If the left does not make an effort to organize populist anger then the right will grab it by default

The Blue Voice ponders Jerry Brown, radical politics on both sides of the spectrum, civil liberties, and more in a thoughtful post.

They quote from an interview Jerry Brown did with The Progressive in 1995. Brown makes a crucial point, that militia anger is based on real grievances. The Blue Voice thinks Brown misses the dangerous far-right implications of militias (substitute “teabaggers” for “militias” and you’re in 2009, not 1995) but I think they miss that the militia anger and rage is based authentic, grassroots issues.

Q: Do you fear the far-right agenda?

Brown: I don’t know about the far-right agenda. It’s the survival agenda of the incumbents that I’m most concerned about. The militias are going in there and calling attention to the dangerous power-grab of the state. What do you have? You have the ACLU and the NRA, two groups that are not viewed by the establishment very seriously. So The New York Times did a piece comparing the militias to the Black Panthers, not ever drawing the conclusion that they both were talking about excess oppressive practices by the government. They drew the conclusion that, well, the Panthers were wacky, and now the militias are wacky. The Panthers committed crimes, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t speaking from an authentic community and speaking heroically in many, many instances. And all these militia people are marching around because they think the state has been taken over. If you really look at it, the United States has certainly been submerged in a transnational system where one-person-one-vote or the checks-and-balances as envisioned by the founders in the Federalist Papers barely exist.

Here’s one place where I wonder if Brown was taking the problem of far-right extremist politics seriously enough. But in the context, he was pointing to the civil-liberties concerns that concerned him and citing the diversity of criticisms in the same way that Glenn Greenwald often does. I would prefer to see these kinds of analyses be more specific about the distinctive and limited nature of far-right arguments that momentarily overlap with civil-liberties concerns.

I’m a whole lot more concerned about liberals and progressives standing mute as Obama’s policies consistently favor the banking elite to the detriment of the rest of us than about whether some teabaggers are racist. The left needs to make a concerted effort to listen to the issues teabaggers are talking about (rather than insult them and think they’re clever for doing so) then present a coherent and genuine plan to move them away from the right. Otherwise they will stay on the right. And the left will continue to dwindle in power and influence.

Someone, probably fairly soon, will harness all that growing populist anger. Currently, liberals especially are siding with and defending Obama while populist rage at the banksters grows. This is shortsighted and delusional. If we on the left want to win, we need to harness that growing anger and make it ours. And to find common ground with those on the right who we agree with on specific issues.

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