As a writer, I’m acutely aware of the dangers of plagiarism. It’s a trap set constantly for an inventive mind that thinks, in a moment of absentia, you’ve come up with a brilliant original thought. Then someone does a little research and points out you’ve simply passed along someone else’s “original thought.”

So it is with some sadness I admit I am about to write words that are not mine though I wish professionally that they were. They come from an anonymous reader of a colleague’s work on this Ridenbaugh Press. To wit:

“A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the ‘60’s, selfish like the ‘80’s, contradicting neither. It is estranged, aimless and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets. Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob. They are apocalyptic pessimists about public life and childlike optimists swaddled in self-esteem when it comes to their own powers.” Boy, I wish the respondent had signed a name to that ‘cause I’d really like to congratulate him/her.

In my own feeble way, I’ve been trying to say the same thing for the last year or so. The often profane, often racist-tinged, staged abuse of public assembly we’ve seen so often on television could not be more perfectly encapsulated. And the longer it goes, the more frantic, confused and contradictory it becomes.

Several things have captured my attention about these highly arranged, “spontaneous” side shows and the often innocent people who’ve been sucked into them. One is the total contradiction of getting government out of our lives. Aside from impossible, these same people want to abolish the 17th amendment to the Constitution. Won’t happen. But if it did, that would mean state legislators would elect U.S. senators rather than the people. How would that get “government out of our lives” and why would we give up our power?

Another is abolishing the 14th amendment so children born here of illegal immigrants would not be American citizens. Why would this nation, built by immigrants … some legal, some not … turn its back on one of the basic tenets that made us great? Again, won’t happen. But if we did, can you imagine the can of worms that would open? We’d need an entire court system to deal with the vagaries of immigrant births. Less government?

These two points alone make a mockery of much of the loud noise. Demonstrators take their little vest pocket constitutions into the streets, saying this nation needs to “return” to living by the document as if we’d allowed it to lapse somewhere. Then, simultaneously, they say “But of course, WE want to change the parts WE don’t like.” Often, they can’t recognize other parts when asked to idenfity them.

The longer these spectacles go, several things are certain. The national media will tire of covering them and find something else to quench ab appetite for sensation. People who’ve innocently believed what the moneyed backers have wanted them to believe are finding someone else’s agenda is being served. As more far right “think tanks” and obscenely rich individuals are identified, many participants are discovering their support is being used for purposes they don’t necessarily believe in.

Big money is at play here. Very big. Professional opportunists, some fresh from other far right failures, have attached themselves to this latest one. They smell money coming from people who want big returns on their investments: more direct access to power; less citizen input; fewer controls on activities that make them rich.

The street theater will disappear with colder weather. Most of its original candidates lost primaries and others will lose next month. Not all. But some. In a couple of years, when they can’t produce on their radical ideas, their non-compromising supporters will think of them as just so many failed incumbents. Since being called upon to be catalysts of this new “movement,” many are finding out there’s no there … there.

We Americans tolerate extremes but live in the middle. When we find these “movements” offer less than we already have, don’t really change things for the better or that they are being promoted by folks with self-serving agendas, we soon turn away. And they die.

The anonymous spokesperson was right. I just wish I’d said it first.

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