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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 10:13 PM
Original message
Edited on Fri May-13-11 10:16 PM by Time for change
At first glance todays American Tea Party Movement appears to have little if anything in common with pre-Civil War American slavery or the philosophy of White Supremacy that supported it. The Tea Party does not advocate slavery, and they dont openly espouse overt racism.

Yet I would argue that the ideologies underlying both have so much in common as to be virtually considered two versions of the same thing, operating at different time periods. They are both led by politically powerful and wealthy far right wing interests that use their vast influence and a strategy of divide and conquer to convince a large segment of nave Americans to aggressively support their far right wing policies, even though doing so is not in their best interests.


The impotence of anti-slavery sentiment in pre-Civil War United States

In the pre-Civil War days, a small minority of wealthy slave owners exerted so much political power on U.S. government policy that the idea of abolishing slavery was never considered a legitimate part of mainstream political dialogue until a bloody Civil War opened up the opportunity to consider it and act upon it almost 90 years after the founding of our nation. Many of our Founding Fathers were adamantly against slavery. John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers, and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote:

It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.

Patrick Henry wrote: I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. If not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery.

Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in June 1776. Though he was a slave owner himself, Jeffersons original draft of the Declaration was very critical of slavery consistent with other attributes to human rights and decency expressed in that document. But the power of the slavocracy was too great, and they successfully insisted upon revision of about 20% of Jeffersons original draft effectively deleting all critical references to slavery.

Because some members of the U.S. House of Representatives (led by former U.S. president John Quincy Adams) insisted upon making slavery an issue for discussion in Congress, slave owners in the U.S. House pushed through the infamous gag rule in May of 1836, which essentially prohibited slavery as a topic of discussion in the House by specifying that: Petitions involving slavery would be automatically tabled, without any reference to committee, without any printing, without any member having to make a tabling motion, and without any response.

Though the gag rule was finally repealed in 1844, mainstream politicians still would not dare openly speak about abolishing slavery. The best that mainstream politicians could do was to form the Republican Party, which in 1856 nominated their first presidential candidate, John Fremont, who campaigned largely on a promise to end slavery in the territories (but not in states where slavery already existed) of the United States. Fremont finished a strong second to the Democratic nominee, James Buchanan.

Four years later the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln, who rode anti-slavery sentiment in the North to a landslide electoral victory in a four candidate race. Though privately Lincoln had expressed strong anti-slavery sentiments throughout his life, he always limited his public anti-slavery views to prohibition of the extension of slavery to American territories never to the abolishment of slavery where it already existed. Such was the power of the slavocracy. Even so, Lincolns election to the U.S. presidency in 1860 precipitated the secession of the American South from the United States, which led directly to the American Civil War within weeks of Lincoln being sworn in as president.

The end of slavery

In January 1863, Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves residing in parts of the South that were still rebelling against the Union. With the Union victory in early 1865, and the elimination of most slave owners from political power, Congress was able to pass the 13th Amendment to our Constitution in 1865 (which abolished slavery), the 14th Amendment in 1868 (which granted citizenship to and provided basic civil rights for the former slaves) and the 15th Amendment in 1870 (which gave them the right to vote).

What accounted for the power of the slavocracy?

How was it that a small minority of wealthy slave owners were able to maintain the institution of slavery in the United States? Southerners constituted a minority of the white voting population in the ante-bellum United States. Only 26% of Southerners owned any slaves at all. And most of those owned only one or two slaves.

But the slavocracy managed to spread the ideology of White Supremacy throughout the South, and it was embraced by the good majority of Southern white men and women. A major psychological process at work in the spread of this doctrine was what is today often referred to as right wing authoritarianism. This process was described by the psychologist Bob Altemeyer in his book, The Authoritarians, which describes right wing authoritarian followers as being highly submissive to authority figures and willing to attack other people in the name of their authority figures. This is how Altemeyer describes their submission to authority:

Authoritarian followers seem to have a Daddy and mommy know best attitude toward the government. They do not see laws as social standards that apply to all. Instead, they appear to think that authorities are above the law, and can decide which laws apply to them and which do not just as parents can when one is young.

