Tea Parties and Slime Moulds

by Henry on September 21, 2010

I’ve been mulling over Jonathan Rauch’s essay on the Tea Party movement for the last few days. It is a really fascinating piece of sociological journalism. And this post by Brad Plumer brought some of the inchoate thoughts swirling around my head into focus.

Jonathan Bernstein touches on an interesting question below: Who, exactly, speaks for the Tea Party movement? Many Tea Partiers would say that no one does. It’s a grassroots movement, decentralized, self-organizing, bottom-up—all that jazz. Apart from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, it doesn’t really have any leaders. And yet, there are plenty of groups that would love to channel the Tea Parties’ energy (and rage, let’s not forget rage) for their own purposes. On top of that, the Tea Party movement may need a bit of centralization and coordination to survive and prosper in the future. But all those competing priorities can create an awful lot of tension.

Plumer draws a parallel between the Tea Party and the SDS movement. But there’s a more recent historical parallel – the social movement that formed around the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. Clearly, the forces motivating the Tea Party crowd (ressentiment and all that) are very different from those motivating the people who pushed for Dean to win. Also, the batshit crazy thing. But the organizational tensions are similar – a combination of undeniable energy and inchoate organizational structure.

The two best theoretical accounts of the Dean movement that I know of are relatively unknown essays by Mark Schmitt (when he was still the Decembrist) and Steven Berlin Johnson. Schmitt emphasizes the ways in which decentralized Internet organization makes it difficult to bring through coherent policy change.

low barriers to entry mean low barriers to exit. Neither the Dean campaign nor MoveOn.org sign people up in any lasting way, as a political party does, which is why I’m so certain that they will not become parties. As easily as people sign on, they drift away. Keeping the structure going requires constant care and feeding, and an always fresh flow of issues, activities, and challenges. As every blogger knows, drop it for a minute, or make a false move into a topic that doesn’t interest people, and it all slips away. There are notable exceptions and surprises, such as MoveOn.org, … But this is transactional politics … It’s hard to imagine developing the long-term deep vision or framework, comparable to New Deal liberalism, under a system of such transactional politics. … That’s a strength, not a weakness, for Dean, but I think it’s a long-term weakness for liberalism, which needs a clearer vision of core principles.

Johnson looks instead (PDF) to the political difficulties that leaderless organizations may run into when they can’t rely on a positive feedback loop any more.

Some simpler emergent systems are good at forming crowds; other, more complex ones, are good at regulating the overall state of the system, adapting to new challenges, evolving in response to opportunities. Right now, emergent politics is brilliant at clustering, but clustering is not enough to get a national candidate elected. You need crowds to get elected to public office, but without more complex forms of self-regulation, crowds can quickly turn into riots. And riots don’t win elections. …
In the case of our slime molds, the lowered cost comes in the form of not having to evolve a higher-level intelligence capable of assessing the entire state of the collective and making an executive decision to form a cluster. … In the case of the Dean campaign, of course, Meetup enabled Dean supporters to organize themselves without requiring the headquarters in Vermont to arrange and keep track of all those gatherings … in late January the Dean campaign suddenly had to confront a new reality. It had to cope and not just cluster. … But those tools weren’t built into the emergent system of the Dean campaign; the tools of the Dean campaign were all about generating increasing amounts of energy: more people, more dollars. They weren’t about responding to new challenges, and altering the direction of the supraorganism accordingly.

If these arguments apply to the Tea Party (which is a genuine ‘if’ – I’m not fully sure of this myself, although they are the best first approximation I have), we may expect two things. First – not much in the way of consequence for policy. Or, to put it another way, if ever the Tea Partiers move from a structure dealing with political transactions to one that tries to reach agreement on actual policy issues, they are likely to find themselves in a bit of a mess. A very interesting subsidiary question for me in all of this is whether the Tea Party is effectively replacing the structures through which the Republican party used to broker its internal deals between religious types, business interests and government-starvers (Grover Norquist’s Wednesday breakfast meetings etc ) or whether they are being subsumed in the existing structures. If the former, then we may plausibly expect to see that the radical decentralization of organizational structure will make it much more difficult for Republicans to broker future compromises on policy issues. There won’t be an elite who can guarantee to bring their people along with them if a deal is reached.

Second – when the Tea Party runs into trouble, it’ll run into trouble. At the moment, it is running on a feedback loop, where more organizational efforts lead to primary success, leading to more organizational efforts and so on. But this feedback loop is going to break down at some point, and very possibly sooner rather than later. Some of its favored candidates will lose elections. There will be recriminations, bitterness and hostility. And when this happens, the lack of an organized structure and formal leadership (as opposed to Sarah Palin swoopdowns) will make it much harder for the Tea Party to respond in an organized fashion. There’s an interesting history of party organizational history to be written some day – how the Dean Democrats tried to copy ideas from the Goldwater movement in creating the netroots, and how the Tea Partiers are in their turn copying the moves of the netroots (and of Alinsky-style movement organizing). There’s also a decent prima facie case that the Tea Partiers are copying the mistakes as well as the positive lessons. It’ll be interesting to watch (preferably: from a distance).

{ 68 comments }

1

JM 09.21.10 at 10:03 pm

I’m glad someone else noticed the Grover Norquist parallel.

For all the talk of decentralization, the Tea Party has been remarkably easy to steer. Their strange positions on net neutrality and the seventeenth amendment come to mind, where they are arguing against their own rights to coordinate and vote, and in favor of the power of a privileged few to rule over them.

As near as I can tell, the Tea Party is merely a new output for a political machine with a very well-established political input: the unceasing Radio Rwanda of AM radio, with minor assists from FOX and the internet. And again, we’re back to Norquist. The talking points go out, become conventional wisdom, and then you’ve got Tea Partiers acting like it was actually their idea to take away their right to vote or make it harder to organize through the internet.

What we’re looking at is merely the latest iteration of a longstanding corporatist operation to leverage their political position by appealing to ethnic and religious solidarities. The Tea Party merely provides and outlet, whereby their mostly passive audience can pretend to themselves that they are active, in a series of increasingly small rallies. This system is imploding, as the populist right grows ever more desperate to see results from an elected elite, which has already degenerated into a vapid search for authenticity and the willingness to elect a ham sandwich, just so long as it’s not a career politician. I shudder to think what happens when the base gives up on their elites, but that’s where this is headed.

