The Left needs to study the Tea Party carefully and ask whether we can learn from them. After all, a radical group with the support of less than a quarter of the US population has been able to shut down the government, to hold it hostage to its demands. It should give us pause that the Right is doing what the Left talks constantly about doing, but with no results. Here are some possible lessons:
1. The party form still matters. The party form is operative for the Right. The Right uses both the Republican party as well as the Tea Party as a subsection of the Republican Party. In other words, an organized far right has been able to lasso the Republican Party and bend it to its will. What would it take for the Left to do the same? Perhaps identifying 30-40 Congressional seats that are worth trying to take. In addition to confronting weak Republicans, this would mean forcing Democrats into primaries instead of continuing to roll over and piss on ourselves whenever there is an election.
2. We don't need a majority -- we need a solidary, committed minority. The Tea Party is able to hold the entire country hostage because it is acting in a relatively unified fashion. These Republicans are ideologically committed. What if the Left did the same? This might look like refusing to approve a budget until the cap on Social Security withholding was completely eliminated, until US corporations were not allowed to use off-shore accounts, until the OTC market in derivatives was abolished. It would, of course, require us to agree on a few issues that would be our lines in the sand rather than continuing stupidly to go round and round each insisting on her pet issue.
3. We can't be afraid of controvery -- this is what has happened as the Left turned into liberals. Everyone became tolerant and neutral. This has got to stop. Our movement diminishes because there is nothing to follow, no primary current. This was starting to change with Occupy. The components are there with the anti-foreclosure movement, but we lost our way in trying to be all things to all people. This made us nothing.
4. Popular opinion is against the Republicans. Some pundits are saying that this is because they have gone too far, aren't playing by the rules, etc. Perhaps. But it might also be because the content of what they are fighting for is completely fascistic -- bringing down the government rather than providing people with health care. What if a group that was fighting for the people was behind the shut down, a group that was willing to stop payments to creditors until social programs were replaced, infrastructure was rebuilt, new jobs were created, and any company relying on government subsidies was turned into a public utility or commonized?
We constantly hear that radical change is impossible, that revolution is impossible, but here we have a cold civil war, the shut down of government as part of a radical political agenda. Change is possible -- it is being done, but by the enemies of the people.