David Banner on the Shooting of Trayvon Martin: “We Have to Get Some Type of Legislation Now.”

Gulf Coast hip hop impresario David Banner drops some straight knowledge re: Trayvon, race, and class in the US of A in this BlackEnterprise.com interview:

“The fact [is] we have to get some type of legislation now.

“What do we want to see implemented to make sure this doesn’t happen again because y’know American culture, now that we’ve seen this happen it’s going to take something two-times as bad as this to even get peoples attention.”

h/t Colorlines

Facts vs. Narrative, Utoya Edition

by matttbastard

Norwegian journalist Magnus Nome was in the good ol’ US of A when self-styled counterjihadist crusader  Anders Breivik decided to escalate his murderous fantasies about Eurabian conquest from Outer Wingnuttia into the real world.  Thankfully, CNN, Fox News et al were ready to provide informed, accurate, up-to-the-minute coverage of events on the ground:

The news coverage over the following days taught me a lot of interesting new ‘facts’ about the innocent nation of Norway.

1. Apparently we don’t lock our doors at night. Wrong. We do.

2. There is no public debate about immigration. Wrong. Immigration generally, and Islam specifically, have been high on the agenda for more than a decade.

3. We’re all white. Wrong. Norway has become an increasingly diverse society since the early 1970s: almost a third of Oslo now has non-Norwegian origin, more than one in ten being Muslim.

4. Owning a gun is practically illegal. Wrong. Hunting and sport shooting are popular recreational activities, and Norway ranks high in gun ownership.

5. The Utøya victims were all white, and the terrorist did not kill any Muslims. Wrong. The victims reflected a diverse Norwegian society. Several of the dead were Muslims, several were of African or Middle Eastern ancestry. This information was available. It is extremely disrespectful to airbrush them out of the story to make it more coherent.

As they say, read the whole damn thing, especially if everything you know about Norway — and about Anders Breivik & far-right nationalism in Europe — was learned via teh cablez.

Image: apgroner, flickr

Obama’s Citizenship & Race: Separated at Birth?

It never ceases to amaze me how eager some white liberals are to divorce race from political analysis when it comes to Obama. Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler (who seems to have settled nicely into his blogospheric role as the curmudgeonly Luddite uncle who refuses to replace his black and white TV with a flat-screen plasma because, goddammit, a 10″ Zenith was good enough for Al Gore back in college) has been relentless in his contention that wingnut animus towards the 2nd blackest president ever is simply par for the course when you’re a Dem. Even Birtherism is merely a burden that anyone with a ‘D’ following their name must bear.

Brendan Nyhan approvingly quotes:

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler objects to the liberal conventional wisdom that, as the New York Times put it, “It is inconceivable that this campaign [birtherism]… would have been conducted against a white president”:

We think it was a remarkable statement because somewhat similar campaigns already have been conducted against white candidates. A somewhat similar campaign was conducted in 1988 against Candidate Michael Dukakis, for instance. After that, strains of the same ethnic/nativist cards were played against Candidate Kerry in 2004.

Somewhat similar except, well, they aren’t — unless one can recall a protracted disinformation campaign against either individual questioning their bloody American citizenship (rather than, eg, their patriotism, a more common line of attack faced by the left) that managed to drive the news cycle for well over 3 years. Nyhan himself acknowledges that Obama’s “unique” life circumstances have driven the way conspiratorial attacks are framed, before trying to use Chester A. Arthur as a counterexample of a white president who also faced baseless attacks on his citizenship. Which is true, except, as again noted by Nyhan, those attacks were framed in the context of Arthur’s Irish identity.

In the 1800s.

(No need to apply, natch.)

So, um, yeah,  nativist attacks against a member of a marginalized ethnic group clearly prove that race isn’t really a factor when it comes to Birtherism.

