Back in October of 2010, I posted an essay called “Today I Am A Green”. It’s been 17 months, and now I am going to eat those words without benefit of salt or ketchup. A lesser person would simply take down this embarrassing blog post and hope that people have the grace to forget I ever posted it. Taking H.L. Mencken as my role model, I’m keeping the post up as a record of where my mind was during that period.
It comes down to me refusing to vote for anybody as psychotically antisemitic as Cynthia McKinney, and she is reasonable compared to some of the Greens I’ve run into on Facebook. Each and every one of them were obsessed by the International Illuminati Conspiracy or the Jewish Lobby. (Or is it the International Jewish Conspiracy or the Illuminati Lobby? It’s hard to keep the two straight.) It’s like each and every one of them are obsessed by Jews or Masons. I came back to the Green Party and found myself in an Edgar Allen Poe story, The System of Professor Tarr and Dr. Fether
It seems that the lunatics are taking over every asylum. The right refuses to acknowledge Evolution and the left denies Relativity. Everywhere I go, I run into people who insist either god magicked the universe into being, or that Dick Cheney was so mighty, relative mass doesn’t apply to the planes that hit the Twin Towers. The left is no saner than the Tea Party, they just have different obsessions.
This is Dunlap’s Law: Crazy people drive sane people out of American political movements. Crazy people respect no limits, be it social boundaries or the inflexible laws of Mathematics. If scientific evidence contradicts their delusions, scientific evidence is a conspiracy. They then must save the rest of us from the voices in their heads. They aggressively persecute anybody who does not suffer from their delusions. Hence we have born again Christianoids out to save us from the evils of evolution and homosexuality, and left wingers out to protect the world from FEMA work camps and Jews infiltrating American government. The insanity of both sides have driven most people to the sidelines.
But how does it happen that a small handful of delusional people get to dominate both the left and the right? It’s easy enough to see how it happened on the right. The GOP organized the religiously insane into a massive voting block. Starting with Falwell’s “Moral Majority”, and leading into “Focus on the Family”, the GOP turned insanity into a family value. They also proved that insanity tends to grow into an uncontrollable mass of destruction. Once Jesus became the flavor of the week, the Aryan Nation and the KKK all found Jesus. The result is Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick “Rooster” Santorum, and the rest of the GOP wrecking crew.
Isn’t nice that we also have a left wing? The problem is that they are as bat shit crazy as the right. The left is just not as well organized. All Reince Preibus needs to do is get in touch with the key preachers, and the GOP is voting as a solid block. Trying to get the left to work together is as futile as trying to herd Schrodinger’s Cats. We either know where they are, or we know how fast they are going, but never both. Just look at any Occupy protest. You’ll see signs blaming Jewish bankers, Masons, Illuminati, Obama, Bush, and signs supporting Ron Paul, Obama, Marx, Che, Move on, The American Communist Party, et all. They can’t even agree as whether to be violent or non-violent. There are plenty of splinter groups making life miserable for everybody. The Berkeley People’s Park crazies have regular Friday evening “Fuck the Police” marches in Oakland. They march through the streets, picking fights with the cops.
What’s happened is the left abandoned the tactics that worked for our grandparents, and are trying experimental means of organization. Old fashioned democracy was good enough to bring us the 40 hour work week and the weekend, but it’s not good enough for today’s modern leftists. Now they have something called consensus. With consensus nothing is decided until they have 100% agreement. While I have seen this work in small groups of under 15 people, it becomes a time bomb when you’re dealing with large crowds..
Even in small groups, all it takes is one nut to stop progress entirely. Some unbalanced person joins the meeting and starts insisting that The Mossad planted bombs in the World Trade Towers, and progress is stopped even if the subject is mortgage crimes. It’s just a small leap of logic and faith for a crazy person to link the housing crises with the Mossad. Even if the nut is shouted down, he’s not defeated, only persecuted. He’ll come back with his friends, and the same thing will happen that happened with the GOP. The nuts will make common cause, and before you know it, they will take over.
This is why attendance at peace rallies dropped. One day, I went to a protest and all the speakers obsessed about 9/11 being an inside job and How Israel is the cause of all the world’s problems. Then there was Bob Avakian and his “New Synthesis” of Marxism, which sounded to me like the same damned propaganda that Edward Bernays wrote up during the forties and fifties. The more the crazy people took over, the faster the sane people started avoiding peace marches. So with declining attendence, the nutters railed about how the rest of the world just doesn’t understand THE TRUTH! It wasn’t that people became in favor of the war. The wars are even more unpopular than they were during Bush’s reign. Sane people have better things to do than to listen to somebody ranting about the Illuminati foreclosing on people’s homes, especially when they are looking at evictions of their own.
