Friday, October 15, 2010

Chilton Williamson on the Tea Party movement

In an article on the American Tea Party movement, Chilton Williamson Jnr writes:

Liberalism as a political movement ... never made sense in spite of the fact that the majority of Americans since the War Between the States have been liberals, whether they knew it or not. It took what James Kalb calls advanced liberalism, coming in the last quarter of the 20th century, to bring the American public to a sort of political Great Awakening, in which they find themselves, somewhat groggily, shaking themselves and rubbing their eyes. Or rather, one half of the American public, the other having converted—as it seems, irredeemably—to the advanced-liberal ideology, which is really the old liberalism stretched and distorted and pummeled from its youthful naive falsity into senile surrealism. The arrival of advanced liberalism has divided the United States between the New and the Old America, a division that is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future but is becoming, rather, more fixed and rigid ... Liberals blame an unenlightened reactionary mass for the divide, but in truth the fault is theirs, and all theirs. Advanced liberalism demands that people think, believe, and act in ways that it is simply unnatural for human beings to think, believe, and act ...

One take on the Tea Party movement is that it is essentially libertarian in character and therefore not such a departure from liberalism. Williamson prefers the idea that the movement reflects a divison in the US between those who do and do not accept an advanced liberalism (he does portray the Tea Party, though, as a largely unfocused, populist movement rather than one with a clear anti-liberal aim).

It's not easy to get a good understanding of the real character of the movement from here in Australia. I intend to write some posts in coming weeks looking at the different interpretations of the Tea Party.

34 comments:

  1. As I mentioned in a previous post, the overall effect of modern liberalism is to create a society of representative egalitarianism, where each group in society has its own elite, at the expense of the majority.

    From about 1890-1965, progressive liberalism was actually very popular because it followed the ulitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, and cross-fertilised with populist movements.

    Today, populism has withered away, and the liberal right supports the white commercial elite while the liberal left supports the new minority elites.

    Note I'm talking about the effect of applying the principles of liberalism rather than its principles per se. Both the liberal right and left are anti-elitist in principle, but the effect of their policies differs from its intended effects as liberals fail to see the underlying realities of the society they are trying to change, as well as their own self-conscious motivations.

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  2. Sorry,that last line was supposed to read "unconscious motivations".

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  3. Trust me, the Tea Party in the USA is libertarian but also socially conservative. They despise gay marriage as a concept, abortion and one-world feel good internationalism. Most of the tea party are serious christians who just want to work hard for the country they love and raise their family in peace without progressives trying to tell them what to do.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/10/05/130353765/new-poll-tea-party-overwhelmingly-christian-and-socially-conservative

    For me, this movement is clearly alihned with our human instincts, and in time, this worldview will dominante the Western world as it tries to regain its dignity.

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  4. One way to gauge the average tea party attendee is by looking at the people attending Glenn Beck's rally for 'restoring honor' on August 28. 500,000 people attended.

    For those who don't know, Beck is a libertarian who wants to emulate the constitution as advocated by the founding fathers. He has a popular 5 o'clock show on FOX News.

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  5. Way off topic.

    Frazer-Kirk has settled in the DJ's sexual harassment case.

    So she said previously:

    1: It wasn't about the money this was about raising the issue as a social concern. The large figure only helped raise attention.

    2. Again it wasn't about the money she would donate it to charity.

    So it clearly was about the money, um surprise. Apparently she has a history of sexual harassment claims. We have found the new way to get rich. I hope she goes down in history as the biggest gold digger of all time.

    She clearly had them over a barrel there's no knowing how much she could have made. Apparently she previously rejected an 8 million dollar deal.

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  6. Davout wrote,

    "One way to gauge the average tea party attendee is by looking at the people attending Glenn Beck's rally for 'restoring honor' on August 28. 500,000 people attended."

    This is true, to a point. It is also instructive to read what Mr. Beck said and the Tea Partiers wildly cheered on.

