But it seems an impossibility. It’s like Jesus is said to have said, to gain your life you gotta lose it.
To understand the Tea Party People, ya gotta lose your mind.
It’s not that I’m such a great student of history, though I know my fair share. Not so much the dates and stuff, but the general threads of causation. I get the big picture.
The Tea Party is filled with deliberately false history. I mean that. It’s “history” designed to support the meme of the party, however that might be defined.
Let’s start with the “tea party” label. Who is a tea party person? Well, the Koch’s envisioned a “populist” groundswell of people who hated government. Why would they do that? Oh because they are struggling economically and paying taxes has never been popular. So the Koch’s lassoed that common feeling, and then fed the flames that most of the taxes were going to the wrong places: i.e. poor “takers” who were not pulling their weight because the Democrats had found an endless supply of voters by giving them “stuff”–like food.
The Koch’s were willing to accept that a lot of these angry folks brought a lot of ideas of their own about how things should be run, and since the Koch’s vision doesn’t include them every running anything, they allowed for their anti-gay, anti-free choice, anti-immigrant, anti-not-white, pro-fundamentalism stuff to play in the mix. The Koch’s themselves? Who knows what they think beyond accumulating all the money in the world.
So basically the Tea Party contains a collection of economic super conservatives and/or social super conservatives. They can be all one or the other, or some mix of both. A bunch of grifters always rise to the occasion when they smell a mark. And the folks like David Barton step up and decide they will now call themselves “historians” and rewrite it to suit their new audience of gullible angry people.
We all know from a lot of studies that have been done, that to a degree, one is kinda born conservative or liberal. The latest entries in this growing body of work are Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, and Predisposed: Liberals and Conservatives and the Biology of Political Differences. No doubt these predilections are not written in stone, and environment probably has much to do with it as well. However, it does mean that we enter the world with a certain “world view”. If we get the “liberal” gene we are predisposed to be curious about the world, open to new things, willing to explore changing our minds and our way of doing things. If we get the conservative gene, we are more frightened of the world, see it as dangerous, think it’s best to stay with what has proven good in the past, and stick with our “own kind”.
When the extreme Right decided on adopting a logo and meme to describe who they were and are, it was no doubt comforting to align themselves with the history of the country. Yes, it made sense to see themselves as much like those brave souls who gambled everything to stand against the Mother country and strike for independence. They became Tea Party Patriots, self-described. They took to wearing three-corner hats dripping with tea bags as their costume.
Although studies do show that overall, those who identify as Republicans are a bit more educated than Democrats, this has little to do with intelligence if anything. It merely suggests that to a slightly greater degree, Republicans in general have more education. They also tend to be grossly more white, and older.
Clearly it seems to education has not served them well as regards the history of their own nation. One has but to remember Sarah Palin’s famous explanation of Paul Revere’s ride:
“He who warned uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”
While Palin was sorta right about warning the British (Revere was actually stopped by the British, and had his horse taken from him, and he did tell the British that they would make a mistake if they marched on Lexington, he this was not the purpose of his “ride”.), she added in ringing bells and warning shots, which have nothing to do with the story.
Similarly, Michele Bachmann helped us understand our founding by explaining our “founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery” and that our “founding father John Quincy Adams would not rest until he had eradicated it.”
Of course this was not true. Slavery was written into the Constitution, several of the Founding Fathers owned slaves themselves, and John Quincy Adams was a mere child at the time of the revolution, was not a founding father, and died well before slavery was abolished.
No matter that this sort of thing is common with the Tea Party, they also as we have said, claim to be of the same genre as those patriots. And this is odd indeed.
For if one were to conclude anything from studying that period of our history, one would conclude that the men who pursued independence for this country were anything but conservatives. They were men who were well read in the new theories sweeping Europe based on the writings of John Locke, Montesquieu, and Voltaire, and scientists such as Isaac Newton who brought us to a new way of understanding the world around us. These men were not conservatives, but just the opposite, they were men of the Enlightenment, that amazing time when there was a burst of new ideas and new thinking.
One of those new ways of thinking was a serious questioning of theocratic and monarchical forms of government. Britain represented both, and those soon-to-be Americans who supported the conservative position were holding with the Brits were called “loyalists” or “Tories”. They were the conservatives of the day, while Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin and those who declared for independence were liberals.
Our Tea Party adherents are not in any way aligned with the kinds of thinking that motivated the Founding Fathers. To claim such a joining is simply intellectually indefensible. Frankly I suspect the average Tea Bibber of today has no clue, has never thought seriously about any of this, and would be shocked if you tried to explain it. They seem to be satisfied that their willingness to argue against taxation automatically puts them in league with the Founders.
That might work if we didn’t have pages of subsequent history to prove otherwise. Those who decided to bring armed rebellion against the new country in the form of the Whiskey Rebellion soon found that the 2nd Amendment was used, not to insure their private right to bear arms against the government, but for the government to put them down as an illegal rebellion against a duly passed law.
I suspect this is all too confusing for the average Tea Bagger. It’s just feels better to wave “Don’t tread on me” flags and feel that you are in the tradition of such great men. Alas, that ship won’t float.