Monday, October 04, 2010


For the second day in a row, a liberal New York Times op-ed columnist writes naively about the class implications of the tea party movement and the current right-wing insurgency -- as if any fired-up wingnut really minds being used by rich people for their own selfish ends.

Today it's Paul Krugman:

A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you’re starring in "The Birth of a Nation," but you’re actually just extras in a remake of "Citizen Kane."

True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll.

I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn't currently holding office and isn't named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News....

Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families....

And on and on. Krugman mentions all those presidential wannabes who get Fox paychecks, he mentions the political giving of the Koch and Coors families, he talks about Rupert Murdoch's $1 million gifts to the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (and by the way, though Krugman doesn't mention it, do you think it's possible that the recent anonymous gift of exactly that amount, $1 million, to the Tea Party Patriots was also from Rupe?) Krugman writes:

Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that when billionaires put their might behind "grass roots" right-wing action, it's not just about ideology: it's also about business. What the Koch brothers have bought with their huge political outlays is, above all, freedom to pollute. What Mr. Murdoch is acquiring with his expanded political role is the kind of influence that lets his media empire make its own rules.

To which I'm sure the average rank-and-file teabagger would reply: Oh yeah? So freaking what?

Theirs is class warfare gone mutant, "Four legs good" successfully altered to "Four legs better." The first media splash of this movement came when an ex-Wall Streeter, Rick Santelli, grumbled about a program he was afraid might keep ordinary citizens from being put out on the street. The teabaggers rallied around the investor class, and against people in their own stratum who are underwater.

They know Rick Scott is a stinking-rich former health-care exec, and even know he's sleazy, and still back him for governor of Florida (and he may win). They can't overcome other voters' revulsion, but they back Carl Paladino in New York even though he's a construction fat cat with significant ties to the government and they may have made the gubernatorial contest a close race.

Krugman doesn't get it. Neither does Frank Rich, to judge from yesterday's column:

... [Christine] O’Donnell's timely ascent in the election season’s final lap may well prove a godsend for the G.O.P.

... She has had trouble finding a job, holding on to a home and paying her taxes. In this, at least, she is like many Americans in the Great Recession, including the angry claque that found its voice in the Tea Party. For a G.O.P. that is even more in thrall to big money than the Democrats, she couldn't be a more perfect decoy.

By latching on to O'Donnell's growing presence, the Rove-Boehner-McConnell establishment can claim it represents struggling middle-class Tea Partiers rather than Wall Street potentates and corporate titans....

O'Donnell is particularly needed now because most of the other Republican Tea Party standard-bearers lack genuine antigovernment or proletarian cred....

But nobody cares -- non-teabag voters don't care much (because we've all been carefully trained never to talk about class in this country, and certainly never to stick up for our own interests over those of the rich, and because our depraved campaign-finance system makes filthy-rich candidates common in both parties). Teabaggers actually like the rich -- as long as they pretend to despise the government (even if they do so while taking lots of government money). The teabaggers' definition of a "fat cat" is whoever is defined by Fox News as a fat cat. Poor nonwhites who got mortgages in the last decade are, by this definition, fat cats (as are Wall Streeters, but only once they got money from a Kenyan Marxist). The Koch brothers and Rick Scott and Rupert Murdoch aren't.

Krugman and Rich don't understand this. Class is irrelevant in our elections -- or at least any discussion of class that jibes with objective reality is irrelevant.

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