    Beck is a right liberal, now flirting with left liberal racial orthodoxy. As James Edwards has pointed out, Beck now thinks even our Founding was written by anti-black racists. The Civil Rights era/Martin Luther King is just about the only part of American history Beck wouldn't re-write.

    It's kind of discouraging to see so many Tea Partiers (in my own family too!) look at this guy as some kind of messiah.

    I've concluded two things about the Tea Party:

    1. It has made Anglo-American discontent with Obama and Co. very public and very loud.

    2. It is channeling that discontent into support for men like Beck, who are just a few steps shy of Obama and Co.

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  7. Yes its certainly channelling discontent and I think that's good/great. It's important that this is channelled into positive directions. If we look at a couple of the names big in the press at the moment, Palin and the woman from Delaware, they are both unusually ignorant for politicians about important elements of the political process, eg neither could name any leading recent Supreme court decisions. It can't just be a competition to say who's the most pissed off, there has to be competence there too.

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  8. Bartholomew,

    I agree that Beck doesn't have his ducks lined up in a row and he is definitely not coherent, even as a libertarian. For instance, I recently heard him saying that Americans were right to persist in Afghanistan because 'of the plight of Afghan women'. However, I disagree that he is a few steps away from Obama and co.

    He is an average joe who discovered how to think beyond his nose and is still on a learning curve.

    I agree that his sucking up to the blacks is annoying. To say James Armistead won the war is ludicrous upon examination. He certainly provided valuable assistance at Yorktown, the pivotal battle, but the war would have likely been won ANYWAY because the French blockaded the port and Cornwallis would have run out of food and munitions. Beck hates the French and would rather credit a black spy than the French for winning the pivotal battle in the revolutionary war.

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  9. I keep getting E-mails from Americans who over-optimistically assume that Australia is going to acquire its very own Tea Party movement. In vain do I try to persuade such people that nothing could be less Australian than any sort of desire for freedom.

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  10. The Tea Party isn't socially conservative. Glenn Beck's, Sarah Palin's, etc are all part of the media representation of social conservatives. Aka:''Social conservatives are all lunatics!''. Remember that the MSM is dominated by left-liberals and in reality Glenn Beck's, etc are most likely posers, fakes or liars (or even liberals themselves).

    If you want social conservatism go to MereOrthodoxy or something of the sort.

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  11. Davout wrote,

    "However, I disagree that he is a few steps away from Obama and co."

    Yeah, you're right: It's a little harsh to say that Beck is a few steps shy of the Dems. I should have said that on certain issues, such as race, Beck is a few steps shy of the Dems. That's just a fast, which I demonstrate via those links.

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  12. My take on the Tea Party movement has changed a bit over the past several months. At first I believed it to be quaint and more than a little naive (the same way I view libertarianism) for thinking that a "return to the constitution" is possible without addressing social and racial realities. Now I see that the Tea Party is useful insofar as it is a grassroots reaction to Obama. While visceral reaction rather than principle seems to be the driving force behind the movement, such gut feelings are entirely necessary for defending any civilization (Washington said that Americans would feel the truth before they could see it). The Obama camp views the Tea Party as ascendant fascism, and in their own reaction have brought out the big guns. The more the Tea Party advances, the more the mask slips away and the naked totalitarianism beneath is revealed.

    No such movement would have been possible under John McCain.

    That being said, the Tea Party will never be a serious threat to liberalism on its own, but it may be a necessary step in the right direction.

    P.S. When Glenn Beck tearfully embraced an adulterous, plagiarizing, communist Negro as the pinnacle of American civilization, he became a net loss for conservatism. What positive aspects he possesses are nullified by his being another tiresome White Guilter. I'm sure that if asked he would side wholeheartedly with those brave and noble Indians as well.

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  13. We are getting a bit of a Tea party sprining up in the Murray Darling basin water redistribution issue. The fire in it probably wouldn't have been the same under a Liberal government.

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  14. On Beck he has the constant issue of "wanting to stay inside the tent", ie appearing conservative but not too conservative. O'Rielly had the same issue and endorsed Obama at the last election.