I don’t think that Obama’s victory in 2008 was due to any sort of radical beliefs of the left. I think he won because the sane people of the country didn’t have anything else to hang their hopes on. Who were they supposed to vote for? Cynthia McKinney and her Zionistphobia?
There are sane people on both sides of the political spectrum. Sane Republicans are shouted down by the Tea Party in the same way that Sane leftists are shouted down by Truthers. The whole country is suffering the effects of Dunlap’s Law.
When asked, I tell people that I am independent. I have no patience with either side of the spectrum, and I’m willing to work with anybody who wants to see a better world. Generally I’m treated like a traitor or pariah for not trying to save the world from the International Gay Menace or from creeping Zionism.
I met him in Philadelphia, which is a city I rarely visited. However, my wife and I attended the first Midatlantic Green Party Conference in June of 1985. I had only been back in the states for less than a year. I just finished an 18 month gig as a ship’s cook. Having no job options during the Reagan years, I let the state pay my way through accounting school. My wife was always politically active and attending the conference was her idea of getting away for a weekend. Being newly married, I readily agreed. It was either that or spend the weekend alone with my stepson.
That conference began my love/hate relationship with the Green Party. I love the principles it was founded on, and I love the idea of belonging to the movement that caused real change in Europe. The hate part started after I discovered how deeply the black market had been involved in early Green politics, and how so many of today’s party members are bat shit crazy. Quite frankly, Cynthia McKinney scares the living crap out of me.
But I was talking about the first Green Conference in 1985. I was only 27 years old and incredibly naive. Politically I was would have to say I was a libertarian socialist. The libertarian part began at the age of 19. I was one of a handful of students to attend Karl Hess’ lecture at Lebanon Valley College. Hess was such a polished public speaker that he left me a true believer. The Socialist came in when I was 21 and attending Rutgers University. Dr. Stephen E. Bronner was beginning his career there. I credit Steve as being the man who taught me how to think, and he started me in my off and on association with the DSA.
At the time, the DSA was still catching up with the ecological crises, I thought the Greens might be a more profitable outlet for my energies. During that three day conference, I felt as if I had come home. Everybody seemed to hold the same contradictory view of politics I entertained. It never occurred to me that it was this very contradiction between libertarianism and socialism that invited the black market to settle in and make itself at home.
The irony is I fell into the black market crowd right out the gate. My wife, in all innocence, got in contact with this girl in Easton PA who was also going to the conference. That’s how we ended up traveling from Easton PA to the state capitol on the Rainbow Bus.
Being part of the New York punk scene, I heard rumors of the Rainbow Bus, and even knew some members of the Youth International Party. I went to a couple of parties at Number 9 Bleeker St. They were so frightening in their intensity, I would wake up determined to live a life of abstinence and holy charity. The resolution would last until the next Friday.
So imagine my delight when I got to introduce my new bride to Aron Kay, the man who hit Ronald Reagan with a banana cream pie. The banana was symbolic of Reagan’s banana republic politics. Then was Bruno, a person I lost track of and wish I hadn’t. He did a workshop on computers and networking that introduced me to a new idea called the internet. Then, of course, there was Dana Beal. Dana was the absolute commissar of YIP and controlled his minions through the pound of pot he always carried in a double ziplock. A year later, a big guy named Ozzy and I would be hunting Beal through the Lower East Side with the intent of beating the crap out of him. At the time, Beal was sizing me up for minionhood so he did his best to charm me.
Another character we met at the conference was Jack Herrer, the same guy they named a genetically modified pot plant after. At the time, it never occurred to me why a guy from Oregon would be at the Midatlantic Green conference. Today I know it was to promote his pot business. The truth about Herrer is the idea of legal marijuana scared the bejesus out of him. He was making too much money growing it and shipping it to Beal who sold it in Manhattan. They were involved with the Green Party to grow their network and to maintain a legal defense of police persecution in case of busts. At the time, I hated Herrer for hitting on my wife right in front of me. Yes, he was that damned low. It was a good thing he was doing time in South Carolina a year later, otherwise Ozzy and I would have been out looking for him, too.
