16 October 2013

The heirs of Jackson

John at EifD links to an intriguing analysis of the Tea Party and its place in American political history by Salon contributor Michael Lind. Lind argues, contra the mainstream liberal consensus which declares the Tea Party to be irredeemably irrational, that this is merely the latest expression of a Jacksonian faux-populist politics. It is meant to service and sate, quite rationally if we are defining rationality as the use of beliefs to satisfy material desires, the economic gluttony of Southern elites (the ‘local notables’) and some of their class allies from elsewhere. He notes that in that attempt, they even use the same demographic-electoral and tactical toolkit that they have been using for centuries now: the ‘Solid South’, the filibuster, voter-ID and voter-registration initiatives to disenfrachise non-whites and privatisation of public works.

Lind’s analysis is compelling, and these are important insights. The Tea Party may try to speak on behalf of working-class whites, but the statistics show that they are more likely to be educational and economic elites, and that they are more likely to be regional. And it shows clearly that we traditionalist conservatives (particularly, but by no means solely, those of us who live outside the American South) need to tread with extra caution regarding the Tea Party. Though we might with reason share some of their critique about government overreach, we simply cannot afford to give licence or turn a blind eye to what Dostoevsky would doubtless call the ‘vanity’, in that sort of cynical rabble-rousing the Tea Party elites engage in, and in the idea that we might sustain ourselves and our society upon bourgeois self-satisfaction and material prudence alone (however selectively applied).


  1. Thanks for the link!

    I like to link to Michael Lind articles because he does a lot of good work on regional and interest group politics. I notice this kind of analysis is sometimes lacking in the current world of political commentary.

    Keep up the great work! I


  2. Thank you, John, for posting such interesting articles! And I will indeed try!

    - M