One Nation and the Tea Parties, Hutaree and the New Guard

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Can the ‘Tea Parties’ attract significant support from outside conservative ranks? I doubt it. What does Australian history tell us about militias? Nate Silver discusses recent polling:

There are two ways that one can read the Winston Group poll on the political orientation of those who consider themselves a part of the tea-party movement. One way — the headline that The Hill very reasonably chose — is that about 40 percent of tea-partiers are independents or Democrats. The other — obviously every bit as mathematically valid — is that 60 percent are Republicans. Either way, the results are more interesting than surprising, as they are broadly in line with previous polling on the subject — as well as what I think we can reasonably infer about the movement…I think the tea-party basically has three broad defining characteristics — to the extent we can define it at all:

1. It is conservative.
2. It is anti-establishment.
3. It has a somewhat amorphous and nonspecific goals.

The other interesting parallel between the Tea parties and One Nation is the confusion of the left, in Australia so on the left thought One Nation enthusiasts were one step removed from Nazi storm troopers, others seemed to think they were kindred if confused souls outraged by ‘economic rationalism’. In the US similar confusions see Mark Schmitt.

This looks to me like One Nation, it mostly drew its support from Liberal and especially National voters but it did draw some support from Labor voters. This was because some Labor voters held conservative social views and high levels of unemployment and economic distress in the mid to late 1990s made a protest party attractive. However this drift from Labor was not a fundamental realignment, these votes found their way back to Labor via preferences. In the US currently it is concern about budget deficits and public finance that is driving disaffection. But these are transitory concerns, I suspect that high unemployment encourages a general mood of economic anxiety that then fixes on the deficit. Democratic complaints about Reagen’s deficits fell on deaf ears once the economic recovered by the mid 1980s. Democratic, liberal or independent sympathy for the Tea Parties is thus much shallower than the deep-seated estrangement from the Democrats of many white ethnic suburbanites and southerners that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s (well described in Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Revolutionaries).

On a related topic isn’t the division between Hutaree and the so-called ‘mainstream militias’ rather like that between the New Guard and the Old Guard in early 1930s NSW? The division between these two groups is well explained by Andrew Moore. The New Guard dreamed of staging a coup whereas the Old Guard claimed merely to be a defensive organisation waiting on some catastrophe such as a mass rising of the unemployed. The Old Guard leadership claimed to regard the New Guard as crackpots, just as many militia members sincerely condemn groups such as Hutaree, but I consider (and here I part company with Moore’s approach) that at the level of popular conservatism there may have been more overlap. Liberals have correctly highlighted the populist right’s muddled evasions on militia activities. On the other side there’s a current of revolutionary left opinion that finds incomprehensible the possibility that deluded cultists might plan acts of murder and mayhem in a religious cause.

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