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In the shadow of 1860 - America's "two nations" go to the polls

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Paul Mason | 13:45 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010


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"No two nations on earth," wrote the Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade, "entertain more bitter feelings of rancour toward each other than these two nations of the Republic."

The two nations in question were the southern and northern peoples of America in the run up to the Civil War.

The historian Allan Nevins believed it was this "sectional consciousness, with all its emotional and psychological implications" which made war inevitable by 1861, not the issue of slavery per se.

Long before they were defined by grey and blue on the battlefield Americans had split into two sociologically and culturally distinct societies, sealed off from each other by distance, economics and a localised media.

Today the shadow of this division looms, barely acknowledged, over America's mid-term Congressional election, which has descended into a rancorous culture war with blasts of literal bellicosity at the edges.

Cultural divisions

Though you would not want to push the direct parallel with the 1850s too far, in this key quality - the emergence of exclusive "separate" consciousness - it is relevant.

In Angola, Indiana, I saw two thousand people assembled in a college gymnasium to hear the Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. Beck himself spoke moderately: America's problems began in 1915 with attempts by "progressives" to regulate business; the best solution to any problem is private, not public. He did not, as previously, call President Barack Obama a racist. He urged his followers to love their enemies.

But the speakers that surrounded Beck were on a different script. Merchandise stalls sold the Gadsden Flag - a coiled rattlesnake with the slogan "Don't Tread on Me" - symbolising the promise of armed resistance during the American Revolution.

A local tub-thumper during the warm-up attempted to claim not only that the battles of Bunker Hill (1775), Fredericksburg (a Confederate victory in 1862), Iwo Jima, Khe Sanh, Fallujah and Helmand had equivalently "defined America" - but that the very latest battle in this conflict was being fought right now on American soil.

The Tea Party movement never invokes the American Civil War but revels in the imagery of the War of Independence. It maintains a discreet social silence on a figure like Jefferson Davis but idealises George Washington.

In this ideological scheme it is the Constitution of 1787 that has been "destroyed" by President Obama's healthcare reforms, and by the $787bn fiscal stimulus.

When Republican Congressional candidates describe the current "ideological battle" as a battle to "defend the flag on our own soil" the question arises: who is the battle with, and what form will it take?

Uncomfortable parallels

The Tea Party movement is sociologically, not just overwhelmingly white but devoutly Christian, and often - but not exclusively - rural. Its adoption of placard imagery open to the charge of racism, and its initial craze for historical costumes, blindsided the liberal media in the USA into believing the movement was fake, or "Astroturf".

Its capture of key nominations in the Republican Congressional primaries proved its support extended far beyond this core activist group.

The Tea Party is now dictating policy and candidate selection to parts of the Republican Party, forcing mainstream Republican politicians to make a straight choice: do a deal with the Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks to get them off your back, or confront them in defence of a conservatism that is fiscally orthodox but socially tolerant. Few have openly chosen the latter.

As a result, the Tea Party movement gets to define American conservatism anew - and its definitions are exclusive: everything statist is deemed ungodly, unconstitutional; everything socially progressive spits on the graves of the heroes of Iwo Jima; every taxpayer handout to the undeserving poor defiles the flag.

If the key to American politics before 1861 was a split into two demographically separate "nations" then the parallels today are uncomfortable.

Then the South was defined by a white, slave-owning elite leading a mass of white farmers who saw Lincoln's attack on slavery as just one part of industrial capitalism's attack on their way of life.

They too believed they were defending the Constitution - not just over states' rights. J Mills Thornton, who studied the political ties between the "yeomen" of Alabama and the plantocracy discovered that, for the former, their entire conception of individual freedom and equality under the law had become bound up with the defence of slavery.

The North, in turn, represented not just a new economic model: it contained a different people. By 1861 its population included freed slaves, southern whites alienated from Dixie culture and millions of European migrants - including tens of thousands of Germans so steeped in the traditions of 1848 that they would march, uncomprehended by their English-speaking generals, onto the battlefields from Shiloh to Chattanooga singing socialist anthems.

America's two nations today are "virtual" - distributed across state borders by information networks, divided by the unseen boundaries that segregate many American towns and cities along lines of colour, lifestyle and class. But they are no less easy to identify. It feels to me like they are primarily defined by their attitude to the state and its role in the economy.

Different nations

A city like Gary, Indiana, blighted by industrial decline, is now 84% black. The neighbouring steelworks, America's biggest, is mixed and has a significant number of white workers: yet streets and the steelworks are part of a shared political culture that is pro-Democrat, liberal and multi-ethnic. It is a culture that accepts the state as having a role to play in economic life, that does not see any wider moral or constitutional issues raised by America's attempts to create a healthcare safety net. The anger here is that Obama and the state has not done enough.

A city like Elkhart - a vehicle manufacturing centre 100km to the east - can feel like part of a different nation. The unemployed autoworkers I met there in 2009 expressed the desire for the state simply to "get out of our way".

One, Ed Neufeldt, had introduced President Obama to the rally that launched the fiscal stimulus there, back in February 2009. The image of Obama embracing Ed was flashed across America - symbolising the new President's cross-over powers into this part of middle America. When I met him in April 2009 Mr Neufeldt was still prepared to give the President tacit support.

Eighteen months later he has become a celebrated figure in the local Tea Party movement, receiving a name-check and a standing ovation at the Glenn Beck rally:

"I guess I've switched sides," he told me.

He was disappointed with the outcome of the stimulus and bank bailouts but that was not the clincher: "I guess what did it was the President's position on abortion".

To America's newly militant "nations" of the right and left, every political controversy impacts - as Nevins understood about the 1850s - "emotionally and psychologically".

Ben Clement, a black community leader in Gary told me:

"When you hear the vitriol on the TV - it's culture based, it's race based and it's frightening. Your stomach tightens into a knot: you think if they think that about the President - what are they going to think about me?"

In the Glenn Beck rally both Beck himself and many in the audience are reduced at times to tears. He tells them:

"The progressives had to destroy our faith. They did it with something most people don't even know about. In our churches - all of our churches - there are termites, some of them are wolves. They've been eating for so long that our churches are nothing anymore. But you must get this out: you must know what social justice and collective salvation and all of this nonsense is all about, and where it came from. It was put into our churches to destroy us."

Some of America's mainstream media is in a state of denial and disorientation over the Tea Party movement, as are some political strategists in Washington. Though the Republicans since the 1970s explicitly based their election strategy on courting religious conservatism in the south, it was always assumed that this visceral plebeian tendency would remain a minority strand in the GOP, controllable by the elite.

At first much of the media, staffed at senior level by the children of the Lyndon B. Johnson era, looked at the Tea Party and saw "just" the same old anti-abortion groups that had plagued Reagan and Bush Senior.

Tentative battles

Meanwhile pro-Democrats revelled in the electoral calculation that a right-wing dominated Republican Party would hand the struggling President an unexpectedly clear victory in 2012.

In all cases the commentators under-estimated the Tea Party's momentum. What has changed is that its ideas have become defining ideas, as they have tapped into a seam of frustration and despair among the victims of the recession.

Driven by the movement, states such as Arizona have already picked tentative battles with the Federal authorities over tougher immigration laws. Should they win office on 2 November 2010, the Tea Party candidates will champion a new "states sovereignty" bill, aimed at weakening the power of the Federal state.

It is hard to see where this stops - short of some cathartic showdown with Federal authority or some miraculous turnaround in the economy.

Even then, there is no direct read-off between hardship and the rhetoric of resistance.

Observing the way both black and white communities have responded to the new penury of the middle class - by hunkering down with family, church and community - provides a clue to why "identity" on both sides of the argument has become so important.

The American dream of self-advancement was a unifying myth - but downward mobility seems to be emphasising the differences.

Of course these are only parallels - we are not about to see history repeated. And I am certainly not predicting civil war.

Most Americans still do not count themselves part of any other "nation" than the USA.

For now the battle takes place within the Republican party, just as it took place within the south in the 1850s between what Nevins described as "two southern ideas".

The first conceived the conflict with the liberal North in terms of conventional politics and saw it as containable within the existing institutions; the second acknowledged the emergence of a Southern nation that would transcend party politics and Federal law. The latter triumphed.

Mainstream Republicans are having to do their thinking fast in response to the Tea Party. Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor and tipped as a Republican candidate in the race for the White House in 2012, tells me:

"People ask me, is this a civil war? I say no - it's growing pains. A little creative hell-raising on behalf of freedom is not a bad thing... Now, when the confetti's fallen and quite appropriate alarms have been raised, I think at some stage it will be necessary to stand in front of those people and say - you were right about the diagnosis, here are the sorts of things we'll have to do if America is going to get back on its feet - and that's a transition that is yet to happen, but I hope and believe it will."

That is Plan A for the Republican establishment: to corral the anger of the Tea Party behind a new politics of fiscal austerity in 2012, designed and led by the Washington-based elite. To make, once in Presidential office, a compromise with Democrat governed states over issues like abortion or migration.

It may work. But co-existence is hard to achieve once the genie of "sectional consciousness" is out of the bottle.

When I met Civil War historians staging a re-enactment of the 1860 election debate in full costume on a handcart near the battlefield museum at Chickamauga in north Georgia, surrounded by American tourists in their baseball caps and shorts, they were all too aware of the parallels.

Park ranger Christopher Young, sweating under his top hat, broke out of character and told the crowd:

"The debate you've just heard was prelude to massive warfare. So be aware that the words we use can be far more lethal than any weapon on the battlefield."

Watch my report from Georgia on Newsnight at 2230 on Wednesday 13 October 2010. Or catch it afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    THERE MUST HAVE BEEN SOME POWERFUL INDIGENOUS CURSES INVOKED.

    Might this be the ultimate come-uppance; actually to IMPORT your nemesis?

    Oh - what have I said!

  • Comment number 3.

    @tawse57

    The USA is no more the white American's than it is the black American or the Hispanic American, or the asian American.

    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

    And they would do well to remember that.

  • Comment number 4.

    @tawse57

    I'm struggling to take in such undiluted, bigoted anger. Don't comments such as these just boil down to, "What does this boy think he's doing becoming President...".

    When Obama was elected there was a genuine feeling that America had turn a corner with race. But now I'm not so sure. A very, very sad indictment of contemporary America.

  • Comment number 5.

    davepoth

    I am merely commenting that a sizeable chunk of white American now feels and thinks in this way.

    It is not my personal opinion. Just my observation.

    How people think and feel is how people act and react to things that happen around them.

    Frightened people tend to react in the most dangerous and extreme of ways. Throw in a belief that they are being economically exploited, whilst being politically side-lined, and you have a receipe for trouble ahead.

    This is the message I am getting from Paul's blogs on his recent visit to the States.

    There are many in the middle in the US, as there are here in the UK, who feel that they are being squeezed until they have nothing left to give - squeezed in the amount of taxes they pay, squeezed in the fines they are targeted with as 'the soft option' and squeezed in things such as healthcare and pensions.

    They feel that not only are they paying for it all, which is going to and benefiting others, but they themselves are getting nothing back in return.