Look, no matter how many counterarguments are offered, one shouldn’t discount the fact that Obama’s ethnic identity affects the tone and tenor of attacks being leveled against him, and how said attacks are received by the general public (without twisting one’s contentions into Gordian-like contortions, that is). From the beginning, race has influenced how we frame this issue (much like Clinton’s identity as an ex-’60s radical boomer fed into the still-lingering divide of an America embroiled in the Culture Wars, or W’s class background and swaggering anti-intellectualism shaped how he was portrayed and perceived, both by supporters and detractors). To point that out isn’t to label any and all critics or criticism racist (though, obviously, some are), but, again, to try and properly contextualize.

Political opportunists jump on any and all opportunities; for some, Obama’s racial identity presents an all-too-tempting opening for baseless attacks that, if leveled against, say, Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter, would hold no traction.

On a less analytical note, it’s frustrating to be constantly lectured about what is and isn’t ‘racist’ by those who, quite frankly, have no lived experience with racism, merely in abstract. For many of us, this isn’t an intellectual exercise. When we see Obama’s citizenship in question on a mass scale, we recall all the myriad times some cluelessly earnest soul has asked us where we’re from originally (because apparently dark skin in a normatively white culture instantly screams ‘other’), an all-too familiar suspicion that, through Birtherism, has now been magnified to ridiculous proportions.

Yes, based on past history, any Dem holding the keys to the Oval Office would likely be subject to a dishonest scorched earth smear campaign by the GOP and associated right-wing partisans. But that doesn’t mean Birtherism is simply par for the course. Obama is being attacked because he’s a Democratic POTUS and because he’s a scary person of colour with a funny name.

It’s not an either/or proposition.

(x-posted)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

G20 Aftermath Shakes Canadian Democracy: Public Inquiry NOW.

(Originally posted at Comments From Left Field)

At this past weekend’s G20 Summit, Toronto the Good was transformed into Toronto the Garrisoned.

Almost from the moment the summit began, 25,000 mostly-peaceful protesters faced a riot gear clad phalanx of security forces19,000 police officers in total, almost 20 times the number of Canadian troops currently serving in Kandahar. Yet it was a small  group of agitators determined to make a statement through senseless violence who (in concert with officials eager to delegitimize peaceful assembly and popular dissent) got to drive the media narrative.

Initially.

Then Sunday’s massive security overreach washed away talk of Saturday’s anarchic orgy in a digital wave of damning, as-it-happened social media coverage, culminating in a rainy, 5 hour “kettling” of over 300 people at Queen and Spadina after a peaceful march turned into a tense standoff. Many of the detained were bystanders who had either joined out of curiosity or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “It’s not Canadian”, said CP24 host Stephen Ledrew, after innumerable images of cold, drenched Torontonians penned in by riot police had been broadcast, not knowing why they were being held, nor when they would be released.

Some were so desperate for resolution they actually begged to be arrested.

And that’s not to mention numerous clashes between trigger-happy, heavy-handed security officials and members of the news media, many of whom ended up being asked to leave protest areas, detained and, in some particularly disturbing instances, brazenly assaulted in a disgusting circumvention of our grand tradition of a vibrant free press.

By now we’ve all seen now-ubiquitous footage of obsidian-adorned “anarchists” hurling bricks and torching cop cars. Light the flame and the moths will swarm (and, apparently, loot). So why the hell did the brain trust in the PMO decide that the best way to showcase the GTA on a global scale was to hold a big, capitalist photo-op in the downtown core of a major, world-class metropolis, an event almost certain to attract scores of provocateurs?

It was an inexplicable decision that was, to quote Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, “bewilderingly stupid”.

TVO’s Steve Paikin and Sun Media columnist Greg Weston have said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s secret late-night legislation that granted G20 security forces sweeping detention powers is as bad or worse than the infamous War Measures Act — and resulted in more arrests than the October Crisis (at least 900 at last report). Clearly, a public inquiry (or inquiries) is only way to resolve still-lingering questions about the G20: why Toronto was picked as host site, how the estimated $1B in costs was actually spent and, most ominously, just what exactly was contained in provincial legislation granting extra-judicial powers to smirking security officials (that so-called ‘five metre rule’? Bunk.) Reports from detainees of misogynistic, homophobic and racist treatment by law enforcement officials should also be thoroughly addressed and charges laid if allegations of police misconduct can be corroborated.

