Stanford Progressive

Facism and the Tea Party

By Najja Kossaly, published December, 2010


“Fascism is able to attract the masses because it demagogically appeals to their most urgent needs and demands. Fascism not only inflames prejudices that are deeply ingrained in the masses, but also plays on the better sentiments of the masses, on their sense of justice and sometimes even on their revolutionary traditions…
Fascism acts in the interests of the extreme imperialists, but it presents itself to the masses in the guise of champion of an ill-treated nation, and appeals to outraged national sentiments…”

- Georgi Dimitrov

The Tea Party movement, composed mainly of white middle class Americans, is at base a response to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. Middle class Americans are losing their homes and small businesses are failing, and despite the massive taxpayer dollar bailouts of the banks, the banks are hesitant to lend money, and the economy is still contracting. Tea Partiers have legitimate concerns about corruption within big government and big business. However, their frustration is channeled into a narrow individualism that opposes public spending on Medicare or welfare. Despite their invective against big business, Tea Partiers play right into big business’s hands by scapegoating immigrants, people of color, and LGBT people for the economic meltdown.

Many liberals have assessed the Tea Party as the latest effort of the Republican Party to regain popularity and garner votes. But the Tea Party embodies something quite different from business as usual – something potentially much more dangerous.

It is well known, perhaps except among Tea Partiers themselves, that the party is an AstroTurf, as opposed to grassroots, movement. FreedomWorks, one of the party’s national organizers, was founded by corporate lobbyist and former House majority leader Dick Armey. Armey is a former associate of the now disgraced lobbyist and conman, Jack Abramoff (the man who stole $20 million from Indian tribes and bribed lawmakers). Besides individual contributors, Verizon has funded FreedomWorks. Similarly, Americans For Prosperity, another national organizer of the party, was founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, and also has connections to Abramoff.

Despite populist rhetoric, the first national convention of the “Tea Party Nation” in February of 2010 cost $549 for full attendance, or $349 to attend the lobster-steak banquet and hear Sara Palin’s keynote address, for which she was paid $100,000. There is certainly blatant charlatanism within the movement, such as Fox personality Glenn Beck (who is a partner of FreedomWorks) claiming that God wants people to invest in Goldline. However, beneath this is an inherent link between Tea Party members and corporate moguls who are cynically financing and goading them.

The Tea Party “Hands Off My Health Care” bus tour that prevented any rational discussion of health care reform in August of 2009 was funded by the medical-industrial complex. What Tea Partiers did not know (or didn’t bother to think about) was that President Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel already made agreements with the pharmaceutical and insurance companies not to disturb their profits or offer single-payer health care. Tea Partiers had no actual significant contention with Obama’s minimalist health care reform bill; however, they managed to galvanize disillusioned Americans with racist rhetoric, catchy but inaccurate catchphrases such as ObamaCare, and anti-communist and anti-socialist vitriol.

Obama and the Tea Party offer the same thing but by different means. They are both (consciously for Obama, and perhaps unconsciously for the Tea Party ground troops) attempting to maintain the status quo in the face of economic collapse. Obama, by restoring faith in our electoral system, and the Tea Party by appealing to a smorgasbord of intolerance. Obama is uniquely suited to the job of reconciling Americans to lower living standards, however his broken campaign promises are causing some of his formerly most fervent supporters to opt for the faux-revolutionary Tea Party.

The danger of the Tea Party is manifest in its eerie similarities with the fascism of 1930’s Europe. Fascism spread as a result of the Great Depression, just as the Tea Party spread as a result of the current crisis, and fascism also historically appealed to the chauvinism and national hatreds of the petite bourgeoisie (lower middle class). There is a difference however. Fascism in Germany and Italy had to contend with popular organized left-wing fronts in order to ascend to power. In the United States today, there is no significant organized left-wing front to confront the Tea Party. The Tea Party is currently the most prominent large-scale movement.

It remains to be seen just how powerful and just how fascist the Tea Party will become. However, since the majority of the left in this country have put their faith in the Democrats, they will be ill prepared to deal with the Tea Party should the Tea Party gain traction. Only an organized activist movement


1 Comment »

  1.  wedding party, February 1, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that i am searching around the web for days now. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!


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