The Republican Party will beat the living piss out of anybody for a buck. The Democrats will fly the flag of FDR, even as they pirate the public coffers on behalf of Wall Street. Don't think the American people have not noticed these things. After thirty years of pistol whipping and emptying of their wallets, they've started to figure out there just may be a public robbery underway, with both parties as accomplices.
The Republican Party will beat the living
piss out of anybody for a buck. The Democrats will fly the flag of FDR,
even as they pirate the public coffers on behalf of
Don't think the American people have not noticed these things. After
thirty years of pistol whipping and emptying of their wallets, they've
started to figure out there just may be a public robbery underway, with
both parties as accomplices.
And so Americans at both ends of the political spectrum are finally
wising up to the need for a third party. Even if it is a third party
within their own party, which is no third party at all, of course.
However, for Americans it's all about branding, what you call a thing,
that's important. Call a six-ounce block of corn sugar with sunflower
seeds and raisins stuck on the outside an "Organic Energy Bar" and by
god, you have natural food right there on the 7-Eleven shelf. What a
thing is called is how a nation, a people, carefully bred for consumption
will see it, thanks to that advertising arm of American capitalism
called the news media.
Presently surfacing from the frothing drek we call our political
system is a thing called the Tea Party. Whether advertised as such or
not, the Tea Party is viewed by millions as an emerging third party, or
the functional equivalent of one. In some dark recess of the American
consciousness -- hard to tell which one because it's all darkness and
recession -- millions have figured out that nobody is getting what they
want or need from Congress, except the corporations that own Congress.
Actually, dedicated voters on the far right are getting exactly what
they have voted for -- a police state -- but do not recognize it yet.
No matter. Millions are unhappy and one way or another, think a third
party, or the threat of one at least, offers a solution. And how could
you go wrong with a brand evoking hallowed images from Ms. Jenkins
fourth grade history class of the Boston Tea Party?
The Tea Party is the latest neoconservative end run around the
possibility of a real third party emerging to threaten the status quo.
To be honest, it's a brilliant political move, absorbing any energies
that might have propelled a real third party. And, in true neocon
fashion, it capitalizes on the working class' inchoate anger at the
ongoing screwjob they've been getting from both parties for thirty
years. The one escalated by Clinton's NAFTA, institutionalized as
corporate theft by G.W. Bush, and polished to a high sheen by Obama's
bailouts, as he brings home the bacon for those Wall Street syndicates
running the economy.
Mobilizing the masses into a movement was never easy, and never
harder than in America where moving the ever-expanding national ass
toward anything other than the refrigerator is a job for a fork lift.
Another way to do it is to adapt the national consciousness through
installation of some new hot button by the state media. At the same
time, installing a hot button in a significant portion of the national
brain is mostly about simple repetition.
When it comes to watching the effect of simple repetition on simple
minds, you could not do better than my native stomping grounds of Virginia and West Virginia,
and the packed "town hall meetings" there during the health care reform
initiative. In Southwest Virginia's Voting District 9, the Town Hall
meetings' sponsoring congressman was 14-term Democrat Rick
"Slick Rick," is one of those rightist Democrats never
examined by our simplistic, cartoonish media, which treat both parties
as if they were uniform in their makeup. Slick Rick is pro Iraq
and Afghan war. He is bought and paid for by the utilities and
communications companies, and is the tenth most powerful person in
During the so-called health care debate, a crowd was rounded up to fill his town hall meetings with the sort of screaming, red-faced
heartland white folks so loved by news cameras, reviled and therefore
watched by urban liberals, both white and several shades darker, and
upon which the nightly news depends for ratings and ad revenue. Ruddy
overweight working people with neck veins bulging, fists shaking, they
made gripping footage for the news hour, even with the sound turned off.
In glaring contrast to to this display of the flow of Aryan blood in
the face, sat a lone older black woman. She had come to tell the
congressman about her Down syndrome grandchild. The child cannot get
the physical and mental care he needs, she said, "because our family
can't afford any kind of health care at all ... We are just too poor,"
she concluded, near tears.
Her touching plea, as ground zero an illustration of our health care
non-system as you could hope for, was interrupted by a sheer burst of
redneck compassion. A young white man jumped up and screamed, "It's a
wonder they didn't abort him!" An angry chorus of mob agreement goes up.
Between that entire sorry assemblage there was not enough combined
brainpower to piss, much less ask: Who didn't abort the child? Just
whom are we talking about here? And what in the name of heaven does
abortion have to have to do with fixing the health care system for 300
million other Americans, at least three-quarters of whom are incapable
of ever getting pregnant, either by virtue of age or their plumbing.
The implied villains were -- who else? -- those dirty liberal baby
killers. Instantly, abortion rights had become the meeting's main
theme. All it took was one well-inculcated hot button word -- abortion.
My people, white working class Virginians, had responded right on
Few of them could be called political types by any stretch --
most of whom would normally have been home stuffing their pie holes and
waiting for the winning lottery number on TV. However, they had shown
up at the behest of local Republican businessmen, the Chamber of
Commerce and fundamentalist pastors, who in turn were orchestrated by
health care industry lobbyists and public relations firms. And so by
golly, tonight America was gonna hear the genuine, bona fide,
straight-from-the-horse's-mouth unadulterated opinion of the common
man! Just as soon as they were all instructed as to that opinion.
