Wednesday, April 22, 2020


I've complained about mainstream coverage of the anti-lockdown protests, but this New York Times story rejects the "purely spontaneous uprising" narrative:
The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in the Anti-Lockdown Protests

An informal coalition of influential conservative leaders and groups, some with close connections to the White House, has been quietly working to nurture protests and apply political and legal pressure to overturn state and local orders intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The groups have tapped their networks to drive up turnout at recent rallies in state capitals, dispatched their lawyers to file lawsuits, and paid for polling and research to undercut the arguments behind restrictions that have closed businesses and limited the movement of most Americans.

Among those fighting the orders are FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots, which played pivotal roles in the beginning of Tea Party protests starting more than a decade ago. Also involved are a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials, a network of state-based conservative policy groups, and an ad hoc coalition of conservative leaders known as Save Our Country that has advised the White House on strategies for a tiered reopening of the economy....

Most of FreedomWorks’s 40 employees are working remotely on the effort, helping to connect local protesters and set up websites for them. The group is considering paid digital advertising to further increase turnout, and has been conducting weekly tracking polls in swing suburban districts that it says show support for reopening parts of country. It is sharing the data with advisers on the president’s economic task force and other conservative allies on Capitol Hill.

... The [Trump] administration recently formed an advisory group for reopening the economy that included Stephen Moore, the conservative economics commentator. Mr. Moore had been coordinating with FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Patriots and the American Legislative Exchange Council in a coalition called “Save Our Country,” which was formed to push for a quicker easing of restrictions.

... a letter [was recently] sent by groups including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots and the anti-abortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List urging the Justice Department to consider intervening to block restrictions that the officials said were unconstitutional infringements on civil liberties.
Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

The Times story insists, however, that the protests originate in the grassroots ("The protests mostly appear to have been organized by local residents"). I suppose that's probably true. But you don't get the White House, prominent members of Congress, and Fox News all reciting the same talking points at the same time without this kind of coordination.

But if there is a spontaneous aspect to this, it's a sign of the difference between politics on the right and on the left. The Republican Establishment -- that's what ALEC, FreedomWorks, and Tea Party Patriots are -- is entirely in sync with grassroots right-wing anger, and is not at all concerned that the angry folks at the grassroots might be racist, anti-Semitic, potentially violent, or delusional about basic science. And the activists themselves don't think they're too cool to affiliate with these well-funded groups, or with mainstream GOP politicians. They love the president. They love Fox News. They'll take all the force multipliers they can get.

And then there are our activists, who aren't bigots or crazies. The Democratic-leaning establishment has traditionally resisted aligning with truly progressive groups, although that's changing. The bigger problem now, as Sean McElwee and Scott Lemieux have noted, is that progressive groups reject alliances with mainstream Democrats. The 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, as Lemieux says, never tried "to convince a majority of the actually existing Democratic coalition to support it" and instead had dreams "of replacing that electorate with another." Sandersites regularly denounce mainstream Democrats online, and now threaten not to vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, as a number of them did in 2016 (although McElwee says, "I think there are 50,000 Bernie-to-Trump voters, and they all have Twitter accounts. They’re an incredibly small portion of the electorate").

The media sources trusted by mainstream Democrats -- i.e., the outlets of the mainstream media -- don't pay attention to progressive activists the way Fox lavishes attention on far-right activists. That increases progressive activists' sense of alienation from mainstream politics.

Many left-wing activists feel alienated from mainstream politics. Right-wing crazies don't. That's because, much of the time, they're welcomed in.

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