In the meantime, their brutal primary victories have left the GOP splintered in several areas, as bad as the Massachusetts Dem.’s were in the special Senate election. The Tea Party has already cost the GOP a chance at the Senate.

2

JM 09.21.10 at 10:05 pm

I really should edit before posting:

” The Tea Party merely provides an outlet, whereby AM radio’s mostly passive audience can pretend to themselves that they are active, albeit in a series of increasingly small rallies.”

3

JM 09.21.10 at 10:14 pm

Aaaaaaaaaand, since I’ve still got the floor to myself, let me just add that the move to large, largely decentralized operations that rely on volunteerism and erstwhile political operatives was absolutely inevitable, when in the early 90’s the two major American parties decided that the bigfoot TV buys that ruled national politics in the 80’s were determined to be inferior to on-the-ground operations that exploited new data gathering and distributing technologies. GOTV became more important than TV, which is probably good news for Democrats, considering the insidious consolidation of media ownership that began in the early 90’s as well.

Democrats got off the couch because they were disappointed in Democratic politicians who have been paid to disappoint them, and Republicans got off the couch because they were disappointed in Republican politicians who were never serious about delivering on smaller, cheaper government and abortion bans.

How long the two parties can continue to string along the bases they each despise remains to be seen. SCOTUS has made it even easier to purchase American policy on the open market, which means there’s even more stress in an unsustainable system. Violence is already common.

4

Red 09.21.10 at 10:15 pm

I like the reference to Radio Mille Collines. Ominous but justified, I fear. The Tea Party is not really a movement but a tool, being moved.

5

piglet 09.21.10 at 10:40 pm

What if the Tea Party is just a hoax? While actual Tea Party events are poorly attended, campaign money once again is breaking all records in this election cycle. Those money interests are anything but disorganized, anything but decentralized.

6

Salient 09.21.10 at 10:45 pm

Rauch’s article was great, but… overly subtle. Best part:

Sure, they say, replacing bad politicians is worthwhile. Sure, changing policies is a goal. Yes, politics matters. If it didn’t, local tea parties wouldn’t be pressing their members to run for office and change things from the bottom up, much as religious conservatives did a generation ago.

Oh yes, that completely different movement of religious conservatives that didn’t have anything to do with… the last time anxious white conservatives let bigotry rouse them to action.

I don’t think tea partiers are batshit crazy. They’re same-old-same-old nervous white middle-aged-and-older folks who make money but don’t view themselves as accumulating a ton of wealth* and are stuck in a kind of antagonistic mentality: y0u work hard, try to get stable footing under you, and then the government wants to stop by and take it all away. In that mentality everyone’s basically competing with each other at all times, and the liberals try to screw up the rules by taking some of your stuff after you’ve earned it. That’s actually not crazy. It’s literally true. And they’re bitter about that particular truth.

*They don’t see themselves as particularly wealthy, and self-describe as middle class because hey, all their friends have a summer cabin or a horse farm too.

I propose “church gossip” crazy. Tea partiers are, to a first approximation, the folks who will remember that so-and-so didn’t bring a dish to the church potluck last year and still had the gall to attend, and do you remember that Sam’s daughter brought that girl from school and they announced to everyone that they were dating — oh, how mortifying! — Sam was so embarrassed! — but apparently she’s with a nice boy named Jeremy now. You know, when we were in school kids didn’t go through “phases” like that. (Now let’s all sigh at once for the dignity that humanity has lost.)

So… Second – when the Tea Party runs into trouble, it’ll run into trouble.

Nah. Not really. These same types of folks have been around since the great realignment, chanting two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate. Now there are some young hip folks with Blackberries who found a way to take a job helping those folks organize themselves and spout off and give money to people who want to run for office and spout off. But the people being served by the hip tech geeks are the same as they ever were. I guess for a while they were called Reagan Democrats or Reagan Republicans or something, when Clinton took over.

This time they have better branding: anxious privileged white folk version 14.0 has a much cooler name than anxious privileged white folk 13.0, and way more awesome technology. But there’s still the same chicken-little architecture underneath, it’s just overclocked now, largely in response to Obama being black.

It’s why I’ve stopped going to tea party rallies. There’s nothing new, no actual new complaints that weren’t stale in the mid-90s… just a lot more energy than usual, and the energy is being generated by [a] vague unspecified unthoughtabout bigotry and [b] 10,000 neat gadgets and a reason to use them. I spent about an hour at one tea party getting taught how to use an iPhone by someone who was enamored with her ability to hotlink into RSS feeds, or something. Gadgets! And a reason to use them!

Sure, they love dramatic talk about how this country is falling apart all around them and they must take some kind of drastic stand to save America. And they’ve been talking that way at varying levels of intensity for like fifty years, in response to race riots, Medicare, oil shocks, 9/11.

What is currently scaring me is the emerging focus on education, specifically on pushing for revisions to curricula, putting together home schooling programs, etc. Thankfully, it’s a slow and painful process to make any kind of change to public curricula, but in the three states where I’ve attended any tea party gatherings recently, everyone seems to be really keyed up about “fixing” the broken curriculum. History and civics stuff in particular. It scares me a bit how much many of these people know about the details of the curricula in their states: they’ve done their homework and are well-prepared for this fight, which it seems will be all systems go some time after the 2010 elections. Have folks on the left prepared their responses?

7

Keith 09.21.10 at 11:01 pm

…this feedback loop is going to break down at some point, and very possibly sooner rather than later.

Seeing as how Bob Inglis of South Carolina said that Reagan would be considered persona non grata by the Tea Baggers, were he alive today, I’m betting on sooner. There’s a lot the Koch bros. and other GOP moneyed elites will tolerate from the rabble but besmirching the name of Saint Ronny ain’t one of them. Also,: if your political movement thinks Ronald Effing Reagan is too much of a $ocialist, you’ve already got one foot off the cliff.

8

Red 09.21.10 at 11:03 pm

I disagree with Salient above on a minor point: the tea party people may know history school curricula, but here’s the thing: they don’t know history. These attempts at recisions are relatively easy to stop. Provided of course there is still a “left” willing to raise a voice.

9

Red 09.21.10 at 11:04 pm

revisions, not recisions, obviously

10

Salient 09.21.10 at 11:19 pm

I disagree with Salient above on a minor point: the tea party people may know history school curricula, but here’s the thing: they don’t know history.