If our elected leaders can waste almost one and a half billion bucks of taxpayer coin on an international photo-op and a fake lake they can pony up some quid to determine why their precious G20 summit resulted in a monumental clusterfuck.

(Photo:  Jonas Naimark, Flickr)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Quote of the Day: Bartlett 1, Libertarianism 0.

by matttbastard

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn’t have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

– Bruce Bartlett, Rand Paul is No Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Rima Fakih’s Trojan Bikini

by matttbastard

Sometimes it takes well over a thousand words to highlight the absurdity of the viral xenophobia that periodically sweeps over the more Islamophobic denziens of Outer Wingnuttia.

This time it would (at first) appear that a mere picture will suffice:

Of course, as Echidne points out, the rush to silently refute the ridiculously simplistic racism expressed by Pipes, Schlussel, et al with a li’l bit o’ SEO-friendly T&A and some progressive leering pretty much ignores the broader issues surrounding beauty pageants, their continued place in Western culture, and what all that means for women as women, not as SHARIA-SHILLING ISLAMOFASCISTS OUT TO STEAL TEH PATRIARCHY FROM ITS RIGHTFUL WHITE CHRISTIAN INHERITORS!!11one

Quoth everyone’s fav snake goddess:

I have no idea what Ms. Fakih’s religion is and it’s not really relevant, because I’m writing of those guy reactions:

Daniel Pipes manages to mash together his support of the objectification of women (yes! sometimes I have to sound feminazi) with his hatred of affirmative action and his fear of the Muslims to get–what? The idea that the judges in those pageants let Muslim women win for political reasons or multiculturalist appeasement or something like that.

And the liberal guys pick up that ball and fly with it! Nooooh! Muslim women really are dishier and prettier than Christian women, and here are the examples!

If you don’t believe me, check out this comments thread to a related post.

Note how it all became something about ethnicity or religion and how the gender angle was completely and totally lost? Yet I’m quite sure that this was not on purpose. Women’s issues are simply not as visible or as important as all those other issues.

Of course, one could (and should) argue that ethnicity and religion are bound together (or intersect, if you will) with gender. Still, the lack of specific gender-based analysis  among the majority of left-liberal commentators during this latest orgy of manufactured outrage (and a preponderance of progressive responses that tend to reinforce rather than challenge the basic sexist assumptions behind the arguments presented by many on the right) is rather telling. 

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

War is Over (OK, Not *Over*, But…)

by matttbastard

Was going to pick up on what BooMan, Jed Lewison & Jeff Fecke had to say re: Jane Hamsher’s unholy alliance with Grover fucking Norquist and the  more-progressive-than-thou campaign to unseat that notorious corporate shill, Bernie Sanders (and there was great rejoicing among the assembled Trots  in the spartan Vermont offices of the Socialist Equality Party).

But fuck it — it’s Christmas Eve. We can declare a temporary armistice and put down the hunks of pie until at least, er, Saturday. Y’know, peace on earth, goodwill towards bitter personality cultists, all that rot — right, kids?

Right?

Here, have some Ramones. I mean, if Joey and Johnny could put aside their utter loathing for each other for all those years in the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll and, um, filthy lucre…?

Wishing you and yours a very happy holidays on this Historic Occasion.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

More on Jane Hamsher’s Nixon-Goes-To-China Epiphany (Now With Less CAPSLOCK)

by matttbastard

My esteemed friend Sarah Jaffe takes issue with several of the points I raised in yesterday morning’s post on Jane Hamsher:

This combines SEVERAL things I hate into one paragraph. “Ugly Red State mugs” well gee, you know what? Those are real fucking people too. I’m so tired of the red state/blue state snobbery I could spit. You know what? I lived in red states. I busted my ass on multiple political campaigns in red states and saw one of them turn blue (Colorado). I’ve talked to pissed-off overworked people who are just looking for someone, ANYONE to give them a narrative of how they got so fucked–and we haven’t been doing it.

