia taking place almost entirely in the memesphere.
Oh, sure, they'd sometimes tip the scales to some particularly clownish galoot in a Republican primary, but I'd already decided by that point that the electoral charade wasn't something of any consequence.
No doubt I was affected at an early age by the wisdom of my grandmother, who being asked what was the difference between Republicans and Democrats, replied, "You vote for the Republicans if you want a depression and the Democrats if you want a war." This was before our present enlightened days, when either party can give you both.