We don’t disagree at all. But in Texas, for example, they’re proving they don’t *need* to know much about history.

These attempts at revisions are relatively easy to stop. Provided of course there is still a “left” willing to raise a voice.

…think about that antecedent for a moment. :-/

11

Red 09.21.10 at 11:24 pm

Somehow I gave up on Texas a long time ago. Prove me wrong, please.

12

Salient 09.21.10 at 11:31 pm

Dunno if I know how. I try to be a “don’t give up on human beings” sort of person in general. I could try saying something provocative, and see if it sticks?

Giving up on Texas in the 21st century is a little like giving up on Virginia in the 19th.

13

Robert Waldmann 09.22.10 at 12:24 am

Two things. Republicans don’t know their enemies. Alinsky never accomplished all that much, nor did ACORN. Paranoia about powerful enemies can be energising but it can also lead to mistakes. All these movements suffer from a gross over estimate of the fraction of people who would agree with them if only they heard the message (less with Dean than with the others).

Also what’s this GOP which brokers “its internal deals between religious types, business interests and government-starvers (Grover Norquist’s Wednesday breakfast meetings etc )” I’m pretty sure that the religious types were not allowed floor time in Norquist’s meetings (“no sex talk” – G Norquist). Also you left out the hawks. I’d say Norquist brokered business interests, business interests and business interests.

I mean what have the Republicans ever actually done for religious interests ? Abstinence only sex education and DOMA is all I know of them actually delivering. No wonder the religious right is revolting in Delaware.

14

Ebenezer Scrooge 09.22.10 at 12:39 am

To me, the Tea Party is nothing more than a very selective repudiation of George Bush by the Republican party. It allows the Republicans to pretend that the enormous Bush deficits and incompetence are not part of their essence, but were merely imposed by the liberal George Bush. I don’t see why anybody is paying it any attention.

15

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 12:52 am

Why are we treating an astroturf collaboration between the Koch brothers and Murdoch as though it were a genuine movement?

16

vivian 09.22.10 at 12:55 am

The most important thing the tea party is doing is soaking up all the press, making sure that none of the national conversation about bad government or “we’re on the wrong path” ism gets articulated (on tv) as support for anything vaguely progressive, supportive of specific individuals in Congress, etc. Turning fear about economic security, global priorities, etc. into “throw all the bums out” does help make it harder for non-net-savvy people to actually explore the spectrum of diagnoses and disagreements. The conversation stays on the rails, and then in early 2011, the national conversation will be less about the tea party and more about the remarkable rehabilitation of the republicans just in time for the horse race. So while the felt experience of tea partiers may be “people like me who are also scared and upset” the dynamic looks more like slime mold in a laboratory than the Dean movement.

17

Jack Strocchi 09.22.10 at 1:18 am

Deleted comment from banned commenter.

18

spontaneous downrising 09.22.10 at 1:20 am

Acephalous network, yeah, right. It’s not Koch’s head that’s funding and coordinating the tea parties,
http://24ahead.com/tea-parties-astroturfed-koch-family-movement-freedomworks-in
it’s his wallet.

19

Salient 09.22.10 at 1:26 am

I mean what have the Republicans ever actually done for religious interests ?

…stoked and validated their persecution fetish? It’s not like the rank and file among the “religious interests” are policy wonks. See also August Pollak

20

Tom T. 09.22.10 at 1:43 am

the political difficulties that leaderless organizations may run into

Well, it’s not like political organizations with leaders are doing terribly well these days….

21

Glen Tomkins 09.22.10 at 2:21 am

Street theater

Rallies where they dress up like Paul Revere, and campaign speeches, and blog rants — all that, by itself, is just theater. Theater that is, to be sure, not any less meaningful than the major parties’ conventions. But that’s my point, those conventions have become pure window dressing and theater.

We’re not going to know if this Tea Party phenomenon will ever amount to more than just a season of heavily subsidized, rent-an-actor, street theater until and unless they get a fair number of Tea Partiers into Congress, and these people start to do non-politics-as-usual things. They’ve got Boehner at least talking about going for some fairly extreme constitutional hard-ball, in the form of this scheme of theirs to effectively repeal the ACA by denying it any discretionary funds.

Normally, of course, we think that you need the same assent of both chambers plus the president (or 2/3 in both chambers) to repeal a law, that you needed to pass it in the first place. The idea behind this scheme of theirs is to let the House alone, which is the only element of the three that they will probably control, repeal laws all by itself.

This power grab, by itself, would be hardball enough. But this maneuver would also raise all sorts of constitutional confrontations. We would have laws still on the books creating obligations on the govt, but no funds appropriated to meet those obligations. We would have mandatory funding still flowing to programs for which the cut-off of discretionary funding would mean that there were no govt employees able to administer the use of those mandatory funds.

The administration would be forced to react in ways as innovational as the actions of the Tea Partiers to redirect funding or govt workers to deal with the mismatches that result. These folks would than have some actual overreach by the Kenyan Usurper on their plates to chew on, as opposed to the stuff they now have to make up to glumly munch on.

The resulting season of constitutional hardball, if such materializes, is the only thing that will keep the Tea Bagger phenomenon from rapid retirement to the ash-heap of history. It could easily get out of hand, of course, and they could easily all end up dead, taking a lot of the rest of us with them, of course, but the more immediate threat facing whatever of them make it to Congress, will be the sure political extinction that will result in the absence of at least constitutional brinksmanship. You can’t predict an apocalypse, and promise an Armageddon style battle of Right vs Evil, and then deliver only politics as usual and accommodation. If there’s enough of them that get elected, and the momentum seems with them enough that they get effective control of the House, there will be at least near-blood. History will replay the farces they now stage on the street as tragedy.

22

P O'Neill 09.22.10 at 2:26 am

There are some signs among the suits of concern that the Tea Partiers are actually serious about some of this corporate welfare stuff, especially when it involves trade.

23

bxg 09.22.10 at 4:03 am

> Jonathan Bernstein touches on an interesting question below: Who, exactly, speaks for the Tea Party movement?
A question about language. What is the meaning/function/purpose of “exactly” in such a sentence? A contrast with “Who, _exactly_, speaks for the Democrats?” would help me, I think.