    As I said, that is as true here in the UK as it is in the US but, in the US, it has seen the rise of the Tea Party. Nothing similar has risen up here in the UK - perhaps a Labour victory last May may have seen something emerge out of the Central Right - but just because such sentiments have, so far, only found an outlet in the Tea Party in the US does not mean that the same undercurrents are not swirling around here in the UK.

    History teaches us that in times of economic turmoil extremes in Human Nature rise up often with devastating results for democracy, for justice, for freedom and for human rights.

    I think a sizeable chunk of white America feels that they have been taken for suckers for too long - and they aren't prepared to let it go on much longer.

    I hope I am wrong.

  • Comment number 6.

    Sorry no 1 but your quote does not make sense in america - "the realisation that the whites of the US will become a minority in their own country in the next 50 years."

    Surely its not the whites of the us's country. Isnt it originally the red Indians country. If it is no longer the red indians land, surely its everybodies who's entered it & settled since, no one race has a right to it anymore.

  • Comment number 7.

    Isn't this what happens when white, apple pie eating, middle class Americans don't want to wait tables, clean hotel rooms, mop toilets and look after other peoples children? It's simply what to do with the underclasses, make them truly equal or make some people more equal than others

  • Comment number 8.

    In #3, davepoth wrote: "Give me your tired, your poor . . . "

    You left out an important part, the melting pot, something foreigners do not understand until they arrive here to live.

    People constantly bring up the example of the Irish who came here and were discriminated against. But then they put their heads down, worked hard, and became just another American. The same is true of Polish, Germans, Koreans, and many other ethnic groups. American love people who work hard and become successful. What we dislike are people who want special treatment and/or refuse to be a part of the American experience. Liberals, and that include British ones, always leap to cries of "racism" when the truth is different. This is half of the reason why so many of us dislike Muslims; they want to live like they did in their former country.

    There must be some kind of truism that when a generation or two has gone by, the lessons of the past are completely forgotten and the previous mistakes are made again. We saw this with financial regulation. The New Deal legislation put a lid on Wall Street crime, yet in the 1980s the lid started to be removed. Tea Party members decry all government regulation, completely forgetting how bad things were in the past before that hated regulation. Google on "donora smog 1948" to see what Pittsburgh was like before the Clean Air Act was passed; most Tea Party members enjoy breathing clean air. We reached some sort of peak around 1980, before sliding completely downhill. I am not confident Jack and Jill know how to climb the hill again.

    Some of you won't like it, but my latest blog post of "The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams for May 1, 2013" pokes fun at a possible near-term future.

    http://saucymugwump.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 9.

    Hoddy, this is not Facebook.

  • Comment number 10.

    re #3 '"Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore...'

    The sentiment was popular with industrialists looking for cheap labor and a way of undermining the nascent trade union movement.

    It still is. Today it's Walmart and the wealthy suburban matrons looking for cheap, docile domestics that like it.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Tea Party movement is an ultimate hypocrisy.
    They claim to be constitutionalists but don't accept the building of an inter-faith Islamic Center a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero.
    They claim to be freedom-loving yet this only applies to white people. Their brand of conservatism is ancient and most of the world has moved past this. They claim that an unregulated, unfettered free-market is the best way to move a country forward but the US still has one of the most unregulated markets in the world - and it was lack of regulation that led to the collapse of the economy with outrageous interest rates, cunning small print and greedy bankers leading to millions of foreclosures and lost jobs. The car industry is no longer competitive, it has been outmuscled by the industries in Japan, South Korea and to a lesser extent Europe who make cheaper, more efficient, environmentally friendly cars - this is what the consumer wants but the American free-market hasn't taken note of this. The global economic collapse was mainly a result of these private companies - nothing to do with government interference, if anything due to a lack of government interference.
    They claim to be libertarians who want a federal state that wields far less power however they still rely (or hope to rely) on this federal government for their military. It's the same federal government that they expect to enforce draconian drug-policies and imprison millions of young men for non-violent offences. It is the same federal government that they expect to execute terrorists and murderers. It is the same federal government that they expect to regulate abortion through an outright nationwide ban. It is the same federal government that they expect to maintain a ban on homosexual marriage. How dare this movement claim to represent freedom and libertarianism? This is not libertarianism - this is strict social control.
    One of the main problems with the Tea Party and indeed the wider followers of the Republican party is that they are often poorly educated, rural, backward conservatives who vote Republican based on social and values issues (such as religion, gay marriage, abortion) but they have no understanding of economics. A lot of Republican politicians are proud, self-styled "businessmen" as if this is something that translates into politics - running a business has nothing to do with running a town, state or nation - for a start, a nation doesn't need to operate at a profit. They are terrified of government spending but they simply don't understand it.
    The Tea Party and indeed the Republican party is an ideological based experimental movement that is trying to take advantage of the more sensible pragmatism that the current government are attempting.

    NB Don't get me wrong, I'm not an Obama-lover myself, I think he's made lots of mistakes, been very disappointing and the Democrats as a whole are basically weak pushovers when it comes to domestic policy. However, I think if the Tea Party makes any significant strides in the mid-terms it would be a dark day for America. You cannot have people in charge that are motivated by strict ideology, hate and ancient conservatism. That's why we're trying to get rid of the Taliban from Afghanistan.
    Chris,[Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    The usage of racist signs and historical costumes is not why it is called "Astro-Turf". The term is used to denote a movement that appears to be grassroots, but is actually controlled and bank rolled by power elites. The Tea Partiers are basically being funded by the Koch Brothers, Dick Armey's Freedomworks, and other groups controlled by Republican plutocrats. That isn't to say that there are sane, truly patriotic people involved with the groups, doing work that is fundamentally grassroots in nature. Just that this isn't some spontaneous uprising of the people.

  • Comment number 14.

    Its politics like this which terrifies me more than any form of islamic extremism, its the kind of politics which is on our streets daily both here in Britain and the USA, i plan on attending a week long workshop on understanding Right wing extremism later this year in Germany and hope they bring up the topic of These "Tea Party" types

  • Comment number 15.

    #11, xoferbean - excellent points, well made.

  • Comment number 16.

    "The Tea Party movement is sociologically, not just overwhelmingly white but devoutly Christian, and often - but not exclusively - rural.

    Its adoption of placard imagery open to the charge of racism, and its initial craze for historical costumes, blindsided the liberal media in the USA into believing the movement was fake, or "Astroturf".


    Astroturf means fabricated not fake. It is more like entryist. The image is supposed to make one think that something is not what it seems at first glance.

    One (credible in my view) suggestion is that the Tea-Party Movement is just a re-branding of the Neo-Conservative movement given the bad press the later has received domestically. This had its roots in Trotskyism which was ousted and purged from the USSR under Stalin because it was seen to be the bed fellow of Social Democracy, grass roots Libertarianism, which is very American and very non post 1928 Soviet Union.

    "As a result, the Tea Party movement gets to define American conservatism anew - and its definitions are exclusive: everything statist is deemed ungodly, unconstitutional; everything socially progressive spits on the graves of the heroes of Iwo Jima; every taxpayer handout to the undeserving poor defiles the flag."

    You will have to make your own mind up, but Fox and the USA in general is very good at image re-branding. It's a Madison Avenue thing, second only to Wall Street.

    Clever people do clever things which not so clever people rarely comprehend. There are far fewer clever people than there are not so clever and sadly, not all clever people are fair-minded, in fact, some are highly paranoid, and have an axe to grind.

  • Comment number 17.

    How quaint the tea party think more market forces is the answer to the communist currency manipulation. They have been outwitted by marxists who don't believe in free and fair competition at all. Must be a bit humbling.

    In what way is 'more free market' going to stop china keeping the yuan cheaper? Who is poor and who rich? The free marketers usa or the nationalist [the state is the only God] communists of China? Which has the rising trend of wealth?

    Its all very well to do a 'down and out in the USA' but look at where the growth is in places like Singapore that has the biggest growth of millionaires* in the world. The tea party people might like Singapore as its the biggest logistics hub in the world, has good law, has open finance and is run by one party that enforces strict morality. They might have a problem with being Buddhist but if it pays more than Christianity then it makes sense to back 'winners'?

    why isn't the uk on a Singapore model? all we get from our lot of incompetents is talk about cuts and Hayekist big society anarchy.

    How might the Tea Party view Workers Power? :)


    *
    ..MORE Western banks are targeting Asia's rich, notably in Singapore, after the region witnessed a whopping 26 per cent jump in the number of millionaires from a year ago. "Singapore has the highest growth in millionaire households, growing 35 per cent last year."

    The number of millionaire households in Singapore now stands at 122,700, said Mr Han. The number of ultra-high-net worth individuals - people with at least US$30 million (S$39 million) of investible assets - in the Asia-Pacific rose 37 per cent to 19,600 last year, and their wealth grew 43 per cent, Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management's report showed last week....

    http://business.asiaone.com/Business/News/My%2BMoney/Story/A1Story20101013-242018.html

    that is where the action is. the west is dead.

  • Comment number 18.

    "The North, in turn, represented not just a new economic model: it contained a different people. By 1861 its population included freed slaves, southern whites alienated from Dixie culture and millions of European migrants - including tens of thousands of Germans so steeped in the traditions of 1848 that they would march, uncomprehended by their English-speaking generals, onto the battlefields from Shiloh to Chattanooga singing socialist anthems."

    "Slaves of the South rise up, you have nothing to lose but...."

    Anarchists ('communists') (aka Libertarians) use ill-educated minority groups as foot-soldiers to change the status quo and then move into positions of control themselves. Germany saw through this in the 20s and 30s, but pointing this out today has been rendered politically incorrect, largely by The Frankfurt School, but more recently, via principles of Rawlsian Political Liberalism which many of our politicians have imbibed as a new gospel. The price has been all the social injustices of free market libertarianism at the hands of a new elite. Anti-racism is thus a right-wing Libertarian device.

  • Comment number 19.

    Since it's beginning as a nation, America has always relied on some form of slave or otherwise system that provides hand labor at very low cost. It was like that with the colonists, it was like that with the slaves, then the Asians in the west, then the Irish, then the Italians and now, mostly south Americans. All these groups were ostracized in one way or another after arriving, and they all managed to establish and grow socially and economically. Now the descendents of many of these “white Americans” are certainly some of those who are angry at the fact that immigrants are taking over, or whatever it is they’re complain about.

    The truth is: this society isn’t ready to leave without this exploitative system. Once the Hispanics who are coming in large numbers and their children become citizens with full rights, they won’t be willing to clean toilets as well. The society will then find another group of desperate people to clean them. Many of the same whites, who are now complaining, also profit largely from cheap labor. I live in a popular Italian neighborhood in the north east and there NO Italians working in the kitchens of any of the popular trattorias who charge 25 bucks or more for a plate of pasta with canned pasta sauce. All the sous chefs are from South America.