In the slave-owning South the wealthy slave owners were the authority figures those whom the right wing authoritarian followers looked up to as the voice of authority. The slavocracy justified their ownership of and cruelty towards their slaves essentially by painting them and all black people as subhuman. Being subhuman, they were not conceived of as being deserving of the human rights accorded to white people. Though slavery benefited only a minority of Southerners, the slavocracy was able to influence enough non-slave owning, right wing authoritarian followers with their propaganda that they were able to exert vast political power throughout the whole country, until they lost it with their ill-conceived war.


Todays Tea Party primarily advocates reduced government spending, reduced taxation, and reduction of the federal budget deficit. If they see any conflict at all between reduced taxation and a reduction of the federal budget deficit, they dont say much about it. They also claim to be motivated by strict adherence to an originalist view of the Constitution of the United States, though that claim appears to be no more than a rationalization to support their extreme right wing views (more about that later).

Parallels between todays Tea Party movement and the ideology of White Supremacy in the antebellum South

Just as White Supremacy ideology was propagated and led by the slave owning class, todays Tea Party movement is led by the American oligarchy indeed, they are funded by it. Just as slavery did not benefit the good majority of white people in the ante-bellum South, the policies advocated by todays Tea Party do not benefit the good majority of Tea Party members rather they operate against their interests. And as with slavery, the real purpose of the Tea Party movement is to provide economic benefit to a small minority of very rich and powerful people.

Of the three primary goals advocated by the Tea Party movement, as noted above, the one that is of primary importance to the movement is the reduction of taxes. The reduction of government spending is simply the means used to enable more and more tax reduction. Their focus on the federal budget deficit is simply a vehicle to rationalize reductions in government spending, which is what enables the wealthy to pay less money in taxes. That is why youll rarely if ever hear a Tea Party member acknowledge the conflict between massive tax reductions and balancing the federal budget.

More specifically, what is primarily important to the movements leaders (and therefore to the movements followers as well) is the reduction of taxes on the wealthy and anything else that benefits the wealthy. That is why youll rarely if ever hear a Tea Party member complain about a tax reduction plan that provides the vast majority of tax relief for the wealthy. That is why, for all their emphasis on reducing social spending, you rarely if ever hear them complain about massive corporate subsidies as a matter of routine federal policy, and why you never hear them complain about deregulating corporations as a means of enhancing corporate domination over the American people. That is why you dont often hear them complain about the trillions of dollars that we spend on our military. And to the extent that they protest against taxpayer bailouts of irresponsible and wealthy Wall Street banks, that protest is minimal compared to their protest against government assistance to the most vulnerable members of American society. They know where their bread is buttered.

Indeed, their first national protest, on February 19, 2009, was against a government plan to refinance mortgages for ordinary Americans. Well, they neednt have worried. William Kuttner, in his book, A Presidency in Peril The Inside Story of Obamas Promise, Wall Streets Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future, contrasted how Obamas solution to our housing crisis, his so-called Making Home Affordable program, helped Wall Street compared to how it helped ordinary Americans:

The contrast was all too vivid several trillions in loans and loan guarantees for the banks, and a grudging $3 billion for the homeowners who had been the banks victims. As a consequence of the administrations half measures and failure to move boldly, the mortgage foreclosure crisis is continuing to drive millions of Americans from their homes, depress housing prices and retard the recovery Refinancing underwater retail mortgages is comparatively easy. It just requires political will.

Hypocrisy and ignorance

The slavocracy relied on the myth of White Supremacy to justify their status and agenda. The oligarchy that leads and funds the Tea Party movement today justifies their agenda to a large extent on their strict adherence to an originalist interpretation of our Constitution. Thats why they sometimes refer to themselves as Tea Party patriots.

But what does an extreme antipathy to any government action meant to benefit ordinary Americans have to do with an originalist interpretation of our Constitution? The Tea Party is against government efforts to help our most vulnerable Americans obtain health care. They are against public education. They are against government help for Americans who are in danger of losing their homes because of the irresponsible behavior of Wall Street banks. They are against government efforts to help reduce unemployment and promote recovery from the worst economic crisis weve experienced since the Great Depression. What is so patriotic about being against all these things? And on what basis do they claim that these views protect our Constitution?