24

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 4:15 am

“The resulting season of constitutional hardball, if such materializes, is the only thing that will keep the Tea Bagger phenomenon from rapid retirement to the ash-heap of history. It could easily get out of hand, of course, and they could easily all end up dead, taking a lot of the rest of us with them, of course, but the more immediate threat facing whatever of them make it to Congress, will be the sure political extinction that will result in the absence of at least constitutional brinksmanship. You can’t predict an apocalypse, and promise an Armageddon style battle of Right vs Evil, and then deliver only politics as usual and accommodation.”

I don’t think there’s much room for doubt that our own little Harzburg Front will precisely play for that. As you argue, they will be completely discredited if they don’t. I think you’re wrong in predicting that there will be much resistance, if any, to what they plan to do as long as it doesn’t interfere with the oligarchs’ economic interests. The original Harzburg Front was actually much more impressive than our clownish version – at least in the original, the rabble rousers eventually overshadowed the economic oligarchs. I don’t think our cowardly current version will even achieve that (very low) level of distinction.

25

Jesse 09.22.10 at 4:19 am

For all the talk of decentralization, the Tea Party has been remarkably easy to steer. Their strange positions on net neutrality and the seventeenth amendment come to mind

You think they were “steered” into opposing the 17th amendment? By whom?

That’s a longstanding cause on the fringe right. It’s also a lost cause, and I can’t imagine any plutocrat worth his salt spending money to organize a movement around it.

26

Jesse 09.22.10 at 4:19 am

For all the talk of decentralization, the Tea Party has been remarkably easy to steer. Their strange positions on net neutrality and the seventeenth amendment come to mind

You think they were “steered” into opposing the 17th amendment? By whom?

That’s a longstanding cause on the fringe right. It’s also a lost cause, and I can’t imagine any plutocrat worth his salt spending money to organize a movement around it.

27

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 4:22 am

“Why are we treating an astroturf collaboration between the Koch brothers and Murdoch as though it were a genuine movement?”

1. It’s now fairly obvious that our oligarchs are more or less uniformly behind the effort, even if Murdoch is taking point.
2. This time the oligarchs own the demagogues and the demagogues and their audience actively prefer it that way.
3. I don’t think it makes sense to say that it isn’t genuine in some sense. We have to start wrapping our minds around understanding that the Enlightenment project has failed – a lot of the demos really likes this stuff.

28

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 4:28 am

“There’s a lot the Koch bros. and other GOP moneyed elites will tolerate from the rabble but besmirching the name of Saint Ronny ain’t one of them.”

1. I doubt our oligarchs actually care about anyone besmirching the name of one of their hired monkeys who last held office in 1989.
2. The rabble doesn’t see itself as being opposed to Reagan. The rabble explicitly sees itself as carrying out Reagan’s policies in our current environment. Now, that may be factually incorrect, but that factual incorrectness is of no interest to the oligarchs.

29

PHB 09.22.10 at 5:02 am

The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that spontaneously came into existence after Glenn Beck and other Fox News hosts told their viewers to spontaneously create a grassroots movement.

The National Journal is giving the astroturf version of the story. Not once does the article mention the role of Fox News in organizing and publicizing the ‘grassroots’ rallies. In fact the string ‘Fox’ does not appear in the article at all.

As for the Tea Party rallies being inconceivable in the past. They are considerably smaller than recent liberal rallies and since it is impossible to get a parks service permit for an event on the mall without planning etc, someone must have performed the planning or they would not have happened at all.

So far the impact of the Tea Party has been limited to the GOP primaries. It is not too difficult to see how a movement like the Tea Party can have a big impact in a primary, particularly when the ‘grassroots’ Tea Party picks are being backed with $600,000 checks from the people who really run the show like the Koch brothers.

Replacing Castle with O’Donnell is the easy part. All that is necessary is to press the emotional button for ‘throw the bums out’. They are both GOP, all the Tea Party needs to do is to persuade the primary voters that O’Donnell is a credible candidate. Persuading people to vote for the GOP over the Democrats is an entirely different proposition.

The Tea Party will not crash after the election though. On the contrary it will either claim credit for the GOP triumph or engage in Bennite logic of ‘we were not extreme enough’. While the Tea Party has taken some scalps, Angle and O’Donnell are running for seats the Democrats already hold. It can never be proven that the party would have won with a different candidate. The dynamics in Florida and Alaska are different, there the blame will be placed on the untrustworthy establishment traitors who ran against the GOP candidate.

If you look at the raw polls without the voter intentions, they have barely moved all summer. The Democrats appear to have momentum at the moment and are closing the poll gap because they are closing the enthusiasm gap. I think that the GOP is going to find that they make little progress if any. But it won’t make any difference. Sarah Palin is now the all-but-inevitable GOP nominee for 2012.

Like Goldwater, she will tank completely in the general election. But the GOP establishment will back her as they need he patronage power to win their own primaries. The only way to get back control of their party is to give her the 2012 nomination and hope she doesn’t take them with her when she crashes and burns.

30

Phil 09.22.10 at 8:03 am

The Tea Party will not crash after the election though. On the contrary it will either claim credit for the GOP triumph or engage in Bennite logic of ‘we were not extreme enough’.

Re Benn, I think you’re conflating two different periods. After the 1983 election, Benn said in effect that the Labour Party had been radical enough and now needed to build on its result: we should see the result not as the Labour Party gaining a miserable 28% of the vote, but as a magnificent 28% vote for socialism. It was after the 1987 election – when four years of Kinnock dragging the party back to the Right paid off in a vote of 31% – that some people started saying that perhaps the party now wasn’t radical enough.

The precedent of 1983 actually suggests that a bad result would be disastrous for the TP as a political force. Here’s hoping.

31

Jim Rose 09.22.10 at 10:29 am

Is the tea party any different from moveon.org or code pink and other left wing grassroots organisations that are loud, raucous and they really do not like their political opponents for reasons that causes them to overplay their hand?

32

Alex 09.22.10 at 10:47 am

I’m a little ambivalent about this. I do like the idea that they’ve implemented all the stuff about rhizomatics and fourth-generation entities that’s been sloshing about the Left these last 10 years, but it’s too nice a story arc, and the astroturf element is very true. In fact, it was reported at the time – TPM covered the original, pre-inauguration Tea Party conference organised by FreedomWorks and Dick Armey.