    The whites complain about being taken over but don’t complain about the price of a head of lettuce costing 3 bucks, instead of 12 because the farmer in California (who is probably white too) didn’t have to pay health insurance, social security, dental, vision or even a minimal wage for that matter, to the people who picked them, washed them and packaged them. This is the reality of the situation. There is no commodity industry that doesn’t profit from cheap labor. That’s why they keep coming in and nobody does anything about it.

    Do people really think that the US Federal Government doesn’t have the means to stop them from crossing the border if they were such a nuisance? Think about this, all the industries that profit from this and the lobbying system and campaign donation systems that exist in the US.

  • Comment number 20.

    In #12, Ed80 wrote: "I believe the collective noun for them is Teabaggers"

    There are many websites which will reject a post using that term, as it is considered an insult. Not that some Tea Party members don't deserve it.

    Ed80 wrote: "one of the two groups worldwide who genuinely scare me"

    If you truly place the Tea Party above Islamists, you are a fool. The Tea Party would be completely isolationist, while Islamists have clearly demonstrated that they intend to install Islam around the world at the point of a sharp knife.

    Ed80 wrote: "claimed Hitler was a left wing liberal, compared to the Tea Party"

    No one is calling for death to entire groups of people: calls for deporting groups, yes, but that is a world away.

    Ed80 wrote: "adultery should be punishable by death"

    Not here. Try Iran, the Taliban, or your Anjem Choudary.

    What you and others do not see is that the USA is broken. Both political parties are beholden to Wall Street and multinational corporations. Our Supreme Court declared in "Citizens United" that corporations are equivalent to humans, allowing them to manipulate elections. Our educational system has been broken for decades, allowing demagogues to preach just about anything and get away with it. Jobs are being outsourced to China and India at a frightening pace. The only question is whether the USA will descend into anarchy or whether people will just start killing themselves in large numbers.

  • Comment number 21.

    As a Brit just moved to Austin, Tx, I agree very much with Ed80's comments about seeing the Tea Party in the same way as the more extreme aspects of West Bank settlers.

    To read Glenn Beck's comments about social justice and collective salvation (in other words, looking at salvation/redemption at a community level) being the root cause of so much of the problem and it infiltrating the church over here is truly horrifying.

    It also explains why to be anything other than a democrat, certainly to many people I've met in Texas, means you are automatically a liberal, with all the negative connotations that this implies.

    It's the politics/religion of "them and us" and if you ain't of us, then you must be one of them.

    A nation divided? A nation hellbent on the politics of ridicule and bigotry? - sure looks it to this outsider looking in....

  • Comment number 22.

    I take issue with the idea that the Right wing movement is reflecting 'genuine fears', particularly when concerning 'Race' issues. This discourse and Rhetoric is alarmingly reflective of the Powellist movement of the New Right in Britain in the late 70's and 80's.

    Enoch Powell suggested that he was merely reflecting the fears of the people of Britain, not that he was following a Racialist agenda. Margaret Thatcher, a keen observer of Powell's views, when she served in the Cabinet with him, was also guilty of using a similar discourse when she described once again a 'genuine fear' that the country would be 'swamped' by immigration.

    This discourse became a popular approach amongst the New Right and gained a significant foothold during the shift of Conservative politics to the Right on these issues in the 1980's. Also central to this was the failure of the Left at the time to address this issues sensibly, unable to shrug off the 'Anti-racist' arguments pejoratively leveled at them by the New Right.

    So how does this historical interpretation relate to the US? Well in my eyes I see evidence of this discourse resurfacing through emotive semantics which are both inflammatory and provocative. Therefore it is important to clarify the reality behind the phrases 'genuine fear' etc. as they are often a mask for a Racialised agenda which will lead to the same tensions we experienced, and still do experience, here in the UK.

  • Comment number 23.

    honestly they remind me of tabloid readers - i wont mention which one but its obvious - that choose to believe these silly myths like immigrants getting all houses money etc the fact is a lot of these people are intrested in the accusation and the anger not the solution to any issue and if you look at the funding behind so called grass roots movements you will find the usual suspects extremely rich industrialists wanting lower corporate tax avoidance is tiring i would guess

  • Comment number 24.

    I'd never heard this narrative, that "white folks" are "reclaiming" the nation, but that makes more sense than any of the vague historical allegories made in this article or by Beck, etc. What is of concern to the future of the U.S. civilization is that there are people with agendas, people who stand to benefit who are riding this irrational movement. And so far, what little has been expressed in rational, coherent English has consisted of jejune (i.e. 'amateurish' - don't dismiss me an 'elitist' for using high-school vocab!) attempts at policymaking.
    While many would agree that congress has failed us, the immigration debate comes down to 1) labor, 2) drugs. If we enforced the laws on hiring, i.e. pay minimum wage to legal agriculture workers & etc, and allowed state's rights as regards "illicit" drugs - no federal intervention with California's Marijuana legalization proposition - then our immigration problems would largely end. Agribusiness would petition for an increase in temp. worker visas, and drug gangs would lose >50% of their revenue.
    If this "tea party" wanted to enact austerity, we'd have to raise taxes and cut spending. They can try to start the cuts with MedicAid and MediCare. But none of this will "reclaim" our wealth. Our GDP is composed of too much waste - prisons, garbage, legal fees, foolish speculation, subsidies - and we spend our incomes on "durable" goods that fall apart, unused, or are passed on at a loss (eBay, Craigslist) within a few short years. And I include our houses in that category - they were thrown up, they're already falling apart.
    But instead of rational solutions, I see fear-crazed white "folk" following a Pied Piper under a John Birch paranoiac proto-fascist delusion unto economic ruin and sectional strife. I would laugh if I did not love my country so much.

    It seems our ancestors so lauded in the Tea Party's words have passed on great wealth to what is a generation of spoiled, reactionary crackpots. The vilified, rural Progressive of the turn of the 20th century are rolling in their graves, voiceless, as their progeny throw away progress in favor of a pagan, atavistic, ethnic myth guised as Christian love.

  • Comment number 25.

    @xoferban is mostly correct. So I see two options. Either cut these mad men lose. I cannot be the only one who thinks that maybe a trial separation would be a good idea. Let them run free, shooting each other,growing hugely obese etc, finding what a system with no state and an unfettered market is actually like. Alternatively grow some back bone Democrats. It’s a simple choice.

  • Comment number 26.

    20 - Saucymugwump.

    I think most people realise that the USA is broken, everywhere is broken - the global economy has collapsed. Global Capitalism has collapsed, Socialism (or the remnants of it) have collapsed and European Social Democracy has collapsed. It's because all of the markets are linked. We need a new system or have to deal with having a less comfortable standard of living.
    There's quite an interesting documentary called The Corporation that deals with corporations being equivalent to humans - it surmises that if a corporation has the same rights as a human being then it should be treated as such and basically gives corporations a mental-health assessment, the conclusion is that if a corporation was a human it would be a sociopath.

  • Comment number 27.

    UKintheUS wrote: "As a Brit just moved to Austin, Tx"

    There is an tourism campaign ad for Texas: "Texas: It's like a whole other country." And they are not kidding. Texas has always been very Libertarian and the Tea Party is just the latest incantation. One of the high priests of the Tea Party is Ron Paul, Congressman from Texas; his son and fellow Tea Party leader, Rand Paul, is running for the Senate in Kentucky. You didn't know any of this before you moved there?

  • Comment number 28.

    #8 You are spot on about the Melting Pot concept. It makes no sense for immigrants to refuse to accept the culture and language of their new country when they chose to leave the old one.
    #11 Some of what is stated is inaccurate or based on faulty assumptions. First, support to build an inter-faith Islamic Center a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero is a separate issue from Constitutionalism. 9/11 is simply too painful and unfortunately forever associated with Islam. Constitutionalists would agree in freedom of religion (or freedom to believe in no religion)but freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom to build a mosque/church/temple etc wherever. There is already a mosque in that neighborhood. And while on the subject, little has been reported about the Orthodox church in the area that was damaged in the 9/11 attack and is struggling to rebuild.

    Second, not following the white people/freedom comment. Not sure on what that assumptions that comment was based.

    Third, liberal (small L liberal not political) economic policies of the federal government beginning in the 1990s which forced banks to give loans to applicants whose credit was below standard or could not pay the money back, must share culpability for foreclosures with 'greedy bankers' and 'small print' predatory interest rates. The problem was too much government interference in lending practices (i.e. government determining who can get a loan rather than the bank), not a lack of interference, as is claimed. The banks had to charge high rates because they knew the loans were high risk. Consumers too, are guilty. They should not have bought things on credit they could not afford. And we can thank the Unions also, for many lost jobs as companies simply could not stay competitive with a domestic workforce because they had to pay out above market wages and generous pensions that bankrupted companies. That is what happened with the car industry (along with supply lagging behind demand). All of this precipitated the economic crisis - not lack of government interference but the wrong kind at the wrong time.

    Fourth, Libertarians WOULD rely on the federal government to provide military because national defense is specified in the Constitution. It is when the federal government insinuates itself into areas not in the Constitution that causes consternation. And finally, sorry, there is no way to convincingly argue that the Democrats resemble anything approaching 'sensible pragmatism' (or past Republicans either for that matter).

  • Comment number 29.

    I do not want my UK friends to misunderstand what is happening in America. The Tea Party is not really one party, but a collection of people who have long held that the Federal government is growing too large and is endangering the rights of the individual states. For example, when I lived in Arizona I was told by my car insurance agent that I had to carry extra insurance to cover collisions with uninsured drivers, most of whom were Mexican. This is the smallest tip of the immigration iceberg, but which the Federal government has chosen to ignore. Now that Arizona is trying to correct the problem itself, the Federal government is sueing Arizona. Congress has no interest in the states rights or problems. It is filled with career politicians interested only in furthering their own gain. Defending the US Constitution is all about defending individual states' rights.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm a white middle-class male living in a medium-sized city in the south-central USA. To me, the issue is not one little bit about race. I would have gladly voted for General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell had he decided to run for President. I think he would have been better than anyone who ran last election.
    To me, the issue is very simple...The Constitution did not give the Federal government authority to use taxation to redistribute wealth with a socialistic agenda. This is a country built on the principle of Captain Smith at Jamestown..."If you don't work, you don't eat".
    I am considered a very generous person and I believe that we need a way to assist our brothers and sisters who have fallen on hard times, yet providing 'entitlements' as an affluent way of life for increasing masses at the expense of those who have worked hard for a decent lifestyle has gone way too far.
    Throw in the policies of collecting taxes and giving it back with social agenda strings attached is not what the founding fathers intended. "Any rights not specifically given to the federal government belong to the states."
    Obama caved in to Big Pharma with Healthcare. It gives more and more to those who are not personally responsible for the choices they make and it forces the rest of use to enable those poor health choices. He really could have made a difference if he has simply supported individual responsibility. What a big let down he's been.

  • Comment number 31.

    I did my senior thesis on the tea party. Before I did scholarly research I attended a rally in the northern part of the U.S. exactly at the time when the mainstream media began to accuse the group of having racist intentions. I can say that in the North, the Tea Party movement was not about race.

