Paul Andersen: Fair Game
October 4, 2010
The rise of the Teabaggers is fundamentally the result of a failed education system. Rarely has a political movement relied more on ignorance to further its outreach. I don’t fault the Tea Party for challenging the two entrenched, corrupt parties, but to do so with simplistic jingoism does a disservice to meaningful political debate and necessary social reform.
Sarah Palin is a case study of jingoistic politics. In a February speech to Teabaggers, she urged, “Let us not get bogged down in the small squabbles. Let us get caught up in the big ideas.” Palin’s Big Idea? “American is ready for another revolution!”
Sarah Palin reportedly has an IQ of about 100, which shows that American politics has little to do with IQ. Today’s many challenges require above-average intelligence, yet many of the Teabaggers have dumbed down political rhetoric to nearly imbecilic levels.
What’s really at issue is not IQ, but education. The Teabagger persona reflects a Reader’s Digest world view spun by Fox News and funded by corporate special interests whose legislative agendas will, in the end, hurt most of the Teabaggers.
Teabagger rallies often venerate the Founding Fathers, even though many of the Founding Fathers were of the same elite, progressive mindsets that Teabaggers foment about today. They were well educated, mostly rich, aristocratic, privileged, and intent on holding onto that privilege.
The Teabaggers should reflect upon Founding Father James Madison when he cautioned against the rise of factions like the Tea Party. “The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property,” wrote Madison in the Federalist Papers. Ironically, the Teabaggers endorse cutting taxes for the richest Americans at a time when the division between rich and poor has never been greater and when the erosion of the middle class is widening that rift.
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At the moment, the Teabaggers are a bright flare illuminating the political landscape with flames of revolt. Too bad it’s about eight years too late. That’s when these self-proclaimed patriots should have been chastening Bush. Today, they shout down progressives while lining up for unemployment necessitated by the Bush legacy of unregulated financial markets, misconceived wars, and tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Many Teabaggers entertain a fundamentalist, almost childlike, view of American history. The Founding Fathers are their saints and the Constitution is their bible. They buy into the idealistic myths that whitewash American history and ignore the complexities faced by the Founders as they argued the details of American governance. “Help Save Liberty And Freedom In The United States!” is their puerile battle cry.
The Founding Fathers were anything but a unified front. They were often pitted against one another in bitter ideological and doctrinaire struggles. It was these men, in their powdered wigs, some of whom owned slaves, who are channeled by Teabaggers as spirit guides to the rights they feel are being trammeled in what amounts to a vituperative and embittered victimhood.
The dissatisfaction Teabaggers feel is justified, but they do little to affect real change by parading around in tri-cornered hats shouting revolutionary invective. Some Teabaggers think they’re engaging in political dialogue when they’re play acting at a costume party. Their passions grow as their economic standing evaporates under the consolidation of wealth that is the real outcome of the Wall Street-driven recession – again the result of Bush-era policies.
In servitude to super-rich corporations, Teabaggers demand unfettered energy production, giving only lip service to climate change, the environment and energy efficiency. In obedience to the status quo they champion “market-based health care,” through which they will be gouged by insurance companies and strapped by overpriced medical care. Parroting talk radio bombast, they want government to shrink at a time when many need it most. They champion laissez-faire markets when their libertarian billionaire funders would reapportion wealth to a degree that will leave them without a teabag with which to brew the bitter cup of reality they will one day be forced to swallow.
“Publius,” as Founding Father James Madison signed his treatises, concluded that while factions may kindle a flame, they must ultimately fail to ignite a general conflagration throughout the nation. This is an apt post mortem for the Teabaggers.
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