The first, from Dave Sirota, argues that the GOP is now seeking its future in mainstreaming rightwing extremism:
In my book, The Uprising, I have a chapter on the Minutemen that's called "Mainstreaming the Militia." I think between the media coverage of yesterday's Tea Parties and the national Republican Party effectively coming to the public defense of right-wing extremist groups against the Department of Homeland Security, that mainstreaming has gone into overdrive.
I'm not saying everyone - or even a majority - of those who attended the Tea Parties are violent extremists. But I am saying that there is a very calculated and coordinated campaign to mainstream extreme right-wing politics - and this shouldn't be surprising. The uprising that I reported on last year has only intensified since I reported the book, and as I noted at the time, that uprising is both a left and right phenomenon.
Indeed, the battle for the future of the country will be a battle between the left and right uprisings - a battle to see who can out-organize the other in the fight for the hearts and minds of the country. The Obama campaign's stellar organizing success clearly shows there's a progressive majority ready to be organized, but the right's counter salvos these last few weeks shows that if Democrats keep handing over trillions to Wall Street, there will be an opening for conservative populism.
So while we can (and should) ridicule the Tea Parties, we should also recognize that they A) highlight very real anger out there at government giving away the store to Corporate America and B) preview a long battle over economic policy that will unfold over the next few months and years.
I like that slippery slope of equating rightwing extremism to the concept of the Tea Parties by ... not quite equating them.
But I think that Charlie LeDuff's profile of a Michigan militia group more accurately captures the sense of impotence at the bottom of the alienation which so often can lead to violence:
The militia held its annual field day on Stasa's farm, about a 20-minute car-drive west of Flint, and threw in a tea party and tax revolt for good measure. The militia's party included hamburgers, sausages, soda pop and a .50 caliber carbine rifle and a firing range. Kids were admitted free.
With the economic meltdown, the complaints of the militiamen are beginning to sound less like paranoia and more like the topic of Manhattan cocktail parties: a socialized economy, a ballooning debt and wars on two fronts.
"What are we leaving the children?" asked Rob Soldenski, a 49-year-old unemployed delivery driver from Warren. "A legacy of debt and an infringement on their civil liberties. We got to push back when the time to push comes."
"I've seen a 35 percent reduction in pay," said his ex-wife Cyn Soldenski, who brought along their 7-year-old daughter Tessa. "I bought a house 18 months ago. The interest rate is going to reset and I'm so far underwater I'm going to drown. We've got to take the stupid government and throw it out."
If you listen to this group you begin to realize that they cannot take over the world; they probably couldn't take over their brother's trailer payments. They are a restless and frustrated group: a hodgepodge of ex-farmers, ex-military, ex-truck drivers, ex-factory workers, wipers of other people's bottoms. Many are firmly among the state's 20 percent unemployed or underemployed.
They turn to the Bill of Rights, though most people here could not recite those 10 amendments. They prepare for a war to defend them. No one can say -- not even the militia members themselves -- how many people sympathize with their movement.
And LeDuff notes that there is no particular love for Dubya over Obama:
Still, the picnic goers railed about George W. Bush, too. In fact they believe there is little difference between a Democrat and a Republican. Bush, Clinton, Obama. Stick them in a bag. Shake it up. And the same rapacious thing crawls out: a creature from a smoke-filled backroom.
"They're all the same thing," Cyn Soldenski said. "Corporate tools."
Are these rightwing extremists? Certainly they are--by many standards of the day--people with unlovely views on immigration, race, gay rights....
But what emerges is reading this portrait (read it all: wouldn't want to be guilty of cherry-picking) is people clinging to their guns, their beliefs, and each other not because they are bitter, but because they are scared, and falling further and further behind at everything....
And the current political dynamic of let's trash the other side so we can defeat them is not going to help make things any better.