    I moved to Georgia this year and have noticed two differences between the North and the South: 1)the civil war is still in peoples memory in the south but not in the north, and 2)I have noticed more Tea Party activism and general conservatism in the south compared to the north.

    Although I find these observations disturbing, I do not think that the strength of the South's Tea Party is connected to civil war sentiment. I think that perhaps, a stronger point is that there may be a stronger cultural allegiance to tradition in the South which may help to explain the allure of the Tea Party myth's.

    For what it's worth, I would also like to point out that the Tea Party is popular in the Southwest and Northern Plain states, which are regions that are not affiliated with America's civil war.

  • Comment number 32.

    It seems to me the split is largely religious in nature, between liberal secularism and Fundamental Christian Conservatism, and its claim on moral values. What I still find inexplicable after ten years in semi rural American is that I do not perceive the values that the Christian right claims are intrinsically Christian have much to do with the New Testament, and the values, that I find expressed there. If anything they appear to have been reversed. If you speak to fundamental Christians much of their world view appears to derive from the old testament rather than the new. What seems most insidious is an attitude that if you do not hold these set of values you are either mad or much more likely bad. A rigid orthodoxy of political thought together with faith is a powerful combination. I fear it closes minds to the extent that there is no room from debate much less pragmatism. As the Sen. Moynahan once said, "you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts". I fear fact does not play an important part of Tea party thinking.

  • Comment number 33.

    "We've got America - the rest of you are just visiting"

    "The Good Shepard"

    comment from WASP protaganist.

  • Comment number 34.

    Dhayansargam - it does indeed appear to be a split based on religion but not the black and white split between Fundamental Christian Conservatism and liberal secularism, it's looks more a split between Right wing, (pseudo) fundamentalism and any other interpretation of Christianity. But the irony of it all is that the RW variety is so tainted by the "me, myself and I" secular values of much of American culture that it does as you rightly state miss much of what the New Testament has to say about life, God, community etc. And it seems almost completely at odds with any sense of reading the Gospels or looking at the actual teaching of Jesus.

    It's the politics of fear of losing what is 'rightfully' mine, what I have a right to..... again so completely at odds with most NT teaching when stripped away from the contemporary cultural values of much of the West.

  • Comment number 35.

    Fascinating to read the different viewpoints from the US bloggers - keep them coming please.

  • Comment number 36.

    As the system is broken. Can we rebuild the new system based on happiness and spiritual fulfilment? Bring on the pink fluffy revolution!

  • Comment number 37.

    3. At 5:02pm on 13 Oct 2010, davepoth wrote:

    Classic, fatal, romanticism. Emma was born in NYC, and a long time before any of us fully understood the nature of genetics and certainly before the sequencing of the genome etc. Mass migration and ill thought through dream-weavers will one day be seen to have brought to the USA many of the problems which troubled the USSR in the decade after the revolution. It just took longer.


    20. At 7:17pm on 13 Oct 2010, saucymugwump wrote:

    "If you truly place the Tea Party above Islamists, you are a fool."

    I suggest how one feels about either will come down to how one feels about Libertarianism vs Statism (cf. Israel vs Palestine), right vs left.

    Trotskyites (grass roots Social Democrats) are effectively behind the Tea Party, and Fabians/Stalinists are behind the Islamists.

    It's Private Sector vs Public Sector economics. Which are you in favour of?

    Beware though, grass-rooters tend to be abused as mere foot-soldiers for an elite's economic ends. Once they have served their purpose they are abandoned. See Gary, Indiana. :-(

  • Comment number 38.

    It seems the white conservative American shares the same ideals as humans all over the world - family, faith and community. As long as that family and community is white, and the faith is their version of Christian.

    It reminds me of an article I read somewhere - the journalist was interviewing a taxi driver about community cohesion. The cabbie told a story of how a black landlord was the new owner of their local pub. He told his mates, who told their mates, to boycott the pub. Soon he was bankrupt and left. He used this as a great example of how tight knit they were.

    It's the same here, and in communities all over the world - those in power/who make the most noise/biggest population's twisted version of what a community is. Reclusive and insular, everything is positive - as long as you're one of us.

  • Comment number 39.

    @saucymugwump

    Stop trying to glorify the past. The same was NOT true of Chinese immigrants - coolies - who arrived just after the Irish. They built the railroads, mined for gold, and for their troubles their run down town was destroyed and their men hung on the streets. Whilst self defence was enshrined in law, when it came to court with a Chinese man killing an Irish man for attacking his family, the judge sentenced him to death because the law was "for men" i.e. the Chinese were not humans.

    Indeed all the way up until WW2 there was an "Anti-Chinese Act", now repealed. Make of that what you will.

  • Comment number 40.

    22

    If you read Heffer's biography of Powell you will see he was an academic don in politics who learnt indian languages and was usually misrepresented by the lefties. He saw in microcosm in his constituency what would happen to the uk in the future. At that time anyone in the British empire/commonwealth had the right to settle in the uk [maybe 1 billion people]. He saw this was unsustainable and said so.

    In the 1970s leftists wrote about using immigration as a means to smash the 'establishment', to break up the coherence of society and so prepare the ground for revolution. New Labour, that was full of crypto or [maybe!] ex marxists, began flooding the uk with migrants. The result was 1 million people voting for BNP.

    Having created the monster the terrified new labour government then not only implemented all of Powell's ideas on immigration but even went further than he suggested. The left had trot fits over his idea of paying people to return home calling him all the names under the sun. However this is exactly what New Labour did. Why do they not rant about Tony Blair with the same hatred given he went further than Powell? The Labour movement owe Powell an apology seeing that they adopted his ideas as sensible.

    Powell framed thatcherism which framed new labour. People tend to go into hysterics when you point out the lefty myth of Powell is just that. As he might say 'It is their hallucination. They are hallucinating'.

  • Comment number 41.

    #29, #30, #31 Thank you for posting. Your perspectives and the facts you present are lacking in the general media coverage in the US. You are correct to point out that it is not about race/racism but the role of the federal government and its constitutional obligations. Yes we have spirited sometimes contentious public debate but mainstream, rational points of view are shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is simply not newsworthy so the rest of the world gets a skewed picture of what is really happening.

  • Comment number 42.

    In #20, I wrote: "If you truly place the Tea Party above Islamists, you are a fool."
    In #37, tabblenabble01 wrote: "I suggest how one feels about either will come down to how one feels about Libertarianism vs Statism (cf. Israel vs Palestine), right vs left."

    In general, you are correct. However, I am not a general. Attempting to paint the Tea Party as Trotskyites is not valid. Russia and the USA have drastically different cultures. The one thing the Tea Party and Trotskyites share is naivite; Trotsky was a fool, as were many Russian revolutionaries.

    tabblenabble01 wrote: "It's Private Sector vs Public Sector economics. Which are you in favour of?"

    Neither. Both capitalism and communism have proven to be prone to fatal corruption. If I were king, I would create cooperatives (Mondragon) where workers were truly in control.

  • Comment number 43.

    The tea party is comprised of frightened, misinformed refugees from the boomtimes of the eighties and ninties. They are terrified of the future and so cleave to isolationist, xenophobic hysteria. They denounce the federal government but want their roads and bridges be repaired and expanded, their air and water clean, and their businesses be tax exempt. They imagine a glorified past that never exsisted let alone could be created now.
    As Johnny Cash once sang, "people want the kingdom, they just don't want God in it".

  • Comment number 44.

    In #32, dhayansargam wrote: "fundamental Christians much of their world view appears to derive from the old testament rather than the new"

    This is my biggest complaint with many Americans today. Republicans say that they are Christians, but then they refuse to extend unemployment insurance, even though Jesus spent his time with the sick and poor. Republicans amass large fortunes, even though Jesus said that it is more difficult for a wealthy man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Looney-tunes people refuse to have their children vaccinated, even though there is no mention of vaccines in the Bible. Republicans classify any attempt to help the poor as socialist or some other nonsense, even though early Christians created soup kitchens for the poor and gave assistance to widows so they would not be forced into prostitution.

  • Comment number 45.

    Paul: Though the Republicans since the 1970s explicitly based their election strategy on courting religious conservatism in the south, it was always assumed that this visceral plebeian tendency would remain a minority strand in the GOP, controllable by the elite.

    This chillingly reminds me of what the conservative elite in the Weimer Republic believed about the Nazis - they thought they could use them to hold on to power to keep the Socialists out. How wrong they were. Thankfully or hopefully I can't see that happening in America.

    Tabble @16

    I agree that the Tea Party is an entryist movement. They will do what the Militant Tendency did to Labour to the GOP. Republican chair Michael Steel has already declared that the Tea Party has changed the GOP for the better, and saying that the party is the conservative party (we all know both the Dems & the GOP have their liberals and conservatives). Conventional wisdom dictates that the majority of votes are in the political centre. The Republicans may be unelectable for a decade.

    Their only saving grace may be the vulgarities of the electoral college where votes have more value in the rural areas. If a Tea Party dominated GOP do win as a result of the college despite getting less votes nationally, I see the future of America with a great foreboding - the ending of the Union would be the least worst outcome.

    Mark Mardell's blog and its comments are worth reading (particularly publiusdetroit's comments): http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2010/10/mid_terms_tea_party_nevada.html

  • Comment number 46.

    To the American contributors ( and thank you Paul for your great piece of writing)-
    a) Did the sight of George Bush, in the midst of war,shuffling on to the White House lawn to announce a Wall Street bailout of the rich and feckless disorientate traditional Republican and rural voters
    b) Have the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns increased a feeling of pride in the Flag and a reflection as to what it means to be American in a global world
    c) how did the Obama health care reforms go down with the Repulican / rural vote

  • Comment number 47.

    I am an American and I agree with 90% of what I'm reading on these posts. There is a distinct difference in ideals just driving 30 minutes out of any city. The division is mostly rural (highly Christian conservative) and urban (Young professionals, artists, minorities).

    One of the conservative party's biggest enemies is Obama, which is fine, but their reasoning is haphazard and hypocritical. It ranges from the outrageous (his birth status) to moral (abortion) to uneducated arguments (healthcare and stimulus).

    Here are my arguments for each one:

    BIRTH STATUS: who cares, as long as he does his job
    ABORTION: Let's keep America free and religion OUT of politics
    HEATHCARE: the majority of Americans don't have it and many of the arguments against it are uneducated. Also only a small part of it has only just went into effect, which puts up PROTECTIONS for consumers.
    GAY MARRIAGE: see abortion
    STIMULUS: President Bush did the first half of the stimulus, and conservatives seem to have conveniently forgotten that fact. Also this was a risk we had to take.

    I voted for Obama because he's relevant, forward-thinking, and mostly because he's reaching out to most of the world with a friendly objective in mind.

    What many people fail to realize is that he's only been in office for 2 years, and many times it takes 2 to 4 years for many policies to begin making an impact on everyday life. The stimulus was a gamble that didn't pay off and the entire 3 tier government had to sign off on it. Many of the tactics and reasons behind the tea party are just EXCUSES to push their ideals upon people that they are afraid of and don't understand, and it is unfortunate for all parties involved.

