Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Come Together?

Ralph Nader has a new book out, called Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. In it, Nader argues that some elements of the Right and Left are beginning to come together as they slowly realize they have a common enemy, Wall Street in particular, corporatism in general.

Progressives, including Nader, had much of this figured out long ago; whether it be the corrupting influence of wealth and privilege, the contradictions of neoliberal economics, the laughable asininity of supply-side economics, the  illogical and self-serving gospel of free trade and more: It was the Left, the true Left, not the Clintons and their Democratic Leadership Council, nor the New Democrats, nor other Republican Lites, including President Obama, that long ago saw the corporate train wreck heading our way.

Only now, with so much evidence that even Fox cannot spin it all away, we see at least some working and middle class conservatives, including those who identify with the Tea Party, are finally realizing they have been played by the Republican establishment, those at the very top of the conservative wealth and power structure. 

The Left, broadly defined, has long wondered how the reactionary Right, especially working class rank and file Republicans, could so blindly and aggressively support Republican politicians who so clearly violate what teabaggers claim they stand for, or what they consider to be morally sound.

Nader is not alone on this. I myself have argued there is a substantial ideological and policy opening that could allow the two otherwise disparate forces to work together. Issues such as an abusive financial sector, corruption, inequality before the law, the bill of goods called free trade, secret offshore bank accounts -- an issue that hurt Romney with working class Republicans --are issues that animate both the Left and more than a few Tea Party adherents.

Mike Konczal argues that the Tea Party and Wall Street actually get along just fine. He makes some good points, but it is important to note that Konczal's focus is on elected politicians, those whose elections are financed by Wall Street, and not rank and file teabaggers. It is this latter group's interests which diverge most strongly with the plutocracy, even if they often seem doggedly unaware of it.

And ultimately, this is why Nader's belief that liberals and teabaggers will work against a common enemy may be wishful thinking, at least until even more pain is felt. Few conservatives, and especially tea partiers, even now, will listen to arguments made by progressives. Or to put it differently, many teabaggers will be open to an idea or policy until they realize it is a progressive one, or on those occasions when President Obama supports it. As an aside, I might add they also don't realize how often President Obama sides with the center-right, such as through his enforcement of domestic spying programs initiated by Bush, his unwillingness to prosecute Wall Street banks, or the continued care and feeding of a bloated military.

Their common sense is overwhelmed by a condition that Fox News has worked hard to develop. Fox News Channel President Roger Ailes once said he was less interested in giving viewers the news than in how they felt about it. Blame it on cable TV and the Internet, but fewer of us are willing to listen to, and think through, viewpoints we don't like and may not want to hear. Authoritarians, which populate the Tea Party, are especially impervious to uncomfortable facts and are especially rigid, often contradictory, in their views, but we are all susceptible. Add to this a visceral hatred for liberals that runs deep in America, even though conservatives support liberal policies far more than they realize, that ensures that many on the right will reject policies and programs they would otherwise support if psychology played less of a role and evidence-based economics played more. It does not help that progressive views are relatively complex and do not lend themselves to easy bromides, slogans, or bumper stickers.

It would undoubtedly gall many teabaggers, were they suddenly to acquire a more rounded education, that Marx was right; class defines everything. Those at the very top have always used the state for their own ends. The enduring challenge for the rest of us, one we are currently failing, is to keep in check the predatory nature of the neoliberal overclass.   

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