Love Thy Tea Bagger?

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky evidently thinks Tea Baggers are what my Southern Baptist friends call a “fertile mission field.”

Chomsky is a famous linguist, author, intellectual, political activist and libertarian socialist. Tea baggers aren’t big on socialism.

No matter, Chomsky says leftists like me should stop badmouthing these white folks of the Impeach-the-Kenyan-born-Islamo-Socialist-Non-President-Obama persuasion. We should try to win them over, he adds.

Chomsky’s politics are pretty far left. Tea Baggers are way far right.

Tea Baggers are big fans of uber-conservative politicians like Sarah Palin. Chomsky’s not a Palin fan.

“This Sarah Palin phenomenon is very curious,” he told the German magazine Der Spiegel. “I think somebody watching us from Mars, they would think the country has gone insane.”

Yet somehow he thinks the Tea Baggers, some of whom are putting out Palin-in-2012 bumper stickers, are ripe for leftist picking. He says Tea Baggers are just plain folks who are angry because they feel like they’ve been shafted by “the system.”

But read the Tea Bagger signs. Listen to Tea Party speakers. They think a “socialist” system is shafting them.

Chomsky isn’t alone in calling for converting Tea Baggers. Some other leftists are for the same thing.

Of course, when you suggest the Tea Baggers are a barren mission field, some of the Love-Thy-Tea-Bagger lefties slam you as a “liberal elitist.” Tea Baggers, of course, trash us all – even Chomsky — as “liberal elitists.”

I get the impression that some college-educated leftists like Chomsky, who has a Ph.D., seem to think it is “elitist” to slam Tea Baggers because they are working stiffs. Baloney — a lot of Hitler’s Brownshirt thugs were working stiffs.

“The Tea Baggers are the scabs of the working class,” says one of my union brothers, who is a Steelworker. That goes double for this union-card carrying community college history teacher who lives in a two-bedroom wooden house and drives a ’95 Mercury to work.

My Steelworker buddy and I have a problem with the greed-is-good “free enterprise system,” which really means union-free and free of laws that protect us and our environment from unfettered capitalism’s inherently avaricious excesses.

Tea Baggers often extol “free enterprise.” Check out the Tea Party Patriots’ Internet website. “…We support a return to the free market principles on which this nation was founded and oppose government intervention into the operations of private business,” it says. A multitude of other Tea Bagger websites praise “free enterprise,” too.

Thus, I suspect Chomsky would be in for a close encounter of the worst kind if he evangelized for socialism — or even wimpy liberalism — at a Tea Bagger function.

Even so, my hat’s off to anybody who’d preach socialist brotherhood and sisterhood to gun-toting, white guy Tea Baggers who sport crew cuts, aviator shades, Confederate flag tattoos, camouflage pants and combat boots and who wave signs that yell “SOCIALISM, ‘CHAINS’ YOU CAN BELIEVE IN! and “THE ZOO HAS AN AFRICAN LION AND THE WHITE HOUSE HAS A LYIN’ AFRICAN!”

Maybe Chomsky thinks the left can connect with the Tea Baggers because they’re raging against “the system.” After all, Chomsky’s been raging at it for years, though from the other end of the political spectrum.

Maybe, too, just a shared penchant for raging is enough for Chomsky.

Perhaps Chomsky would say my “liberal elitism” has blinded me to the Tea Baggers. Sorry, I don’t see any common ground between our side and theirs.

I’m 60. I gave up trying to reason with unreasonable folks a long time ago.

The Tea Baggers are big-time challenged in the reason department. Try talking reasonably to people packing placards that say “IMPEACH THE MUSLIM MARXIST,” OBAMA’S PLAN WHITE SLAVERY,” “IT’S MILITIA TIME!!” and “We came unarmed (this time).”

I don’t know if any leftists “witnessed” – another Baptist term – to the Tea Baggers at their national convention in Nashville . More power to them if they did.

“People who could not spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama,” former Colorado Republican congressman Tom Tancredo said in a speech that helped open the conclave.

Judson Phillips, the Tennessee lawyer who started Tea Party Nation and organized the convention, gushed over Tancredo’s polemic. He called it “fantastic.”

The white folks in the convention hall ate it up, too.

Some left-wing apologists for the Tea Baggers really bristle when we “liberal elitists” suggest the biggest problem most Tea Baggers have with the president is the hue of his skin.

The lefties who take up for Tea Baggers say a multitude of white folks – including a lot of working stiffs – voted for Obama. That’s true. But I’d bet the farm that almost none of the Tea Baggers did.

The Tea Baggers are, to quote the great Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.”

I grew up in the Jim Crow South.

The Tea Baggers are the same sort of angry white folks – some of them are the same folks – who waved Rebel flags, hurled racial epithets, decried integration as “race mixing,” and damned Brown v. Board and the 1960s federal civil rights laws as “socialism” or even “communism.”

Like their leftist excusers, Tea Baggers hotly deny that racism undergirds their movement. I’ll believe it doesn’t when hogs fly and kids don’t shoot hoops in my native Kentucky anymore – nah, not even then.

This Hubert Humphrey Democrat (and, like HHH, an admirer of west European labor, democratic socialist and social democratic parties) is not alone in thinking it’s no coincidence that the Tea Party movement is almost entirely lily white.

“…When you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that’s left is race,” Bob Cesca said on The Huffington Post Internet newspaper. “The tea party is almost entirely about race…”

Writing on the Truthout Internet blogsite, Rich Benjamin labeled the Tea Party movement “…the whitest phenomenon on the national scene, evident not just in the millions of Caucasians committed to its cause, but in the bedrock beliefs stirring its anti-government contempt.”

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center described the Tea Party movement as “shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.”

I’ll add a Presbyterian “amen” to what Cesca, Benjamin and Potok wrote and welcome them to “liberal elitist” ranks.

Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on March 9, 2010
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.