Also, since when does anyone who calls themselves a lefty get to snarl and sneer at populist street protest? Sure, I laugh at “look at this fucking teabagger” too, but you know what else I do? I wonder why the fuck we’re not out there, because at least those people are putting some effort into it. And to some degree they ARE protesting the right people, even if the narrative they have (ZOMG SOCIALIST!) is just factually wrong.

[…]

So while I disagree with partnering with Grover Norquist, who is no kind of populist and every kind of rich plutocratic asshole, I absolutely don’t have a problem with acknowledging that the teabaggers A. have some legitimate grievances and B. are using tactics that get attention. I also don’t have a problem with someone staking out a hard and fast progressive position and vowing not to swerve from it.

First of all, considering I spent my formative years going to cattle auctions, milking goats, and generally living like, as Levi Johnston infamously put it, “a fucking redneck,” I think I’ve earned the right to indulge in the occasional good natured rhetorical aplomb with regards to rural culture. Perhaps I should indeed have used ‘Real Americans’, since that terminology is apparently less provocative (if ironic in this instance, considering how the accusation re: my supposed dehumanization of red-staters was phrased).

No matter. Next time I’ll make sure to include photos of me contentedly playing on a pile of dry manure (yes, they do exist) before I offer any pithy asides that may (or may not) implicitly question the humanity of those who think the POTUS is the anti-Christ and people of colour are jackbooted thugs coming to steal guns and impose Marxism on the American populace.

Now, I don’t want to waste too much time addressing nits when there are more substantive concerns to address. So I’ll only briefly deal with the contention that, because I am a Canadian, I have little right to comment–even in passing–on the health care debate in the US.  Amusing, since, in today’s dynamic, neoliberal North American economy, my options to live/work/go to school south of the border are severely restricted by prohibitive costs and outrageous restrictions on so-called preexisting conditions, thus giving me and other Canadians who might one day wish to grab hold of the American dream a stake in whether the current system is indeed reformed (though certainly not as immediate as those who currently reside in the US).

Additionally, Canada’s universal health care system has been unceremoniously yanked into the debate by both pro-and-anti reform factions during the course of the debate, which threatens to reopen health care as a wedge issue here in the Great White North (and, trust me, if the current neocon government in Ottawa gets a majority —  which seems all-too-likely — it will almost certainly utilize the tactics employed by the US insurance lobby, very much eager to further tap into Canada’s lucrative health care market, to bully through ideologically-motivated reforms of a decidedly regressive, pro-market nature).

Regardless, am certain the next time a transformative national event like, oh, say, Iran’s Green Revolution sweeps over Twitter like a digital tsunami, Sarah will refrain from offering opinionated commentary (or actively agitating) because she already has constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression, assembly and association and, thus, far less of a vested interest in any outcomes. Also, by this metric, I suppose we can all stop paying attention to the 85% of USians who already have health insurance — which would probably mute most of those advocating for both killing and passing the Senate health reform bill.

Hey, at least we’d get a much-needed respite from the migraine-inducing bloviating of Ed Schultz and Chris Matthews.

Anyway, enough with the gristle — on to the meat.

Sarah seems to have (mis)interpreted my objections to Hamsher’s position (and my contempt for teabaggers) as evidence that I’m against street protest (unless one considers the heavily manufactured fauxtrage of the tea party movement to be populist and not fauxpulist — Hamsher certainly had her doubts about its legitimacy last spring). Which is funny, because a lot of my snark is predicated on the notion that Hamsher ISN’T hitting the streets, but rather using her digital platform as a half-assed means of protest without sacrifice, something that the largely upper-middle-class netroots (and, unfortunately, yours truly) has been guilty of perpetuating. Maybe I missed the portion of Hamsher’s post where she advocated actually getting progressive boots on the ground, instead of continuing to solely rely on FDL petitions and electronic advocacy campaigns to pressure Washington.

If so, my bad.

The biggest point of contention I have with Hamsher’s post (and perhaps I didn’t originally articulate this clearly enough) was her declaration that the only thing separating progressive populist anger from screeching teabagger rage was ‘the message’. But, in fact, it’s not simply the message that differentiates the populist left from the populist right. It’s the motivation behind the message.

