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PORTSIDE  August 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE August 2011, Week 1

Subject:

The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism

From:

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Date:

Wed, 3 Aug 2011 22:19:55 -0400

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The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern
extremism
	
	The goal, methods and passions of the Tea Party in
	the House are all characteristic of the radical
	Southern right

by Michael Lind

Salon.com
August 2, 2011

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/08/02/lind_tea_party

The Tea Party movement takes its name from the Boston Tea
Party of 1773, when American patriots dumped British tea
into Boston Harbor to protest British imperial power. But
while New England was the center of resistance to the
British empire, there are few New Englanders to be found in
today's Tea Party movement. It should be called the Fort
Sumter movement, after the Southern attack on the federal
garrison in Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12-13,
1861, that began the Civil War. Today's Tea Party movement
is merely the latest of a series of attacks on American
democracy by the white Southern minority, which for more
than two centuries has not hesitated to paralyze, sabotage
or, in the case of the Civil War, destroy American democracy
in order to get their way.

The mainstream media have completely missed the story, by
portraying the Tea Party movement in ideological rather than
regional terms. Whether by accident or design, the public
faces of the Tea Party in the House are Midwesterners --
Minnesota's Michele Bachmann and Joe Walsh of Illinois. But
while there may be Tea Party sympathizers throughout the
country, in the House of Representatives the Tea Party
faction that has used the debt ceiling issue to plunge the
nation into crisis is overwhelmingly Southern in its
origins:
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/29/who-is-the-tea-party-caucus-in-the-house/

Graph - Tea Party Caucus Members by Region
[go to:
http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/08/02/lind_tea_party ]

The four states with the most Tea Party representatives in
Congress are all former members of the Confederate States of
America. The states with the greatest number of members of
the House Tea Party caucus are Texas (12), Florida (7),
Louisiana (5) and Georgia (5). While California is in fifth
place with four House Tea Party members, the sixth, seventh
and eighth places on the list are taken by two former
Southern slave states, South Carolina and Tennessee, and a
border state, Missouri, each with three members of the
congressional Tea Party caucus.

If states with significant white Southern diasporas were
included, the Southern proportion of the House Tea Party
caucus would be even bigger. Many of the other states with
Tea Party representatives are border states with significant
Southern populations and Southern ties. One is Maryland, a
state with Confederate sympathies during the Civil War,
which, because the Census Bureau defines it as
"Northeastern," is responsible for the only Northeastern
member of the Tea Party caucus, Roscoe Bartlett. The four
Californian representatives come from the Orange County area
or inland California, both regions whose political culture
was shaped by Southern political culture, in the form of the
"Okie" diaspora that settled there during the Depression.

In the entire House Tea Party Caucus, there is not a single
representative from New England.

The fact that Tea Party conservatism speaks with a
pronounced Southern drawl may have escaped the attention of
the mainstream media, but it is obvious to members of
Congress who have to try to work with these
disproportionately-Southern fanatics. One is Rep. Loretta
Sanchez of California. As a guest on a radio show, she
mocked the Southern accent of the typical congressional Tea
Party caucus member:

The congresswoman, who represents Anaheim and other parts of
Orange County, laughed and said she knows how to get along
with people. Then she used a mock Southern accent to
describe how conversations with them play out.

"Hey what's your name? 'My name is M-o-e,'" Sanchez said,
feigning a Southern drawl that drew howls of laughter from
Miller and her co-host. "Ok Moe. Moe-ster, how you doing
baby? What are we going to do today? What's your interest?
What can we work on together?"

"'Well, it's unconstitutional," she said, using her faux
Southern accent.

Contradicting the mainstream media narrative that the Tea
Party is a new populist movement that formed spontaneously
in reaction to government bailouts or the Obama
administration, the facts show that the Tea Party in
Congress is merely the familiar old neo-Confederate Southern
right under a new label. The threat of Southern Tea Party
representatives and their sidekicks from the Midwest and
elsewhere to destroy America's credit rating unless the
federal government agrees to enact Dixie's economic agenda
of preserving defense spending while slashing entitlements
is simply the latest act of aggression by the Solid South.

