There's a tiresome lot of hand-wringing pouring into my inbox about the dire Teabagger threat. A sample from Alternet, which bombards me with almost as much mail as the DCCC: "Michele Bachmann, the Queen of the Tea Party, has ideas that are truly extreme."
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.
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.