Many progressives are angry and motivated to act on said anger because they want to build something that will better the lives of real people, not simply line the pockets of corporations (hence the principled objections to the health care legislation, which many, including Hamsher, view as a ginormous corporate giveaway).

In stark contrast, it seems all too apparent to me that the organized teabagger movement desperately wants Obama’s agenda to fail miserably because they are threatened and offended by the success of an uppity fucking nigger who needs to be put in his place (up to and including 6 feet under) — point fucking blank. Killing what is admittedly a horribly, horribly flawed health insurance bill is part and parcel of this mindset.

(YMMV, of course, but, speaking as a person of colour, the dogwhistles contained within pretty much all missives eminating from the angry USian right silently screams ‘lynching party’).

So, on the one hand we have a broad, socially dynamic movement trying to create something that will benefit a broad range of people; on the other, a racially and culturally homogeneous reactionary backlash attempting to destroy the Other and anything the Other supports, out of fear and hatred.

Teabaggers definitely aren’t afraid to threaten and potentially utilize violence to achieve their destructive, regressive goals. Anyone who has read David Neiwert over the years (especially what he’s written following the 2008 presidential election) knows that playing footsie with pseudo-fascists is a dangerous game when so-called ‘mainstream’ movement conservatives do so. The same also holds true for progressives (and many libertarians, who, ever since Obama ascended to the White House, appear to have rekindled their mid-’90s love affair with black helicopter paranoia).

One can — and must — analyze the ongoing deficiencies of the progressive movement re: tapping legitimate populist anger (as I’ve attempted to do so in the past) without giving any quarter to the far-right. But by stating that the only thing separating tree-of-liberty-watering wingnuts from progs is ‘the message’, it appears Hamsher has done one of two things: Either she has has imbued legitimacy to a racist, conspiratorial backlash; or she has de-legitimized progressive activism by associating it with myopic, potentially deadly obstructionism.

Look, I’m sure one could argue that the KKK represented some legitimate grievances white Southerners held during Reconstruction; its tactics have certainly garnered lots of attention over the years. Shit, the Klan even opposed the Iraq war — but it did so because it believed the US was acting as a proxy for the ‘Zionist Occupied Government’ (ZOMG!) I would have been horrified to see members of the anti-war movement citing them as parallel to the peace lobby, separated only by ‘message.’

Envious progressives eager to (belatedly) tap popular dissatisfaction with the status quo shouldn’t be trying to emulate the right with tea party-lite appropriation simply because the Tea Party brand is now familiar to the public at large. People will always opt for the real thing when presented with a watered down option (just ask the Democratic Party during the DLC years, when the Dems responded to GOP ascendency by diluting its own liberal message with conservative messaging — not that things have changed all that much). Of course openly carrying firearms and threatening violent revolution gets attention — if it bleeds, it leads — but are we really willing to go to similar lengths to get the powers-that-be at Fox News to grant an extra programming block or two to the left. (What was that about “staking out a hard and fast progressive position and vowing not to swerve from it”? Hmm.)

I believe progressives need to continue carving our own niche and not allow the right to continually draw the parametres of public discourse. Hit the streets, smash the corporate state, raise fucking hell and don’t let anyone push us from that path. But for God’s sake don’t fucking give batshit racist misogynists with guns who are acting in direct opposition to our goals the rub in the process.

Steve M., directly addressing Hamsher and her recent decision to offer an olive branch to the anti-establishment right via Fox News, nails it:

Fox books liberals for two reasons: to be punching bags or to help reinforce messages Murdoch wants to deliver. I watched your clip and you weren’t treated like a punching bag — so that leaves only one choice: you were there to play “Even the liberal…” — that is, you were there to deliver the message “This bill is so awful even some liberals loathe it.”

No one on the right is “uniting” with you on principles. The Fox audience doesn’t want to join you to help make a good bill. The Fox audience wants to kill this bill, brutally and mercilessly, and then get every single Democrat out of office. (And if Big Medicine really didn’t like the idea of seeing this bill killed, it would tell Fox and the GOP to call off their dogs, and they’d dutifully comply. Big Medicine loves this bill compared to what it could have been, but no bill at all is still the fat cats’ preference. Watch this report in its 2 1/2-minute entirety if you doubt that.)

