Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teabagging

Carl Paladino, the winner of the Republican primary for New York Governor, has sent out “bigoted and pornographic emails,” and likened “Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver to the Antichrist” (“Paladino, Cuomo Rival, Set to Spend at Will,” NYT, 9/15/10), while his counterpart down in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, who won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate “over one of the state’s most popular and longest serving Republicans,” had previously gained notoriety due to her “dire warnings about the negative impact of masturbation” (“Rebel Republican Marching On, With Baggage," NYT, 9/15/10). But these victories by Tea Party candidates over mainstream Republicans Rick Lazio and Mike Castle are representative of a frustration amongst voters that is not only limited to the U.S. The kind of political Hail Marys that are ruining the Republican party’s chances of unseating the already weakened Obama initiative have been duplicated with uncanny similarity in Italy, where a party called the Northern League is run by Umberto Bossi, “who is known for extra salty language, wearing tank tops and continuing to smoke cigars even though a stroke took away a good part of his voice” (“A New Power Broker Rises in Italy,” NYT, 9/15/10). Bossi is threatening the old center-right leadership of Silvio Berlusconi in much the same way that the Tea Party candidates threaten the leadership of the Republican party. So we are seeing a so-called populist uprising against the perceived futility of mainstream politics appealing to either fundamentalism or ancient myths of identity. “Veneration of the river is central to the group’s murky origin myth, which centers on a vaguely Celtic-inspired separate nation called Padania,” the Times article says of Bossi's Northern League. Now, a once quirky group of extremists is receiving major support. But Democrats in the U.S. and liberals in Italy might want to temper their exuberance for these tea baggers and their ability to thwart the more traditional center-right candidates, on the basis of historical precedent. For $64,000, what famous movement of the 20th century does this remind you of?

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

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