  • Comment number 48.

    12. At 6:19pm on 13 Oct 2010, Ed80 wrote:

    "There was a recent bill board poster that claimed Hitler was a left wing liberal, compared to the Tea Party the Nazi Party were on the left on some issues. Hitler's roadbuilding economic stimulus would have incensed their American counterparts."

    The National Socialist German Workers Party was a left wing socialist party, just as the Soviet system was Socialism in One Country after 1928. Liberalism had nothing to do with either. Both systems opposed Jewish Trotskyism/Bolshevism which was equated with anarchism/capitalism. This was what WWII was waged against by the Axis Powers, i.e it was a war against right-wing Libertarianism aka anarchism aka naked imperialist capitalism.

    A lot of right wing politics is devious psychological warfare serving the interests of private capital (see GM's cartoon of Hayek's "Road To Serfdom"). Just go by what political systems do in terms of public vs private sector. See China today, it's Stalinist/National Socialist.


  • Comment number 49.

    Almost all radical movements are born out of some form of economic or social hardship and the Tea Party Movement is no different. In many respects the Tea Party philosophy was as much a reaction to the massive overspend of the Bush administration as to the committed spend of Obama. The big difference is that many within the movement have a deep seated hatred for Obama and considerable resentment of the complete Democratic victory in 2008.

    Why? Partly race, partly Obama's 'assumed' intellectual arrogance and his disconnect from rural white Americans and partly jealousy. So what will happen? Well the Tea Party will win some Senate & House seats for sure but they will not win in States where the 'Crazies' are standing such as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware or Joe Miller in Alaska etc. The Sad thing is that right now America needs to be absolutely united to face the economic mess that the Banks precipitated and other than during the Civil War period America has hardly ever been so divided!!

  • Comment number 50.

    #44 Exactly: It was the Church (and charities, volunteer organizations, schools, neighbors etc.) extending societal help - NOT the government. The point conservatism makes is that the government should step in only when one of the above cannot do the job. Government should be the last resort, not be the first option. And there are more millionaire Democrats than Republicans. Go figure.

  • Comment number 51.

    @jauntycyclist

    I think you are trying to simply the ideas and discourse Powell sought to portray. Yes he had a love of India and spent much time there, but he himself suggested he did not want those values transported in the United Kingdom. One should not look merely at his Biography to form a view on the contextual politics of Powell, and particularly the movement he sparked.

    The manner in which he articulated his ideas was also deliberately inflammatory and regardless on your views of whether those ideas were interpreted and implemented by the Left or not (in my opinion I believe they were not implemented in anything like the format Powell would have advocated) his views were expressed in a divisive and aggressive manner.

    It was language that without explicitly condoning violence, led to racialised violence. Indeed the Politician Baron Boateng (then MP) spoke of the reactions he observed after the inflammatory speeches of the New Right.

    With regards to Commonwealth immigration policy, Legislation had already been imposed to impose stricter immigration controls on the Commonwealth, although more did follow after the Powellist movement came to the fore. I also believe you are focusing on a militant aspect of Left when you discuss the Marxist Labour movement. There are extremes on both sides of every argument, as can be demonstrated in this debate on contemporary US politics. However you cannot suggest Powell was right on the basis that Militant Labour movements were wrong.

    Institutional racism in the 80's and 90's in my view was a product of the New Right effort to deny the existance of racism in British society that led to a vastly increased tensions with ethnic communities.

    Lastly in answer to your comments about the rise in BNP support, it stemmed in part from adoption of this very 'genuine fear' claim, which if anything were the catalyst for the sense of isolationism and antagonism in the Ethic communities, which led to tension, which fuelled the New Right discourse.

    It is important to add I am not arguing from an explicitly Leftist perspective and do not feel they had the answers, there were failures on all sides, and significant failures, in addressing these issues in the 70s and 80s. Instead it is important to note the similarities in the debates and discourse, as well as the reaction to, the Powellist movement, which can be observed in the Tea Party movement.

  • Comment number 52.

    the tea parties were originally an expression of peoples frustration with the government but was usurped by the neo-right to advance their political agenda.glen becks tea party rally in washington echoing martin luther king on the day of his freedom speech.the clamor of the birthers.attacks and attempted attacks on organizations that help the helpless and minority political figures.a hint of racsism?it now reeks.

  • Comment number 53.

    peaceful @30

    To me, the issue is very simple...The Constitution did not give the Federal government authority to use taxation to redistribute wealth with a socialistic agenda. This is a country built on the principle of Captain Smith at Jamestown..."If you don't work, you don't eat".

    Does the constitution forbid the Federal government to use taxation to redistribute wealth with a socialistic agenda? Is universal healthcare unconstitutional? Your quote of Any rights not specifically given to the federal government belong to the states is as clear as keeping a well armed militia. To paraphrase Billie Holiday, just because it says so in the constitution, it ain't necessarily so. Americans are only free to do what the Consitution tells them to do. Doesn't sound like freedom to me.

    I followed the farce that was the univerisal healthcare legislation. The majority of people voted for Obama who openly stated that he wanted a form of universal healthcare. The minority Republicans and even smaller Blue Dog Democrats did all they could to stop it. And now you blame Obama?

  • Comment number 54.

    In #39, RandomArbiter wrote: " The same was NOT true of Chinese immigrants - coolies - who arrived just after the Irish"

    You are right and you are wrong.

    Certainly there was anti-Chinese bias. This always happens when people look radically different than you. But there was another factor at play. Chinese culture is quite different than European (and European-derived) cultures. To this day, Chinese people do not blend in with others. San Francisco and other major cities have Chinatowns and that is the only place they can live as they did in the old country. Europeans gave up the old country when they moved here. This is also happening today in Europe. In Milan, the city managers got tired of Chinese immigrants blocking the roads for trams and cars. The city managers started clearing the roads and the Chinese rioted. The Chinese also rioted when city managers fined a Chinese woman for illegally transporting goods in a private vehicle. Yes, they rioted when Italian authorities enforced existing laws.

    After a quick search, I was able to find a BBC News link to the second riot, but not the first. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6550725.stm

  • Comment number 55.

    40. At 8:32pm on 13 Oct 2010, jauntycyclist wrote:

    "In the 1970s leftists wrote about using immigration as a means to smash the 'establishment', to break up the coherence of society and so prepare the ground for revolution. New Labour, that was full of crypto or [maybe!] ex marxists, began flooding the uk with migrants."

    I suggest you at least entertain as a hypothesis that what you are calling 'leftists' were in fact right-wing Libertarian Trotskyists, as "the establishment" at that time was in fact largely in public ownership was it not? The state ('establishment') was LEFT wing socialist at that time.

    Trotskyists were the crypto-Marxists - statists in the USSR saw them as Social Democrats in league with capitalists, just like New Labour.

    Similarly, it was right wing libertarians who flooded the UK with immigrants, and it was that which made our public services i.e. left wing establishment, unsustainable and thus easier to privatise for profit. Hayek was a right-wing Libertarian of the largely Jewish Austrian School of Economics. Other groups which have been abused in the same way (i.e as foot-soldiers) have been women and gays.

    That is what anarchists do, they abuse people who think that they are underdogs in order to make the state unworkable. Anarchists and Bolsheviks were once used interchangeably. One has to bear in mind the regime which prevails at the time. Anarchist is another term for de-regulator. It means without rule.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Large numbers of white Americans believe they have been working, paying taxes and have been watching the Federal Government take those taxes and spend it on anyone but themselves - in other words, on non-white Americans and immigrants... So they are getting angry at being taxed to the hilt to watch, as they perceive it, their country and their way of life being destroyed before their eyes."

    While I understand the reasoning behind this comment, I need to be very clear on the current status quo of my country, the United States. The white middle and upper class enjoys every benefit the system could possibly offer - the safest neighborhoods, the highest income, the best schools, and the best chance for advacement in our society. Any thought that the white middle and upper class is somehow giving to the system without getting anything back is grossly wide of the mark. Until that day when the Tea party member would willingly trade places with the welfare mother or the immigrant laborer, then their argument has no logical foundation.

  • Comment number 57.

    All the arguments against the Tea Party boil down to "How dare they rock the boat? How dare these people have the idea that political parties exist to serve their needs instead of the other way around? How dare they remind government that it exists to serve the people, not rule them? How dare they insist that government follow the limits of the constitution instead finding an excuse to do anything we want it to do? And how dare they suggest that liberalism or progressivism might be wrong or off course?"

    "Demonize them! Marginalize them! Ridicule them! Silence them before they can express their dangerous heretical opinions because free speech is only a right for those who share our own enlightened views!"

  • Comment number 58.

    In #52, jmbuch wrote: "tea parties were . . . usurped by the neo-right to advance their political agenda . . . hint of racsism"

    I can understand why you believe this, but it is not completely accurate. There is also a capitalist agenda mixed in with it. Sarah Palin is on record as favoring outsourcing. If she were truly in it for a pure social agenda, outsourcing would not play a major role. John Boehner is also in favor of outsourcing, as are most politicians, because of the kickbacks they receive. Multinational corporations and Wall Street are pulling the strings of many in the Tea Party, indirectly or directly.

    There is very little difference between Libertarians, the Tea Party, Republicans, and the robber barons of the 1800s. Republicans are just more corrupt than the rest -- for now.

  • Comment number 59.

    Labeling the "tea party" a white movement is just an attempt to destroy it. The elite upper classes have always clouded issues with race because we fall for it over and over again.

    The fact is that most Americans agree with the same principles. So lets talk about issues and not label economic issues as race issues.

  • Comment number 60.

    saucymugwump - in response;

    1 - 'If you truly place the Tea Party above Islamists, you are a fool'

    Why should I be scared of Islamists? They have no power, outside Afganistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. Their weapons are throw backs to the cold war. They are unable to dictate the direction of the world, unlike they would be if they could take power in the US. This is why the Tea Party people scare me, unlike North Korea and Iran.

    2 - 'The Tea Party would be completely isolationist, while Islamists have clearly demonstrated that they intend to install Islam around the world at the point of a sharp knife.'

    The Tea Party members are the most extreme of the neo-conservatives who don't think twice about the moral implications of killing people on an industrial if they are from a different culture. Look at the birth deformities and cancer rate in Faluja after a huge volume of depleted uranium was used and then dumped in the water supply, (3 headed babies aren't pretty). Only somebody irrational would think that a person with Sarah Palin's mental capacity should have America's military at their disposal

    3 - 'Ed80 wrote: "claimed Hitler was a left wing liberal, compared to the Tea Party"

    No one is calling for death to entire groups of people: calls for deporting groups, yes, but that is a world away.'

    First, the Tea Party themselves claimed Hitler was left wing not right. Second, Auchwitz was originally constructed for exactly the same reason as Guantanimo Bay, the final solution was not started until 2 years later, if I started driving now I could be staying in the hotel next door again on Friday night. These people blame 'liberals' for very similar things that the Nazis blamed the Jews, although now they have added the free media to their list. When watching crowds being stirred up into an almost religious furver it is very reminiscent of the Nuremberg rally.

