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It's A Tea-Baggerful Life

09/18/2010 10:54 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Americans have a place in their hearts for the eccentric underdog; they honor the wisdom of the dirt farmer and the listening skills of the bartender; they embrace the righteous cynicism of a watchdog newspaper reporter; their eyes well up at the homespun appeal of the down-on-his-heels drifter.

These archetypes are, of course, stock players of Frank Capra's classic films, staples in the pantheon of classic American film.

All of these characters would, however, be roundly excoriated by the current incarnation of conservative class warriors, who have taken the very qualities with which they would identify as being noble and twisted them to fit a vague, corruptted reinterpretation of Americanism.

The genius behind the capturing of familiar icons whose very mention trigger endorphins into the pulsing blood stream of true-blue patriots is probably the greatest example of mass manipulation since the infamous twenty year period of National Socialism in Germany.

What the right has masterfully pulled off is the ability to shape-shift (or body-snatch, whatever science fiction conceit you prefer), ironically as much evidence of Darwinian theory as anything. For to assure its survival in a time when the president of the United States is a black man, when gay rights are flourishing, when the fruits of religious devotion are close-mindedness and frequent violence, it has had to grow even more cunning and dangerous when faced with the end of its significance.

Because it seems more and more that the civilized world no longer prizes racial, tribal or ideological purity, which are the foundations for the brand of right wing conservatism which seeks to reign today. Since its ideas are roundly refuted by the majority of prudent minds, it has sought to grab hold of people's most vulnerable area -- emotion -- and do the very thing a filmmaker like Frank Capra did (but for reasons pertaining to the cold acquisition of power rather than artistic enlightenment).

You know those down home, come-from-behind reg'lar folks who have lately been running for office and in many cases are poised to win over their establishment incumbents? They are Capra rip-offs who, clad in the skins of Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur, shun debates, spout confabulating combinations of Jack Chick homophobia and Creation Museum cretinism, while looking every bit as if they were products of a right wing studio system: scouted, signed to Mephistophelean contracts and schooled in the ways of appearing just familiarly earthy enough to sway the hearts of disenfranchised Americans. Then, having their paths paved by a media thirsty for anything "new and different" to ride all the way to the bank, they are virtually escorted into our lives and are thus implanted in the most fertile psyches.

But outside of their staged appearances, these impostors' intellectual grasp of actual substantive issues is exposed, and the grand strategy becomes clear.

As with Reagan's good natured Gipper/uncle and W's "wanna-have-a-beer-with-'em" persona, these tea baggin' automatons are mere cardboard stand-ups who can neither compare to or compete with even the standard bought-and-sold corporate politician. But since winning is everything to the right wing, they are once again mutating in full public view and, while once decrying the presence of the upstarts, have now begun to embrace and back them with their full force.

And though what these newly minted tea-bots say rings a sweet bell to the cocked ears of their kneeling and bobbing acolytes, the rest of the country (and the world) are seemingly too stunned to stop the dissonance.

In Capra's classic films, the division between right and wrong was clearly drawn. To utilize another Capra classic, it would be as if the charmingly stammered sentiments George Bailey spouted were really capitalisto-fascist philosophy made pretty by his homespun eloquence and the good, trusting people of Bedford Falls swallowed the poison pill and built Pottersville, without ever having to go through the rigmarole of hanging out with angels.

Capra also made Why We Fight. But the Bushies already did that one.