It’s still interesting that they’ve installed the software on their existing hardware.

The Obama campaign was very good at integrating the ‘roots with a coherent strategy, but they’ve (whether deliberately or out of complacency) not followed through by making any use of OFA. You wonder how good the lists are now.

33

Barry 09.22.10 at 11:05 am

In the end, any article about these guys has got to ask and answer one question:

Where the f*ck were all of these ‘love my country, fear my government’ demonstrators when Bush et. al. were gleefully trashing the country?

For at least 90% of them, the answer would be ‘kissing their *sses and reveling in their power to do as they pleased’.

34

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.22.10 at 12:05 pm

To create and maintain a solid long-lasting movement, the right has churches, and the left has unions. Except that there are no unions anymore.

35

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 12:24 pm

Henri pretty much nailed it. And his comment puts in perspective how self-destructive the Democratic Party’s refusal to do anything beyond lip service for unions has been.

36

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 12:24 pm

By the way, why doesn’t preview work in Chrome?

37

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 12:25 pm

Never mind, it mysteriously started working.

38

Henry 09.22.10 at 1:53 pm

I think it’s a mistake to dismiss the Tea Party crowd as simply astroturf. Obviously, Koch and Armey played a very important role in getting it rolling. But it does seem to me to have assumed a life of its own. I worry that Koch may take on the same role for lefties as Soros does for conservatives – a convenient way to blame all sorts of political developments one doesn’t like on a malignant and Machiavellian moneybags-mastermind (that’s my alliteration quota used up for the year).

Henri – this, in a nutshell, is the Hacker-Pierson argument about the importance of organizations in American political life over the last thirty years. They gesture towards MoveOn as a possible alternative strategy in their last chapter, but this I found unconvincing for the reasons laid out in the Mark Schmitt essay I link to above. I pushed them on this at a “book launch”:http://www.newamerica.net/events/2010/winner_take_all_politics at New America on Monday, and their answer was more or less ‘well – our goal is more to precisely identify the problem than to provide solutions’ (you should be able to see the answer for yourself on the video – right at the end of the session – but I can’t check since I am about to get on a plane and my connection is slow).

39

JM 09.22.10 at 1:57 pm

You think they were “steered” into opposing the 17th amendment? By whom?

You didn’t get the Grover Norquist reference?

40

JM 09.22.10 at 1:58 pm

Is the tea party any different from moveon.org or code pink and other left wing grassroots organisations that are loud, raucous and they really do not like their political opponents for reasons that causes them to overplay their hand?

Yes.

41

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 2:20 pm

But it does seem to me to have assumed a life of its own.

Sorry, I’m not buying that- they couldn’t even get their Las Vegas convention off the ground. The supposed “tea party primary candidates” are just garden variety nutso extremists (Birchers, in a former age) who would appeal to the shrunken, crazy GOP base just as much if nobody had ever heard of the Tea Party. I’m extremely skeptical about the existence of any self-sustaining organization independent of the string-pullers.

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Bruce Baugh 09.22.10 at 2:20 pm

It’s not just the Koch brothers, malignant and zealous as they are. Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks got the ball rolling with the Tea Party and continues to pay a lot of the bills, and he draws on the whole panoply of American executive scum. I’ll believe the Tea Party is in any sense independent of its sponsors the very moment I see a candidate win a primary campaigning on anything harmful to the interests of a major FreedomWorks donor.

We often talk as though corporate and religious flavors of right-wing extremism are basically separate things, but I’ve become convinced this isn’t always so. Max Blumenthal’s Republican Gomorrah provides some excellent examples of just how often the rotten CEO is a zealous disciple of Dobson or one of the other mega-church pastors. Rotten religion gives them relief from their various crises and conviction of their righteousness whenever doubts arise, and preaches useful lessons about their deserved ascendancy and everyone else’s subservience. And the thing is that it’s not just an act, a lot of them really do sincerely believe it, and are shaped by it.

43

piglet 09.22.10 at 2:27 pm

“particularly when the ‘grassroots’ Tea Party picks are being backed with $600,000 checks from the people who really run the show like the Koch brothers.”

It also helps when the “anti-establishment” tea Party candidate is a mega-millionaire doesn’t it?

44

bianca steele 09.22.10 at 2:38 pm

The left has unions.

The rise of the Reagan Democrats more or less coincided with the decline of the unions. I assume it would be possible to find statistics that would support the thesis that union membership made a Democrat less likely to vote for Reagan, or otherwise.

45

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 5:37 pm

“The supposed “tea party primary candidates” are just garden variety nutso extremists (Birchers, in a former age) who would appeal to the shrunken, crazy GOP base just as much if nobody had ever heard of the Tea Party. I’m extremely skeptical about the existence of any self-sustaining organization independent of the string-pullers.”

I think you’re overly comfortable about this: we have too many bad precedents to dismiss the Tea Party so easily.

1. Remember, there was not much that was completely new within the PNF or NSDAP either. Almost all of NSDAP’s support came from people who were earlier in the volkisch movement (Kershaw argues that Hitler modeled himself consciously on Karl Lueger). Many of the PNF’s supporters were simply the same employers who had always been looking for ways to break labor unions.
2. Remember also that a lot of conservative capitalists in inter-war Europe were also thinking that they could keep control of the new authoritarian movements, too. Indeed, they were quite convinced of this until they were destroyed.
3. I think you underestimate how radicalized the American oligarchs have already become, even compared to the traditional conservatives of inter-war Europe. There are all sorts of anecdotal evidence that a substantial proportion of the American oligarchy isn’t simply only pursuing their class interests, but really is ideologically convinced by extremely radical ideas that they would pursue even if it hurt them monetarily (the amounts of time and money the Coors and Koch family have dumped into politics is unlikely to be directly recouped by them in future monetary profits).
4. I would go farther than Bruce and argue that there is no longer any meaningful distinction between corporate conservatism and religious conservatism. Partially, that’s because the religious conservatives now all believe that their religions mandate capitalism and explicitly ban all other economic forms. We should further note that this has occurred throughout most faiths in the US: while the Low-Church Protestants were first, the Catholics have now followed their lead. American Christianity incorporates neoclassical economic theory as a central tenet of it’s beliefs.