    4 - 'Ed80 wrote: "adultery should be punishable by death"

    Not here. Try Iran, the Taliban, or your Anjem Choudary.'

    Yes there! I watched in disbelief when a Tea Party candidate from Kansas, in an interview on British TV said that the ten commandments were laws dictated directly by God and should be enforced by the state on pain of death. If that isn't calling for a 'final solution' against people who do not follow his belief system I don't know what is.

    5 - 'What you and others do not see is that the USA is broken.'

    There are a number of things that make me agree with you on this, although for different reasons. As an outsider looking in the things that seem broken are;
    People have guns, before our last election the Mayor of Baltimore didn't like the TV program The Wire using Baltimore as an example of a broken society, when the British media looked into it it transpired that there were more gun murders in Baltimore each year than in the whole of the UK.
    A civilised society sees universal healthcare free at the point need as a basic and inalienable human right.
    Far too many people (mostly young black or Hispanic men) are sent to prison for far too long for non-violent crimes.
    The welfare system does not allow children from poor families an equal enough start in life.
    Farming subsidies are immoral (the EU is at fault for this as well).
    The gap between rich and poor is obscene.
    Petrol (gas) prices are far too low.
    There is still too much segregation (you can tell which mall you're in by looking at the colour of the other customers where my dad lives in Texas).
    If you don't follow the state religion you will be discriminated against.
    The death of freedom under The Patriot Act means that Bin Laden won on your soil, the final nail in the coffin would be stopping the mosque, a long way from ground zero, being designed when the person trying to build it is seen as a western traitor with a Salman Rushdie type fatwa against him.

    saucymugwump please come back to me if you disagree with any of the points above

  • Comment number 61.

    @ tabblenabble01

    I think you are possibly over complicating what was a complicated, but Bi-polar olitical relationship between the Right and Left. The discourse of the Right was inflammatory, however there is no evidence they deliberately sabotaged our Public services in order to privatize them.

    The New Left, it can be argued, followed a Racialist agenda, not on the basis of privatization, but instead along the argument of maintaining a cultural homogeneity. It was this that drove the inflammatory language, which used public services as a subsidiary argument, but not as the main focus.

  • Comment number 62.

    It is so unfortunately that the reactionary right are giving Americans in general a bad name. I mean, not all of us are racist, poorly educated, religious zealots. In fact, the vast majority of us aren't. It's just that this very loud minority has control over the largest "news" media outlet in America, and so they can project and inflate their opinion to make it seem like more people believe in it than actually do.

    The bottom line is that the Tea Party is socially reactionary. They only venture into the realm of economic/political decision making when they are forced to. I personally think most Tea Baggers are more concerned about denying civil rights to those who are not white, male and christian than they are about unemployment or taxes. As the article says, they are attempting to wage a culture war. If they were genuinely concerned about unemployment and a slouching economy, their policy proposals would be very different. But of course, the Tea Party is funded and controlled primarily by ultra-conservative think tanks and corporations like NewsCorp, so whatever economic policies would best benefit corporate interests are going to dominate their agenda (i.e. privatization, low taxes for corporations and the rich, minimal government oversight of corporate actions, etc.).

    I wonder why the Tea Party thinks that limited government will help people? It seems that the countries with the highest ratings on the Human Development Index are generally those that give their citizens the greatest access to social services. So is our goal to have a happy, well-taken care of populace, or is it to have a citizenry with limited access to the services they need in a dying economy?

    I am simply bewildered that anyone could lack the faculties to think critically about the Tea Party's obvious hypocrisy. Why is the American South a model for anything? It in general has very low human development and social security, comparable with some developing countries! That is not an exaggeration, take a look at the social welfare statistics. It's just sad.

  • Comment number 63.

    "who make cheaper, more efficient, environmentally friendly cars"

    Except whilst true in that regard that's not why people buy cars that aren't American - the fact is they're just better made.

    By the way for the record - some people who have posted comments on this post are blatantly just plain nuts.. I man should be locked up to protect society from them or protect them from themselves... nuts..

  • Comment number 64.

    Scott @57

    "Demonize them! Marginalize them! Ridicule them! Silence them before they can express their dangerous heretical opinions because free speech is only a right for those who share our own enlightened views!"

    Say that to those that were blacklisted by the McCarthyite witch-hunts! Their freedom of speech didn't count for jack. This is my main gripe with a Bill of Rights and codified constitutions: that get ignored when it suits the tyrannical majority.

    On a separate note Scott, why are the Americans so scared of the State? Over here in Europe they are scared of us!

  • Comment number 65.

    51

    there is no doubt extreme right used Powell but one has to look at what he said not what others did jumping on the bandwagon and tar him with their brush e.g.

    ..On 27 July 1959 Powell gave his speech on Hola Camp of Kenya, where eleven Mau Mau were killed after refusing work in the camp. Powell noted that some MPs had described the eleven as "sub-human" but Powell responded by saying: "In general, I would say that it is a fearful doctrine, which must recoil upon the heads of those who pronounce it,...Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, 'We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home'. We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere...'

    Denis Healey later said this speech was "the greatest parliamentary speech I ever heard".

    He was also speaking at a time when it was not a pc 'crime' to be an Englishman. It wasn't till the 70s the BBC took off black and white minstrels, mind your language and it ain't half hot mum. Shows today deemed rcist. The BBC is not dammed as institutional rcist propagandists but Powell is? One would have to say uk society in the 1970s was openly using rcist idioms. They are still being used e.g in the Meerkat adverts. Would they do that with a joke indian accent rather than a slav one? I think not.

    in 1968 Powell said by 2000 1 in 10 in the uk will be immigrants. which is what it is today.


    if Powell had suggested doing what labour did ie ..holding in detention and the practice of dawn raiding families, and holding young children in immigration detention centres for long periods of time what would they have said? But Blair manifestly did go further than Powell in order to appear 'tough'.

    Powell warnings went unheeded and today we are spending billions a year on internal security. A trend that shows no sign of reversing. It may seem incredible to people now that when he was speaking the uk had a dominant monoculture that was seen as 'normal' and that was from what he spoke.

    I'm no Powellist but the constant misrepresenting, de contextualising and singling out is fascinating given much of uk society was much the same and using the same idioms in the media and in society from MPs to the unions.

    in what way did he predict wrong from his 20th April 1968 speech

    ...But while to the immigrant entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country. They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted...

    are these not the open topics debated today?

  • Comment number 66.

    30. At 7:46pm on 13 Oct 2010, peacefulyetalert wrote:

    This is a country built on the principle of Captain Smith at Jamestown..."If you don't work, you don't eat".

    Which is a myth as a) children didn't work but ate, and the sick and aged didn't work ate. Civilized/viable societies never operate that way.

    What they do is provide substance level support for those who need it, whilst the rest are rewarded proportional to and commensurate with their contribution to the group. That has to be regulated, as does the population's birth-rate. What happened in the 60s and 70s is that myths were propagated that it was technically impossible to effectively regulate prices and incomes and that it was criminal to regulate the population for the general good. This was just Libertarianism. Sadly, too many bought into it.

  • Comment number 67.

    61. At 10:06pm on 13 Oct 2010, Newcastle Uni Student wrote:

    "The discourse of the Right was inflammatory, however there is no evidence they deliberately sabotaged our Public services in order to privatize them."

    That may be what you think, but it's wrong.

    Let me enlighten you. The Conservatives and New (Generation) Labour are right-wing Libertarians who privatise the public.

  • Comment number 68.

    This is typical political and economic blow-back.

    You have uneducated, angry, resentful people who simply have nowhere to place their anger and refuse to admit they were wrong about Bush and past GOP policies. They are sadly so anti-intellectual that any type of "educated" response only renders you a "coastal urban snob" - to which in this day I usually reply "thanks"

    The truth is as sadly profound as this article makes it seem. There are two Americas.

    Perfect Example - In AZ the economy took a dive, (it was powered for the last 10 years by the housing and construction bubble) This bubble can be directly traced to de-regulation and other GOP (and some Dem.) policies.

    What do they AZ natives do about it? They go "stupid" and blame the Hispanics, and in doing so pass one of the most unconstitutional laws of recent memory? It is a perfect example of mis-placed anger, a direct result of political lies, trickery and sadly Fox News. These folks blame Hispanic immigrants for taking their jobs, but where are they really? I'd guess China and which party has made it disgustingly easy to export American jobs? Well, while that may seem obvious it isn't for these morons.

    Then we get blasted with the usual dose of "family values" and "social issues" which won Bush his second term. This is a profoundly American problem and often a powerful tool used by the GOP into tricking their voters into thinking that they will actually force prayer in school, ban abortion, strip gays of rights, and hand a gun out to every 12 year old in the country.

    In sum, this is simply knowledge v. ignorance, stubbornness v. common sense. As an American who has lived in Los Angeles, London, Arizona, and The People's Republic of San Francisco I have seen both sides and the outside perspective. I'd like to say that knowledge and common sense will win out...I'd like to.

  • Comment number 69.

    67

    they probably didn't need much sabotaging. anyone remember how long it took to get a phone line put in under the nationalised BT? Months. They certainly had no friends interested in promoting them or making the best use of them.

    ever since thatcher slammed down the Hayek book and said 'this is what we believe' we know to whose drum they beat. Its where the big society comes from.

  • Comment number 70.

    "The historian Allan Nevins believed it was this "sectional consciousness, with all its emotional and psychological implications" which made war inevitable by 1861, not the issue of slavery per se. "

    Well let us just check a primary source then.

    "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

    In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

    That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove... "

    You can look at the actual document in the national archives or you can believe post-war Confederate propaganda. At the time they really laid it out quite clearly for us and lazy journalists who don't understand the value of primary sources seem to just go along with it.

  • Comment number 71.

    #28 You wrote "Third, liberal (small L liberal not political) economic policies of the federal government beginning in the 1990s which forced banks to give loans to applicants whose credit was below standard or could not pay the money back, must share culpability for foreclosures with 'greedy bankers' and 'small print' predatory interest rates. The problem was too much government interference in lending practices (i.e. government determining who can get a loan rather than the bank), not a lack of interference, as is claimed. The banks had to charge high rates because they knew the loans were high risk. Consumers too, are guilty. They should not have bought things on credit they could not afford."

    I find this really interesting as it my understanding that the opposite happened here in the UK for the same end effect.

    I am no economist but it was my understanding that in the UK at least it was a reduction of the regulation that enabled the banks/credit providers etc to lend to higher risk consumers, and they gladly took up the offer and the higher interest rates in pursuit of greater profit. I certainly don't think they were forced to make these loans. Can you give an example or a reference to show how the opposite was true in the US?

    If we are both correct (and i most willingly stand to be corrected) then i find it amazing that the two approaches produced the same result.

    I do however agree whole-heartedly that the consumers have to take responsibility for their actions.

  • Comment number 72.

    Great report again.

    A fascinating insight into the US. It just confirms to me that Obama stands no chance of a second term.

  • Comment number 73.

