I once discussed the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and in ridiculing each other . . . I gave this phenomenon the name of "the narcissism of minor differences" . . .As I have noted here before, for a supposedly conservative movement, tea party sympathizers and organizers draw inspiration from, and model their activities upon, radical left-wing groups with surprising frequency. From December 2009:
More than one Red State diarist has suggested that Republicans follow the infiltrationist strategy allegedly implemented by radical socialists in the 1970's. Glenn Beck has stated that the people of the United States need to begin "thinking like the Chinese." And none other than Rush Limbaugh has argued that conservatives should emulate the "radical left."In this vein, one might also reflect upon the conservative zeal for the works of Saul Alinsky. Nonetheless, as an active organizer within the tea party movement, Glenn Beck's apparent obsession with The Coming Insurrection is curious to say the least. But given that conservative sympathizers with the tea party movement have actively and admittedly modeled their efforts on those of "the radical left," isn't it possible that they might come to see themselves reflected and even implicated in the works of the radical left?
As I will seek to show here, the loose association of groups that have come to be known collectively as the "tea party movement" closely conforms to the organizational template of action forwarded in The Coming Insurrection. The Coming Insurrection is effectively divided into two parts. The first part diagnoses the problem, while the second provides a template for action within the social-political coordinates delineated by the diagnosis. As noted here the other day, the diagnosis in the work is grim: civilization weighs upon the backs of the living like a dead corpse. The model of action is aimed at shaking that corpse from the backs of the living, and is discursively organized under a series of slogans excerpted and summarized here the other day:
The book calls for decentralized, anarchist activity and reinvents the notion of the commune on the model of the anarchist affinity group . . . It calls on like-minded individuals to find each other, form communes, get organized, plunder, cultivate and fabricate, create territories, remove obstacles, turn anonymity into an offensive position, organize self-defense, make the most of every crisis, sabotage every representative authority, block the economy, liberate space from police occupation, take up arms while doing everything possible to make their use unnecessary, and depose authorities at a local level.Tea party groups are voluntary associations of like-minded individuals. Tea Party Nation describes itself as "a user-driven group of like-minded people." Any such organization would necessarily fall under the expansive definition of the commune on the model of the anarchist affinity group as conceived in The Coming Insurrection, where we read: "Communes come into being when people find each other, get on with each other, and decide on a common path." The model of action proposed in TCI is based on decentralized associations which cluster to form loosely coordinated, leaderless groups. Think of the individual member as an atom, the local association, affinity group or commune as a molecule and the cluster of associations as a molar aggregate of those molecules. The tea party movement prides itself on being both leaderless and highly decentralized in just such a manner. Lew Rockwell reflected on "The Tea Party as a Leaderless Movement" last September. He wrote:
This morning on NPR, Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal was analyzing the Tea Party as a deliberately leaderless, non-hierarchical movement. Its people are not interested in political power as such, he said, but in changing people’s minds about big government. . . . the heart of the Tea Party is libertarian, in concert with its leaderless, ultra-decentralized organizational principles.Just as in The Coming Insurrection, "GET ORGANIZED" is a popular slogan among tea party activists, who frequently employed it in the run-up to the 2010 general election. In May 2009, Glenn Reynolds reported on tea party activists "getting organized":
The president of the Cincinnati Tea Party organized the community tea party, which was much more subdued than other rallies held earlier this spring. And that’s how it was intended. “It’s about organization. This is where we get people involved in the movement and really it was a relatively small group that put together the rallies on April 15 and March 15,” said Mike Wilson.The Jackson, Michigan Tea Party Patriots began to "get organized" in January 2010: "I have about 20 people who want to meet in January to get organized," wrote organizer Ron Acton. In February of last year, NPR reported that "Colorado Tea Party Groups Get Organized." California Tea Party groups held workshops on "how to get organized" last March. The Tea Party of Florida advertised its meet-ups under the subject heading: "Time to Get Organized."
The Coming Insurrection calls for the "creation of territories," stating that "every practice brings a territory into existence," and concluding that "local self-organization superimposes its own geography over the state cartography, scrambling and blurring it . . ." Tea party groups across the country flexed their muscle over the summer of 2009 when they converged on town hall meetings held by congressional representatives, in actions that short-circuited the distinction between the local and the national by garnering the attention of the US mainstream media and even the global press. Through local self-organization, tea party groups turned these town halls into one of their primary terrains. Indeed, in this fashion, these groups also managed to fulfill another of the other prescriptions called for in The Coming Insurrection. By angrily confronting these elected officials, they effectively "sabotaged the representative authority" of those very representatives, and revealed their weakness in the face of an organized opposition.
Many tea party groups have also succeeded in "deposing authorities at a local level," though their focus has been primarily at deposing those authorities within the GOP. Many tea party groups advocate infiltration of the local Republican party apparatus at the lowest levels, namely that of the precinct, thus "fleeing visibility" and turning their relative anonymity into an offensive position from which they could leverage higher order changes in the party's power structure. The effectiveness of such action became clear as tea party challengers "removed obstacles" by defeating their establishmentarian rivals in Republican primaries ahead of the 2010 elections.
The Coming Insurrection calls on readers to "block the economy." Though the work specifically addresses actual physical blockades, the economic boycott likely remains the most popular strategy of "blocking the economy" in the United States. There is a long list of companies that have been boycotted by tea party groups. From Talking Points Memo, January 2010:
Last week, we told you about the tea party movement's next national target -- American businesses believed to be supporting the "socialist agenda" of Democratic politicians. On Jan. 20, the tea partiers plan to boycott these corporations during their "National Day of Strike."From The Daily Caller, in late November 2010, "Tea Party targets big business":
“If you look at President Obama’s healthcare legislation and cap and trade, there’s only one reason those things got as far as they did – they had big business support,” said Tom Borelli, Director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project. Borelli is teaming up with Freedomworks President Matt Kibbe to promote responsible, sound business practices, and beginning next year, the two will begin encouraging supporters to boycott big business that lobbies for a “progressive” agenda.