Here is how the League of the South, a neo-Confederate
organization that favors Southern secession from what it
describes alternately as "the yankee empire" and "the South-
busting American regime," describes the South's pattern of
voting in Congress in recent years (note the author's
British spelling of "favour" -- Noah Webster, who tried to
Americanize spelling, was a Yankee):

Another stark Southern - US split occurred when the Senate
voted on President Clinton's impeachment verdict. The whole
Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both impeachment charges
while Southern Senators voted two-thirds in favour [sic] of
convicting Clinton of obstruction of justice (18 to 8). If
the South had been in charge, President Bill "the Lecher"
Clinton would have been the first president in U.S. history
to have been removed from office by impeachment.

Election

If the South had had its way, however, Clinton would not
even have been elected in the first place. In both 1992 and
1996 the South voted for the Republican nominee for
President, i.e., the candidate generally perceived to be
more conservative (regardless of the reality).

Taxes

On tax policy, the South almost always votes for lower
taxes, and is sometimes overridden by the US congress. In
1998 the thirteen State South voted by the required two-
thirds margin for a constitutional amendment to require a
two-thirds vote of both houses of congress to raise taxes.
Southerners voted in favour [sic] of this constitutional
amendment 90 to 41. In the full House the amendment failed
by 238 to 186 opposed, far short of the constitutionally
required two-thirds margin.

Religious Freedom

Also in 1998, Southern Representatives voted by the
requisite two-thirds "super majority" to submit to the
States the Religious Freedom Constitutional Amendment. It
would have guaranteed an individual's right to pray and
recognize his religious beliefs on public property,
including schools. The house of representatives [sic] as a
whole rejected this amendment by a vote of 224 in favour to
203 opposed, falling miserably short of the necessary two-
thirds margin.

States' Rights

In 1997 Senator Hutchinson of Arkansas offered an amendment
to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and transfer
its fiscal 1998 funding directly to the States. The South
voted for this State Rights proposal by the ample margin of
17 to 9, whereas the full Senate rejected this affirmation
of the rights and duties of the States by the almost equally
strong margin of 63 against to only 36 for.

In light of this recent history, it is clear that the
origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in
generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern
conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the
Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical
Southern right.

From the earliest years of the American republic, white
Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and
found themselves in the political minority have sought to
extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or
threatening to destroy the United States.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799
asserted the alleged right of states to "nullify" any
federal law that state lawmakers considered
unconstitutional. This obstructionist mentality led to the
Nullification Crisis of 1832, when South Carolina refused to
enforce federal tariffs. Civil War was averted only when
President Andrew Jackson, a Southerner himself, forced the
nullifiers to back down.

In 1820 and 1850 the South used the threat of secession to
force the rest of the United States to appease it on the
slavery issue. In 1861, the South tried to destroy the
United States, rather than accept a legitimately elected
president, Abraham Lincoln, whom it did not control.

Following defeat in the Civil War, the former Confederate
states regrouped as "the Solid South," a one-party region,
first Democratic and now Republican, that has tended to vote
as a bloc in national affairs. The South sought to block the
federal civil rights revolution by a policy of "massive
resistance" to court orders ordering racial integration.
Some Southern states went so far as to try to abolish their
public school systems rather than integrate them. It is hard
to avoid seeing a link between this racist rationale for
privatization and modern conservative plans to scale back
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, relied on
disproportionately by black and brown Americans and low-
income whites, while increasing taxpayer subsidies to
private retirement and healthcare accounts enjoyed mostly by
affluent whites.

As white Southerners, upset with the Democratic Party's
racial and social liberalism, migrated into the post-
Goldwater GOP, they brought their Dixiecrat attitudes into
the party of Lincoln. The Kemp-Roth tax bill of 1981, which
inaugurated the policy of creating permanent deficits by
slashing taxes without cutting spending, had its strongest
support among Southern and Western members of Congress and
the least support in the fiscally conservative Northeast.

The Republican Party's attempted government shutdown of 1995
marked the new domination of the Republican Party by
Southerners like Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay.
The impeachment of their fellow Southerner Bill Clinton was
an attempted coup d'etat by the Southern white minority in
the United States, which, as in 1860, was frustrated because
its candidate lost the presidential election.

The debt ceiling crisis is the latest case in which the
radical right in the South has held America hostage until
its demands are met. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham
Lincoln refused to appease the Southern fanatics.
Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress
chose not to follow their example and instead gave in. In
doing so, they have encouraged the neo-Confederate minority
in Congress to find yet another opportunity in the near
future to extort concessions from America's majority by
sabotaging America's government.

[Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth
Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of
"The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the
Fourth American Revolution." ]

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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