Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back to the Future

The insight of history is a powerful thing and I have lived long enough to have had the opportunity to witness many things. I can remember watching the KKK marching through the rural area where I lived as a small boy carrying crosses. I have also seen those strains of thinking espoused by the John Birch Society, the religious right, compassionate conservatives, and other right-wing groups during the segregated days of 1950s and 60s. Today there is a new repackaged conservatism that is a diverse movement with many philosophical threads and tensions who call themselves the Tea Party.

In my view, the rise of the Tea Party movement is nothing more than a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since Roosevelt as unconstitutional, to include many civil rights initiatives. The reason, I believe is because from that point in our country’s history the government became socially conscience and began to address the needs of the elderly, the poor, and the least of thee. This element of society typically perceives these issues as dangerous threats to freedom and to the well-educated elitists that support "American values" or as they say the “Real Americans”.

Let me be a critic for a moment. These compassionate folks tend to show their compassion, often times, in support of big-business with their public rhetoric intended for their own self-serving agendas. For example, last week Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP as if they were the victims of what is happening in the gulf. While basically calling the President a thug with the "shakedown" comment of the company for $20 billion on behalf of those hurt by the gulf oil spill. This is embarrassing precisely because it underscored how far this element is to the extreme as it relates to mainstream America. When faced with a choice between supporting a large British corporation or a federal government battling for compensation of the disaster's victims, Barton sided with Big Oil as did many of his conservative counterparts.

Now, the guy did or was forced to apologize because of pressure from other Republican leaders, but many in the party and on the right continue to echo his views. Like the Republican Study Committee made up of more than 115 House conservatives called the escrow fund a “Chicago-style shakedown” while leaders of certain factions of the Tea Party called it “extortion”. Could it be that the stock they may have in such companies really be the reason for their greater concern.

A group called Tea Party Patriots that describes itself as "a community committed to standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded!" Tea Party Nation says it is "a user-driven group of like-minded people who desire our God given Individual Freedoms which were written out by the Founding Fathers." My question is to them; have they read the original Constitution? These Founding Fathers were really terrorists and the same men who owned slaves, wrote in it that Negroes were 3/5th a man, and denied women all rights. Is this what they want to go back too?

What's remarkable is the extent to which the movement has displaced the religious right as the dominant voice of conservative militancy. The religious conservatives have not disappeared, and Palin, a Tea Party hero, does share their views on abortion and gay marriage. But these issues have been overshadowed by the broader anti-government themes pushed by the New Old Right, and the "compassionate conservatism" that inspires parts of the Christian political movement has no place in the right's current order of battle. This seems un-American to me, dangerous, and frankly resurrecting an American that even they want to forget.

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