We have never seen, at least in the modern history of the United States, a right-wing street-protest movement. Conservatives who oppose Roe v. Wade march on Washington every January 22, the anniversary of that 1973 decision; but aside from that single issue and that single day, the American right over recent decades has, until this summer, carried out its organizing in a comparatively quiet fashion, via mimeograph machine and pamphlet and book and e-mail and text message, and left the streets to the left.
So we have something new in our political life—the summer's apoplectic and bordering-on-violent town-hall meetings, and the large "9/12" rally on Washington's National Mall that drew tens of thousands of people to protest America's descent into "socialism" (or "communism," or, occasionally, "Nazism"). How extreme is this movement, and how seriously should we take it?
With respect to the Tea Parties and especially the summer's town-hall meetings, a key corporate titan appears to be Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas. Fred Koch (pronounced "coke") founded the company in 1940 as an oil business but it has expanded into natural gas, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, and many other areas. He helped create the John Birch Society in the late 1950s and died in 1967. His two sons who run the business now, David and Charles, have foundations that donate millions to conservative and libertarian causes and groups, including notably the Cato Institute. One Koch-funded group used to be called Citizens for a Sound Economy. It became Americans for Prosperity (AFP) in 2003, a group that has advocated limited government and opposed climate change legislation. Earlier this year, Americans for Prosperity launched a Web site called Patients United Now, which ran frightening television ads opposing health care reform (showing, for example, a Canadian woman who supposedly couldn't get treatment for a brain tumor in her native country). According to the liberal Web site ThinkProgress, the AFP helped distribute signs and talking points at a town-hall event hosted by Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello.
Readers will likely enjoy his treatment of the TARP and its aftermath. Moore provides evidence well known to finance blog readers, such as Goldman penetration of key policy positions, an obligatory Phil Gramm saying something heinous shot, and the role of financial services contributions (he managed to interview the fellow at Countrywide in charge of the “Friends of Angelo” cheap mortgage as bribe program, who sees nothing wrong in what he did). He also makes good use of Bill Black and Elizabeth Warren. Congressmen and women, agitated even now, describe how the process of getting the TARP through despite overwhelming popular opposition was masterfully orchestrated, carefully timed to prey on re-election fears “like an intelligence operation”. The clips are simply damning, and dispel any doubts of who is really in charge in DC.