But I digress, this was about Abbie Hoffman. Abbie was there, too. He was with the sincere Quakers, peace activists, ecologists, German Green Party representatives, The Committee of Correspondence and others who made the conference a success. Hoffman was our superstar. If I knew what I know now, I would have laughed my butt off at the way Beal and Herrer kissed Abbie’s ass. Beal was instrumental in having Abby and Jerry ejected from YIP, but that day they acted like Wayne and Garth with Alice Cooper.
Abbie was more than a gentleman, he was one of nature’s royalty. I don’t know if he held any ill will towards Beal, because he did not let it show. He took their adulation with quiet aplomb and mingled with the organizers. He joined us in the kitchen to help prepare dinner. That’s when I introduced myself and shook his hand. I mentioned that I was an accounting student and that seemed to amuse him.
It’s hard to believe that 27 years passed and the conference I swore I would never forget is so vague. Eric Sternglass was there, and I remember his lecture on acid rain. John Judge was there as well. Along with some rather painful conspiracy theories, he was also the man who outed the Eastern Service Workers as a cult. Abbie’s speech was the last event of the conference. He spoke on his best subject, organizing, and I wish I had a transcript. I would send it to every member of Occupy I could find. They need to read it, learn it, and live it.
His message was to never take on a fight you cannot win. It demoralizes the troops and robs the movement’s energy. Today I look at the pathetic state of the left, and realize how right he was. We haven’t had anything resembling a definitive win since Nixon was impeached. The false success of having Obama elected has faded into the ashes of being had.
A couple of years later, I was at an Abbie led protest and watched him get people arguing over who got to lie under the bulldozers. Hoffman was a natural leader who brought out the best in people. I heard that in his lecture, when he explained why he used sports analogies in his rallies. By using a language everybody could relate to, he got the message through and raised enthusiasm for the cause. Most importantly, he stressed the need to keep things simple. It is easier to win against a single issue than to clog things up with extraneous goals.
Now that I think of it, we owe the organizers of that conference a tremendous debt. They were the people who funded Abbie Hoffman so he could lead the fight against nuclear reactors. Were it not for them, the crises that is still happening in Japan could have happened here. Abby put an end to US nuclear reactor proliferation. His victories lasted until the election of the current moron-in-chief, who is trying to gear up the nuclear madness again.
I am proud to say that I was a part of Abbie’s fight, and I kept on fighting after the Greens and I parted ways. The New York leadership took the moderatorship away from Dana Beal a few years after that first conference, and my wife and I had the misfortune of being known as YIPsters,and we got caught in the purge. For years we were ignored by most of the party, but I didn’t care. I was one of Abbie’s people and didn’t need them.
The day after Abbie’s lecture, we all gathered to sign the Midatlantic Charter before going home. Abby stood next to me when it was my turn to sign. I wrote it big, so Ronald Reagan could see it without his glasses. That made Abbie laugh so hard we became friends and stayed in touch until he died. We met at several other conferences, and he helped my family get home after Beal and Herrer arranged to have my wife, son, and I stranded in Erie PA.
The last time I saw Abbie, We had just “dumped the pump” on the Fork’s river. At the time, I owned a book store in Allentown PA. Three days before he died, we had coffee in my back room, making plans for my shop to become a meeting and recruiting center. It was never to happen. He died when we needed him most. I have to argue with both the suicide and murder conspiracy people. It was an accidental overdose. There is no doubt in my mind.
When Abbie Hoffman died, the left died with him. We haven’t had a significant victory since The Pump got dumped. Just as religion took over the right, it took over the left in the form of the New Age movement. To my shame, I have to accept my own responsibility in promoting that bullshit. In retrospect, I have to wonder what it was I was thinking. The concept of consensus as opposed to democratic leadership has poleaxed the American left. Today the vocally mentally ill have driven out the sane people, and it all started with the foolish idea we didn’t need leaders.
The need for new leadership is made manifest by the OWS movement, which is becoming a clusterfuck before our eyes. That last demonstration in Oakland was pathetic. The cops provoked a reaction because less than ten percent of the demonstrators have non-violence training. Nobody protested with Abby without non-violence training. The police were never able to provoke us. That is an important reason why we won and OWS is getting its asses handed to them. We need to find the strength to start enforcing the limits and taking the mic away from the crazies. Somebody has to have the responsibility to prioritize and choose which of the many issues facing us needs to be addressed first, and keep addressing it until it stops being an issue. Then choose which issue we move on to next. So far, Democracy has proven to be the best way to choose and to replace leaders. I think it’s time to go back to what works.
