There are surely many valid lenses to study the Tea Party phenomenon, but I would like to focus here on the interaction of greed and racism. The basic idea is simply that, after WWII, America’s huge concentration of wealth gave greed much power to overwhelm the virtues emphasized during the Great Depression, virtues such as humility and frugality. As greed grew in social force, those who rose to the top of the economic ladder tended to focus more on accumulation and power than the good of the whole.
What we see in the Tea Party is the culmination of a wealth-making strategy, a political platform that seeks to maximize corporate “freedom” while minimizing government--and, importantly, this is wedded to a certain brand of social policy, the sort that preys on white fear of those who are not white, and especially black people, who have never been allowed to assimilate in the way that, for instance, the irish and the italians have.
This marriage of corporate privilege with social policies that harness, often subconsciously, the infectious psychic energy of racism has successfully taken over the minds of a large chunk of Americans, maybe around 20% (those who still approve of Republicans in the latest polls). This is no small feat of propaganda, and requires a vast mind-control machinery. And, of course, that is exactly what we see today in the presence of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the many other media outlets controlled by 21st Centurty Fox (formerly News Corp). Sitting on the back of this octopus, in the saddle, is one man, Rupert Murdoch.
Add propaganda outlets controlled by other moguls, such as the oil baron Koch brothers, who want more “freedom” for corporations, and the effect is truly Orwellian.
Greed harnesses racism (and sexism) to serve the unhealthy hunger of the rich. But the mind control has lost control by (a) creating a fanatic sea of followers, (b) toppling the economic stability of the country through the short-term, myopic grasping that accompanies an obsession for more and more (the Monopoly Game syndrome). No one is psychological healthy in this dynamic, neither the wealthy masters nor the hate-stoked masses.
The lesson here is that greed should never be allowed to get the upper hand over basic ethical considerations. Equality, human rights, fairness. The denigration of schools and universities is a symptom of this. It is the victory of ignorance over the light of education. Once the light of education is defeated, all kinds of delusions trot out. And no matter how absurd they are, these delusions are fully professed with glistening eyes. Things like: global warming is not human-caused; gays are evil; the 50 million Americans who can’t afford a doctor are to blame for their own fate; helping the rich directly will indirectly help us all.
History tells us that entire cultures can embrace, with fervor, large ‘realities’ that are not only false but gravely unjust. It also tells us that reason can possibly prevail, after long and difficult struggle. Let’s hope this current crisis, of such terrible magnitude, turns out for the best. I don't know what else to say.