Politics Blog

Leftist fist gains currency with right

Last month we wrote about a conservative activist co-opting the successful name brands of Whatcom Wins and Whatcom Conservation Voters to start new political action committees.

Staying on this theme: It was brought to our attention by a reader that the right is co-opting the left again -- not in name but this time but in image.

The Whatcom Tea Party posted a striking image next to its report of success at a Whatcom County Council meeting. At that January meeting, the council unanimously reiterated its intent to appeal a state board's decision governing how water may be used on rural land. The crowd, most of them coming at the behest of the local tea party organization and conservative PAC Save Whatcom, was standing room only, and the tea party credited the large public response for the council's decision to continue the appeal.

Groups such as the Whatcom Tea Party fear that the decision issued in mid-2013 by the state Growth Management Hearings Board will require rural landowners to prove a well wouldn't draw down stream flows before they put one in. While the board's decision puts the burden of action on the county government, not property owners, the outcome could very well trickle down to the owners. The appeal, as the tea party puts it, gives the council and the people their day in court.

Anyhow, back to that image. The raised fist on the red background evokes thoughts of ... socialism? the Occupy movement? the feminist movement? black power? white power?

If you said "yes" to any of the above, you would be right. Initially used in 1917 as a symbol to represent International Workers of the World, the simple and potent image has been used by everyone from environmental groups to Howard Stern to white supremacists.

So, while the use of the raised fist over a row of houses to represent solidarity around property rights may be jarring to some readers, the use of the symbol by the right has precedent.

As you can find in the link above from Docs Populi, the raised fist was used in a poster promoting the Sept. 12, 2009, Taxpayer March on D.C.

The Whatcom Tea Party found the image to stand next to its news story from a FLorida-based Libertarian group called the Liberty Caucus (not to be confused with the national Libertarian political action group  Republican Liberty Caucus).

If you read the fine, fine print on the image itself, the Liberty Caucus apparently grabbed it from the California-based  Law Office of Christopher Sutton -- its website is disappointingly devoid of art, considering how creative its "raised fist" ad was.

It's no wonder the right likes the lefty raised fist. When you consider the political right's options for symbolizing solidarity -- the "Don't Tread on Me" snake, the U.S. flag of course -- they don't have as much "punch," so to speak, as the fist. (The British Conservative Party has the oak tree, but that doesn't translate as a call to action for American conservative activists.)

Certain historic symbols of right-wing solidarity, well -- we're just not going to go there.