46

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 6:05 pm

burritoboy, I’m VERY worried about the oligarchs and their ability to use mobs for their purposes- we all know how very badly that could end. My point is that the “tea party” as such is meaningless (and is not an autonomous movement at all); it’s precisely that oligarchical reality behind it which is the (big) problem. But in order to combat it effectively it’s important to understand that it’s a problem of astroturf and not of grass roots. Jane Hamsher, for instance, signally failed to understand that when she made gestures in the direction of the Tea Party during the health care debate. There’s simply no there there, in the way that has been delusionally believed by a few people on the left who imagine they can make common cause with it on supposedly common concerns.

47

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 6:29 pm

Of course, Tom Tomorrow says it so much better than I can:
http://www.credoaction.com/comics/2010/09/the-tea-crumpets-party/

48

Glen Tomkins 09.22.10 at 6:37 pm

@burritoboy #23

If you talk of it in terms of the Harzburg Front, you raise all sorts of Godwin’s Law angst. The claim that the present situation is that dangerous is one thing you bring up by talking in terms of Weimar and the impending Third Reich, and I think that claim has validity. But the Third Reich is so freighted with other baggage, you bring up so much else by talking in those terms, that I prefer to use other historical analogies when possible.

I think of this paradox of the super-entitled, super-rich of the present order, thinking of themselves as, at least posing as, the victims of tyranny — by analogy to the super-aristocrats who triggered the French Revolution by forcing the Estates General to be called. The super-wealthy of the ancien regime were so incensed by Neckar’s proposed scheme to finally tax the rich at all, because they were the last unexploited source of revenue in a country facing bankruptcy and public default, that the members of the Parlement de Paris refused to register the new taxes. These pampered beneficiaries of five generations of Bourbon absolutism insisted that new taxes without the express approval of the Estates General were categorically and absolutely impossible, though they had presided over five generations of the monarchy imposing ever more onerous taxation of the lower orders without the permission of any legislature.

Well, they got their meeting of the Estates General, but then they got quite a bit more else that they hadn’t bargained on. But before all of that “quite a bit more” developed, in the initial push to make the king back down fro mtaxing the wealthy, the parlementaires deployed street protests (hired, of course), and the rhetoric of liberty vs Bourbon tyranny. Many of the symbols that would later become emblamatic of an actual popular revolt, things like the Phrygian cap, were first part of the propaganda effort of these super-wealthy, super-privileged mob rentiers, in that fateful year of 1788.

Well, both references are probably too obscure to ever catch on as popular tags for the Tea Baggers, but I still prefer Mob Rentiers to Neo-Harzburg Fronters.

49

Eric Titus 09.22.10 at 6:41 pm

Anti-globalization movement, anyone?

There’s plenty of anthro/sociology literature out there dealing with the decentralized social movements of the past 20 years. Are Jonathan Rauch (and the bloggers who responded to his article) unaware of the history of social movements? Certainly the organization of the tea party is interesting, but I see nothing to suggest that it is new.

50

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 6:44 pm

Well, they got their meeting of the Estates General, but then they got quite a bit more else that they hadn’t bargained on. But before all of that “quite a bit more” developed, in the initial push to make the king back down fro mtaxing the wealthy, the parlementaires deployed street protests (hired, of course), and the rhetoric of liberty vs Bourbon tyranny. Many of the symbols that would later become emblamatic of an actual popular revolt, things like the Phrygian cap, were first part of the propaganda effort of these super-wealthy, super-privileged mob rentiers, in that fateful year of 1788.

I wish I dared hope that that history could repeat itself, but the US in 2010 has a repressive apparatus orders of magnitude more effective than any the Bourbons and the 18th Century French aristocracy could have dreamed of, as well as a bourgeoisie that is barely literate, let alone as politically aware as the one that avidly consumed the writings of the philosophes. As of now I see very little standing between us and the future depicted by Gary Shteyngart in Super Sad True Love Story.

51

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 6:54 pm

“But in order to combat it effectively it’s important to understand that it’s a problem of astroturf and not of grass roots.”

While that’s a possibility, we should remember that many people on the left in inter-war Europe also believed that the new right was simply another version of traditional conservatism. But that was distinctly not the case, and European leftists who did view the situation that way often paid for that mistake by political failure and often the loss of their lives. European traditional conservatives who believed that the new right was under their control often paid for that mistake by political failure or the loss of their lives.

Traditional conservatives are quite different from new right movements. The question is if the Tea Party is different from traditional conservatism. I would argue that it is. The Republican Party was traditionally the same as the upper tiers of the business elite. That business elite tended (and still tends) to be technocrats. They viewed themselves as sort of business experts or business scientists. That’s why the Republican party was essentially sidelined once the economists became Keynesians (and the business elite largely became very moderate Republicans in that era).

Here’s the frightening bit: now the economists are in confusion, but there’s every reason to assume the neoclassicals will not dominate economics in the future. But we see that the Tea Party is not interested in how the business elite will continue to rule as a technocracy. Rather, they see neoclassical economics as a sort of religious principle or as a will to power- they have little interest in neoclassical economics being true in any empirical sense.

Which is in absolute opposition to how American business elites traditionally have seen economics. That business elite wants to be empirically right about economics – if they themselves are empirically incorrect about economics, they will lose their own money to others who are empirically more correct. There’s now a great deal of interest in the business elite about behavioral and heterodox economics because those things might be empirically correct. Conversely, the Tea Party literally doesn’t care whether their economics are right or not. If you examine their rhetoric, they don’t seem to support neoclassical economics because they believe it is empirically correct. Instead, they seem to support it because it is part of “their country” that they want to “take back”. I view this as fundamentally a volkisch concept and explicitly anti-rational.

To expand: at the moment, the business elite and the Tea Party are in very close alignment. Both currently agree that the oligarchs should rule. But their views on what legitimates that rule has entirely different foundations. The oligarchs could easily lose control (or possibly, the oligarchy itself might split into warring factions revolving around the issue of who can control or appeal to the Teabaggers).

52

scathew 09.22.10 at 6:58 pm

I’m kind of hoping the “Tea Party” is like the hippies. While both the Tea Party and hippies are/were centered around specific ideals, both are/were a sort of hyper-exaggerated versions of the original driving movement.