I agree that the bill is rather awful, and I’ve been vacillating on the question of whether it’s worth voting for, so I respect your intentions. But if you think left and right are meeting right now, your vision field is almost as warped as that of the we-love-Hillary-and-Sarah PUMAs.

Even the liberal Jane Hamsher.

Even the liberal Jane Hamsher.

Even the liberal Jane Hamsher.

Again, it’s not the message, which, in this instance, is in direct concert (kill the bill!), it’s the motivation — and, based on their apparent willingness to make peace with the far-right fringe to achieve their aims, one can’t help but question that of Jane Hamsher and others suddenly pining for a ‘tea party on the left’ (to say nothing of their judgment).

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Sarah Palin, Fauxpulism, and Right-Wing Identity Politics

by matttbastard

(Image: Tacoma Urbanist, Flickr)

Sarah Palin is back — and, seemingly, everywhere, as she launches a book tour (and, perhaps, a run at the White House in 2012).

Max Blumenthal:

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin’s influence is now unparalleled. Through her Facebook page, she was the one who pushed the rumor of “death panels” into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Palin’s endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin’s ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years.

Though the ideological purge may have backfired, Palin’s participation in it magnified her influence in the party. In a telling sign of this, Congressman Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican from the posh suburban North Shore of Chicago, running for the Senate in Illinois, issued an anxious call for Palin’s support while she campaigned for Hoffman. According to a Kirk campaign memo, the candidate was terrified that Palin would be asked about his candidacy during her scheduled appearance on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey Show later this month — the kick-off for her book tour — and would not react enthusiastically. With $2.3 million in campaign cash and no viable primary challengers, Kirk was still desperate to avoid Palin-backed attacks from his right flank, however hypothetical they might be.

“She’s gangbusters!” a leading conservative radio host exclaimed to me. “There is nobody in the Republican Party who can raise money like her or top her name recognition.”

In contemporary politics, money + brand recognition = power –period. For a Republican party scrambling to maintain its ever-shrinking base, that makes Sarah Palin its most influential personality. And with the Democratic Party and the White House being seen, rightly or wrongly, as the party of Goldman Sachs, an avowed fauxpulist like Palin (she’s ‘one of us!’) driving the tone and tenor of conservative politics in an age of economic instability is not something to airily discount.

Tim Egan:

Right now, a time when only 20 percent of Americans call themselves Republicans and Democrats are shrinking as well, the independents are disgusted with both parties. In large part, it’s because neither one seems to be on their side.

The early warning shots came on Nov. 3, against an ineffective former Wall Street executive, ousted New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, and the billionaire mayor who barely bought himself a third term, Michael Bloomberg of New York. Both felt the back hand of an electorate that feels as if the system is rigged against them.

A year ago, most people were open-minded about the ground-shaking changes that came with the economic collapse. Polls found a slim majority in favor of Wall street bailouts to save the economy. They would listen, watch, wait.

By this fall, the majority were not only against the bailouts, but in favor of curbing pay on Wall Street, and tightening government regulation of same.

The continuous drip of perceived unfairness continues. One day it’s news that Goldman Sachs seems to have stepped ahead of the line of those waiting to receive H1N1 vaccines, prompting questions about why investment bankers were getting doses rather than children or pregnant women. This week, Gallup found one in five parents saying they were unable to get swine flu vaccine for their children.

Another day brings a report that the top banks are raising credit card interest rates – some as high as 29 percent, which would shame a Mob extortionist — even against people who have always paid on time. This is the thanks we get?

If Congress steers through the Great Recession without responding to the thousand points of pain among average Americans, people will see them for what they are in bottom-line terms: an insulated club. Proof, just recently, came from a Center for Responsive Politics report that 237 members of Congress — 44 percent — are millionaires, compared to just 1 percent for the country as whole.

