A couple of days ago, I put up that quote from Saul Alinksy regarding his warning, in 1972, that the middle class of this country would be driven to conservatism. Go to any conservative rally today and you will hear from Beck, Limbaugh etc.. screaming about "taking our country back." Alinsky saw this perfectly when he saw quite clearly that the white middle class was living in frustration and despair, worried about their future, and ripe for a turn to radical social change, to become politically-active citizens. This is exactly what has happened since the election of Barack Obama and quite ironic considering that Alinksy is now required reading for FreedomWorks people.
This is also why Sarah Palin is doing as well she is right now.
Arianna Huffington has a wonderful piece called Sarah Palin, Mama Grizzlies, Carl Jung, and the Power of Archetypes. In it, she details the appeal of Sarah Palin and why she is so effective.
We are awash in crises right now -- crises that require smart and creative policy fixes. So why is somebody who so rarely deals in policy fixes so popular? It's because Palin's message operates on a level deeper than policy statements about the economy or financial reform or health care or the war in Afghanistan.
Clearly, this is true. Look at her supporters.
It's not Palin's positions people respond to -- it's her use of symbols. Mama grizzlies rearing up to protect their young? That's straight out of Jung's "collective unconscious" -- the term Jung used to describe the part of the unconscious mind that, unlike the personal unconscious, is shared by all human beings, made up of archetypes, or, in Jung's words, "universal images that have existed since the remotest times." Unlike personal experiences, these archetypes are inherited, not acquired. They are "inborn forms... of perception and apprehension," the "deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity."
Alinksy spoke of this archetype as well and not only correctly predicted the coming of Ronald Reagan but the shift of large swaths of the the middle class to conservatism. In fact, Palin's use of the grizzly bear is not unlike Reagan's use of it in the 1984 campaign when he alluded to a frightened Walter Mondale not standing up to bear known as the Soviet Union.
I've heard many people say that voters in this country have now "seen the light," are becoming more conservative, and will take their country back. With the advent of the Tea Party, they are convinced that voters have now adopted their ideology and will send many packing come November 2nd. I contend that it's more that the movement's leaders (Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Gingrich) know very well how to use symbols to tap into the collective unconscious and manipulate those inborn forms of perception and apprehension. How can they do this?
The middle class actually feels more defeated and lost today on a wide range of issues than the poor do. And this creates a situation that's supercharged with both opportunity and danger. There's a second revolution seething beneath the surface of middle-class America -- the revolution of a bewildered, frightened and as-yet-inarticulate group of desperate people groping for alternatives -- for hope.
Their fears and their frustrations over their impotence can turn into political paranoia and demonize them, driving them to the right, making them ripe for the plucking by some guy on horseback promising a return to the vanished verities of yesterday. The right would give them scapegoats for their misery -- blacks, hippies, Communists -- and if it wins, this country will become the first totalitarian state with a national anthem celebrating "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Sadly, he died in the same year that he gave this interview and his stated goal, which follows, was never realized.
But we're not going to abandon the field to them without a long, hard fight -- a fight I think we're going to win. Because we'll show the middle class their real enemies: the corporate power elite that runs and ruins the country -- the true beneficiaries of Nixon's so-called economic reforms.
Never in a million years would Alinksy imagine how fulfilled his prophecy would be regarding corporate power and how it became a stark reality with the 2007-2008 economic crisis. It's not that people are shifting to conservatism, it's that they are frustrated by their economic situation which was brought on largely by this corporate power elite.
But they don't see this because the people that stand to benefit the most from maintaining this power are extremely adept at channeling Jung and swaying them, as Alinsky predicted, to their views. In essence, they are supporting the people who fucked them over in the first place. How ironic it will be when they see that most, if not all, of the "taking this God Damned country back" will, more than likely, result in their situations becoming worse.
And the Democrats, whose policies aren't perfect but at least they are attempting to steer things back in the right direction, are completely terrible at using images and archetypes.
Maybe it's because they are too busy trying solutions that have practical application in reality.