Part 4—Digby should leave the tribe: Are Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party really “natural allies?”
We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves—but then, that isn’t exactly what Matt Taibbi said in his recent Rolling Stone post. As you read, let your inner parser’s freak flag fly! Examine his words with great care:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either…After we finish parsing his words, what did Taibbi actually say? Let’s paraphrase his words in some places: He said that Occupy Wall Street should be able to find “natural allies” among Tea Party supporters—among “the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party.” He said those millions of middle Americans should be on the same page as the Occupy folk “about most of the key issues.”
What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.
Should middle Americans who support the Tea Party be on the same page as the Occupy folk? It’s obvious why Taibbi might say that, though we think his subsequent explanation overthought things a bit. After all, those middle Americans who support the Tea Party are getting looted by the top one percent, just like the Occupy people are! They’re paying massively too much for health care, just like people in the blue tribe. In part for that reason, their wages have tended to stagnate, just like the wages of their blue friends and purple neighbors. And when the Masters of the Universe blew up the financial system, they were left in the rubble too. As Taibbi explains, our nation’s too-big-too-fail banks “have put millions of ordinary people out of their homes thanks to a massive fraud scheme for which they were not punished, owing to their enormous influence with government and their capture of the regulators.”
Many of those middle Americans in the Tea Party queue have been defrauded by this scheme too. Their politicians are owned by the top 0.1 percent too, just like many of the pols who are favored by the blue tribe.
For all these reasons, the Occupy movement “should” be able to find allies within the Tea Party. Of course, there are many obstacles to such alliances—and no, such alliances aren’t necessarily required. After all, only about twenty percent of American adults say they support the tea party movement. In theory, the blue tribe could build a powerful movement without winning any of those people over to its side.
In theory, the blue tribe could do things that way. But why do we love the idea of such an approach so dearly? We often find ourselves asking that question when we read Digby’s reactions to the types of possibilities suggested by dreamers like Taibbi.
Digby has made many valid points about the Tea Party movement. But good gravy, how she loves to see the glass half empty! Last Saturday, she posted about Kate Zernike’s New York Times report, which noted that leaders of certain professional Tea Party orgs were attacking the notion that their group's members bore any similarity to those beasts in the Occupy movement. For us, the highlighted passages capture the self-limiting, uber-tribal reactions to which Digby is strongly inclined:
DIGBY (10/22/11): Speaking of which, Kate Zernike, who wrote Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, has written a piece in today's NY Times that backs up the impressions I wrote about in my Al Jazeera piece earlier this week: the Tea Party and OWS are not the same animal:Many straw men had to die to sustain that level of tribal intransigence. Questions:
There is a bizarre need on the part of quite a few liberals to believe that the right really agrees with them, they just don't know it. They think that there is a potential "transpartisan" ideological Grand Alliance that will come together across all these artificial boundaries to work toward a common purpose. It's pretty to think so, but it isn't any more realistic than President Obama's odes to post-partisan leadership that would transcend ugly ideology and "change the way Washington works" were.
It is possible that the Occupy Wall Street movement will keep a majority of the public on its side. I fervently hope it does. But it won't win everyone and certainly not hardcore Reactionaries whose very identities are formed by their opposition to liberalism. You go with the culture you have, not the one you wish you had.
Who in the world would ever have thought that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street “are the same animal?” Which liberals have the “bizarre need...to believe that the right really agrees with them, they just don't know it?” Does anyone actually think that? (Digby often explains what others think without naming or quoting any such people.) Most perfectly, note the final warning, the warning which virtually defines The Tribal Imperative: The Occupy movement will never “win everyone,” Digby savvily says.
Our blue tribe will never “win everyone!” Did anyone ever think different? Could that be what Taibbi imagined or meant? Has anyone ever raised such a straw man as they discussed these two movements?
Have you ever heard the old saw about the perfect being the enemy of the good? With Digby, the totality often serves as the enemy of the some. Since we’ll never win everyone over, we shouldn’t waste our time trying for some! In this way, the tribal mind screams a prehistoric imperative:
Do not speak to “those people!” Do not engage with those people at all! For the record, Digby’s headline said this: “Never the twain shall meet.” For whatever reason, gloom like that makes tribal adepts feel good.
Digby made many valid points about these two movements in her recent long piece for Al Jazeera (click here). But in her writing, we routinely see the prehistoric impulse which badly limits the blue tribe’s options. To the tribal mind, “those people” will always be all alike! Digby routinely betrays this impulse about those people in the Tea Party. For one recent example, click here:
DIGBY (10/19/11): I keep hearing how well behaved the Tea Partiers were compared to Occupy Wall Street, what with their polite and well-mannered rallies and all. They are all over the place, getting face time as the supposedly civilized face of American protest, recalling the glory days of their "peaceful" movement.To prove that “they” were “anything but civilized,” Digby showed tape of a few Tea Party people behaving unattractively. To Digby, this bad conduct by a few people “says everything that needs to be said.” But then, as we have occasionally joked: To Digby, if one Tea Partier spits on the sidewalk somewhere, that means all forty million have done it.
They were anything but civilized. I'm just going to re-run this one again because I think it says everything that needs to be said.
For a similar “the glass is 99 percent empty” approach, consider the way Digby excerpted a recent CNN poll. The poll included a survey of Tea Party supporters’ views toward “Wall Street bankers and brokers.” Digby selected one especially gloomy result:
DIGBY (10/24/11): In case you were wondering: 65% of Tea Partiers have an unfavorable opinion of OWS. And perhaps most unsurprising is the fact that they have the greatest faith in Wall Street of all cohorts in the poll, even believing that they are honest in much higher numbers than the rest of the country. (They do agree that they're greedy, but I'm guessing they see that as an admirable quality.)Digby was happy to note that the glass was 65 percent empty. But the CNN poll also recorded these views among Tea Party supporters:
Forty-seven percent said Wall Street bankers and brokers were dishonest. 62 percent said they were greedy. 66 percent said they weren’t community minded. 58 percent said they were overpaid. People who want to build a wider American political movement might see possible paths in those survey results. But tribal minds are always looking for reasons to avoid engaging with “those people.” After all, we'll never get everyone in their tribe to see things in our perfect way!
Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve read Digby for years. We wish she wasn’t so heavily tribal; in our view, it tends to hold her back. That said, there’s always hope for improvement! Back in September 2010, Taibbi himself was somewhat dumbly mocking “those people” in the Tea Party tribe. To refresh yourselves, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/1/10.
In our view, Taibbi has come a long way! There may be hope for the tribal mind yet—and for the growth of a long-term, wider American movement, built out from the basic math which says that all us chickens are the 99 percent.