Resenting Elites

Posted on May 3, 2010 by

What’s most appalling about the tea party movement is not the behavior or the ideas of its activists, but the fact that their “populist” sentiment finds its voice on the right.

Resentment of elites like bankers and politicians is usually up for grabs.  A vibrant labor movement, for example, could channel that anger into collective action.  The outcome, according to this scenario, is a better deal for union members and, ultimately, a greater sense of justice for this “class” of workers.

So, you ask, what planet am I living on?

Or, more specifically, what country are we living in?

Outside of its political and electoral influence, the American labor movement has lost its capacity to shape – or express – popular opinion.  This is not because union leaders are dense or dull.  Except for government workers and a few labor market niches, the labor movement has no reach into the lives or minds of most workers.  During this financial crisis, there’s no tangible point of contact between workers and organized labor.

Of course, I could really go out on a limb and argue that if there were a functioning labor movement in this country, “capital” would have been constrained and contained, the wage, income and wealth gap would have been narrowed and class divisions…

…You know what I mean.

But why make that argument?

This is our staring point:

An economy with enormous disparities, severe unemployment, a barely functioning political system and a workers institution which represents one in fourteen, private-sector, wage-earners.

If the tea party wasn’t so wacky, we’d really be in trouble.

Comments (4)


  1. Greg says:

    I agree with you about the need for a more active labor voice in the country, but please do not confuse what is going on on the right as populist. It is elitist, segregationist and illiterate.
    They are against Helath care because they have theirs, they want their country back from the Black man who leads it and they are amazingly mis ill informed about most things on which they comment.

  2. Salvador Sanchez says:

    Thank you for shining light on this glaring problem within the labor movement. You argue that “the American labor movement has lost its capacity to shape – or express – popular opinion. This is not because union leaders are dense or dull.” I disagree with the latter. I think that there are labor leaders who have lost focus on what is important for the entire movement. There is lack of vision and strategy and some internal factions have worsened the problem. At some point in the last five years, I thought that Andy Stern was the biggest threat to the labor movement.

  3. You make many good points here, such that it’s clear to me that you might consider deliberating less about our leaders, and more about their followers. Am sure many of us would be very interested to read about your experiences were you to pose as a member and attend a Tea Party meeting or convention or demonstration.

  4. Very good! Although all of our transmitters can do that anyway.

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