Friday, August 27, 2010

Tea Party Populists

Yesterday I pointed out that the Tea Party Movement is simply the grandson of the Know Nothings. Its father is the People's Party.

In the late 19th century the Republican Party, like now, served only Wall Street, the Robber Barons, and corporate interests. The Democratic Party served urban immigrants and Southern segregationists. Ignored were the farmers and ranchers and from that sprang the Populist or People's Party.

While the People's Party was less nativist than the Know Nothings or the Tea Party they were still anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-black. Unlike the Tea Party, the Robber Barons failed to coop the Populists.
It is no longer a government of the people, for the people, by the people, but a government of Wall Street, for Wall Street, and by Wall Street. ~ Mary Lease
It was born during the long depression of the Gilded Age when the extremely wealthy bought, sold, and rode politicians like polo ponies. Their platform included:
  • The free coinage of silver and gold to counteract the deflation that was enriching millionaires while the common people starved.
  • A graduated income tax to make the rich share in the burdens of government.
  • Nationalizing telegraphs and railroads. (The wealthiest and most corrupt Robber Barons own the railroads. A modern equivalent would be to nationalize Goldman Sachs and Verizon.)
  • Confiscate land own by foreigners and restrict immigration. (Traditional Nativist themes.)
The present system [...] opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world and crowds out our wage-earners; and we denounce the present ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further restriction of undesirable emigration. ~ 1892 platform

Comparing the Populists with the Tea Party shows clear similarities in the anti-immigrant fervor. Where they differ is on the economy where the Tea Party is the most vocal advocate for lifting the burden of taxes from billionaires and supporting a corporatist hegemony over all aspects of society.

That such positions will do immense damage to the lives and livelihoods of rank and file Tea Partyites does not seem to occur to them and indicates the degree to which the Robber Barons have bought off the Tea Party leadership.

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