Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

The NAACP and the Tea Party: The need for civil repair

In Domestic Politics on July 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

When leaders of the NAACP made public statements about race and the Tea Party, it drew a lot of attention and has subsequently produced quite a bit of debate.  Each side has been using accusations of racism against the other and some of these displays have been predictably strange. I have argued that the Tea Party is not a formally racist organization (although no one can doubt that it is surfacing racist sentiments), but that it is motivated by an assimilationist tendency of which many people in it may be unaware. These tendencies should be discussed so that we know what it is that people are fighting about. I think that we are closer to understanding one another across the racial divide than ever, even if it feels like we are falling apart. Racial suspicion keeps us from doing many other things that the country requires, and so we have to unfreeze the conflict by bringing the poison out in the open.

In the end, I think that the statement by the NAACP is measured and carefully worded. The organization has capitalized on a great opportunity to stimulate the national conversation on race that we have longed to have. We need to see race without seeing red, and all Americans need to understand that whoever takes back their country, cannot take it back to a situation in which only specific ways of life are respected . They also need to recognize that demands to take the country back sound like they are more about culture than they are about economic policy, and that rightly offends people.

As painful as it is for us to name racial bias, we have to do it, and we should do so in a way that opens up possibilities for what Jeffrey Alexander calls “civil repair.”  By this he means opening up the public space of solidarity to those who have been wrongfully excluded from it. We have moved a long way down this path with respect to race, but the structural legacies and residual indignities that resulted from previous exclusion are far from behind us. I think one piece of what makes this so painful is the fact that it takes so long. The lunch counter sit-ins that Ms. Maddow confronted candidate Rand Paul with after his primary victory are celebrating their 50th year. That is a long time and much has changed since then, but racial inequalities persist as do cross race suspicions. There is likely to be as much work still to be done.

One reason for hope can be found in the fact that in this discussion, the forces of civil repair are empowered and they are behaving well, even though I am sure that these paroxysms strain patience. Read the rest of this entry »


So that was what all the fuss was about: Rand Paul and the Health Bill ruckus

In Domestic Politics on May 21, 2010 at 10:55 am

I have been more detached from the news cycle than usual, and I get a little behind these days, but the interview on Rachel Maddow’s show with Rand Paul is a first class media event. There is so much in this episode, but the thing that stands out to me is the reaction from  John Kyl that I came across in the New York Times.

“I hope he can separate the theoretical and the interesting and the hypothetical questions that college students debate until 2 a.m. from the actual votes we have to cast based on real legislation here,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican.

This is, in a sense, more important a revelation than are Paul’s comments because they have more to reveal. If you have been paying attention, as Ms. Maddow obviously has, you would know that Paul has to oppose the Civil Rights act of 1964, precisely because it was such a radical document from a Libertarian perspective. You might as well ask him if he would support limiting freedom of speech (his freedom of association fixation is drawn from that same First Amendment) for people with whom he disagrees. This is a freedom über alles philosophy and he is the real deal.

What makes the Rand Paul victory important for ideological clarification is that grappling with a prominent Paulite will help you to disaggregate the two major constituencies that opposed that landmark bill of 1964 and who are in some sense still with us today: you have the traditional southern racists like Strom Thurmond and George Wallace and the constitutional fundamentalists like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. These two sets of actors may all seem like racists to us in the twenty-first century, but only because we have the hindsight benefit of having spent most of our lives in the relative calm in race relations that the Civil Rights bill brought us and all of the placidity of vision that can come with that.

The two groups were really quite different. Read the rest of this entry »

Inclusive Ethnocentrism: The political logic of the Tea Party

In Class and Social Stratification, Domestic Politics, Media and Politics on April 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm

It has been hard for most of us not to pay attention to the Tea Party movement. This fascinating right of center and middle American rejection of the activist politics of economic crisis is just colorful and controversial enough to have become the talk of the town in a mid-term election cycle. In 2009 the group, which broke onto the national scene with shouts of (T)axed (E)nough (A)lready in a national mall protest on tax day, managed to garner even more attention in their 2010 rally. The semiological savvy of the group is profound and there is more to expect from it, but this weekend witnessed a sea change in group’s narrative that will stick until the November elections. As Peter Beinart argued, in the wake of a New York Times/CBS News poll on the group, the Tea Partiers are widely regarded as phony populists,  and that is what they will stay until we have a real test of their electoral power. With the demonstration of power, everything can change, but for now, the conversation has turned.

I assume that most people have read accounts from the poll I mention above. There are plenty of discussions about it to choose from. Just today, E.J. Dionne weighed in with a gloss that he has spoken much of already on air: the populism of the privileged. Charles Blow had a devastating piece over the weekend as well. The arguments are not appearing by chance. The New York Times poll was surgically targeted to expose the true face of the movement at a crucial moment in the current political opportunity structure.

The findings were devastating for the group on two counts. First, the movement has been shown to draw on relatively well off citizens and not the lower classes. This is important because the greatest fear the democrats face is that false consciousness will drive their “natural constituency” of voters with an interest in activist government on economic matters toward the Right. If the class structure is working as traditional class voting hypothesis would predict, then there is little reason for the Democrats to worry and Read the rest of this entry »

Tea Party not your cup of tea? Blame Ralph Nader

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

In this post I am going to stretch out my neck a bit and comment on the recent phenomenon of the Tea Party movement. The NY Times has a nice investigative piece on the movement today.


It is worth noting first that online this article is much less prominent than it is in the paper version (front page above the fold with picture) and this may say something about the audience that the Times is trying reach with the story. I think it is clear that the not so hidden agenda of the article is to make us afraid of the Tea Party folks. They do a good job of this and there is reason to fear the kinds of energies that could be unleashed. Read the rest of this entry »