Let us pretend we are a fly on the Oval Office wall. President Barack Obama sits at his desk writing his State of the Union Address. Like all great presidents, he fancies himself something of a speech writer. Alas, his ability doesn’t measure up to his self image, and he is stuck on a phrase.
“Americans want a New Deal!” he says with a happy grin.
“Can’t use it,” says Hillary Clinton. She lounges sideways on an antique armchair. Her back rests upon the arm of one side, as her knees drape over the arm on the other side. Her attention is focused on filing her nails.
“I’m the fucking president,” Obama declares. “If I can order drone attacks, I can use ‘New Deal’ in one of my speeches.”
“Can’t,” Hillary argues, pausing to blow on a cuticle. “Roosevelt used it. The Republicans will accuse you of class warfare if you try to bring it back.”
“You got a point,” Obama reluctantly agreed. “I’m not going to keep this cushy job another four years without Republican support.”
“Don’t want to screw up the gravy train,” Hillary advises. “You can think up something better.”
The Leader of the Free World falls into a sullen silence, broken by the skritching of Hillary’s nail file. Suddenly, the world famous grin spreads across the presidential visage. “I got it!” he declares with a wave of his forefinger. “America wants a ‘Fair Deal’.”
“Can’t use it,” Hillary repeats with a sad shake of her head.
“What? Now you’re going to tell me that FDR used that one too?” the president groused.
“Not, FDR, Truman,” Clinton corrects him.
“Well what’s wrong with that?” the president asks, sounding annoyed. “Every one loves Harry Truman. Why the last time I saw Queen Elizabeth, I overheard her muttering, ‘how I miss Harry Truman’.”
“Harry Truman was one of those freaks who always told the truth,” The Secretary of State reminded her boss. “You don’t want to drag his name into this administration.”
Obama freezes to let that thought seep through the executive skull. “Yeah,” he admits as he relaxes into his padded swivel chair. “Even American voters will catch the irony of that one.”
“Remember, it was irony that brought down Nixon,” Hillary reminds him.
“That whole ‘I am not a crook’ thing,” the president agrees. He takes a deep breath and points to his Secretary of State. “Why don’t you think of something?” he commands.
“I’ll give it a shot,” Hillary agrees.
They both freeze as the same idea hatch in their minds. The president rises halfway out of his seat while Hillary swings her legs off the chair and stands. “Fair Shot!” they laugh in unison.
Obama takes on a presidential pose. “Americans want a ‘fair shot’,” he deadpans.
“It’s perfect!” Clinton squeals, clapping her hands and giving a joyful little jump. “It sounds so free markety.”
“Americans want a ‘fair shot’,” Obama repeats. “I am so fucking brilliant!”
When the Fascists rose to power in Europe, they did so by demonizing their opponents. In Spain, they were against intellectuals educating the peasants as it was anti-Catholic. In Germany, they worked on centuries of bigotry by promoting the International Jewish Conspiracy. Mussolini did things differently. His fascism welded bigotry and anti-intellectualism to progressive ideas like a minimum wage and women’s suffrage. While the Germans and the Spanish made fascists out of their right wings, the Italians made fascists out of their left wing.
The American government propaganda machine managed to take the anti-intellectualism of Franco, the bigotry of Hitler, and the pseudo-progressive chauvinism of Mussolini and apply them to both the left and the right wing. The anti-intellectualism is promoted by conspiracy theories. The bigotry is promoted by applying conspiracy theories to different ethnic and political groups. The chauvinism comes in with both sides convincing themselves that they are the only side with the answers.
Conspiracy theory is the idea that science is lying if it does not conform to preconceived notions. For instance, conservative Christians insist that evolution is a conspiracy as it denies special creation. The Truthers insist that relativity is a conspiracy as it disproves their notion that the government rigged the towers with bombs. We are seeing anti-intellectualism at its worst on the left as well as the right.
Both sides of the political spectrum are applying conspiracy theories to different ethnic and political groups. In the case of the conservatives, the targets of hatred are Gays. They will tell you they have nothing against homosexuals (hate the sin, love the sinner, and the rest of that rot.) They will tell you that they are against the “homosexual agenda”. Thanks to conspiracy reasoning, they see the LGBT community demanding equal rights and acceptance as a direct attack on their conservative values. Gays are then demonized along with others who supports gay rights.