The very first sentence of the U.S. constitution proclaims one of its five purposes to be to promote the general welfare. All of those things listed in the above paragraph have the purpose of promoting the general welfare. And indeed, when begun in 1933 as part of FDRs New Deal, they greatly ameliorated our economic crisis, set the stage for the greatest sustained economic boom in U.S. history, and created a vibrant middle class. That middle class has been slowly disappearing since the early 1980s, coincident with the ascendance of a somewhat milder version of right wing ideals than is associated with todays Tea Party movement.

The Tea Partys deference to our Constitution is just a rationalization to justify their extreme right wing views. Where were they when the many protections provided in our Bill of Rights freedom of speech, freedom against indefinite detention without due process, freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures, and freedom against cruel and unusual punishment were under attack?

It is the oligarchy leaders and funders of the Tea Party movement who are the hypocrites. The typical right wing authoritarian follower Tea Party member is usually too nave or ignorant to qualify for that kind of blatant hypocrisy. An article by Kate Zernike in a New York Times article described the general ignorance and gullibility of Tea Partiers:

Nearly three quarters said they would prefer smaller government even if it means spending on domestic programs would be cut. But in follow up interviews, people said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security the biggest domestic programs suggesting instead a focus on waste.

Others defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying they had paid into the system, so deserved the benefits. Others could not explain the contradiction.

I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security, said Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. I didnt look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think Ive changed my mind.

The U.S. Tea Party is nothing new

There is nothing new about the Tea Party movement in American history. It is just the latest attempt by the American oligarchy to move our country even further to the right, with the ultimate goal of consolidating their wealth and power. To that end, the well-being of the vast majority of Americans is being sacrificed. The Tea Party is just a cleverly disguised tool for class warfare of the American oligarchy against the American people. As with the defending of the institution of slavery, the Tea Party movement is led by a wealthy oligarchy but relies on an army of nave and angry right wing authoritarian followers to support their agenda and provide them political power.

The Tea Party was highly successful in their first attempt at electoral politics, in 2010. In the general election of 2010 it is estimated that they won 5 of 10 seats in the U.S. Senate and at least 40 of 130 seats (31%) in the U.S. House. Keep in mind that in many of those races they first had to defeat more moderate Republicans in the Republican primary. Thus the victory of so many Tea Party candidates essentially moved our Congress far to the right of the previous Congress. What explains their sudden success?

In addition to massive funding from the American oligarchy, the ongoing erosion of our democracy played a large role in the Tea Partys successes in 2010, and threatens to play a continuing large role in future elections. Though we still have the appearance of a democracy, that appearance is misleading. A society in which it is standard practice and legal for the wealthy to send lobbyists to their nations capital, loaded with cash, to influence elected public officials to do their bidding, cannot be considered a democracy in anything but name. As the wealth gap in our country reaches new highs a vicious cycle is created whereby the wealthy are able to purchase more and more legislative favors and put more candidates into office, thereby increasing the wealth gap even more. Our understanding of this process and its consequences is obstructed by the constant barrage of propaganda from our corporate controlled communications media, as well as our own human fallibilities, especially the natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe. Government and wealthy corporate interests are tied together so tightly in a web of interdependency facilitated by a constantly revolving door, that in many respects they have become indistinguishable. And they have large and increasing control of our election systems. These are the roots of the corrupt plutocracy that we in the United States live under today.

Thus it is that even with the widespread outcry of Americans (including even Tea Partiers) against the latest Republican plan in Congress to destroy Medicare, small contributions from large numbers of Americans of modest means are needed to offset the massive wealth of the oligarchy in order to win a special election for a U.S. House seat in New York. Even if this effort is successful, how is that effort going to be sustained in 2012, when 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats and the presidency will be up for grabs at the same time?

This situation will not change until the influence of money in American politics is substantially diminished either by criminalizing its use for that purpose (i.e. defining it as bribery) or by finding a way to win elections without much money.
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zeemike Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 11:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. Excellent analysis of history and a good comparison to today.
And as usual well thought out.
But one aspect of it you did not cover and that is the religious component.
In the Civil war days the abolitionist were mostly religiously motavated....they were serious about their religion and could see clear contradictions in slavery and what their religious teachings taught them....and this motivated people like John Brown to act.
And on the other hand the slave holders came up with religious dogmas to justify it....just as the tea party claims to be Christina today.
But what I see missing today is the Christians who see the objectives of the tea party as being against the teachings of Jesus....they seem to be silent or perhaps just think that they are too few to matter....or perhaps they see the liberal community as hostile to them....but they are silent.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 08:02 AM
Response to Reply #1
5. Very good point
When you think about it, it does seem odd that, given that Jesus was a liberal, the Christian right is so politically active and you rarely hear anything from the Christian left. In fact, this article by Gary Vance, titled "Wasn't Jesus a Liberal?" is the only thing I can recall reading from the Christian left in several years:

Maybe it's not that the Christian left is silent, but that when they speak they speak as individuals rather than as Christians. Maybe they should start speaking as Christians again. Maybe doing that would help ameliorate some of the effects of the Christian right. emd
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Dawson Leery Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-13-11 11:58 PM
Response to Original message
2. Sent to the greatest page!
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jaysunb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 01:47 AM
Response to Original message
3. Excellent post !
K & R
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underpants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 04:27 AM
Response to Original message
4. Marking for read later
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mmonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 08:09 AM
Response to Original message
6. Recommended. Good work.
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Faryn Balyncd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 09:29 AM
Response to Original message
7. This is a very, very nice analysis. Thanks for the work.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 09:31 AM
Response to Original message
8. Great post
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RagAss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 09:49 AM
Response to Original message
9. America will not end well.
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lutherj Donating Member (788 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 11:35 AM
Response to Original message
10. Excellent analysis. A few thoughts:
While it seems that the primary interest of the American Oligarchy is to cut taxes for the wealthy, and certainly this is their stated goal, I suspect that there is a deeper instinct at play here. As these people rise through the economic system and make more and more money, they come to identify increasingly with the system that seems to validate their world view and their sense of self-worth. No billionaire is going to tell you that they just got lucky; on the contrary, they'll tell you how they are worth every cent they made. At the same time, their increasing wealth serves to isolate them from the community of common humanity. Everyone wants to see themselves as part of an elite, something special that distinguishes them from the common riffraff. And, just as their wealth is (to them) a clear reflection of their worth, so poverty must also be the true refection of the worth of the masses. Thus the system that made them wealthy is both enabled and validated, and they don't need to worry about the condition of humanity. Moreover, it doesn't matter what their business plan is slavery, military-industrial complex, goods made in labor camps in China or sweatshops in Indonesia, controlling the world food supply through GMOs in their eyes the system justifies their actions.

The reason the oligarchy is intent on destroying the New Deal and any vestige of a social safety net, the reason they want to gut the concept of democracy itself, is that it represents a competing value system that lies outside their control, a value system that cannot be monetized, and that not only fails to validate their worldview, but often vilifies their activities. For this reason they want to privatize everything. And thus the right-wing rants against government. (Whenever the right complains about government it is helpful to substitute the word democracy for the word government. Reagan: Democracy is not the solution, democracy is the problem. Norquist: I want to drag democracy into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.)

This whole system of belief is basically, it seems to me, a kind of secular Calvinism. Capitalism is Calvinism gone to seed. (The Koch brothers, it should be noted, are second generation Dutch; the Netherlands being traditionally a hotbed of Calvinism.) From this perspective poverty is simply the natural condition of man (ie, original sin), the invisible hand of the free market is a kind of divine providence, wealth is the condition of divine election or grace, etc. Anything that undermines this system is seen as unnatural and ungodly, a subversion of nature itself.

You are quite right to compare the thought system of the tea party to that of the slave masters. Their system, if fully implemented, would effectively subject the masses to a condition of permanent servitude.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 12:50 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. I think that you are correct about just about everything you say
Edited on Sat May-14-11 12:51 PM by Time for change
I recognize that it can't be just the money they're after. I'm pretty sure you're correct that the other major thing that drives them is their self-concept -- though it's difficult to prove.

I read a book several years ago that dealt with the slavocracy, and its main theme was that self-concept drove the actions of the slavocracy just as much as the money and the power. That's why even talk of prohibiting the extension of slavery into new U.S. territories drove them crazy -- it was a repudiation of their world view and their self-concept.

I really like your idea of substituting "democracy" for "government" in rephrasing oligarchy talking points. I believe that could be a very effective way to make a point -- and it's fair. Why did I never think of that?

