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Sunday, December 07, 2014

An Occupy of Their Own: The Neo-Confederate Movement Republican Threat Is Alter-Federal Not Anti-Federal

In the last quarter century the Republicans have won the popular vote for the Presidency only once, and the racist sexist Christianist voices in the GOP heard loud and clear by a rapidly diversifying secularizing population make national viability seem ever more remote while consolidating the Republicans as a permanent marginal reactionary neo-confederate rump. But in states with substantial Democratic-leaning populations that happen to be under the control of Republicans at present proposals are being seriously floated to apportion electoral college votes for the Presidency proportionally, with the proviso that in solidly Republican states the assignment of votes to the Electoral College would remain winner-take-all. This would make it possible for Republicans to acquire a lock on the White House whatever the unpopularity of their positions, just as gerrymandering, disenfranchisement schemes, and the structural asymmetry of rural over urban voters give the Republicans a lock on the House of Representatives even as Democrats vote in far greater numbers.

The exposure today of a cabal of Republican-controlled State attorneys-general in a once-secret alliance with energy companies to derail environmental regulations and oversight is obviously continuous with the recent phenomenon of Republican state legislatures becoming rubber stamps passing corporate privatizing and deregulatory schemes and enabling private-arsenals for vigilante-fantasists authored by the reactionary American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

But I think it is just as important to understand the connection between today's revelations and the revelations from earlier this week about proposals to rig the Electoral College. Everybody knows that arguments for "States Rights" have functioned since the civil rights era as scarcely stealthed reactionary resistance to federal statutes seeking to dismantle institutionalized white-supremacy in the United States. Republicans enacting agendas for corporate profiteering at the expense of public health and equal rights are also scarcely stealthed reactionary resistance to federal statutes seeking to dismantle unsustainable extractive-industrial practices in the United States. (Leave to the side, if you can, your knowledge that these statutes were and remain radically unequal to the structural promotion of both white-supremacy and unsustainable industry in the United States -- my focus here is on the reactionary resistance to even inadequate legislative efforts.)

We make a great mistake if we view these reactionary movements as anti-federalist rather than alter-federalist programs. Although Republicans prefer to frame their program as a matter of resistance to Big Government meddling -- and this elicits their preferred political imaginary as a retreat into more modestly-scaled homogenous rural/suburban communities, heteronormative nuclear families, and ruggedized maker/consumer individuals -- the result they seek to facilitate is the plutocratic hegemony of Big Corporations (many of them profitably contracting for Big Militarism). The state politics of Movement Republicanism has never been a matter of retreats into the several states but efforts to create multi-state leagues that would function as intimations of a shadow Federal Government resisting the proper Federal Government represented by the New Deal and Great Society programs to install equity-in-diversity.

Although left intellectuals like to laugh at the transparent authoritarian buffoonery of Texas Republicans howling for secession or Tea Party "patriots" advocating anti-constitutionalist nullification strategies supposedly in the name of the Constitution they would shred, it is crucial to grasp that these gestures are embedded in both a national cultural movement (highly organized precisely because it is so defensive) and national institutions funded by corporations that stand to profit enormously from comparatively small investments in this organizing.

The secessionist gesture isn't a separatism from national politics but an embrace of national politics otherwise. Because its base is located in the Solid South and given the reactionary racism that fuels so much of the culture of Movement Republicanism it is easy to mis-identify the neo-confederate threat of red-state organizing as a continuation of the Civil War, another rise of the feudal Southern Confederacy -- but it is no less crucial to grasp the linkage of these politics with the anarchic ideology of the failed pre-constitutional order of America's Articles of Confederation. The cultural politics of white-racism and patriarchal sex panic would re-direct the anxiety, grievance, and rage of plutocratic precarization into a motor driving the organization of plutocratic prevalence itself.

The Movement Republican proposal to rig the electoral college is a recipe for the permanent occupation of a diverse American majority by the plutocratic minority -- the Movement Republican example of legislators captured by ALEC and attorney's general captured by energy companies is not just anti-federal plutocratic resistance but the practice of the alter-federal plutocratic occupation.