On the other hand, the left is scapegoating Jews. Just like their counterparts on the right, people on the left will tell you they have nothing against Jews, they are just against Zionism. These stalwart champions of human rights have no more idea of what Zionism is than Michelle Bachman knows what it is to be a lesbian. All they know is that Noam Chomsky is against it, which is good enough for them. That statement sums up what Bachman’s followers know about homosexuality. The left is as delusional as the right now that the Truthers have jumped in with their mad accusation of the Mossad and bombs in the tower.
Chauvinism is the result of both sides so wrapped up in their different conspiracies that reason becomes impossible. Elements on the left are out to protect America from the International Jewish Conspiracy, blaming Israel for everything from September 11th to Obama’s adopting Bush’s idiot wars. The right is blaming the homosexual agenda for high taxes and unemployment. Neither side can be spoken to. The result is the descendents of the same people who took control of this country in 1790 are in control of it today, and continue to rob us blind as the right tries to save us from homosexuality and the left from creeping Zionism.
The Right had their Tea Party where they promoted their anti-intellectualism and bigotry. Now the Left has their Occupation Movement where there are as many signs promoting Jew hatred as there are signs demanding the demise of Wall St. In Oakland, I have seen so many signs calling for the end of the Jewish Banking Conspiracy, I just gave up on it.
Any real revolution in this country has to do two things. The first is The Occupation has to get it’s shit together. This means that the wing-nuts have to go. The Truthers/anti-Zionists are as aggressive as Born Again Christians. They will drive out anybody who does not believe in their paranoid fantasies. I watched them do this to the peace movement. They will do the same to the Occupation. The second thing is creating a reasonable agenda that people on the right can at least discuss. I have seen this on the Las Angeles Occupation website. They have adopted an agenda that include basic rights like food, shelter, education, and Medical care. So far, Los Angeles and Berkeley are the only two Occupations supporting basic human rights. Other Occupations are being too divisive in their antisemitism and determination that the Jewish bankers be punished. Unless the other Occupations catch up to Los Angeles and Berkeley, we are going to end up like Egypt and our fundamentalist religious military will take over.
And if you don’t think this can happen here in America, think again. The military is already dominated by Born Again Christians. The Air Force is the worst, and they have access to nukes. Rick Perry, in his latest round of idiocy, is calling for an end to civilian management of the military. This is the one thing separating us from a fascist dictatorship. It doesn’t matter if Perry becomes president or not, if Wall St. wants an end to civilian management, Wall St. is going to get it. After all, Wall St. actually runs this country and its propaganda mill. Besides, a military dictatorship is the usual way an imperialist nation ends.
After long and careful consideration, I will not be supporting the Occupation Movement unless those two criteria are met. My energy is going to keeping my family and me alive for the next ten years of military rule. Unless Americans abandon conspiracies for reason, this is all we have to look forward to.
People who know me will be shocked that I have rejoined the Green Party. I had major personal problems with some of the early organizers. They are no longer with the Greens, and the party has grown beyond them. I have grown up a little bit too. For many years I have supported the DSA, but the DSA will not give up the idea that the Democrats can be radicalized. Since it hasn’t happened after 30 years of trying, we run into Einstein’s definition of insanity. We keep doing the same things the same way and expect different results. There are many other parties I can join or support, but none of them have the national network that the Greens built in under 30 years. The Green Party is America’s best chance to end Corporate control of our government. I would be a fool to hold onto a twenty five year old grudge.
During the last twenty five years, the Democrats silently supported everything the Republicans wanted. If you check the Project Vote Smart web site you can see that the Democrats voted for all the financial reforms that led to our economic collapse. It was Bill Clinton who allowed outsourcing when he had a Democratic majority in Congress. Under Bush the Democrats supported both illegal wars, Homeland Security, and illegal wiretapping. Under Obama, the Democrats have allowed the illegal existence of Guantanamo and continue to toss gay rights under a bus.
Obama could not have expanded the illegal Afghanistan war into Pakistan if he did not have the support of the Democrat majority. I am appalled at the Democratic voters who embraced both illegal wars after Obama took office. The wars are no more legal under Obama and it is still murder when a Democrat gives the orders. Despite all the cheering from Democratic pundits, our tax money is going to pay for the mercenaries holding Iraq.
