What follows here is a synopsis, simplification, and to some extent an interpretation of a recent Truthout interview with author Thomas Frank, who a few years back wrote the seminal book, What's the Matter With Kansas?, which is about why so many middle-class Americans vote against their economic interests.
Now, Frank has returned with an equally important book about how the super-rich were able to double-down on economically disastrous policies and thereby push those policies to ever greater extremes.
Even by itself, the subtitle of his new book says a lot: "The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right." So here we have a brilliant expose' of the most breathtaking ruse in American political-economic history: How right-wing multimillionaires, with the help of hucksters like Glen Beck and astroturf organizations like the Tea Party, were able to turn the biggest capitalist breakdown since 1929 into a huge opportunity . . for themselves!
If you're confused about how people with ever lower incomes and ever more indebtedness, living from day to day, can be made to come to advocate for lowering taxes on the super-rich (which inevitably raises their own taxes), let Frank be your guide. For we desperately need to better understand how it is that groups like the "Tea Party" can successfully lead millions of low-information voters to embark on such insane ideation. Get this book shipped directly from Truthout, by clicking here.
Hucksters like Glenn Beck played a huge role in the rise of the Tea Party and the broader shift of the nation to the right. As chief huckster, with an audience of millions, Beck was on the cover of Time as well as the New York Times Magazine; he was also the subject of two separate biographies. Whether we liberals can accept it or not, he was the face of a political moment, the voice and persona that caught the public imagination. In fact, it's hard to make any sense at all of the Tea Party movement absent Glenn Beck's weird views of history and his ridiculous dread of the Obama Administration. Go back and look at footage of Tea Party events or interviews with Tea Party participants and you will find that they often echo, sometimes word for word, the crazylessons taught by the mad "professor' Beck.
Three Main Concepts in This Analysis
Market populism is the idea that markets speak with the voice of the people, i.e. that markets are a sort of naturally occurring democracy, that whoever is attuned to the holy spirit of the market is one with the spirit of the people themselves. In a phrase, Vox populi, vox dei. Back in the 1990s, this was the straight-up propaganda ideology of management theorists and other corporate shills. Today, thanks to Beck and associates, it's everywhere.
Social conservatives are often working-class people who are uninterested in the grander conservative rightwing project of reversing the New Deal. Instead they are steeped in what is called the culture wars.