Saturday, February 20, 2010

Those Teed Off Tea Baggers

Certainly not my cuppa. In what waters are they steeping? What are they thinking, presuming they are thinking at all?

Angry?, to be sure. Palinoids?, with no triple digit I.Qs, no question. Libertarians? who want to pay no taxes except for traffic lights, prisons, libraries, parks, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and anything else they might , in their lifetime, find useful. Racist; they do appear to be monochromatic? Corporate-funded, they do have that whiff about them? Come with me to their family tree.

Of our last dozen presidents, seven had no male heirs. Only a bit unusual but if any were like Henry the 8th, some heads would be rolling. We’ve come a long way. Now one wonders whether Chelsea or Malia Obama might one day take their father’s place.

Among our first five presidents only one (Adams) had a male heir and he became our 6th president. In those days it was a major concern that our country not create a dynasty. The monarchial system was devoutly to be avoided. From our inception we have defined ourselves as a nation suspicious of tyranny.

After our successful revolution, we remained a confederation of sovereign states with conflicting interests and laws. It took five years after our victory to band these former colonies together as an indivisible nation with a single constitution. Such was the resistence to a central government.

Ideological battles were waged between Hamilton and Adams, the Federalists, and Jefferson & Madison, the anti-Federalists. It came down to Al versus Tommy with Georgie steering a path above it all and Johnny and Jimmy finding some middle ground.

Gradually the names disappeared but not the fault lines. Jefferson put aside his anti-government bias and muscled his way along with the acquisition of the Louisiana territory which doubled the size of our country and expanded the executive power beyond anything specified in the constitution.

In the same way, John Marshall, as chief justice of the Supreme Court exceeded the authority of that branch of government. In 1803 his decision established the right of the court to strike down a state law as unconstitutional.

I would argue that the anti-government rhetoric, particularly from the Virginia planters, was disingenuous from the start. Such oratory was designed to fever the minds of the disenfranchised rural poor who never met a scapegoat they didn’t love to hate. It also ensured the continuation of slavery and later the poll tax.

Indeed, certain elements in the New England states also threatened secession when their interests weren’t being served. Opposition to a strong central government has long been a self-serving voice disguised as populism in the hands of demagogues. It's always easier to inspire hatred of something far away.

In fact a case could be made that Washington is the privileged few's best friend. The federal government supported our railway system with huge giveaways. It is Washington that subsidizes agri-business today as well as enormous defense contracts. War itself is an extension of foreign policy intended to extend and/or defend American business interests.

The Libertarian / Tea Baggers have swallowed the old slogans of these interest groups misdirecting their rage. Their antecedents are not the patriots in Boston harbor so much as the trampled-upon poor, both urban and rural, who have suffered by the inequities built into our system.

The power of repetitive lies has transformed the role of government to something demonic; as if the word itself cannot be uttered without, big in front of it and bureaucracy exists only in public institutions. The corporate world has won the battle of words. To transform their greed into a battle cry of the under-served is their greatest accomplishment.

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