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  15. We've also seen especially with the female Republican and Tea Party leaders of late (and also with George Bush) a desire to play the "dumb" card a little. I'm one of you not one of the Washington elites. That's all well and good and core passion is great, but if rationality gets passed over as a symptom of the left we're in trouble.

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  16. Jesse_7,

    That is a good point about "rationality getting passed over". I think many on the right already believe that liberals enjoy a near monopoly on matters intellectual. Witness the anti-intellectual clods who habitually inhabit the GOP, acting as though their ignorance were a badge of honor in solidarity with the people. A man can be "down home friendly" without discarding his intellect.

    We need to establish the realm of ideas and critical thinking as a comfort zone for the right as much as it is the purview of any other segment of society.

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  17. "We need to establish the realm of ideas and critical thinking as a comfort zone for the right as much as it is the purview of any other segment of society."

    Hear, hear.

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  18. "Trust me, the Tea Party in the USA is libertarian but also socially conservative."

    This is a big difference between Australasia and the U.S. Just about anyone who claimed to be a liberatarian in this part of the would be socially liberal, economically right-wing and pro-immigration. Certainly every libertarian blogger in New Zealand fits this profile, and NZ's most prominent libertarian, Lindsay Perigo is a gay Richard Dawkins fan.

    In the U.S you can get religious traditionalists who are economic libertarians and immigration restrictionists. Some are even protectionists. In a pure sense of course these people aren't libertarians, since they are only liberatarian to the extent they believe in limited government and low taxes. A pure libertarian believes in individual freedom in all policy areas.

    In New Zealand I suspect that the decline of social conservatism has been assisted by the rise of free trade neoliberalism, since free trade dislocates people and makes the working class more reliant on the state for handouts.

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  19. Palin and the woman from Delaware, they are both unusually ignorant for politicians about important elements of the political process, eg neither could name any leading recent Supreme court decisions. It can't just be a competition to say who's the most pissed off, there has to be competence there too.

    Meh. At this point give me common sense and good instincts over "knowledge". Our current President and Vice President could undoubtedly discuss Supreme Court decisions until they were blue in the face, but they are fucking disasters at running the country.

    That's all well and good and core passion is great, but if rationality gets passed over as a symptom of the left we're in trouble.

    Rationality is not a "symptom of the Left". The Left is INSANE. That's why we're in the mess we're in now! Is there a single topic of importance in which the Leftist view could accurately be described as "rational" (i.e., in accordance with observable fact)? Hell, no. Yet they keep shoving the same failed approaches down our throat no matter how much evidence of failure is staring them in the face, which is the very definition of irrational in my book.

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  20. Fair enough but putting housewives up against them won't cut it. I agree most things can be fixed by, or are, common sense, but that doesn't mean that average joe candidates won't be torn down. By rationality we can say what precisely do the Republican/Tea partiers want to do. Cut entitlements? Which entitlements. Anger is good for rabble rousing but fixing problems requires actual ability.

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  21. Mike Courtman the Tea Party isn't socially conservative. Everything you see in the MSM is controlled by left-liberals and you will only see stereotypes, misinterpretations or caricatures (and the few conservatives that fit these stereotypes). It's an illusion created by left-liberals about the hateful, bigoted, racist, sexist, etc conservatives in their minds. Conservatism in their minds means 1st century, 1950's or 18th century (depending on whom you ask). Conservatism to them means past, past, regression, regression, etc. If you want to see average, normal conservatives go to InternetMonk or MereOrthodoxy or websites of the sort. Left-liberals in reality are fighting themselves thinking they are fighting the other which is an illusion. This illusion of Nazis from the 1940's, of Jim Crow laws, of many rabid individuals trying to make America a Christian Theocracy, etc. To them everything is social justice, equality, minority pandering, human rights, 'hate speech', colonialism, affirmative action, etc. They need to feel they are 'triumphing' and continuing a human rights struggle of the 1950's. The illusive right is going to collapse and bring the left down with it. More and more Americans are turning against Democrats and Republicans alike. Maybe that's for the better.