    The Tea Party is illogical. It is against a big centralised government but it won't say where it will make the cuts. If it were sincere, it would tell the farmers to hand back their farm subsidies, the corporations to reject corporate welfare, etc. It is against large government deficits, which ironically are due mainly to Republicans (Reagan, George W. Bush) and for under-regulated free markets, which caused the financial crisis and necessitated huge government intervention in Bush's presidency. Many of their followers are against socialised medicine (Obama care) but are for grannie's Medicare (not realising that it is socialised medicine for the elderly). Many tea partyers proclaim that America is a Christian nation, apparently not having read the Constitution that they call upon to justify ownership of guns of all types.

    The Tea Party is the Republican Party's Trojan Horse. It is pushing the Republican Party too far to the right and will alienate a lot of traditional Republicans. There is a huge propaganda machine (Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Moral Majority, tele-evangelists) at work promoting extreme conservatism. It dispenses misinformation, rewrites history (e.g., Texas school textbooks), promotes the teaching of intelligent design, smears political opponents (e.g., belittling John Kerry's war medal in spite of Bush's going AWOL!), and encourages intolerance (e.g., gay bashing). It is sad that so many Americans are being fooled by the demagoguery of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

  • Comment number 74.

    I am amused and angered at the same time by Progressives -- the so called tolerant segement of US society who can't tolerate dissent and always equate opposition to President Obama as racist in nature. The opposition has nothing to do with race but culture. That being, the culture of government big or small. If the Progressives want to bring race into the debate they need to first look in the mirror -- I think they will find they have meet the enemy and it is them as nobody I know cares about skin color or race but we do care about a government run amok. We care about a culture where the Progressive expects the government to pay their bills, house them, feed them, clothe them and pay for their doctor bills all while they contribute little if anything to the economy. In short, I'm tired of supporting the deadbeat. That is what the Tea Party movement is about.

  • Comment number 75.

    Paul,

    Just caught up on all your recent reports, good solid earthy journalism as usual, refreshing, important and with your creative flourish and courage evident throughout.

    Just want to say thanks and keep up the good work, it is important I think.

    Good to see interest in your work from both sides of the Atlantic as well.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think that you are giving the Tea Party far more credit that it deserves. It is a tiny minority of the American public that is only as loud as it is because of all the money Freedomworks and other GOP mouthpieces are funneling to it. Most tea party groups started out as Libertarians, but the platform has drifted far away from that origin. Very few people actually identify themselves as being members of the Tea Party, so I don't know where you are getting the idea that America is chock full of white bigots with revolution on tehir minds. The Hispanic vote is far more meaningful than the Tea Party in this election.

    You also are assuming that the six or so candidates that they have manged to get into races are going to be able to win. You are wrong. They have fielded wingnuts who, if it weren't for Carl Rove pouring millions of dollars into their campaigns, would be laughed off of any podium they stepped up to.

    This article is full of errors and assumptions that just aren't true. But we'll let November prove which one of us is right here. But I will bet you that few, if any, of the Tea Party candidates will do anything but go down in flames next month. The votes just aren't there and the population now is too diverse for a "Southern" strategy to work. I'm sorry to pop your alarmist bubble, but it just isn't going to happen.

  • Comment number 77.

    The view from here in the U S Midwest seems to show a bit of panic on the part of the Tea Baggers. They freaked when Obama got elected and have been looking for any thread to pull to get him out or otherwise silenced along with anybody who supports or even advocates giving his administration a chance to make some headway. There are very few people with anything resembling patience anymore. Everybody expects all their problems to be fixed in a matter of weeks, not months or years. It took a hell of a lot longer than 20 months to get into this mess so how can anyone with half a brain expect to get out of it over night?

    The reality is that people here are running like lemmings for the cliff...whatever cliff that presents itself as long as they don't have to exercise what little intelligence they might have to figure out how to bear up under the long haul. There is no easy answer, there is no quick fix and getting all het up to throw everybody out of office isn't going to do a damned bit of good. They all want to point a finger at the other guy instead of buckling down and getting things working again.

  • Comment number 78.

    Thanks paul for screwing the lid off another worm jar. I enjoyed the contrast of news between Chile and USA .

  • Comment number 79.

    IT'S WHAT WE CALL PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING BARRIE (#78)

    News is now embellished, edgy fun-fiction with mobile graphics overlayed and intrusive musack. During the Pope's visit, he was depicted in false colour (a favourite) with a scarlet forehead. And one of out top political shows now has (among other distractions) slow-pulsing multi-colour concentric rings that perform on the illuminated studio walls. It's all part of the New Cruelty.

    Oh to be in England, now Nihilism's here . . .

  • Comment number 80.

    So, what's the possibilty that:
    The US electorate thought they were voting for an Irishman - Barack O'Bama.
    Wall Street is were the walls are made.
    Liberals believe in freedom.
    Democrats believe in democracy.
    Republicans just want to get back into the pub trade.
    The Civil War was far from it and people swore through the whole episode.

  • Comment number 81.

    YES WE CAN? (#77)

    "Everybody expects all their problems to be fixed in a matter of weeks, not months or years."

    From here it looked, during the Presidential election, as if Obama was going to do five loves and two fishes. Could he have brought this on himself?

  • Comment number 82.

    BarryHaley...
    We don't mind paying for the roads and bridges...It's when the tax rates are so high and they dangle parts of it back to the states as long as the states will teach the governments current curriculum in the schools. That's not right. The beauty of this country used to be "If you don't like the life style in this part then you can move to another." Now all parts are beginning to look the same...a federally mandated, homogenized, country. That is a major loss of freedom. It's the accumulation of the gradual losses of personal freedom that concern many of us.

  • Comment number 83.

    THE WEASEL AWARD

    I feel the triumph of weasel wordery, achieved by Simon Hughes tonight, should not go unrecognised (though the Attack Dog didn't even lick him).

    I have always felt that a signature is ABSOLUTE. Anyone know how that stands in law? Hughes' dance round the subject was excruciating. The LibDems sold out. "End of" as regular bloke Dave likes to say.

    Nick fixed it for Nick.

  • Comment number 84.

    Just wanted to say that i find some of the comments on here very informative and interesting. This is a good debate please keep it up.

  • Comment number 85.

    I feel like I am in a nation which I'm not allowed to participate in. I was born and live in the south (North Carolina) and in the last election Obama won with 49.9% of the vote. I didn't realize how many people hated him until afterward. Racist or anti-democratic? A little of both.

    However, I don't agree with the far left--they want too much government in the free market--or the right--they want too much government in private life. So, where does that leave the choice?

    You can't have a rational discussion with either side. I'm either a right loving gay/black hater OR a left pinko. Serious! Don't even try to have a rational (e.g. secular) discussion with people. If you are not religious in my area of NC, then you keep your mouth shut. Monday a candidates forum had "GOD" quoted so many times (clap, clap, clap). Without god in the equation, there can be no discussion.

    God love the USA!

  • Comment number 86.

    It is interesting, perilous perhaps, that the Republican Party has so easily embraced the ‘Tea Party’. The assemblage of former and current conservatives who are stepping up to be associated but ‘not’ associated with this group is interesting. The ‘sort of’ support they get from the Republican mainstream leadership is fascinating as well. Confusion reigns, especially when angry.

    And, the Tea Party is angry. This largely misdirected and frustratingly revisionist group may, if allowed to, create a dangerous rift in the United States’ political landscape. Worse, they may somehow rise to take control over the policies of the Republican Party. There are a few howling voices of bile who would shout their hateful, yet apparently crowd pleasing, noise even louder if this should happen.

    While they may seek to rewrite history and remain steadfastly supportive of a constitution they view as unchanged since the late 1700s, reality will hopefully right the ship, providing those in power with the needed jolt to clean up their acts, without the unnecessary and retrograde step it would be to actually provide a band of angry, amateur politicians with the ability to make real policy.

  • Comment number 87.

    Paul Mason, please review your history and geography. America is a Continent not USA. There were not 2 Americas north and south. It was the Union, the north of USA, and the Confederation the South of USA. And remember that the initial nation were 13 british colonies and later by war, politics and robbery they obtained what now is USA. Can´t you say United States of America? In the civil war they were not the 48 states, they were less than that. Review with the aid of National Geographic and then write correctly.

  • Comment number 88.

    In #80, Ed60 wrote: "Why should I be scared of Islamists? They have no power"

    Sorry for the delay, I was watching video coverage from Chile.

    Coming from someone writing from (I assume) the UK, doesn't 7/7 ring a bell? This is one subject on which you and I simply disagree. I have FAR too much time on my hands because I cannot find a real job, so I occupy my mind by reading news from all over the world. If you read my blog series "Sharia coming soon to a country near you, part X," you'll see what I mean. I am not saying that all Muslims worldwide are out to kill infidels, but even 1% of 1.5 billion is a very large number.

    Ed60 wrote: "The Tea Party members are the most extreme of the neo-conservatives"

    This is true, but I believe you misunderstand their foreign policy. They are pure isolationists. Yes, they will completely screw-up the USA, but they want no part of the rest of the globe. We here have much to fear from them, but not Europe or pretty much anywhere else. Remember that Sarah Palin never left the USA before she ran for VP.

    Ed60 wrote: "the Tea Party themselves claimed Hitler was left wing not right"

    I do not want anyone to think I am a Tea Party member -- read my "Two tea bags for sister Sarah" blog post (and if you miss the joke in the title, think of Clint Eastwood movies) -- but there is some justification for thinking that Hitler was a left-winger. Stalin and Hitler killed tens of millions of people between them. Lenin created the concentration camp concept and Hitler perfected it. Stalin discriminated by class and Hitler discriminated by race. They both had armies controlled by fear of extreme punishment. They both had uber-controlled economies.

    Ed60 wrote: "said that the ten commandments were laws dictated directly by God and should be enforced by the state on pain of death"

    I would never deny that my country has a good number of fruitcakes, but that loon is more extreme than the average Tea Party candidate. You do know that Islamic sharia law calls for the death penalty for adulterers, every time, right?

    Ed60 wrote: "People have guns"

    I could spend pages writing on this subject alone. Sorry, it is not as simple as you think. There are a number of factors at play here.

    First, the USA is a very violent country. We have more non-gun homicides than most countries have total homicides. Let's do the numbers and compare the USA to the UK. USA non-gun homicides divided by population: 5729 / 300 million = 19.1. UK total homicides divided by population: 737 / 62 million = 11.9. Yes, the decimal points are in the wrong place, but they are consistent. Do you get my point? Even if we were able to make all guns disappear tomorrow, the USA would be a more violent country than the UK. Guns are not the only problem here. We have social problems which lead to violent crime.

    Second, you assume that guns have no positive value. You are wrong. A liberal (a self-described tree-hugger) decided to record the number of times guns were used each year to prevent a crime. For example, a woman might display a pistol to make a potential rapist go away. The researcher (I do not have a URL; the research is probably 10-20 years old) estimated that guns are used in a positive way 800,000 times each year. I realize you do not believe the number is that high; actually, neither do I. Let's divide by 100 to eliminate any possible bias, leaving us with 8000. Considering that the total number of gun homicides is 12,600 (all figures from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm), that almost zeros it out.