Your last point is also a very good one. It is true that their system if fully implemented would subject us to permanent servitude -- and that is the direction they (and we) are heading. I should have added that to the end of my post, but didn't think of it :).

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Dawson Leery Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 08:40 PM
Response to Reply #10
14. Nice to see that there are people who recognize the calvinist influences
that are destroying this country.
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The Wizard Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 11:42 AM
Response to Original message
11. A well reasoned
analysis of the deluded hateful White Supremacy movement dressed up in a cheap disguise. The three cornered hats are nice on Halloween but really symbolic of a time when owning slaves was legal. Slavery is one of the traditional American values the Republican Party embraces behind closed doors. But now they want to rent their slaves by the hour as it's cheaper than ownership. Corporate feudalism and unfettered capitalism are the twin siblings of illegitimate parents.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 02:37 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. What I didn't include in this post was the results of a couple of polls that measured their
Indirect measures of racism against black people
Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same (strongly agree).
Tea Party supporters: 68%
Tea Party opponents: 35%

Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class (strongly disagree):
Tea Party supporters: 43%
Tea Party opponents: 20%

Its really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites (strongly agree):
Tea Party supporters: 42%
Tea Party opponents: 18%

Blacks are hard-working (agree):
Tea Party supporters: 35%
Tea Party opponents: 55%

Indirect measures of xenophobia and homophobia
All undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be deported immediately (agree):
Tea Party supporters: 45%
Tea Party opponents: 11%

Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children (agree):
Tea Party supporters: 36%
Tea Party opponents: 87%

Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to get married with equal rights (agree):
Tea Party supporters: 17%
Tea Party opponents: 52%
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Karenina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-15-11 06:14 AM
Response to Original message
15. . .
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trebbor Donating Member (4 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-15-11 09:29 AM
Response to Original message
16. And how did you take this turn?
"...psychologist Bob Altemeyer in his book, The Authoritarians, which describes right wing authoritarian followers as being highly submissive to authority figures and willing to attack other people in the name of their authority figures. This is how Altemeyer describes their submission to authority:

Authoritarian followers seem to have a Daddy and mommy know best attitude toward the government. They do not see laws as social standards that apply to all. Instead, they appear to think that authorities are above the law, and can decide which laws apply to them and which do not just as parents can when one is young."

Aren't left-leaning folks saying that expanding mommy and daddy's powers are going to make everything nirvana-like? People without a drop of experience with producing something that people need/want to buy saying that "Trust people without any practical business experience to somehow increase the number of jobs that are sustainable because those jobs actually produce something that others are willing to pay for?" Parent figures trying to block private business from re-locating operations to whatever community is willing to accept it?

The author's entire argument turns on the premise that only right wingers fall for charismatic, strong leaders. The heroes of that other competing economic system sure have treated their children well, haven't they? Millions killed to purge dissension. More serious pollution than the west could every dream of. Hail the glorious revolution.

Why is it so important to pin the label of racist? Is that comforting? The Tea Party is holding candidates from both of the main parties to bring some financial sanity task back to governance: Stop spending the future to satisfy today's cravings. If any of you are parents and are knowingly spending well beyond your means expecting that your children (or someone else's) will pay your debt, I can understand why you applaud wastes of time like this premise.

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Alcibiades Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-16-11 12:12 AM
Response to Original message
17. Tea Party people = George Wallace people
Here's an image of Lester Maddox I've posted several times here in the context of the Tea Party.

He would be at home at any tea party rally today, except his sign is too neatly done, and has no spelling errors.

I had explored the possibility that you could draw a direct line in the thought of these folks, from John C Calhoun through Wallace to Reagan to these strange people. They've certainly proposed secession and nullification. As a native southerner, I recognize these folks. Then I thought to look at where the biggest Tea Party movement protest were, expecting to find them in the old states of the confederacy. They were not. They were in Ohio and Florida. If it was simply conservatism that drove these folks, you'd expect to find the biggest protests in the south--instead, the smallest ones were. Why? Because, though the ideology and ideas come from the south, the movement itself is orchestrated. What Ohio and Florida have in common is that they are vote-rich swing states: the tea party protests were about 2012, not even 2010, but 2012.

So the ideas do come from the ideology of white supremacy, but the movement itself takes its marching orders from someone making strategic, rather than ideological, choices.
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