It is not clear to me that the Democratic left -- still profoundly undermined by the living (at any rate zombie) legacy of Clinton-epoch corporatist-capture represented by the DLC and Blue Dogs -- is equal to the anti-democratizing threat of corporate-military organizational resources riding on a cultural wave of class-resentment orchestrated as a force for reaction rather than progress by the masterly manipulation of racist and sexist fears. There are parallels between Occupy and the Tea Party movement, but glib identifications of the two miss the crucial substantive difference of diverse spontaneous grassroots agitation that failed to connect in a direct or sustainable way to electoral and legislative campaigns as against the mass mobilization of racist subcultures organized and funded by plutocratic elites functioning more or less as a consumer fandom (consuming hate-talk ideology, Fox celebrities, and de-contextualized patriotic fetishes) in the service of stealthy plutocratic ends.

Countervailing democratizing cultural movements from Wisconsin to Occupy to the Dreamers to Black Lives Matter have yet to connect to either electoral or legislative results. Since there is far more to political progress than electioneering and legislation this failure to connect does not render these movement for democratic equity-in-diversity failures by any means -- far from it -- however until they do connect to electoral coalition-building and sustainable legislative accomplishments they will remain unequal to the ultimate vision and task that drives them. A resurgence of union organizing for fast-food and retail workers and adjunct instructors is a resource for hope -- especially to the extent that this labor organizing connects to the democratizing movements in the streets while at once fighting to jettison residual corporatism in the Democratic Party (fights against charter school scams, betrayals of public pensioners, and selling off public assets and contracting out public services to profiteers).

The Republican Right likes to daydream about "Starving the Beast," depriving federal government construed as a democratic force implementing equity-in-diversity of the resources to do its work by dividing the majority of people who work for a living from their shared economic interests and all people who live on earth from their shared ecologic dependencies in the service of the profits of a plutocratic minority. Of course, the Republican Revolution is an inverted echo of real revolution, Movement Republicanism is a reaction against the New Deal and Great Society as imperfect democratizing movements against Economic Royalists (FDR's term for the plutocrats against democracy he betrayed) and white-supremacy (which a white-racist LBJ understood well enough to be ambivalent about it to say the least).

Democrats who understand who they are and stand up for what they stand for should understand well enough that we are the ones who want to Starve the Beast. The real Beast is anti-democratic white-racist patriarchal extractive-industrial corporate-militarism. Democrats want to Starve the Beast with progressive taxes and the regulation of profits that derive either from skim/scam operations or cost/risk externalization. To Starve the Beast as a Movement Democrat would mean to divert resources from plutocratic Movement Republican organizing through taxes and regultions that at once funded and implemented programs to facilitate sustainable equity-in-diversity that also build solidarity and so undermine Movement Republican dependence on the divisive politics of racist and sexist grievance. Democrats will never succeed in this work until we name the Beast for what it is, and name the democratizing work of progressive taxation and regulation for the public good as what it is as well. We need to think what we are doing, then say what we are doing, and then repeat it until everybody understands the battle at hand and nobody forgets the interminable work to be done and nobody is allowed to get away with betraying the work in its name.

I daresay immigrants and people of color and long-term unemployed people and youth all of whom know too well where the guns are pointed as well as women denied healthcare by forced-pregnancy zealots will be less likely to get demoralized and apathetic as their fight for democratic equity-in-diversity is a fight for their lives, an important shift from the privileged white male voices that have long dominated democratic politics. Too many Democratic voices have seemed willing to expose reactionary hypocrisy, fraud, corruption, bigotry, or ignorance and then either shake their heads at how unsurprising all this is or enjoy rueful belly-laughs at how ridiculous all this is. The acquiescence and cynicism of this mode of critique ultimately testifies to a real or imagined insulation from the worst consequences of plutocratic politics that white guys are best positioned to believe -- though no one will escape for long the catastrophic reality of greenhouse storms and pandemics and unrest. Not that anybody ever listened to me anyway, but come what may this all too privileged (my queerness and precarious adjunctcy notwithstanding) white male for environmental justice and democratic socialist-feminism would be more than thrilled for the trade-off of getting more progress for getting less attention.

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