    The Left is truly insane Anonymous I agree. They have created an illusive right and pander to the few conservatives that fit these stereotypes.

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  22. I agree that the left are insane in that they don't think through the consequences of their actions. However, modern society is also highly functional. Higher average standards of living etc. It may well be that the average living conditions have dipped since the 1970's but from 1940-70 there was a historically unprecedented (I think) long boom. On economic matters whether you credit the left at all for the situation, eg unions improving working conditions/pay or the efficiency dominated middle class liberals, the improvements have been real.

    Left wing/liberal society creates lots of pathogens in society but also successes. So whilst the Left may be unwilling to acknowledge the problems they've caused (and over claim the weaknesses of conservative styles), neither should we be willing to totally ignore the successes if we want to have practical impact.

    With people like Beck and O'Rielly we know that they have an element of "entertainment" focus in their politics. One way to look at it is to ask whether O'Rielly or Beck would ever run for office. Ultimately we know they wouldn't because its not paid as well.

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  23. The identity of the Tea Party is contested and hard to nail down. Lots of mid-level GOP agents are trying to steer it their way, downplaying social conservatism and focusing on fiscal issues.

    Glenn Beck, despite being a Mormon, has voiced indifference, even acceptance, for same-sex "marriage," citing Thomas Jefferson of all people.

    I believe the movement originated with Ron Paul supporters, many of whom are not as personally conservative as Paul himself.

    However, most Tea Party-backed candidates are social conservatives but many tend to be timid about such issues and eager to take advantage of economic discontent.

    The movement has some promise, but I fear it will just channel opposition in controllable ways and prevent a stronger movement from emerging.

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  24. Kevin,

    Perhaps you're right. Although I'm not American my feeling was the Tea party movement grew out of the grass roots opposition to the McCain/Kennedy border legislation.

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  25. Fair enough but putting housewives up against them won't cut it.

    This assumes that we're still able to get out of this mess democratically or even peacefully. It's possible that the point of no return has already been crossed.

    On economic matters whether you credit the left at all for the situation, eg unions improving working conditions/pay or the efficiency dominated middle class liberals, the improvements have been real.

    Overall I'd say crediting the left with the current standard of living is dubious. Today's economy is the Keynsian economy taken to its logical conclusion. An economy without the various tax-funded social programs and government offices would likely see a standard of living much higher than what we have now.

    I don't think it's ultimately going to matter, though. Westerners in general and Americans in particular have lived fat and safe for too long. We've ducked our heads and shambled back to our comfortable homes after outrages that would have sparked immediate revolution among our forebears. Your high standard of living coupled with lack of principle and an unwillingness to defend one's self will be the end of the United States. Comfort is the enemy of liberty.

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  26. I agree that the left are insane in that they don't think through the consequences of their actions. However, modern society is also highly functional.

    Oh, please. Modern society is successful in spite of, not because of, the Left. The Left regarded the economic boom of 1945-1970 as gained through unjust exploitation, and has aggressively moved to tax, legislate, and regulate it out of existence ever since.

    Lefties are not interested in the things that generate real wealth; these are the province of the despised petty bourgeois.

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  27. "Lefties are not interested in the things that generate real wealth; these are the province of the despised petty bourgeois."

    This is true and the Left are largely a leach on the prosperity of others, although pracital benfits can substanitally improve people's quality of life. On the point about the petty bourgeoios you have to remember that they're strongly inculcated with liberal values.

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  28. ''Glenn Beck, despite being a Mormon, has voiced indifference, even acceptance, for same-sex "marriage," citing Thomas Jefferson of all people.''

    Here is an article about Glenn Beck --- http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/08/29/god-the-gospel-and-glenn-beck/

    Glenn Beck is not a social conservative or a Christian. Christians at a whole are leaving politicized Christianity in droves (the few organizations and leaders that created this politicized atmosphere) and going for a de-politicized Christianity.