That is, hippies were a way of taking liberalism to an extreme such that it almost became laughable. Similarly the Tea Party is certainly extreme and frankly, a laughable version of conservatism. In short both movements to some extent diminished the value of the messages they claimed to represent by making a mockery of them.

Now a lot of people assume the hippies were the movement in the 60’s, but I have a theory that they in fact marked the end of the movement. Or rather, a culmination – after much liberal progress, it was the “over-the-edge” hippies with their “circus” tactics that ultimately turned Americans off to liberalism.

In that respect, I’m hoping that the Tea Party has the same effect for conservatism. That it marks the culmination, or end, of an era. The last “hurrah”.

I may be off – but I see a parallelism. Liberalism had been gaining steam since the mid-forties only to culminate at the time of the hippies when frankly, they started to go too far. The public then turned.

Similarly for the last 20+ years conservatism has been gaining steam leading to the “Tea Party” which are definitely going “too far” themselves. Thus I’m hoping in the same way, the public turns.

Another parallelism is that “hippies” were a fashion of sorts – people wanted to be hippies and it was cool, but it got old and people moved on, leaving both the lifestyle and the movement itself. “Tea Party”-ism is similarly fashionable, and I wonder if it too will be jettisoned when it’s 15 minutes of fame are gone?

Finally, considering the number of claimed hippies at one time and how little they do today, one can clearly see the “fashion” of hippie-ism didn’t just extend to clothing, but to ideas. If millions embraced “liberalism” as a fashion that they really had no investment in, I would not be surprised to see the same for “conservatism”.

Let us pray for the fickleness of fashion.

53

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 6:59 pm

Sorry, I will continue to disagree. The people who go to tea party rallies have beliefs indistinguishable from their forebears going back decades if not centuries in US history.
It’s the puppet masters who- with grave danger to the rest of us- are now far more mainstream than the eccentric millionaires who once funded the John Birch Society. It’s to them that our attention needs to be directed, rather than to their dupes, who are only dangerous to the extent that big money can mobilize them.

54

Steve LaBonne 09.22.10 at 7:00 pm

I should have noted that #52 is in reply to burritboy’s #50.

55

scathew 09.22.10 at 7:04 pm

Of course the problem with the above rambling (sorry) theory is liberalism has had the entire monied establishment against it, whereas the Tea Party has its support.

Frankly given the enemies arrayed against it, it’s amazing that any form of liberalism exists today…

56

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 8:12 pm

“Sorry, I will continue to disagree. The people who go to tea party rallies have beliefs indistinguishable from their forebears going back decades if not centuries in US history.”

Their forebears did not have close, ideological alliances with the oligarchs. In general, the most extreme volkisch conservatives in the US were incorporated into the Democratic Party (which did not include many of the oligarchs). Only since the 1950s/ 1960s were the volkisch conservatives incorporated into the party of the oligarchs. Before then, the most volkisch conservatives were actually in quite a bit of opposition to the top tier of the oligarchy (they liked their local gentry reasonably well, but usually strongly disliked that the real oligarchs were operating from within the capital markets or from large organizations centered in the very largest cities and run as technocracies).

I would continue to argue that the Tea Party supports the oligarchy, but for different reasons than the oligarchy supports itself. Conversely, the oligarchy organized the Tea Party for different reasons than the reasons why the Tea Partiers joined up.

The danger of the Tea Party is precisely that unstable mix – if the oligarchs controlled the Tea Party tightly, then it’s no existential threat. If the Tea Party opposed the oligarchs, then also they would be no existential threat either. The problem is that the combination of deep agreements and deep disagreements between the oligarchs and the TP make the situation very unpredictable and potentially an explosive one.

57

MQ 09.22.10 at 9:11 pm

I found the Rauch article astounding in the way it ignored the orchestration of the Tea Party by major right-wing oligarchs with extensive political organizing experience. It was almost like a deliberate piece of propaganda in the way it ignored public-record facts to spin this sentimental stuff about spontaneous grassroots uprisings. I agree it’s an oversimplification to say the tea party is *only* manipulated from the top — there’s genuine public confusion and anger here — but I don’t see any argument that it isn’t *significantly* manipulated by Fox News, the Kochs, and the like.

I’m surprised Henry fell for it.

Rather, they see neoclassical economics as a sort of religious principle or as a will to power- they have little interest in neoclassical economics being true in any empirical sense.

Well, yes, but that’s not unreasonable. Politics actually really is aboout power and not about some kind of quest for empirical truth. If you want to turn the U.S. in a small-government libertarian direction, you can do it. You will pay a real cost and it will almost certainly be “suboptimal” in some sense, but it’s not like you’re violating the laws of physics or something. I don’t think the majority of the public would support such a move, but the tea party are free to call for it.

58

PHB 09.22.10 at 11:00 pm

There might have been a genuine Tea Party movement at some point. But it is impossible to know, let alone what it would have become.

What we are seeing is the result of Koch’s millions flowing through Armey’s Freedom Works plus the tens of millions more in in-kind promotion from the Murdoch corporations.

Without those there would have been no big rallies and absolutely no establishment media coverage. The Tea Party would have never been anything.

59

burritoboy 09.22.10 at 11:24 pm

“Politics actually really is aboout power and not about some kind of quest for empirical truth.”

And the best way to retain power is to reject empirical truth in principal? And if you’re in power to do things that objectively hurt yourself, actually gaining that power will be bad for you. That’s why the TP gaining power will be the worst thing for them.

“I don’t think the majority of the public would support such a move, but the tea party are free to call for it.”

They aren’t calling for it in the sense that you mean. You’re portraying a rational discussion: two interlocutors disputing about what economic truth is. That’s not what this discussion is: from what I can tell, the TP is making some sort of volkisch statement, which is neither a discussion nor rational.

60

Omega Centauri 09.23.10 at 1:41 am

Several commentors have said there is nothing new here, it is the same people we’ve been seeing for decades. But, I think something has changed. The psychological effect of being in the echo chamber for more than an hour a day. Programming the brain with kneejerk hatred of anything remotely identified with liberalism, or of government regulation, over a period of a decade or more has got to have a pretty serious effect. And, we wonder why they appear to be nutcases. Could any human brain withstand that amount of amygdala training without a severe anti-rational impact?

In the old days, the opportunity to spend so much time in an echo chamber just didn’t exist for all but an unfortunate few. And the psychological science being used has advanced greatly since Goebbels.

