There are many potential or would-be leaders for the Tea Party craze – from libertarians to conservatives to Christian dominionists like Sarah Palin. In short, the Tea Party attracts anyone who has a gripe – or is slightly imbalanced. Sane voices are lost in the crowd and as I said in my previous piece, “we can’t tell who has the tinfoil hats and who doesn’t.”
We might learn more about who is behind the craziness by looking at who sponsored the Tea Party Convention in Nashville: First and foremost is the Tea Party Nation, or TPN – the allegedly Republican-controlled Tea Party faction, and this is borne out by the sponsorship of VisionAmerica: “Our mission is to inform, encourage and mobilize pastors and their congregations to be proactive in restoring Judeo-Christian values to the moral and civic framework in their communities, states, and our nation.”
Nothing goes together these days in the GOP like politics and “Judeo-Christian values” – hardly a libertarian core-tenet.
This agrees with David Barstow’s examination of the phenomenon: “Further complicating matters, Tea Party events have become a magnet for other groups and causes — including gun rights activists, anti-tax crusaders, libertarians, militia organizers, and the “birthers” who doubt President Obama’s citizenship, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and proponents of the sovereign states movement.”
Significantly, he observes that “It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny.”
This is a theme embraced by conservatives and by the Republican Party itself. As Politico reports, “The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to “save the country from trending toward socialism.”” In a bizarre new twist, the Democratic-controlled government is now considered the “Evil Empire.”
This sort of normative inversion is easier to accomplish when you present the president as “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief,” as did Tea Party leader Mark Wilson on Anderson Cooper 360 show last September.
Demonize the constructed other and you energize fear; portray the president as a white-hating illegal alien un-constitutionally occupying the White House and you energize the white protestant gun-toting secessionists – including Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas – who is not only a secessionist but just won re-election in the Lone Star State. Feeding on these paranoid themes, Perry, expressing the wet-dream of would-be martyrs everywhere, claimed that the “Obama administration “and its allies already have Texas in their cross hairs.”
You may be assured that they will, Mr. Perry, should you attempt to secede from the Union. Don’t believe your own propaganda; whatever the “Politically Incorrect Guide” book told you, we settled this issue for good in 1865.
At the core of the Tea Party then is not only a call for libertarian or conservative ideals of fiscal responsibility but a call for rebellion. There is a world of difference between saying “the government is spending too much!” and “we have to do away with the government!”
But politics have become less about…politics…than a struggle between good and evil. When you couch our political landscape in those terms, when you convince yourselves that you’re channeling the Founding Fathers – you have stepped out onto a very slippery slope in a descent to madness.
It is no surprise that for the conservative Christian-controlled GOP and TPN especially that the whole thing is very apocalyptic in flavor.
And by no means is it a secondary issue – it is at the heart of the Tea Party narrative; as David Barstow writes, “At recent Tea Party events around the country, these concerns surfaced repeatedly.”
It is a frightening conjunction of interests as the marriage between the Tea Party and the resurfacing Patriot militia movements demonstrate. Barstow writes that, “In Indiana, for example, a group called the Defenders of Liberty is helping organize “meet-ups” with Tea Party groups and more than 50 Patriot organizations.” I live in Indiana; you can imagine how warm and fuzzy this makes me feel inside.
Worse news from Indiana is the report by ThinkProgress that “Indiana RTV6 reports that “an increasing number of Indiana residents” are taking radical right-wing “tenther” beliefs to their logical extreme, declaring themselves “sovereign citizens” exempt from federal law and from paying taxes.”
According to Wikipedia,
The Tenther movement is used to describe a political ideology and a social movement in the United States which espouses that many actions of the United States government are unconstitutional. Adherents invoke the concept that the states share sovereignty with the federal government and with the people by citing the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the basis for their legal and ideological beliefs.
It does not seem to be only conservatives lining up for tinfoil hats but libertarians with a fear of big government who have perhaps let their imaginations run away with them. The “New World Order” phenomenon is by no means limited to conservatives and Christian apocalyptic millenialists awaiting the return of Jesus but is embraced by some libertarians as well.
From a progressive standpoint, Birthers and Tenthers seem made for each other – it all just goes to show that homemade sin is no more ugly than that produced in conservative think tanks. The only difference seems to be the size of the birthing chamber.
All these groups are stoking fears, and all of them are feeding off one another, seeming to be in a race to see who can have the biggest tinfoil hat. It is not enough anymore to simply engage the other side in rational debate about the size of government, taxation, spending, fiscal responsibility, etc. Instead, the other side’s position must be demonized, the president himself must be cast into the role of the constructed other in order to delegitimize all other points of view. It’s very Old Testament-sounding, this apocalyptic fire and brimstone nihilism, and it’s very frightening.
But America is center-left. The 2008 elections demonstrated the lie of the “center-right” myth for all to see. Small tents do not build consensus; they do not allow for the necessary levels of conciliation and compromise, the mortar that holds society together. The progressive voice in America, though less heralded, has also grown stronger. While it lacks wacky pundits like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who attract an imbalance of media attention, this is all to the better, since cults of personality tend to implode messily.