Re: grassroots

Tue, 18 Jun 1996 16:43:54 -0400

I'll respond to one piece of Eide's comment, rather than wading through his
whole response.

> Ever since the tax revolt in late 70's you have had a
>massive grass roots movement akin to the 60's that favors the
>conservative agenda. I'm not for it that is simply the case.

For starters, there's little evidence of there being any kind of grass roots
movement on the right (outside of the high-stakes, big-money, well-oiled
Christian Right, all I can think of is the militia-types). THIS (below) is
another matter:
>The 'grass roots' in this country turned against the welfare
>state big time, turned against tax system big time, turned
>against quotas/social engineering big time, turned against the
>legal system big time, turned against the belt-way big time.
>That is the '60's' revolt of this era.

First, public opinion polling has showed that consistently --through the
Reagan-Bush years, through Newt and Bill-the-Centrist-- the American public
has stayed remarkably consistent in their support for the "welfare state"
--when you look at questions about the role of government in the concrete,
outside of welfare per se (AFDC-type, with the mythologies about it), the
American public supports the welfare state, supports an active role of
government in helping remedy injustices, helping the jobless, helping to
ensure that all have adequate health care, etc. See Joel Rogers & T.
Ferguson's book Right Turn for some helpful documentation on this re. the 80s.
My own research has shown that the public "turn against taxation" (i.e., the
tax revolt of the latter 70s early 80s) was primarily driven by concerns
about the inequity rather than the overall level of taxation, along with
concern that govt. services were not as effective as they could be.

Sure there's resentment against taxes when people are on fixed incomes; sure
there's resentment against a distant government that seems continually in the
back pocket of Big Business & the wealthy (again, public opinion demonstrates
this rather remarkably)... Sure there's alienation from the Beltway. But I
would argue that Eide overlooks the massive propaganda campaign waged by the
Right and the corporate elite (not the same thing, though often complementary)
(against the 60s, against the Great Society & other forms of liberalism,
against the "Vietnam syndrome", etc.) AND its spin on public disenchantment
and the alleged "grass roots" and thereby does precisely what the propagandists
do: (1) confuse public disenchantment with the elite's "spin" on that
disenchantment, and (2) substitute the elite's claims about public opinion/
grass roots, the little guy, etc. for actual public opinion. Not
surprisingly, this propaganda campaign has been virtually swallowed whole by
the mainstream media (again, a classic example is the war in Vietnam), and
thus one can readily come to see it as reality. [I recall a quote by Murray
Edelman & Lance Bennett about numerous examples of the mass news media
repeating an interpretation again and again until it takes on the feel of
objective fact (when in FACT it's erroneous). All of this is aided by the
market driven consumer culture which uses the 60s as an empty nostalgia hook
to sell things.
An example he cites himself is the parallel made in the mass media between the
militias and 60s groups like the Weathermen. He cites this as an example of how
the 90s grass roots revolt comes from the Right not the left. I'd cite it as an
example of how the media again distorts the 60s with superficial "analysis"
overlooking in the process the contextual realities of both struggles.

I'd add that his read of the left and the ecology movement is pretty strange,
since, as I argue in my book, the ecology movement was a natural outgrowth of
the 60s left (especially the antiwar left, and to a degree the
counterculture). In short, much of the ecology movement IS left (despite
tensions between growth-oriented socialist/labor parties and
ecologically-oriented Greens). I have no idea who Eide is talking about here.
Perhaps by Left he means Marxist-Leninists-Maoists.... but most of the Left that
I'm familiar with doesn't fit in this category, and it's a long leap to equate
Marxian criticism of capitalism with Leninism/Maoism. Perhaps that's the
problem, I don't know.

Ted Morgan

P.S. To Marc Gilbert. Can you send me your e-mail address?