To add insult onto injury, there is the passage of the so called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, which is more properly called the “Screw Over the Disabled and Elderly for Fun and Corporate Profits Act”. The Democratic pundits and true believers tout this as a leftist victory. In reality, this piece of crap legislation reduces the quality of Medicare. It allows economic discrimination, and it does not do anything to make care affordable. True, the insurance companies have to accept people with preexisting conditions, but there is no limit to premiums.
You cannot fool all of the people all of the time, and this is true for the people who voted Democrat last election. Poor people have caught wise to the health care reform. Environmentalists are appalled that he protected BP instead of prosecuting them. Anti-war activists call him “The Obamanation” for his drone tactics. The Democrats have lost their core supporters. Few are going to vote third party this coming election and most are staying home.
In 2008, the Democrats attracted liberal and progressive voters with vague promises of hope and change. We are not even getting that during the 2010 midterms. We are being threatened with the Tea Party instead. What will happen if the Tea Party wins? Will the Tea Party start killing innocent women and children with drones? Maybe they will go to court to reinstate DADT? Should we be afraid that they might put more people in Guantanamo? Wait, the Democrats have already done this. Unless you are afraid that Christine O’Donnell is going to cast a spell on you, I see no reason to be afraid of the Tea Party. They will vote according to Wall Street just like the Democrats.
When pushed into a corner, the Democrats will say that we only have two choices, them or the Republicans. If this is true, why was Green gubernatorial candidate Lauren Wells arrested at the California debate last week? It’s because both parties are afraid of the Green Party. The Greens have made tremendous progress on the local level. Richmond and Fairfax California are just two of the cities with a Green majority on their city councils. Greens can be found amongst aldermen, school board members, and there are even a few Green mayors. There are Greens in state legislatures. The Democrats are telling still another lie when they say there are only two choices. If the Greens can be elected in local and state governments, they can be elected to national offices as well.
The Commercial Bubble will burst any day now. With the banks and Wall St. teetering on the edge of collapse there will never be a better time to support a truly progressive party. Don’t let Democratic lies depress you into staying home this coming election day. Don’t let Tea Party Paranoia scare you into voting for the corporatist Democrats. Please join me in voting Green this election. It will shock the hell out of Wall Street, and it will be a first step in creating a better future.
Once upon a time, I associated tea parties with little girls and teddy bears sitting on little chairs around a tiny table. That cute little image has been permanently ruined by a bunch of raging morons marching around with tea bags hanging off their hats. Tea Parties are now associated with bullies tossing dollar bills at a sick man. What’s worse is that now tea parties are associated with screaming racism.
Things became absolutely surreal when the left wing press started calling the Tea Party, populist. When I first saw this on an Alternet article, I could not believe what I was reading. The Tea Party is no more populist than Goldman Sachs or the Democratic Party. The Tea Party is an AstroTurf movement organized by the same Wall Street crooks who tanked the economy. The Tea Party is nothing but a smoke screen. Sean Hannity and our darling Sarah Palin are using time honored advertising techniques to whip the right wing true believers into a lynch mob. The stupid, the bigoted, the ignorant, and the arrogant are frightened. The economy has tanked, their retirements are in jeopardy, their mortgages are foreclosing. Their health care is inadequate. Credit card limits are dropping. Rather than organizing against the Wall Street criminals who caused it, they are organizing against their fellow victims. The poor, the minorities, the educated, and the progressive are all targets of Tea Bagger rage instead of the real cause of their problems.
Populism and populists movements have never been middle class. They have never had the support of Wall Street talking heads. Throughout American history they have been poor people’s movements. When the middle class gets involved it is for reasons of personal ethics, as illustrated by the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. The earliest recorded American populists were the Regulators. In the days before the Rapture was created, a large group of religious non-conformists got together to use government as a means of establishing the Millennium. Poor farmers, freed slaves, and wealthy plantation owners joined together to establish just laws that included abolition, progressive taxation, land ownership for tenant farmers, and free elections.
While the Regulators were finally wiped out in the Whiskey Rebellion, Populism lived on through the Abolition movement. Abolition was a movement that never died and still exists today. Despite attempts by the libertarians and John Birchers to rehabilitate the South, slavery was one of the main reasons the South tried to leave the Union. Abolitionists simply did not give a fiddler’s damn about state rights. Slavery was an abomination and the Abolitionists were out to end it. Like their Regulator grandfathers, the Abolitionists were using the power of the Federal Government to end a monstrous injustice.
