“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”
Chomsky draws his concern from reading the ‘ditto’ comments of the lumpenproletariat that religiously follow the provocateurs for the right wing–men like Rush Limbaugh, for example. He goes on to talk about the rise of uber-right wing personalities in the GOP. Any student of history can vouchsafe his take on the rise of Nazism being about the failure of Germany’s ‘major’ parties (and the inept response from the left to said failures) as a key ingredient for the electoral success of the Nazis. And commentators smarter than me are arguing that the clash between the ‘sane’ wing of the GOP with the Tea Party insurgents may lead to a similar fracturing of that party, which seems to already lead to one minority party (the Tea Party ‘activists’ =the GOP sans the ‘country club’ wing) which can so hamstring politics that no one else can govern. That was Weimar Germany–the Nazis didn’t have the majority of seats, but no one could put together an electoral majority without them. When even the Wall Street clique cannot pull back the Tea Party from loose talk about reneging on US debt, it’s not clear who’s the dog and who’s the tail.
That said, Chomsky is several years too late in his prognostications. People like peak oil writer James Howard Kunstler have been writing about the search for a Man On Horseback (who can make everything right) for better than a decade. Kunstler makes the case that the aggrieved condition of the former Confederate states is especially worrying (the populace of those states bear two threats–an unrealistic sense of entitlement to ‘happy motoring’ and a huge number of firearms). He has warned of the potential for ‘corn pone fascism’ brought about by a folksy hero on horseback. In this essay, he was calling out Glenn Beck as the potential man on horseback, a celebrant in what Kunstler refers to as ‘corn-pone Nazism‘.
This is what allows a faker like Glenn Beck to shine. The masses still truly believe that prayer will save them from bankruptcy, foreclosure, penury, the loss of status, and the cut-off of precious air-conditioning, so Glenn steps onto a national monument like an Aztec priest ascending the Pyramid of Huitzilopochtli to soothe the angry god with worshipful incantations, and incidentally maybe a few dozen sacrificial hearts cut out — just as the tea-bagger right-wing glorifies the sacrifices of US soldiers blown up by roadside bombs for the sake of American military adventuring in lost causes like the war to turn Afghanistan into a functioning western-style democracy.
The Christian Right and its friends have been on the rise for several decades now–ever since they shared in Reagan’s election victory of 1980, when evangelicals abandoned co-religionist Jimmy Carter in favor of Ron’s ‘Morning in America’. Chip Berlet, who documented the rise of the Christian Right as a political power starting back in the 1970’s, has warned of their increasing influence. They’ve made strange bedfellows with the Ayn Rand acolytes like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul, but they’ve somehow made this loose alliance work. And I’d make the argument that the Tea Party faithful DON’T WANT effective governance. The above-mentioned default of the US treasury over an argument between the current president and the Tea-Party heavy Congress over abortion rights or climate change denial would clear the way for the real agenda of many on the right–a universal desire of the electorate for that mythical Man on Horseback, who will have widespread popular support to throw out the laws he/she doesn’t like and start anew.
This puts us lefties in an untenable position. Do we support a status quo that we personally despise? Do we defend a corporatist Democrat against a certifiably crazy Tea Party GOP candidate? Or do we roll the dice on collapse? I’m already immune to calls to defend President Obama, but the upcoming presidential election may come at an inflection point for any number of collapses. We’re looking at nothing but bad news about the climate, there are numerous black swans searching for a place to land vis the economy, and (as Dr. Helen Caldicott points out recently), any escalation of our funny little almost-war in Ukraine is by definition a nuclear war–Ukraine has 15 active nuclear power reactors, and any disruption of the power grid would lead to meltdowns. Those disruptions aside, someone targeting a reactor with a few stray rounds of artillery would almost certainly set events in motion that would make Chernobyl look like ants at a picnic.
And remember this face. I could be wrong.