61

Salient 09.23.10 at 1:55 am

The psychological effect of being in the echo chamber for more than an hour a day. Programming the brain with kneejerk hatred of anything remotely identified with liberalism, or of government regulation, over a period of a decade or more has got to have a pretty serious effect.

Indeed, AM talk radio is the reason we can’t trace this back “centuries” as suggested upthread, and its effect has been far more pernicious than the web — you can’t listen to the Internet while you drive your tractor around.

62

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.23.10 at 7:07 am

Indeed, AM talk radio is the reason we can’t trace this back “centuries” as suggested upthread, and its effect has been far more pernicious than the web—you can’t listen to the Internet while you drive your tractor around.

It is curios, isn’t it. Because I believe that until very recently everyone – from as early as the Bolsheviks (‘Cinema is for us the most important of all arts’), to the Nazis with their parades and Der Sturmer caricatures, to the HCUA with their Hollywood purges, and including dystopian predictions, from 1984 to Clockwork Orange – they all felt that visual media is the most effective propaganda tool. Go figure. Someone should write a book.

63

Jaybird 09.23.10 at 2:53 pm

Is the anti-war protests a decent thing with which to compare?

We saw anti-Afghanistan War protests very early in the post-9/11 environment. While it’s certainly true that one could point to the Free Mumia signs or the Hamas flags and jump to conclusions about the “real” motivations of the so-called “anti-war” people (ANSWER!!!! ANSWER!!!!!!!), isn’t there a much simpler explanation…

One that also explains why the Tea Parties didn’t really start showing up until after 2006 *AND*, at the same time, explains why the anti-war protests disappeared right around the same time?

My take is that an anti-war protest would be seen, at this point, as counter-productive to what people on “our side” (or who are, at least, against the people on “their side”) (according to those most responsible for organizing protests, anyway) might want to accomplish.

And it’s the same in the days that followed 2002 and 2004 for the Tea Parties/Republicans.

There are a bunch of people out there who are alienated from their government but they are so alienated that they don’t have any idea what they could possibly do to deal with it. The anti-war protests appealed to one group of them. The tea parties appeal to a different (minimally overlapping) group.

To focus on ANSWER, Hamas flags, and Mumia signs is to miss the point of the anti-war protests, no?

64

piglet 09.23.10 at 5:15 pm

Henri 62: I also suspect that TV must have had even more of a brainwashing effect on the US public than radio.
“Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day), accounting for about half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over.” http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm

65

Salient 09.23.10 at 6:18 pm

Because I believe that until very recently everyone – from as early as the Bolsheviks (‘Cinema is for us the most important of all arts’), to the Nazis with their parades and Der Sturmer caricatures, to the HCUA with their Hollywood purges, and including dystopian predictions, from 1984 to Clockwork Orange – they all felt that visual media is the most effective propaganda tool.

Yeah, radio’s a recent invention, and I think it took a long time for the right people to figure out that it’s the only media people can pay half-attention to while working. Which is really, really key. Which brings me to:

I also suspect that TV must have had even more of a brainwashing effect on the US public than radio.

Well, okay, go look up at AM listenership ratings versus 24/7 cable news watchership ratings. Then do the same for 1990. Only tuned in political junkies watch political jank in their leisure time, but which are you more likely to do while working all day: listen to the radio or watch TV?

Well, ok, now office folks have “surf the Internet” as an alternative to AM radio, of course. But I think it’s worth noting that “we’ve moved from AM radio to more diverse options of AM radio or Internet” is much more correct then “in the beginning there was no propaganda outlet targeting these folks, and then let there be Internet, which changed everything.”

Oh, and AM radio let people feel like they could get involved. It really was a (coincidental) prototype for blogs, I think. Comments section = Let’s go to the phones!

66

Crystal 09.23.10 at 7:06 pm

Besides the endless availability of Fox News and other media that enables people to live within a right-wing echo chamber, there’s also the recent phenomenon of geographic clustering that Bill Bishop documented in The Big Sort. Tea Partiers can live, go to church with, and socialize exclusively with other Tea Partiers if they wish. Ditto the MoveOn/Kossack contingent. I believe this greatly amplifies the Fox News effect. You don’t have to listen to those awful, anti-American liberals (or conservatives) and you don’t even have to live with or socialize with them if you don’t want to. The Big Sort is a very interesting and thought-provoking book.

(It’s ironic, that this political ghettoization has come into being as the former “gay ghettos” in large cities are in decline along with rabid homophobia. While there are plenty who still oppose gay marriage and DADT, they are far less likely to say they don’t want lesbian or gay neighbors and coworkers.) Gays don’t have to live in enclaves in cities anymore, but increasingly, enclaves are forming by political inclination.

67

burritoboy 09.23.10 at 7:35 pm

Glenn,

I think that the Harzburg Front is actually the closer analogy, because the TP is a volkisch movement, while your analogues in the early days of the French Revolution were not.

It is true that you can find any number of analogies – a frequent course of events is that the traditional elite conservatives think they can keep the new right under control and are unable to do so. The experiences of the German, Italian, Japanese and other interwar traditional elite conservatives had that commonality. Ok, don’t use things that violate Godwin’s law. Do you think the history of Italian or Spanish interwar conservatism didn’t have the same similarities?

One thing that has rarely been highlighted among the elite bloviation over the past 80 years about how even the most moderate socialist will support Stalin, traditional conservative elites have repeatedly shown that they are perfectly willing (and often eager) to overthrow actually existing governments for extremely radical new right experiments (so much for all that pretense about tradition).

What I would argue is precisely problematic is that the Anglosphere conservatives have spent the past 80 years pretending that they were entirely different from the continental conservatives. We on the left have ourselves bought into this narrative. What we’ve found out to be the reality over the past two years, is that there’s not as much difference between the American Right of 2010 and the German Right of 1930-1931 (or the Spanish Right before the Civil War) as we eagerly fooled ourselves into believing. Murdoch is, in fact, not really that different from Hugenberg. Which means that our pretense that the Anglosphere is really so different was always self-congratulatory nonsense.

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piglet 09.23.10 at 8:08 pm

The right wing echo chamber is way bigger than talk radio. My regional newspaper publishes right-wing opinion pieces with fascist rantings frequently interspersed, sometimes balanced by a centrist “liberal” voice. Very depressing.

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