A walk through the kingdom of the blind: political romanticism and naïveté

Yesterday I had to laugh at the headline of Hannan’s blog, “Now Tea Partiers are accused of being in league with the British far right”. There’s an old saying that probably has its origins in the Bible, “There are none so blind as those who will not see”.  So in love is Dan with the Tea Party’s supposed ‘grassroots’ appeal that he has allowed himself to be swayed by the rhetoric of this movement. But has he really been swayed or does he genuinely believe the noise that comes from the likes of Glenn Beck and Pamela Geller? I suspect it’s a combination of both. Only a hopeless romantic would regard the Tea Party movement as truly grassroots. Only a hopeless romantic would see the Tea Party as ‘defenders of liberty’. He says,

Take three minutes to watch this CNN report, filmed in Britain, about the Tea Party being “infiltrated by the far Right”. The story is built around the visit by one Tea Partier, a loopy sounding rabbi, to an English Defence League rally. No doubt, in an organisation as large and dispersed as the Tea Party, you will also find supporters who are members of the League Against Cruel Sports, the Freemasons, and the Church of Scientology. As the French say, Et alors?

Non, comme le français dirais: tu me prends pour merde? Is he seriously telling us that the Tea Party hasn’t been infiltrated by extreme right wing groups?  If Dan had been paying attention he’d have noticed a number of stories about the Tea Party’s links with the English Defence League over the course of the last six to eight months. Of course none of those stories have appeared in the Telegraph because the paper has made up its mind about the Tea Party: they’re just a load of misunderstood patriots. He cites the “loopy sounding rabbi” (Nachum Shifren prefers to be referred to as the “Surfing Rabbi” (sic)) as the only example of a link (a word that he vehemently contests) between the two groups. But I do agree that the rabbi is rather loopy.

I wonder what Mad Dan has to say about Andrew Neil’s documentary Tea Party America on BBC2 on Monday night? You can view the documentary here. Like most who write for the Torygraph, he’d probably tell you it’s ‘biased’ even though Neil is a dyed in the wool, true blue Tory. One thing that stood out for me were the numbers of them who displayed an alarming lack of engagement with historical materialism. The myth of the America of the Founding Fathers is accepted over the realities of poverty, slavery, indentured servitude, disease and the lack of the democratic franchise for non-property-owning males. “We want to go back to the smaller government of the Founding Fathers” say many of them. Many of them will claim that they want to ‘protect the Constitution’ and will then add ‘the Bill of Rights’ to that. But I suspect that few of them have actually read the Constitution. Furthermore, the Constitution was written over 200 years ago. France, the other revolutionary republic has had 5 constitutions. each republic had its own constitution which was supposed to be an improvement on the one that went before it. By contrast the US has had one republic and one constitution in roughly the same period of time. In the US, the Constitution is regarded by some as holy writ; its words are set in stone. Truth be told, the US badly needs a new constitution; the political institutions of the country are ossified beyond belief.

Now that Tea Party-backed candidates are in the House of Representatives the Republicans have control. This can only lead to gridlock in Congress as Obama tries to push through his legislation. We can expect  [Ayn] Rand Paul to stand on the steps of Congress and make Newt Gingrich-like pronouncements about ‘freedom’ and ‘smaller’ government. Say hello to 2 years of inertia.

One thing that I find so breathtakingly bizarre are the many self-described Tea Partiers who have some form of disability or congenital health complaint who claim that they “don’t need any government help with healthcare” or “To hell with your socialized medicine (sic)”. Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas. You can find a good example of this cognitive dissonance here.

Now that the election is over, I’m also hoping that we hear no more from this ill-informed rabble but I think I’m indulging in a little wishful thinking. When Barry Goldwater lost the 1965 election his supporters didn’t just shrink away; they formed think tanks and shadowy lobby groups and fought a rearguard action. We can probably expect more of the same from this lot. The fight is not over.

Finally, the rank and file of the Tea Party; the ordinary people who followed the movement don’t realize that they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes by FreedomWorks, the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute who used the movement to pursue their own agenda. Of course, telling the average Tea Partier that they were hijacked by larger interests is only likely to be met with insults and abuse. They aren’t that big on counter-argument.

Some people simply hate change. A lot of people think nothing of the future and others want to live in a romanticized past when everything had its place and things were certain. But that is a narrative and the Tea Party’s ahistorical narrative is now part of the mainstream.

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Filed under Society, Tea party, United States

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