    InternetMonk on the evangelical collapse --- http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-original-coming-evangelical-collapse-posts

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  29. More to say: Glenn Beck represents a very bizarre thinker called Skousen, who talks on and on about the divine nature of the American Founding. A Beck acolyte tried to turn me on to the man, but it sounds to me like Americanism warped into idolatry.

    This sentiment will be easily co-opted by progressivism.

    The sad thing is that Ayn Rand is even more popular among the middlebrow GOP than Skousen. If you should judge a movement by its books, the Tea Party is not a significant threat to the establishment.

    The trouble is how much one should judge a movement by its books.

    As for politicized Christianity, I doubt it is losing numbers because of its bellicosity, but rather because of its weakness.

    In the 1980s, conservative religiosity served U.S. anti-communist interests. Now that the USSR is gone, the non-Christians in the American ruling class have even less use for the so-called "Religious Right."

    Those of us who thought we had reliable secular allies are learning this fact the hard way.

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  30. "Everything you see in the MSM is controlled by left-liberals and you will only see stereotypes, misinterpretations or caricatures (and the few conservatives that fit these stereotypes)."

    Elizabeth, you probably have a a good point there, I'll check out some of the sites you refer too. One thing that I've noticed in all English-speaking countries is the near total absense of populists in mainstream discourse. If you talk to say the average guy on a construction site, he'll tend to be moderately socially conservative, hard on law and order and economically middle-of the-road, but among politicians or talking heads you don't come across many people who actually express this combination of views.

    This is not to say everything 'joe six pack' says is right, and everthing the elites say is wrong, but it is definitely true that the MSM tends to push a very simplified account of society's political divisions.

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  31. "Everything you see in the MSM is controlled by left-liberals and you will only see stereotypes, misinterpretations or caricatures (and the few conservatives that fit these stereotypes)."

    Elizabeth, you probably have a a good point there, I'll check out some of the sites you refer too. One thing that I've noticed in all English-speaking countries is the near total absense of populists in mainstream discourse. If you talk to say the average guy on a construction site, he'll tend to be moderately socially conservative, hard on law and order and economically middle-of the-road, but among politicians or talking heads you don't come across many people who actually express this combination of views.

    This is not to say everything 'joe six pack' says is right, and everthing the elites say is wrong, but it is definitely true that the MSM tends to push a very simplified account of society's political divisions.

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  32. On the point about the petty bourgeoios you have to remember that they're strongly inculcated with liberal values.

    Hello, this is not an accident. This is how the is Left deliberately destroying the wealth producers, and why the Left is a threat to the continued functioning of Western civilization.

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  33. In this sense I'm using liberal to mean individual commercialists not left/union/liberal. The middle class have always been strongly liberal.

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  34. Jesse_7, the productivity of the West continues despite the Left, not because of it. Consider just one Leftist program, affirmative action. It's been an entire generation since the Bakke decision incorporated active discrimination against white men into the Constitution. It is now standard procedure to promote women over men, regardless of qualifications, in order to meet Federal nose-counting requirements. Since the Clinton administration, medical school admissions have been mandated at 50% women to the best of my knowledge. This means that lesser qualified women are being accepted over higher qualified men into medical programs. Think about that the next time you encounter a woman doctor; if she was in the bottom third of her class, she got there only because of her sex, and kept a more able man from going to that school.

    Deliberately suppressing the more competent and promoting the less competent in the interests of ideology is not a recipe for making things work well. Every organization of any size in the US is now saddled with a growing number of people who are not competent to do their jobs, and thus a net drain with others having to do their work for them. And they are impossible to fire because of their Federally protected status.

    In my experience in a variety of fields, the water keeps flowing, the TV stations keep broadcasting, the electricity comes through the wires, the injured are rescued and kept alive, the ships keep on sailing despite the best efforts of leftism/liberalism, not because of these ideologies.

    As liberal rules become ever more complex, and rigidly applied, the ability of the declining number of competent people to do their jobs is limited. This is a recipe for disaster, not success.

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