So where did all this feeling superior come from?
Short answer, it has been woven into the fabric of American society from the beginning.
In the short few months since I wrote part 1 a lot has happened. The rhetoric against the President has waned a bit, but that is mostly because the narrative has been so ingrained in the culture that there is very little need to stoke that particular fire any more.
White people are pissed.
At least a certain segment of the white middle and working class believe they are losing the high ground they once held. The myth of America as the land of opportunity for all was taken in by them and absorbed and often conveniently and ironically used to keep others down, with ZERO irony. As I have often said lately to those in my personal circle “White people seem to be losing their damn minds.” Well in a way, at least sociologically, its true.
Follow any Facebook feed that purports to be in any way associated with Tea Party aligned politics. What you’ll generally find among the Constitutionalists, Survivalists, Conspiracy theorists, and other assorted self-described Right Wingers is that they are overwhelmingly White and majority Male, the very demographic that has, historically benefited most from the social structures in the US. It is twice and thrice divorced working class White men, the Mechanics, Laborers and Small Business owners who the Democrats lost to Regan and have yet to win back despite policies that would only help them regain their ground, who populate these groups. It is the Farmer, and most ironically the public employees such as Fire and Police officers who let fear win over logic and slap those Gadsden flags on the backs of their F-150 (union made, I might add).
Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 Harper’s Magazine essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” critiques this form of pseudo-conservatism. Its no surprise that along with a resurgence of “Objectivism” in educated circles and Revolutionary War rhetoric everywhere else, there has been a renewed interest in Barry Goldwater, in many ways the progenitor of this current crop of populists.
Hofstadter’s prophetic essay, lays the groundwork for understanding what has been wrought. How the political class used and in some cases lost control of the populist movements they tried to co-opt. McCain’s loss to Obama, proved this. The addition of the aforementioned Sarah Palin (see part 1) and her disastrous inability to control what came spewing out of her mouth appealed to the same ditto-heads who tune in daily to the Rush Limbaugh program. Who, incidentally, has also gone off the rails lately, making a string of racist, sexist and other assorted comments that are at the very least in poor taste.
Hofstadter’s essay, while several years old, is more relevant daily.
Populism, be it Left or Right, has always been fraught with contradictions. The anti-elitism that is essential in populist politics, the down homey every-man of a Rush Limbaugh or a Jim Hightower doesn’t always jibe with the reality of hierarchical human culture structures. Structures need leaders, classes, different specialties, and although we on the Left often shun the idea that everyone is not equal in ability we try to obscure the question by claiming that everyone may not be equal in ability but are of equal worth. Right Populism is not so generous.
What distinguishes Right Wing movements in particular is that they often implicitly or explicitly target a certain group for their message and their venom, and the groups they target (with a few notable exceptions, are White). It is a short hop from traditional American extremism to the type of rhetoric we see in the Tea Party movement and it’s allies. By combining all the previous attributes of past, often contradictory, extremist movements they’ve managed to do something incredible and terrifying. They have been all the things they have claimed not to be, blatantly and obviously, and none of them seem to care.
And then there was Ferguson…
As I was driving home this afternoon, dial pinned to NPR as usual, I heard an excellent program about the unrest in Ferguson, everything I had planned on saying about it was better said here.
What I do have to say only reinforces the above points. There is a legal defense fund for Officer Darren Wilson, which, in and of itself makes sense, everyone should be entitled to the best defense they can afford, it’s the American way after all. But what really makes me fume are what some of the very same White males who have been persecuted by the Black Muslim Socialist Obama are saying. Because, you know, there is a long and storied history of those damn Blacks running roughshod over good christian White folks rights.