Many attendees at Town Hall meetings are sufferers of the agitated
inchoate anxiety and frustration of the working class. But as many more
at the staged health care rallies, and now the staged "Tea Party"
anti-tax rallies, are retired or just plain bored people to whom the
free bus ride, or the cheap buffet dinner that often comes with the
faux protests looks pretty good. Not to mention the spiffs, the free
tote bag of goodies -- chocolates, coupons, a neat little pen light key
ring. You can dig through this nickel-dime loot while the group's
organizer gives you the "orientation" during the bus ride -- dividing
up the planted questions among the alphas in the group, giving tips on
how to short circuit the opposing side's speaking opportunities, booing
on cue, and so on. And sometimes there is even a free trip to
Washington D.C. later to do more of the same, if you show enough talent
for the cameras. Boucher's attendees had little talent, and not even a
gnat's ass worth of understanding of the issue. But they knew the
Devil's mark, and the Devil's mark is abortion. So they responded for
the cameras just as they have been conditioned to do.
I know a slew of these people all over the nation and I can tell
you this: they honestly do not give a tinker's damn about abortion.
They really don't. Not one in a hundred. You will never hear any of
them mention the word abortion, except when their preachers and
self-designated spokespersons or news reporters urge them to. Or when
they are expected to offer some kind of political opinion, or show
verbal credentials they are one of their crowd. The term abortion is
tucked away somewhere in their heads in a file holding the vague
lexicon of "stuff I understand that I should oppose." There it
remains, a stale unexamined little brain fart until the appropriate hot
button word is pressed, until summonsed up by those who instruct them
directly or indirectly as to what they should believe.
And then right
on cue, like serially wired blasting caps they are detonated at the
Town Hall meetings or Tea Party protests, setting off a chain blasts of
The sad truth is that the pent up emotion has little to do with
feelings about health care, or taxes (when the hell has any working
American not been against any kind of taxes?) but a helluva lot to do
with all the shitty breaks, insult and degradation that come with being
an underclass citizen of the empire. We are conditioned in much the
same way a dog is trained to bite on command. It doesn't matter who
gets bitten, just that the dog gets the satisfaction of biting somebody
for a change, and that his master looks pleased when he does.
Widely televised, these anti-reform screamers provide the necessary
theatrics for media consumption in an ideological theater state. Hopped
up by anti-reform forces, they do what millions in PR money cannot do,
but what only word of mouth misinformation can accomplish with
unnerving swiftness -- sew lies and misinformation, let it spread
virally until it can no longer be ignored, then give the lies
credibility by plastering "citizen outrage" across the nation's
television screens day after day.
It's effective. How many people now remember that real health care
reform had seventy percent support when it began? After a few weeks of
orchestrated slap-downs of its proponents at Town Hall meetings, and
staged citizen revolts, public opinion of health care reform went down
the toilet. Ordinary people, quiet folks who never much discuss
politics, started to have doubts when they saw folks like themselves on
television rising up in what was touted by blonde meat puppet
anchorpersons and jowly self-important male pundits as "a nationwide
protest by the common man." The Tea Party is the latest version of a
tried and proven neocon tactic.
After the Town Hall Meeting, Boucher could go back to Washington
and show Congress proof that working class voters in his district like
things the way they are. That they like being screwed by the insurance
rackets and prefer medical bankruptcy to affordable health care. Once
again my people, the great unwashed and unlettered, were sicced like
dogs on challengers to the status quo. A cheer went up from American
news consumers out there dining on the spectacle and hyperbole of it
all. "By god Helen! The common citizen, the working guy, the little guy
is standing up to Big Gubbyment about taxes. Says he ain't gonna take
The Tea Party's serial wiring and detonation caps are being set. Tomorrow morning I will be on NPR's To The Point
with the Tea Party's founder and master blaster, Dale Robertson. "We
are turning our guns on anyone who doesn't support constitutional
conservative candidates," he says. In a test pop last week, the Tea
Party blew the Florida's Republican Party chairman out of his seat.
Robertson, who is obviously enjoying his time in the GOP limelight,
declines to say which other states are wired up in the series, but says
party leaders in those states will be warned privately.
If it sounds to you like the same old lizards in the meanest corner
of the Republican cave are at it again, terrorizing the saner members
of their party, well that's the way it sounds to me too.
But I cannot help but wish that the left end of the Democratic
Party, the party that is alleged to represent the political left in
this country, had half as much savvy as the neocon puppet masters who
are manipulating ole Dale. The ones pulling the strings on Boucher,
despite that Boucher comes packaged as a Democrat. Or chameleons like
They say that if you put a chameleon on plaid it goes nuts. I dunno.
But imagine what could happen if the Democrats were not sharing the
same corporate industrial sheets with the Republicans. (Imagine what
they could do to that old shape-shifting whore Lieberman! Otherwise,
it's only a matter of time until Lieberman shows up grinning alongside
Dale Robertson at some tea party stomp, assuming Robertson manages to
remain useful to the lizard pack long enough.)
But we know the truth. And the truth is that the same pack of
greaseball oligarchs have done it again. Managed to slip the schnickle
to the proles again. Because in the big picture, the one where the
money is counted (and money is the only thing that counts in
capitalism's big picture) they own the game and make the rules.
As George Orwell said, some truths are just too big for people to face.
Viewed from down here in a different neighborhood, here in Jalisco, Mexico,
the picture doesn't look so big. In fact, it looks like your standard
garden variety racketeering. The same shit on a red white and blue bun
called American politics. But served up with teabags this time around.
Joe Bageant is the author of a forthcoming book from Random House Crown about working class America, scheduled for Spring 2007 release. A complete archive of his online work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the subject of class may be found at www.joebageant.com. Feel free to contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.