March 01, 2010

Environmentalists as Tea Partiers

Yesterday Frank Rich painted a very sobering picture of the current political populism in the US.  He called attention to what I will call the growing instability of a growing segment of our population, a segment which is pretty thoroughly disaffected right now.  (Even more sobering was Dave's (who has a lot more patience with idiots that I do) comment that it is going to get worse before it gets better.)  Central to the Tea Party movement is a distrust of any government and the idea that all government should be eliminated.  In particular Rich calls attention to the invection of violence that can be heard in the rhetoric of people like Glen Beck and Sarah Palin.

The really scary bit of the Tea Party is the following:  The very angry people who identify with the Tea Party do not seem to be for anything.  But they are very much against many (most?) things.  Anger works best against rather than for.  Most of the things this populist movement is against are quite complex and I suspect only distantly connected to the real disaffection of the Tea Partiers.

Building the fear for me is the corollary of not being for something.  That is, the Tea Party does not have ideas for replacing the Fed or the IRS.  They want the government to go away, but there is no discussion of what would replace it.  (and note my rhetoric here assumes there is a thing called the Tea Party which of course is not the case).  And if Beck and Palin are successful in stirring this angry mob to violence or other sorts of destruction, what will we have left?  And will those people's lives actually improve?

It is the absence of being for something that leads me to link environmentalists with the tea partiers.  My recent post on the reading of the litany bemoaned the absence of vision regarding a positive environmental (or otherwise) future.  We need to replace the nihilism of being against everything and seeing only the bleak aspects of humanity with a positive vision of the future.