Mark Naison @ NewBlackMan: The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

by Mark Naison | special to NewBlackMan

During the last two years, a political revolt on the Right has changed the landscape of American politics. A movement which calls itself the Tea Party, overwhelmingly composed of white Americans over the age of fifty, has taken over the Republican Party, and with it the House of Representatives, with a program calling for drastic curbs on government expenditure and a moratorium on new taxation. The startling growth of this movement is in large measure attributable to racial fears triggered by Barack Obama’s election as president. But those fears are connected to demographic shifts which have made school populations majority minority in many states, and prefigure a future when whites are no longer the nation’s dominant group. Economic anxiety and racial fears have produced a truly vindictive approach to politics on the American Right. To put the matter bluntly, the Tea Party has declared war on American youth by trying to cut school budgets, library budgets, publicly subsidized recreation programs, and access to college scholarships.

Until quite recently. young people in the country, who do not vote in the same proportions as their elders, ( the 2008 Presidential Election excepted) have mounted little no significant resistance to the Tea Party offensive and showed few signs of dissatisfaction. But this could change with startling rapidity A wave of protest in other nations, starting in the Arab World, spreading to continental Europe and most recently taking the form of massive riots in England, all have originated among young people using social media to spread their message. It is not difficult to imagine that this wave of global protest, both non-violent and violent, will soon spread to the US, taking forms uniquely adapted to American conditions.

Some of this protest has already started; It is significant that the most important recent youth protests in the US have taken place in our prison system, a sector which dwarfs its counterparts in the Arab world or Europe. There have been two huge hunger strikes in prisons in the last six months, the first in Georgia, the second in California, in each case ending when authorities made concessions. Since a significant portion of the American working class lives in communities where people move in and out of prison with startling frequency, such protests are a sign of growing discontent among that section of the US population steadily being beaten down, not only by Depression imposed job losses and foreclosures,, but by the budget cuts Tea Party activists have helped negotiate.

Another sign of this discontent is are electronically organized commodity riots which the media have called “flash mobs,” groups of adolescents from poor neighborhoods, who, with the help of cell phone communication, suddenly descend on a downtown business district, or a store, and rob everyone in sight, disappearing as quickly as they’ve congregated. Incidents of this kind have taken place in Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Maryland, prompting moral panic among politicians and religious leaders who view these outbursts as a consequences of faulty childrearing and parental neglect.

But while it is hard to endorse indiscriminate acts of violence which put forth no program and make no demands, it is also naïve to condemn them without referring to the increasing poverty and isolation of the young people responsible for these actions , or to the blithe indifference to their plight among urban elites and young professionals whose prosperity has been untouched by the recession. Can you really expect young people to stand by and suffer in silence while libraries and recreation centers are shut, while food becomes scares, while many among them are being forced into homelessness, and when schools become test factories, especially since their older siblings in prison are starting to organize and protest against their plight. As conditions worsen among the working class and the poor, expect more flash mobs, more school takeovers and walkouts, and more actual riots, especially when and if police over react to these other forms of protest.

Continue reading@ NewBlackMan: The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans.

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