Democratic-Republican Political Violence and the Coming Intersection of the Tea Party and Anarchist Movements

With the raids on the Hutaree militia group in the mid-west coming on the heels of the spike in politically motivated vandalism following the passage of Obamacare, Sam Wilson at the Think 3 Institute observes that the result will be the confirmation of pre-existing political prejudices among both Democrats and Republicans:
This news isn't likely to be a game changer for anyone. It will confirm Democrats and progressives in their fear of the militia movement. It will confirm the militias' fears of an impending, more sweeping government crackdown. It will confirm Christian extremists' fear of imminent state persecution. It will confirm Republicans' fear that the Obama administration intends to inflate the militia threat in order to discredit all dissent from the right. I'm not saying that the facts about the Hutaree will confirm all these things objectively, but simply that conspiracy-minded people will take the news as evidence justifying their suspicions about militias, the Christian right, or the government.
One of the most predictable responses to the attacks on Democratic offices across the country was provided by the Powerline blog, which argued that these acts pale in comparison with those of protesters at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul:
I attended the convention and remember the terrorist acts that were carried out by anti-Republican protesters very well. They threw bricks through the windows of buses, sending elderly convention delegates to the hospital. They dropped bags of sand off highway overpasses onto vehicles below. Fortunately, no one was killed . . .

For some reason, political violence was not a concern less than two years ago. Yet today, we can hardly imagine what would happen if a group of tea partiers were to drop sandbags off a highway overpass, trying to kill motorists below. Liberal reporters' heads would explode.
Actually, a group of individuals that came to be known as the RNC 8 were in fact charged with "conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism" under Minnesota's version of the Patriot Act. However, the most naked display of political violence in St. Paul was that perpetrated by militarized police units against protesters who had assembled freely to petition their government for a redress of grievances. In the end, almost 800 people were arrested over the course of the convention, including dozens of journalists who were caught up in the sweeps. But only fifteen individuals eventually faced criminal charges. Moreover, this display of state-sponsored violence itself paled in comparison with that surrounding the Republican National Convention of 2004 in New York City, in which almost 2000 people were arrested but under 200 were charged with any crime or infraction. I don't recall the major media or leading Democratic-Republican politicians denouncing excessive use of force on the part of the national security police state in either of these instances or any similar one. Indeed, they are rather much more likely to cheer it on.

Perhaps the simplest explanation for the difference in the reaction to the violence of these protesters, if such is in fact the case, was the obvious over-reaction on the part of police, not to mention that the real "news" was being made inside the convention halls rather than outside them. One must also remember that these acts were committed by self-described anarchists, who often fixate on Democratic targets in addition to Republican ones; and the acts of anarchist groups are furthermore often downplayed if not also mischaracterized as the isolated work of misguided youths, whereas organized militia groups, in comparison, are seen as real threats to the state's monopoly on violence.

Nonetheless, the acts of vandalism and highly publicized threats of political violence following the passage of Obamacare have undoubtedly raised the profile of the tea party and militia movements among American anarchist groups. Despite their differences, all these groups may have more in common than any of them would like to admit, beginning with their respective anti-government stances. Are we more likely to see confrontation or cross-pollination between the tea party and anarchist movements? As with so many things, the answer is probably a little bit of both, as I'll attempt to show in my next post on "the coming intersection."

1 comment:

J. Travis Rolko said...

"Are we more likely to see confrontation or cross-pollination between the tea party and anarchist movements?"


The kind of anarchists you saw protesting in the streets during the RNC & DNC conventions, the Battle in Seattle, G20, etc. are anti-capitalist anarchists. You'll often notice them carrying red and black flags and banners. As an anarchist myself, I oppose the Tea Party movement intensely.

Anarchists are anti-government, but many, including myself, support some things the government does, such as welfare programs, equal rights provisions, etc. The Tea Party opposes these functions of government and supports the functions which anarchists oppose - defense, protection of private property, maintenance of the capitalist system, etc. The two groups have almost completely opposite views of how the economy and government should function. The one thing I think they could potentially come together on is election reform, and maybe ending foreign occupation (the Tea Party is divided on that issue). One problem is that there are people like Glenn Beck furiously, regularly denouncing democracy as a tyrannical system, which will influence Tea Partiers. I don't know how supportive of democracy they really are, as it's incompatible with the market.

There are two kinds of anarchist - socialists and market anarchists. The market anarchists may be more inclined to lend support to the Tea Party, but market anarchists tend to be pretty intelligent, and judging by most of what I've been exposed to, the Tea Party is NOT. If there was going to be cross-pollination between the Tea Party and another political group, it would Libertarians, but I haven't seen a whole lot of that. Again, there might be too big an intelligence gap.

The Tea Party shouldn't even be getting much attention. The recent gay rights and immigration protests have dwarfed Tea Party protests. The Tea Party only gets this much attention because of the media, which guide political discourse, even for people on the fringe.