It’s difficult to take the clumsy rhetorical and symbolic excesses of the so-called Tea Party protest movement seriously. The ham-fisted polyester populism employed by some of the more exuberant adherants seems designed to drive a stake through the barely-beating heart of parody. But the (partly manufactured) rage that is driving teabaggers to target moderate Republicans like Dede Scozzafava or burn Speaker Pelosi in effigy isn’t simply fodder for mockery by progressive bloggers and #p2 snarkmeisters; it’s a bellwhether for a burgeoning class divide that threatens to leave the Congressional millionaire elite behind — and give a boost to any political movement that figures out how to tap that rage, regardless of where that movement lies on the ideological spectrum.

The fall of social democracy in Europe may provide clues as to how this could play out if progressives fail to heed the mood of the electorate. In a piece for Red Pepper published in June of 2008, Magnus Marsdal tried to explain how and why the populist right has been ascendant in Europe over the past decade, using the Norwegian Freedom Party (FrP) as an example:

Talking to people who voted for the Norwegian populist right offers useful insights for anyone trying to fight radical right-wing populism elsewhere in Europe, particularly when it comes to what I call ‘identity politics’.

How does the FrP make the worker-voter identify with a party that is positioned so far to the right? Hostility towards foreigners and mobilisation of ‘white’ or ‘Norwegian’ identity plays a big part. So does the male- orientated FrP’s anti- feminism, which mobilises identity among male voters.

The right-wing populists also play with a particular type of consumer identity that sets the population as consumer individuals against the state, the tax system and the elite. These are the obvious side of the FrP’s identity politics.

There are two other elements that are less apparent but even more important to consider, both in Norway and in other countries where right-wing populism is on the rise.

Worker identity
First, the FrP’s rhetoric offers its own worker-identity. This is not the worker as opposed to bosses and owners. It is the worker contrasted to the lazy and dole abusers ‘below’ and ‘posh’, cultured people ‘above’.

It is quite normal for people to imagine society as if it were split into three different sections, with themselves in the middle. Moral values determine who is worthy, and who is unworthy, both ‘up there’, ‘down below’ and among ‘proper working people’. The unworthy ‘up there’ include all those who represent the state, the Labour Party, the government and everybody else who ‘lies and steals money from common workers’, as Hans Erling Willersrud, the car worker who is the main character in The FrP Code, puts it.

Among people ‘down there’, the worthy are those who, through no fault of their own, have become ill, disabled or been made redundant. Everyone else is unworthy, including those who don’t do their jobs properly. For many workers worthiness equals skills – you are worth something because you have skills and you do something. This way of measuring worth and dignity is an alternative to measuring by income or education. On this essentially moral scale, the ‘honest worker’ comes out on the same level as, or above, the rich person or the leading politician.

The unworthy also include the dishonest: those who turn with the wind, pay lip service to all, who are not ‘solid wood’, as Norwegians say. The worst are probably those who suck up to ‘posh’ people and intellectuals one moment, only to denounce them among workers the next. Not being perceived as ‘solid wood’ has created quite a few problems for politicians, especially for the Labour Party, which needs to present itself favourably to different groups at the same time.

From my interviews with working-class FrP voters, I made a simple model to show how those ‘up there’ and ‘down there’ stand in relation to the ‘proper working people’. The elite ‘up there’ are divided into three different types:

  • the ‘know-it-alls’ linked to the education system and the state;
  • the greedy, found at the top of the economy; and
  • the politically powerful (often connected to the ‘know-it- alls’ and the greedy).

[…]

A second element to the FrP’s identity politics is that of aggrieved identity. ‘I’m just an ordinary worker, I have no fucking say,’ says Hans Erling Willersrud. He knows what it means to be at the boss’s beck and call and he’s had enough of the condescending attitude of Labour politicians who ‘can’t be bothered to listen to what [he’s] got to say’.He had some contact with the social security office when he was sick, and ‘has had it up to here with the system’. ‘They wouldn’t even believe he was in pain,’ says his mother Eli.

