Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tea Party: Nixon's chickens come home to roost

David Seaton's News Links
The political climate in America is toxic and it has been ever since Richard Nixon launched his Southern Strategy and caused Republicans to pause from their golf and stock coupon clipping long enough to plunge into neofascist populism and charismatic religion. The fiscal conservatives have been using the social conservatives and the just generally resentful and racist elements as cannon fodder to win elections and now they finally see what Nixon hath wrought.

Nixon's "southern strategy" is the cause of what we are seeing now. Nixon began it and Reagan fine-tuned it, with his "welfare queens" and "state's rights". It was all very simple: it was postulated on the theory that southern whites, who had supported the Democrats solidly (the solid south) since the Civil War and had been some of most favored by FDR's "New Deal", in fact hated black people more than they loved their own children, who needed health care, housing and schools. This curious theory proved correct and since then, the southern states and a great many poor whites elsewhere vote Republican.

The Republicans have begun to see that they have fallen into a trap of their own construction: the party of the rich, which catered to the yokels is now in danger of being taken over by the yokels... which could be catastrophic for American business interests all over the world.

We are looking at a scenario that could produce a serious mutation in the system, which, even if it doesn't make it all the way to the White House, could seriously warp America's political landscape.

Most informed observers seem to concur that high unemployment is here to stay for quite a long time. That the number of white, working poor is growing exponentially and that this group, very large although unhyphenated, with all of its former, 1930s, left wing populist fervor long since extirpated, is bereft of any ideology except charismatic Christianity; with its critical faculties dulled to disappearance by a brutish corporate entertainment culture and drugged with sentimental, xenophobic patriotism and with nowhere to go except toward racism and paranoia.

These people have no defense against globalization and the new technologies except fear and resentment. And having an African-American in the White House has destroyed the last citadel of their precarious, tattered and battered self-esteem: the thought that, no matter how far down they were, there was someone they could look down on... black people.

Incoherent, celebrating violence, sentimental, paranoiac and resentful: it's all there cooking on the stove of high unemployment.

Certainly continuing high unemployment with no relief on the horizon is the recipe for populism. Since left wing populism is out of the question in America, then it would have to be right-wing populism.

The rise of socially conservative populism is the joker in the deck that could derail globalization and interrupt the pantomime of American politics. The idea sounds fun, but the reality could be pretty terrible. DS


oldfatherwilliam said...

With nothing left to bubble, I look for more scapegoating, probably of immigrants. Those yokels must be given something to despise closer to hand than Afghanistan, which merely festers at a distance.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I think you got it wrong.

The real story here is NOT the increase in the political influence of the South, but the demise of the Northeastern elite, which had kept the South and Midwest from even hoping to reach the pinnacles of power.

Not coincidentally, the Northeastern Establishment with its prep schools, good colleges, secret societies and social registers collapsed as the predominant social institution, which co-opted or sidelined any challengers at just the time that the Republicans began to court the South.

Nixon and the Republicans didn't decide to change anything, but were rather forced to accommodate a new social trend; a generation after the introduction of the A/C to the South, the Whites who had grown up with aspirations to not live as part of the Third World in the US went about getting their seat at the table.

oldfatherwilliam said...

anon, are you saying that the situation as described in David's first paragraph would have existed without Nixon's baiting? These things seem to be always latent, and A/C does not create civil generosity, but the acceleration of that was despicable and certainly had a part in the current reality.

Anonymous said...

Until the a/c was widespread, the South was all but an agrarian Third World society, so backward and hapless that it had little choice but to forget about dominating national politics, not unlike a tortoise withdrawn into its shell.

It was only with the a/c that the sort of jobs without which a bourgeois society cannot exist came to the South.

Seaton, notwithstanding all his quoting of Marx, misses the materialistic underpinnings of this change, and portrays Nixon as shaping - rather than responding to - trends.

But the big story is not the relative rise of the South, but the collapse of the old Northeastern elite.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

What A/C produced was a redneck bourgeoisie. Here is an example:
I know a couple with a typical Tea Party profile: he is a well off orthopedic surgeon, his wife is a religious nut, they live in Carmel, California and have their money offshore in a tax haven...

It wasn't always thus... They were childhood sweethearts, they grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, they played together in the streets as children in the same poor neighborhood where Elvis Presley lived before he hit it big. They used to hate Elvis, because, with the money he made off of his first, local, Sun Records hits he bought a big motorcycle and used to ride it up and down the street frightening the children, who had no other place to play.

When they grew up, the husband joined the Navy in order to study medicine -- obviously his family couldn't afford to send him -- and they spent 20 years traveling around the world:, their eldest children are all "Navy brats". When he left the Navy he took up private practice and made enough money to put it offshore and live in Carmel... and invest in art (my wife's, that's how I know of them). Naturally they are wildly conservative, between their Tobacco Road, hard shell Baptist childhood and the money he makes as an orthopedic surgeon... and of course they hate black folks.

I think if you scratch the surface of many affluent Tea Partiers you may find a story like this.

And hey, the South has always controlled American politics... remember Henry Clay? The "solid south" is what made FDR's progressive policies possible nationwide.

But when the Democrats gave African-Americans the vote, it turned out that white southerners hate black people more than they love their own children, that still need health care and schools... They would rather vote Republican then take care of their kids. This is the irony, civil rights killed social democracy in the USA.