    Ed60 wrote: "universal healthcare"

    I'd like to see the USA adopt a universal healthcare system, but not like the UK. Switzerland is my role model.

    Ed60 wrote: "The gap between rich and poor is obscene"

    You and I agree 100% on this one.

  • Comment number 89.

    61. At 10:06pm on 13 Oct 2010, Newcastle Uni Student

    Ex UK Ambassador to Uzebekistan on student politics and the New Labour Libertarian crowd:

    "As members of the far left, they showed an authoritarianism and disregard for democracy in their student days which has stood them in good stead as leaders, cheerleaders and administrators of New Labour's authoritarian and aggressive right wing state. They are all ruthless careerists, and also fervently anti-Palestinian."

    For Far Left read Trotskyite aka anarchist or Social Democrat.

    See also Lenin on Infantile Disorder (or NPD).

    Life is short, and in this area simple but wicked: so try to learn when instructed ;-)

  • Comment number 90.

    Wow. This is uncomfortable.
    I grew up in the rural South and my father is a Civil War History enthusiast,
    But I live in Philadelphia, in the 'multi-cultural'/'educated'/'north'.
    --does this mean I should watch my back at the next family gathering?
    _ _ _ _ _ _

    I appreciate that the USA is having an internal war of words instead of weapons, yet the idea that our current political situation is parallel to that of the Civil War is... very disconcerting.
    -- I'd rather not make that connection.

    Rather, I see a party of tradition and less than mobile class structure usurped by a party of people who want to encourage equality and opportunity, but that the general population is torn as to what mobility should look like, or whether it is even feasible.
    -- um... okay. Maybe there ARE some eerie similarities.

  • Comment number 91.

    Madness reigns across my nation... would anyone be interested in adopting a 51 year old (more or less) adult male? I am relatively conversant in English, although it is the mangled mess we used here. I bathe often...
    Egad. Just when I think that my countrymen cannot possibly reach a new depth of public idiocy, these fools take the stage.

    One would think (or at least like to think) that eventually the ... dare I? Yes, I dare say Fact that skin color is of no more importance than coloration of the eyes or hair.

    I weep for this place.

  • Comment number 92.

    Welcome to the Tea Party - the foot soldiers of Ayn Rand's extremism and George Orwell's 1984. Ann Rand, a failure as a woman and a person. A movement backed by shadowy, anonymous billionaires to destroy the American way of life. Community = Collectivism, black is white, up is down, democratically elected politicians are deemed "elites".

    An insidious, racist movement - brownshirts dressed in Colonial garb - led by their titular figurehead - Sarah Palin, "Franco in a skirt". Faux Christians who debase Christ's massage of love, generosity and compassion with selfishness, racism, avarice and greed.

    Much of this "movement" can be laid at the door of the Supreme Court, 4 racists and a self-loathing "Uncle Tom". Unaccountable, life tenured and pernicious.

    If protest is to be expressed, it should be at the Supreme Court, the foot soldiers of the Republican Party, the election fixers of "Bush v. Gore" and the game changers of the American political process through the unleashing of a torrent of anonymous corporate, foreign and extremist right wing money with the "Citizens United" decision. The Supreme Court MUST be held to account - and the Constituion be changed to force their elction befitting their status as "politicians in robes" demands.

    If some blame is to be laid, it can b

  • Comment number 93.

    The leaders of the Tea Party movement are mentally deranged and power-seeking. End of analysis.

    The followers are more interesting. The followers are mostly poorly educated, unintellectual simpletons. They do not know, really, how to even handle their own finances, or their relationships--they are that simple. I make amortization tables constantly, go over my retirement situation, etc--I am totally on top of every dollar, and it's no real strain. These Tea Partiers, they aren't like that. They can't budget, can't predict when their car will be paid off, etc. They don't know how to disagree with a person without tearing that person down. They don't have literary and historical references in their minds to compare their situation to, and thus better understand themselves and their world. Further, and most important: they lack the mental and cultural capacity to ever achieve any of those things, OR the work ethic to at least keep their heads above water financially--and thus fulfill the lowest tiers of Maslow's hierarchy. This ignorance was all fine and good when the low skill manufacturing jobs were plentiful and high paying. But now, they find their economic society has largely left them behind, and they will never catch up. These are a people not just humbled but shamed, and therefore angered, by this realization--because if they do know one thing, it is their plight, their pathetic, ignorant plight. They have turned to religion and extreme politics to save them because, sadly, that is their only hope! They are all too aware that their own desire (turned "core value") of "pulling one up by one's bootstraps" is precisely what they are least able to do: they will not clean toilets to put food on the table, they will not deny themselves cable tv and go to night school, they will not swallow their pride and admit they were wrong to stay married. They are ashamed, and embittered, and angry about all of these PERSONAL failings that just happen to be so common as to have created a social awareness about it. Instead of facing themselves in the mirror and admitting their personal mistakes and shortcomings (that would be the right yet hard thing to do) they have chosen the easier path of Blame The Others--the Others being anyone who does not espouse the beliefs that would have kept the Tea Partiers in control of their own lives in the first place: fiscal responsibility, self control, fidelity, and the most important yet least heeded Christian principle of all: Do Unto Others As Thou Wouldst Have Done Unto You.

  • Comment number 94.

    re.#64. At 10:19pm on 13 Oct 2010, dceilar wrote:
    Scott @57

    "Demonize them! Marginalize them! Ridicule them! Silence them before they can express their dangerous heretical opinions because free speech is only a right for those who share our own enlightened views!"

    Say that to those that were blacklisted by the McCarthyite witch-hunts! Their freedom of speech didn't count for jack. This is my main gripe with a Bill of Rights and codified constitutions: that get ignored when it suits the tyrannical majority.

    On a separate note Scott, why are the Americans so scared of the State? Over here in Europe they are scared of us!

    ----------

    Why are Americans so scared of the State? I'd say it goes back to the American Revolution where Britain's government was blamed by the colonials for creating the rift that justified the rebellion. From a British perspective their reasoning probably seems a bit self serving but they won the war (with a little help from our friends in France and Spain) and winners get to write their own version of history.

    Afterwards the American founding fathers deliberately set up the American constitution to limit government's power and forbid it to do the things they had complained of the British government doing and then they warned the people to keep an eye on their government and not let it abuse its power or exceed its authority. Americans took the message to heart and have had a skeptical view of government ever since, its become part of our national psyche and transcends political affilation.

    It's not unusual to find American liberals who advocate expanding government power well beyond the authority granted it under the constitution in order to provide social services but who will get their back up at the suggestion of granting that same government power to limit freedoms such as protection against warrentless searches or the right of bail and habeus corpus in the name of national security. And there are conservatives who publicly complain about much of the work done by the American Civil Liberties Union while privately writing it checks because they recognize that every now and then it serves a useful purpose by holding government to account for an abuse of power or infringement of liberty.

    As for your low opinion of the value of codified constitutions I have to disagree. Any constitution, written or unwritten, is only as good as the people themselves and the character of those they choose to serve them in public office.

    The McCarthy era was an excellent example of why the rights of the accused and standards of judicial fairness are so important no matter how heinous the alleged crime. I highly recommend Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, a cautionary tale about what can happen when we let fear rule us and abandon the principle that guilt must be proven by evidence, not mere accusation. Although set during the Salem witch trials its clearly aimed at McCarthyism. And lest we think such things could't happen again read up on the case of the child sex abuse trials in the town of Wenatchee Washington in 1994 and 95. The parellels with Miller's storyline are downright eerie. People were tried and convicted on coerced testimony without corroborating evidence and with the connivance of a public official who was out to make a reputation for himself and advance his career. Many even confessed to crimes they didn't commit rather than stand trial and face worse sentences. In the end every one of the convictions was overturned or set aside but the lost years, ruined careers and businesses and damage to reputations was ireversible just as it was during the McCarthy years. Another fine example of the abuse of government power.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenatchee_sex_ring

  • Comment number 95.

    Here are my observations. The comments critical of the tea party remind me of elitists / rulers trying to put the stupid unenlightened little people in their place who don't understand their only purpose is to serve the greater interest of these elitists / rulers. How troublesome it is that these little people have their own ideas about freedom. The selection of the tea party as the symbol for this feeling of alienation from the rulers fits the historical parallel to 1770's. The rulers / leaders didn't get it then, they don't get it now. The desire for freedom comes from within a person. That is why the progressives, liberals, socialists, communists, leftists, what have you - can not socially engineer it away. This desire for freedom will continue to be expressed in one way or another. It is my prediction, in hundred years the United States as we have known it will be gone. It will either divide into different countries with a separate consciousness tending towards socialism or libertarianism OR in its entirety it will morph to resemble the country that will provide the dominate racial group which will be Mexico. In outlook and approach the latter does not resemble the United States of today. In the future there will be no difference. The this future can be imagined shows the change that is afoot.

  • Comment number 96.

    What people don't realize is that it is business that runs the USA. The tea party is bank rolled by the billionaire Koch brothers. Who bank rolls Obama? They're wealthy business people. Corporations rule. The electoral system exists to placate the people and give an illusion of democracy. Tea party or democrat it makes no difference. Where I live their used to be 8 independent local papers. All but two have been bought up by one company. That company decides what you think and what you see and what is actually printed. You may think that the marketplace gives you a lot of choice, but behind the scenes there are fewer players every day. At least government you can vote out. Corporations are forever and they have bought our politicians.

  • Comment number 97.

    Differences in education, health care and employment define the divided nation. Those are the core realities that cause the symptoms that we mistakenly focus on.
    Don't believe it? Look at the ranking of the states by the Columbia University Human Development Report. Of the twenty top states, only Alaska went for McCain-Palin. The bottom of the pile, those with less education, poor health care and poorer employment opportunities were solid for the republicans. If you are interested, the report drills the data down to the congressional district level in each state.

    Education, healthcare and employment not only define our divided nation they define our declining position among the nations. Now people of good will on both sides of the divide doubt whether we can get where we need to be nationally and internationally with the government we have.

    Historically, scapegoating has never been a productive solution and its advocates are not the heros. Our real deficit is a leadership deficit.

  • Comment number 98.

    The Civil War was fought over slavery. Check out Confederate president Davis's remarks over the issue and the Bible. This is poor reporting by the BBC.

  • Comment number 99.

    Having only a little interest in the politics in the USA I find it odd that this is all that I've heard over the last 6 months or so, is the new right really becoming so powerful?

    If it is such a big swing, is there actually a chance that the USA may become a faschist, or worse a church state?

  • Comment number 100.

    This is a really high quality blog; I'm enjoying the plethora of intelligent arguments and assessments from all sides, thank you all.

    I have one basic question to ask. To those of you who object to the accusation that the Tea Party is affected by a racist agenda, can we just put this to rest with a simple statistic: what proportion of Tea Party activists (a rough head-count of public rallies will do) are non-white? Thank you.

 

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