Hans Erling thinks politicians and bureaucrats are driving his country into the ground. He believes the social democratic elite has arranged things so the rich, the shrewd and the sleazy can take advantage of the system at the expense of the common man. He’s at the bottom of the pile at work. He’s at the bottom of the pile at the dole office. He’s at the bottom of the pile in the trade union (as an FrP voter) and in politics in general. He sees himself as a ‘political underdog’.

This doesn’t mean he is weak. On the contrary: being an underdog is not about lacking personal strengths, but finding that they don’t count for anything. More powerful people, regardless of their competence, are lording it over theunderdog, without recognising his skills or paying attention to what he actually knows, thinks or wants. It’s humiliating. He feels aggrieved.

And how does a political party like the FrP exploit the popular mood? It uses political language and images to touch a nerve with people who feel ignored, trampled on and overruled.

Carl Hagen’s most important ploy is to place himself in the role of the underdog. When he rages against the other parties wanting to keep a strong FrP out of government, he says, ‘Our voters will not be treated as second-rate.’ This simple sentence is perfect for connecting with people who on a daily basis, whether at work, at school or in the media, feel that they are treated like second-class citizens. Widening the focus, Hagen implies that what ordinary workers are in the workplace, the FrP is in the party political system. The voters can identify only too readily with what he is saying.

At the same time, Hagen – in the role of the affronted man who refuses to back down – offers the promise of vindication. For more than 30 years he has paid for the conceited sins of others, he tells them. But he turns the other cheek. Unlike the powerful and the arrogant, he is not driven by haughtiness or personal ambition. He is only fighting for what’s fair.

This underdog pose is brilliant because it can be applied to so many different voter groups. Above/below is a relationship that most people can recognise. Because he understands the underdog mentality, Hagen can connect with social-democratic workers as readily as with Christian fundamentalists who feel that their Christian cultural heritage is under threat.

Other subjects that mobilise the affronted population’s sense of themselves as the underdog include the FrP’s attacks on ‘politicians and bureaucrats’, its protest against schemes such as ‘the new opera being paid for by taxpayers’ and accusations that overpaid journalists are ‘persecuting the FrP’.

So where does Sarah Palin and her overwhelming ubiquity fit in all this? Like Barack Obama in 2008, Palin could prove to be a blank canvas on which citizens could project their desires en masse. Only instead of hope and change driving a national popular movement, hate and fear would be the engine of political change in 2012.

Of course, recent polls make the likelihood of a Palin run for the Presidency seem dim for the moment, as Joan Walsh notes.

But that doesn’t mean progressives should exhale:

The main reason not to fear a President Palin can be seen in recent polling among independents and moderates. In a the most current ABC News/Washington Post poll, Greg Sargent drilled down to find that: only 37 percent of independents and 30 percent of self-described moderates think she’s qualified for the presidency, and 58 percent of moderates view her unfavorably. Even more intriguing (but not surprising): Palin’s approval rating with men is higher than with women, 48 percent to 39 percent, and just a third of women believe she’d be qualified to be our first female president. (So much for Palin’s appeal to Hillary Clinton fans!)

So I think the Sarah Palin rehab tour is more about Sarah Palin Inc. than Sarah Palin 2012. She’ll rack up the speaking fees, raise some money for red-state, red-meat Republicans, further polarize the party and live the high life she thinks she deserves. Still, even as I dismiss Palin as a serious GOP threat, increasingly I believe that the faux-populism of the right is something to worry about. It may be fun to mock Sarah Palin, but Democrats shouldn’t laugh at many of the people who admire her – who see a folksy, new kind of self-made mom trying to fight the bad old Eastern elites.

Digby nails it:

I’m not saying that we should panic. These people are politically weak in their own right. But when I see the liberal gasbags on TV blithely dismissing this as if it”s impossible that Americans could ever fall for such lunacy, I feel a little frisson of alarm. I’ve read too many accounts of people who, 80 or so years ago, complacently made the same assumption. And the whole world found out that under the right circumstances even the most civilized nations can throw in with the crazies.

Bottom line: If the ugly momentum of right-wing identity politics carries into 2012, we could see the nastiest, most polarizing Presidential campaign since 1972, regardless of who gets the GOP nomination.

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