It’s not a movement

IT’S NOT A MOVEMENT…. A few months ago, describing the Tea Party crowd, Karl Rove told a reporter, “There have been movements like this before — the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement.”

Identical delusions are pretty common on the right. Take, for example, the launch of a Tea Party magazine this week, and the way in which one its founders described the importance of the publication and those behind it. Katrina Pierson, the “national grassroots director” for the new magazine, told the NYT, “Throughout American history, successful movements — abolitionists, women’s suffragists, the civil rights movement, the conservative movement, et cetera — all had their own print publications.”

This generated some well-deserved mockery from Greg Sargent.

As I’ve noted here before, it often seems like some on the right are suffering from what you might call a world-historical inferiority complex. They’re so desperate to imagine themselves as actors in an ongoing drama that rivals the most momentous struggles in human history that they simply play-act the part, pumping up their own situation into something comically out of proportion with historical reality. […]

Abolitionism and the civil rights movement, taken together, spanned more than a century, beginning with the founding of abolitionist societies in the early 1800s and culminating in the 1960s with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. They liberated millions of people who had been held captive under a deeply entrenched economic system — the Slave Power — that could only be defeated by decades of committed political activism, superhuman perseverance, and untold amounts of bloodshed.

Publishers of abolitionist newspapers routinely had their printing presses broken up by angry white mobs, a fate that is unlikely to meet the publishers of the new Tea Party magazine.

Well said. I’d add for context, though, that the Republicans’ Tea Party base characterizing themselves as a “movement” in the first place strikes me as a mistake.

We’re talking about an amorphous group of activists with no clear agenda, no leadership, no internal structure, and no real areas of expertise. Its passionate members, while probably well meaning, appear to have no idea what they’re talking about. Genuine political movements have, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) put it, a “coherent vision.” The Tea Party has rage and a cable news network, but that’s not much of a substitute.

Tea Partiers may struggle to appreciate this, but real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. We knew exactly what the civil rights movement was all about — they highlighted a systemic social injustice and presented a moral/legal remedy. Similarly, labor unions created a movement. Women’s suffrage was a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for, and their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.

Remind me, what exactly do Tea Partiers want again? More tax cuts? A system that makes it easier for health insurance companies to screw over the public? Their demands are usually contradictory, and the activists don’t even agree with one another over what their alleged agenda includes.

It’s not that the right is incapable of coming up with legitimate political movements — I’d consider the pro-lifers and the gun-rights crowd as credible movements — it’s that these Tea Party folks aren’t it.

Delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, for the hysterical GOP base to equate itself with abolitionists, women’s suffragists, and civil rights activists is ridiculous.