Jump forward a few decades and look at the beginnings of the labor movement in the United States. I cannot think of a better example of a Populist Movement. The beginnings of the labor movement can be found in the churches. Free Methodists, Western Baptists, Congregationalists, and even Catholics were amongst the leaders of the early American unions. While there was a socialist labor movement going on in Europe, it had very little to do with the American movement until the beginning of the twentieth century. While the American press was yelling “anarchism” during the 19th Century, the unions were anything but. They were organized by their churches and they were not calling for the end of the American government. Rather they were demanding their voices in the American government. They were demanding that the government oversee safety standards, collective bargaining, and that the rich be taxed the same as the poor.
Here is another reason that the Tea party is not populist. Populist movements were never anti-tax. They knew that government did not happen by magic. All the populist movements from The Regulators to the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s knew full well that it was going to take tax money to make their dreams come true. The difference is that the populists were demanding that the rich be taxed the same as the poor. The income tax was a populist movement. The entire idea behind the income tax is that the corporations pay as well as the poor. “I’m a taxpayer and I have my rights” would mean the same to the poor as well as the rich.
Populism are movements that demand that special privileges become universal privileges. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Civil Rights Movement. Abolition neither died nor went to sleep after the civil war. Citizens of African descent continued to live in conditions little better than slavery. Jim Crow simply rubbed salt into the wounds. Separate can never be equal. Dr. King demanded that the vast resources of the US government be used to correct this injustice. Part of the correction that Dr. King demanded was that more tax money be placed into education and affirmative action.
That’s right, libertarians. Dr. King was behind affirmative action. I know this is not true in your fairy tale world of George Washington meets John Galt, but in the real world, Dr. King demanded affirmative action. The reaction of the bigots was to run around screaming “states rights” while turning the fire hoses on peaceful protesters. I mean really, what relevance do states rights have in the 21st Century? It was an idea that made sense in the 18th Century when it took weeks to travel from Philadelphia to New York by land. By the 19th Century such inventions as the telegraph and the railroads made states rights irrelevant. The civil war showed the practical limits of states rights.
The entire purpose of the Constitution was to establish a national tax base, place the armed forces under one command, and to establish a uniform code of law. Under the Constitution, the DEA has every right to come into California and close dispensaries. We may not agree with what they are doing, and I feel it is just wrong. However, it is constitutional and we are not going to accomplish anything by ignoring that unfortunate fact.
During the Whiskey Rebellion, George Washington sent tax collectors and marshals into Pennsylvania to enforce federal law over states rights. The president was made into the commander and chief of the armed forces. Under the Constitution, the state militias were called out to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The militias of Pennsylvania were called up and those who did not support the Federal Government, were declared outlaw.
So there is nothing populist in the Tea Party movement. First of all, populist movements don’t really care about the Constitution. Quite often, like the income tax and women suffrage, populist movements demand changes in the Constitution. Populist movement are not anti-taxation but demand a fair tax burden and a fair distribution of tax money. But most telling of all, populist movements are all about justice and equality. The Tea Party exists to protect white middle class privilege.
It is fear of change more than anything else that inspires the Tea Party and other libertarian organizations. They live in a fantasy world where the western expansion is still happening and free market capitalism still works. Once again, Wall Street has proven the sham of the free market. Rather than accept this, the Tea Party has dived into a never ending pool of denial, and they have Fox News and Libertarian Radio to egg them on. If the Tea Party was reacting to reality, they would be preparing to dip Rush and Sean into a vat of tar and cover them with feathers.
Nothing exemplifies the American oppression of minorities more than the Tea Party. They cannot see beyond the color of the president’s skin. They ignore the fact that each of them pay more in taxes than Rush Limbaugh, and focus on the fact that minorities demand equality. Like the bigots in Alabama and like Barry Goldwater, they concentrate on non-existent states’ rights and ignore the basic racism of their arguments. They cry over being denied the special privileges enjoyed by Wall Street insiders. Rather than get angry with White Privilege Wall Street, they get angry at a non-existent “Gangsta Government”, demand a return to a Constitution that only exists in their imaginations, and they get ready to kill liberals.
The Tea Party Populist? It is to laugh.
