America needs a new civil rights movement. Apparently, white conservatives and Wall Street are being horribly oppressed, by immigrants, by Muslims, and by the Harvard-traitor president of the United States.
Christopher Hitchens described the fundamental, existential insecurity that underlies the Beck/Palin/tea party movement, in a brilliant piece in Slate:
One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. This awareness already exists in places like New York and Texas and California, and there have even been projections of the time(s) at which it will occur and when different nonwhite populations will collectively outnumber the former white majority. But it also exerts a strong subliminal effect in states like Alaska that have an overwhelming white preponderance.
Until recently, the tendency has been to think of this rather than to speak of it—or to speak of it very delicately, lest the hard-won ideal of diversity be imperiled. But nobody with any feeling for the zeitgeist can avoid noticing the symptoms of white unease and the additionally uneasy forms that its expression is beginning to take.
For example, so strong is the moral stature of the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that even the white right prefers to pretend to emulate it. (This smarmy tactic long predates Glenn Beck, by the way: I remember Ralph Reed trying it when he ran the Christian Coalition more than 10 years ago and announced that he wanted to remodel the organization along the lines of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.) Thus, it is really quite rare to hear slurs against President Barack Obama that are based purely on the color of his skin. Even Beck himself has tried to back away from the smears of that kind that he has spread in the past. But it is increasingly common to hear allegations that Obama is either foreign-born or a Muslim. And these insinuations are perfectly emblematic of the two main fears of the old majority: that it will be submerged by an influx from beyond the borders and that it will be challenged in its traditional ways and faiths by an alien and largely Third World religion.
And while the tea party right is couching its demands in the Beckian buzzwords of “original constitutionalism” and freedom, to the people funding the movement that means no Social Security, Medicare or unemployment insurance, and no more regulation of business, including dangerous pursuits like mining and oil drilling.
Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Wall Street mogul-whisperer Andrew Ross Sorkin chronicles the travails of America’s true underclass: the battered capitalists of Wall Street who are literally being marched into the internment camps by a cruel, despotic “president” they thought they knew…
That the honeymoon between Washington and Wall Street has turned to bitter recriminations is not news, given that the administration had long pledged to revamp Wall Street regulation in the wake of a crisis that rattled the global financial system.
Less than two years ago, Democrats received 70 percent of the donations from Wall Street; since June, when the financial regulation bill was nearing passage, Republicans were receiving 68 percent of the donations, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.
But what is surprising is that some of the president’s biggest supporters have so publicly derided his policies, even at the risk of hurting their ability to influence the party in the future. Issues like the carry-interest tax on private equity or the Volcker Rule have become personal.
Why so personal? The prevailing view is that bankers, hedge fund mangers and traders supported the Obama candidacy because he appealed to their egos.
Mr. Obama was viewed as a member of the elite, an Ivy League graduate (Columbia, class of ’83, the same as Mr. Loeb), president of The Harvard Law Review — he was supposed to be just like them. President Obama was the “intelligent” choice, the same way they felt about themselves. They say that they knew he would seek higher taxes and tighter regulation; that was O.K. What they say they did not realize was that they were going to be painted as villains.
That Wall Street view of itself as a victim has prompted much of the private murmurings and the unfortunate — or worse — outburst from Stephen A. Schwarzman, who likened the administration’s plan for taxes on private equity to “when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” Mr. Schwarzman later apologized for the “inappropriate analogy.”
Never mind that these guys caused the financial crisis that led to the need for regulation. They wish to be free. Free from government meddling in their fiscal gambling (but not free from getting bailed out if their bets don’t pay off.) They long for the days of George W. Bush, when the huddled masses in the country clubs back east could truly yearn to breathe in the sweet air of liberty; a halcyon era when:
In 2007, the top .001 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages — about twice the figure for 2000, notes Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at University of California–Berkeley. Saez also found that the top 10 percent of American earners pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages: a level “higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928.”
What did W have to do with this? He cut $1.3 trillion worth of taxes, 32.6 percent of which went to the top 1 percent of earners. And thanks to $7.8 million in contributions from Ameriquest, a subprime-mortgage company, President Bush pushed his Ownership Society initiative to get poor people into mortgages they could not afford so that Wall Street could engorge itself on borrowing to buy toxic waste.
Ah, those were the days. … Can I get a rousing round of “we shall overcome?”