By Michael Brissenden
HERE's something for all my American friends to go to and comment... GO FOR IT! Australians need to know about the three E's!
'Americans are angry and they have been for some time.'
It's a refrain you hear often in the United States at the moment and it's one that's been used more and more in the past year or so to explain why it is that the so-called Tea Party movement has gathered such momentum. But this 'anger' is used as a broad disclaimer. Presumably enough people were angry enough at George W Bush to give Barack Obama the presidency in 2008. Clearly these are not the same angry people.
At the 'restoring honour' rally promoted by the foaming political evangelist and Fox News personality Glenn Beck in Washington last month you certainly didn't see too many representatives of the angry residents of the disadvantaged black and Latino neighbourhoods that are the underbelly of many of Americas big cities. But they're angry for sure. This is the demographic that's been hit hardest of all by the economic downturn. For them the current unemployment rate of around 10 per cent is an aspirational figure. Unemployment rates among African Americans sit around 25 per cent - even higher for black men. Black Americans, in particular, suffer higher foreclosure rates that any other demographic and they have less healthcare cover and poorer health outcomes. But while many of them might feel aggrieved at how the downturn has affected them personally they also are more likely to feel collectively angry about how far they still have to go, about what they have not yet been able to achieve. The Obama promise of hope and change is certainly fading a little but they're not likely to be flocking to vote for the Tea Party candidates in any large number.
No, the anger the Tea Party is tapping into so effectively is among those who lament what they believe they've lost. The middle class white folk - mostly from regional and small town America - who cling to what they believe are the small town values of an America that is fast disappearing. These are people who seem particularly uncomfortable with the rapidly accelerating cultural diversity of the 21st century. The cities of this immigrant nation have always been a melting pot but it's the suburbs and the towns that are now seeing the ethnic make-up of their neighbourhoods change. And in some cases parts of America that have been all white bread and hot dogs for generations are fast becoming more salsa and tacos. It's happened in a rush and the passengers on the Tea Party express don't like it much.
One organiser I met recently spoke longingly of a time when dad went to work in the morning, dinner was on the table at 5:00 and the family sat round the TV together in the evening drinking warm cocoa. "Now its all texting and Twitter and Facebook and no-one has any time for, or respect for, the old family values." And yes, all that's true enough but he was speaking as one of the founders of a regional chapter of 'New Patriots' - one of the many groups that now assemble under the broad Tea Party banner - and without doubt the most effective political tool at their disposal is Facebook. They organise their rallies online, they raise funds online and they conduct a discourse of furious agreement almost exclusively on blogs and social media sites. The internet age has allowed many like minded people from all walks of life to connect in ways that would have been unimaginable when the family was basking in the glow of I Love Lucy and the Ed Sullivan Show, and the internet is certainly one of the key reasons this Tea Party phenomena has been so effective so fast.
This lament for an America lost can be found all over the country. For an Australian of course it's reminiscent of the Pauline Hanson phenomena but for various reasons; the internet; the recession; the shifting global political landscape and the previous generations of American global dominance, this is on a much bigger scale. In essence though, like the One Nation movement, it is deeply conservative. Many of these people are wary, suspicious and tired of change but they are also frustrated at what they perceive to be a creeping power shift. They want to 'take back America' from the elites in Washington.
'They' are people like Dean, a wiry hunter I met recently on assignment in Idaho. Dean defies the cliched image of a gun toting Elmer Fudd... He's a short, wiry 72-year-old and as fit as a mountain goat. He hasn't had an alcoholic drink in 40 years and seems to exist on little else but Pepsi and chocolate bars. He grew up in the forest at the base of Mount St Helens in Washington State where his father ran a cedar shingle mill. "There were no roads in or out in them days." He shot his first deer at the age of eight and he's been hunting ever since. For the last 20 years though he's hunted exclusively with a bow and more recently he's preferred not to shoot at all. He just calls the elk in for others.
As we wove our way up through the soaring mountain wilderness to his hunting camp Dean told me how he'd moved to Idaho to escape the increasing suburbia of his childhood home. He'd once been as far east as South Dakota, he said, but he had no interest in ever doing that again. What he was most agitated about was the federal government decision to reintroduce the wolf to the high country and worse, to then put it on the endangered species list and prevent anyone from shooting it. A rule instituted by people from the east who in the most part had never been to the west, and imposed on people from the west who had, for the most part, no intention of ever going to Washington.
"I never used to be political," he said, "but in recent years I've just become more and more interested."
I couldn't help but feeling it wasn't anger motivating him so much as a sort of mournful disappointment. And although I didn't ask I'm pretty sure where Dean's voting preferences might lie, but we all know his old America is gone for good and the Tea Party sure as hell isn't going to be able to bring it back.
What is becoming increasingly obvious though is the impact it's starting to have on the mainstream conservative political movement. The Tea Party is dividing Republicans and many appear to be rethinking the rush to embrace this self styled 'grass roots' revolution.
The unexpected success of Tea Party-backed candidates in Republican primaries in New York and most notably Delaware where Christine O'Donnell beat the establishment moderate Republican Mike Castle has pushed Republican hopes of regaining control of the senate in November off balance.
O'Donnell is a Christian campaigner who has in the past expressed doubts about evolution, criticised homosexuality and decried the evils of masturbation. She has also said that AIDS sufferers brought the disease on themselves and that too much money is spent on prevention. Oh, and she's also admitted to having dabbled in witchcraft and unwittingly having sat on a satanic altar.
Not surprisingly Karl Rove - the spirited former political adviser to the former president G W Bush - reckons she's unelectable. It's OK to appeal to the fringe but its becoming increasingly clear to many Republicans that they have to capture the middle as well. Even the eloquent and eminent conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in the Washington Post this week that Christine O'Donnell's victory was "stunning but pyrrhic".
He and others have, in recent days, noted the sage advice of the godfather of modern American conservatism, William F Buckley - "Support the most conservative candidate who is electable".
Bill Buckley wouldn't have voted for Christine O'Donnell and the Democrats know it too.
Morals are just morals . Puffed up and full of pride..... head knowledge. Only when it moves into our heart will things change and that change happens to one person at a time then One family and so on. When peoples hearts change then we will see a turn around .
DTM ....good luck with Australia's 3 E's
The book is called The Way We Never Were. I forget the author. Americans mourn the loss of an America that never really existed except in government sponsored and edited TV programs like Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver.
We need to get over the grief of thinking it ever really existed at all and move on.
The Lament for an America Lost will eventually become a new story for a new America -- one that lives within its means, isn't dazzled by materiality or celebrity, and has its values in line with the true reality of things.
But between here and there? A dark time full of hardship, I think.
Viva anyway! -- Sager
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America lost..97 years ago...
1913.. Woodrow Wilson... creation of the Fed.
+ wilsoncenter.org URL's .... how.. ironic.. paradoxical.. hegelian ?
Final judgement reserved.. (federally) ... since - we see through a glass, darkly. (tm)
I'm an optimist... if not an optometrist..
"I once was lost, but now I'm found...
was blind ... but now I see."
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