Stealing The Icon

Lexington, Concord, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and John Hancock’s extra-large signature (so the King would be sure to read it); these are icons of our nation. Our heroes, including their actions and documents, are part of the shared treasure that is America’s heritage. And yet, in today’s politics, there is a movement that proposes to co-opt that history for its own purposes. From Glenn Beck mindlessly dressing up as Thomas Paine, to countless YouTube videos, to rallies dominated by muskets and tri-corner hats,to Rick Barber’s unhinged campaign ad, the Tea Party and its adherents are turning our history into a campaign slogan.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with advocating for a libertarian approach to government (and the drastic reduction in taxes and regulations it supports); it is a perfectly rational argument. There is nothing wrong with advocating for a balanced budget amendment, which can also be rationally argued for. There is no great crime or moral deficiency in being either liberal or conservative. Nor is there any loss in dignity attached to being somewhere in between. The damming moral and ethical component to the Tea Party’s method, is that they seek to deliver a one-sided veiw of our nation’s history with the goal of rationalizing its own political agenda.

To this end, the adherents of the philosophy are willing to ignore all of the writings of the Founding Fathers that are contrary to their philosophy, and embrace all that supports their notions. They stand, paradoxically so, in support of the Constitution but against the Amendments. They are willing to argue as un-American, laws and practice directly supported by the Constitution. Finally, they are willing to weave into all of their communications the direct, relentless, and unmistakable call to violence and revolution. Some in the so-called fringe will admit to this call to action, a moment of clarity that I find refreshing. The majority of candidates allude to violence, allude to revolution, allude to secession, allude to mutiny, but retreat into defenses of “analogy” and “humor” when pressed. It is the act of a coward to call for violence and then to step back while others step forward.

The constant scream of “taxation without representation” stands as the theme of this crass and thinly supported ad campaign. The colonials that were our Founding Fathers were fed up; with the quartering at their expense of Royal soldiers; with searches and seizures of private property without warrant; with taxes levied and collected by a Royal Parliament for which no Colonial was allowed admittance or voting rights. Our nation, in perfect adherence to the Constitution as originally written and properly amended, has 435 members representing reasonably proportional groups of citizens. Our nation, in adherence to the above, has 100 Senators representing the fifty states. Our nation has a President elected to represent the whole of the country. In a nation of 300 million, laws which an individual or group opposes are the norm. It isn’t immediately apparent that taking your toys and going home is a patriotic act.

That we are paying $1 trillion plus interest in tax dollars for an unnecessary war in Iraq is not taxation without representation; it is the consequence of representative decisions that we didn’t like. That our nation passed Medicare in 1965 with a narrow majority (and over the objections of Ronald Reagan, who recorded a famous ad labeling the program communism) is not taxation without representation, it was a  representative decision we didn’t like. We could repeat this list ad nauseum, going through the long history of our republic to find every piece of legislation that was passed by a majority and not through unanimous consent. But the point, I hope, is already clear.

The Tea Party proposes that we abandon our Constitution because they don’t like majority rule. They propose to ignore the Founding Fathers because they don’t like compromise. They propose to threaten, badger, and lie because they are angry that their views are in the minority (and because they are foolish enough to believe that their opponents won’t fight back). And they propose to steal the icons of American history because they lack the intellectual content, discipline, and honesty to argue on behalf of their political goals. The great tragedy of this is that many good Americans have been taken in by the earnest and repetitive salesmanship of these liars. The morally bankrupt godfathers of the movement, like ex-Congressman Dick Armey, know better but don’t care. It is the quintessential story of American politics; a few corrupt and power-hungry folks leading a group of trusting Americans unaccustomed to reading history.

Read the Constitution thoroughly, and take an interest in collections like The Federalist. The foundational documents of America are compelling works, and their recitation is sufficient to bring round most of those now following the Tea Party. Truth is a powerful ally, and it lies not with those jaded souls dressed in Colonial costumes. Don’t let the Tea Party escape with our treasure.

The Rational Middle is listening…

6 thoughts on “Stealing The Icon

  1. unhinged: mentally deranged.

    ….just sayin’…… That is of course, you are stating you think Barber IS mentally deranged. Then, I would just have to disagree.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment.

  2. I don’t think that there is anything misleading calling an ad with a guy angrily talking to long dead men unhinged:) And you are certainly able to voice your disagreement in this place whether you put me on that list or not….I won’t even label your comments inflammatory or misleading.


    With Congressional job approval ratings averaging about 72% disapproving, I’d say we’re well over due a correctional, regular election.

    I’m just not sure I would agree we have a true representative government anymore. And I do feel we need to gravitate more in that direction in the future. Apparently, over 70% of the population agrees with me.

    “I am a Conservative: I like to remind politicians that they are my employees – who can be fired at will.”

    Btw….I would disagree with your characterization of Barber’s Ad as “unhinged”. Surely we can voice our disagreement to the tone of such things without inflammatory and misleading rhetoric.

    Better watch it. I may have to put you on my “Hate Mongers” list!! 😉 😉

  4. What is true majority rule Hank? Is it law by referendum, wherebye what the results of the Daily Kos poll or Rasmussen poll determines whether a law passes? Because, in essence, when you say that the majority voted against the wishes of the people, you must have some basis for knowing (more than those reps) what ALL of their constituents wanted. The Tea Party continues to say that they want to go back to the Constitution; the fact is we haven’t left it. Staying away from the individual politics of any issue, there will always be a gap between the wishes of some large percentage of Americans and what the representatives vote on. The check on that is regular elections; if a majority of a representatives constituents feel that they have been poorly voiced, then they will vote the bum out. In our form of government 49.9% of the country can literally hate a law; if you can’t accept that, then there is a problem.

  5. I think part of the issue is which “majority” is it that rules? I think it goes without question our elected representatives are more invested in “representing” what is good for themselves over what is good for the majority of their constituents. I have no doubt, and I don’t think any “rational” person does either, that our elected representatives have “evolved” (?) to a point that they think they know what is best for us regardless our wishes.

    Therefore, I think the “majority” that rules us has DE-volved (if you will) to mean the majority of the representatives, voting their own wishes with absolute disregard for the wishes of their constituents.

    Take the Health Care Reform debacle. They voted what they felt was best for us against the wishes of the majority of people. (And please don’t try to nail me with “the majority of people wanted Health Care Reform.” Of course we did and do. We just didn’t want the travesty foisted on us.) If they pass Cap and Trade and it results in oppressive increases in the cost of fuel and electricity, to you think “John and Jane Constituent” actually want to bear these costs to further some radical environmental agenda?? (Hey. But never let a good crisis go to waste!!)

    That is my understanding of what the “Tea Party” Advocates. I think they want to return to something more akin to true “Majority Rule”. Not elect some Congressman to a life term and allow them to vote what the majority of Congressmen want FOR us!

    There’s a subtle difference. The Rational Middle should understand that quite well.

    Listening is a start……

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