The February 1st issue of The New Yorker has a chilling article by Ben McGrath describing his encounters with members of the Tea Party, the right-wing populist movement which used the organizing tools of the left to initiate the campaign against Obama’s health care plan, which represents big government at its worst, overlooking the fact that most seniors are extremely happy with the government-run Medicare program.
The teapartiers, educated, like all Americans, to believe that ideo-logy is bad, see only the long arm of government depriving them of the most precious American value: freedom. According to Daniel Bell and others, populism is ‘pathological’, flourishing only when orthodox democratic politics does not. In most countries, when democracy fails to deliver, there is likely to be a call for more government, or socialism. What makes Ame-rica different is the fact that our educational system labels ideology as undesirable, indoctrinating us as surely as any totalitarian country away from a logical choice between the right, which favors the few, and the left, which favors the many.
The values which the Tea Party wants Americans to get back to are known as 9.12, for the day after America was attacked: “I believe in God and He is the center of my life. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.”
Compare this with the fact that God is the center of a Muslim’s life, and that one of the five pillars of Islam is charity, which must be performed every day, vis a vis any person one encounters. In the name of God, Islam differs from the Tea Partiers, who also invoke God, but accuse those who receive charity through the government of being slackers.
In its January 30th issue The Economist describes Swedish efforts to bring toddlers of Muslim immigrants into nursery schools, and their mothers into Swedish language classes with a view to becoming bread-winners. You won’t find this information on your friendly TV station, but you will learn there that France is considering a partial ban on the wearing of the Burqa in public. (The first represents a ‘soft’ approach, in line with Scandinavia’s near uninterrupted rule by Social Democrats; the second, in a country that’s slightly schizophrenic about its social democracy, reflects the French penchant for political strife.) But both are in some way about compromise that social democracy calls for.
When the president, in his well-publicized belief in compromise, reassures his opponents that he is not an ideologue, that doesn’t only mean that he is probably not going to spread the wealth. It means he has, at least for the present, given in to a corporate system that all the more easily passes for government that our citizens have been indoctrinated against ideology.