On the Tea Party and Their Place in History

Just when I think politics can’t get any stranger, a Congressional candidate in Alabama seems to be advocating armed rebellion.

What bothers me is the bewildering lack of historical understanding on display here.

Railing against a progressive income tax? Thomas Paine was in favor; read The Rights of Man where he devotes an entire chapter. (I discussed Paine last autumn in the context of Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, in which the media hack held himself up as a modern Thomas Paine, without understanding Paine’s message.)

Railing against taxes in general? George Washington, who tells Barber in the ad to “gather his armies,” presumably for the armed rebellion Barber wants, raised an army to put down a rebellion of tax protesters. (Note to Rick Barber: that was called the Whiskey Rebellion; do look it up.)

David Weigel of the Washington Post deals with Barber’s historical apathy at greater length than I.

Weigel’s article led me to this: The Tea Party Jacobins, an analysis by Mark Lilla for the New York Review of Books that looks at the causes and direction of the “Tea Party.” From the conclusion:

We are experiencing just one more aftershock from the libertarian eruption that we all, whatever our partisan leanings, have willed into being. For half a century now Americans have been rebelling in the name of individual freedom. Some wanted a more tolerant society with greater private autonomy, and now we have it, which is a good thing — though it also brought us more out-of-wedlock births, a soft pornographic popular culture, and a drug trade that serves casual users while destroying poor American neighborhoods and destabilizing foreign nations. Others wanted to be free from taxes and regulations so they could get rich fast, and they have?and it?s left the more vulnerable among us in financial ruin, holding precarious jobs, and scrambling to find health care for their children. We wanted our two revolutions. Well, we have had them.

Interesting stuff going into the midterm elections.

One thought on “On the Tea Party and Their Place in History

  1. It’s a curious thing: whenever people imagine themselves talking to great political heroes of the past, it always turns out the political heroes agree with them…

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