Specializing in election results and polling, political analysis blog FiveThirtyEight estimates that the Tea Party protests only brought out around 300,000 participants to their rallies nation-wide, which is a far cry from organizers claims of over 1.2 million. Read their take on the numbers here. The blog also published a brief commentary speculating that the protests were strongest in states and regions that showed stronger support for Libertarianism ideas, using campaign contributions towards presidential candidate Ron Paul as an indicator.
This analysis tends to lend a deal of weight to that of local Bay Area leftist blogger James Tracy of Partisan Blockhead and his commentary on the protests focusing on the role of populism in “Understanding the Tax Revolt of 2009.”
Tracy seeks to refocus how much of the left frames the Tea Party protests.
Just like the Left, who seem to be totally happy with the war when Obama promotes it, the Right only hates runaway government spending when America’s first Black President is doing it. However, it’s time for the Left to wipe away it’s smug condescending attitude towards this revolt and dig deep and understand it for what it is—the resurgence of populism—rooted in real economic hardship. Populism is simply a revolt against elites, without a clear political trajectory. In times of populist upsurge, the movement will evolve both fascist and progressive faces.
Looking historically Tracy points out that populism manifests in both right-leaning and reactionary forms as well as left-leaning varieties such as the Bonus Army of veterans marching and occupying Washington DC after WW I or in the demands of unemployed workers in the 1930’s. The need to take these movements seriously and above all organize and put forward our own program from the left is paramount:
Whether the populist moment gives way to reaction or progress will depend on who is ready to organize, to explain the crisis, and point to real ways out of it. Dismissing the rank-and-file Tax Protester as a “racist” or a “redneck” signifies the fact that some in the Left have given up on reaching one of the largest parts of the US working-class. This doesn’t mean not confronting the forces of white and male supremacy who are salivating to gain control of this upsurge. In fact it is a call to confront it through the type of organizing that cedes nothing to the right.
We would be wise to head these words.