I find myself looking at America’s founders much differently since I read William Hogeland’s book on the Whiskey Rebellion. Like most other Americans, I believed that thought and planning went into the Constitution. Having been educated in the American public schools, I was taught that there was nobility and self sacrifice amongst the founders of this once-great nation. Hogeland could not have busted those myths more thoroughly if he used C-4.
Sadly, the events between 1780 to 1789 looks more like the recent coup in Honduras than the establishment of a nation based on laws. France supported the new United States as a means of weakening their rivals in England. The British crown waited in the wings for a chance to take the colonies back. The Iroquois nations were still British allies, and they waited on America’s western borders for Britain’s order to attack. Other European nations saw the American Revolution as a chance to grab their own piece of the continent.
At the same time rivalry amongst the states created the very situation Europe was waiting for. Maryland and Virginia were at war over borders. While that madness was going on, New Jersey and New York were fighting over access to New York Harbor. The Confederate government was too weak to stop the fighting or to enforce trade agreements. The Continental Congress was funded by voluntary donations by the thirteen states, and nobody was sending money. All thirteen states were ignoring the authority of the Congress to enter and enforce trade agreements with Europe. The states also ignored Congress’s orders to stop fighting.
The only thing that could save America from becoming a colony again was a strong central government. The Constitutional Convention was called specifically to create a national government that could levy taxes, command the armed forces, establish trade regulations between the states, and enter into treaties with foreign governments. A handful of wealthy men exploited the situation to grab power for themselves. These Federalists were not interested in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They were out for themselves. John Adams and John Jay were both unabashed royalists out to create the same sort government the wealthy enjoyed in England. Alexander Hamilton was a financier whose influence gave Wall Street the power it enjoys today.
Regulators, abolitionists, farmers, and small artisans watched in horror as the United States turned into a monstrous caricature of England. The final straw was when Washington and Hamilton used the army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. As the new American dictators were protected by an army of over 13,000, the angry populace turned to Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr as their saviors. After Burr shot Hamilton (to the delight of the Pennsylvania farmers) there was only Jefferson.
According to libertarian propagandists, the founders were a band of drinking buddies who slept with each others’ wives and were cool with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Federalists and Democratic Republicans were at each others throats. Burr shot Hamilton over their political differences. Burr was lucky that Jefferson was president. Burr was a stone cold murderer and he finished his term as vice-president. If Hamilton won, I wonder if Jefferson would have been as lenient?
My questions about Jefferson began when I did my sophomore thesis on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was then that I discovered that most of the nastiest stereotypes of African-Americans came directly from Thomas Jefferson. As president he ended the practice of importing slaves from Africa. As president he owned 117 slaves, and the domestic slave markets still did a brisk trade. He fathered several children with a slave named Sally Hemmings. He owned those children like they were cattle. This is strange behavior for a man who has become “Liberty’s Poster Boy”.
All too many people are willing to rationalize bigotry. This is especially true when it comes to the American Founders. Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Burr, and Jefferson, all owned slaves. Many historians are all too willing to pass this off as the customs of the time, and ignore the growing abolitionist movement. At the same time, Jefferson also ignored all the other populist movements and demands, such as a progressive tax of wealth, the end of land speculation and absentee landlords, as well as full civil rights for people of African descent and First Nation People.
Jefferson is also the darling of the New Atheists for taking his oath of office on a law book. I wonder about the true significance of that. Could it be that he was sending a message to the religious populists of his day? Could he have been telling them that there would be civil rights for freed slaves and a progressive tax on wealth over his dead body? The Jefferson administration was not significantly different from the Adams administration. Many historians feel that Jefferson had more in common with Adams than he did with his friend Thomas Paine. Jefferson repealed the Whiskey Tax but did nothing to break the monopoly on whiskey production. While he opposed the Aliens and Sedition Act, he did nothing to remove it from common law, where it still exists as a valid precedent. John Yoo used it in his infamous torture memos.
In the end, Jefferson and John Adams ended their careers and lives as the closest of friends. This in itself makes me doubt that the Aliens and Sedition Act was specifically aimed against Jefferson. It was more likely to have been aimed at the populists, or as both Adams and Jefferson called them, the “White Savages”. I cannot see how Jefferson the slave owning plantation farmer and absentee landlord could have truly been a champion of freedom. Like Washington and Adams, he was a champion of his own class. He and Adams’ only real disagreement was how their class was to rule over the working classes. After all, slaves, white savages, and natives were not capable of running a nation. That was for men of wealth and culture.