A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers

There is a common thread in conservative writing which assumes that conservatives possess knowledge which others lack. This ranges from bizarre interpretations of facts leading to the conspiracy theories which are common on the right to a belief they are defending what the Founding Fathers really wanted. Typically they defend a version of the Constitution which exists only in their heads and is not what was intended when the nation was formed. Peter Berkowitz argues on the opinion page of The Wall Street Journal (long a home for conservative thought which is out of touch with reality) that liberals don’t get the Tea Party movement because of not understanding the debates, including the writings in The Federalist Papers, at the time of the founding of our country.

While Berkowitz’s intent was to insult liberals, it is actually the Founding Fathers who are insulted by such a comparison to the Tea Party movement. Tea Party members who echo the inane sound bites of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are hardly echoing the intelligent arguments posed by the Founding Fathers.

Berkowitz repeats the false claims from the right both that they are trying to restore the government to how it was intended by the Founding Fathers and that modern conservatives support limited government:

In other words, the tea party movement is inspired above all by a commitment to limited government. And that does distinguish it from the competition.

But far from reflecting a recurring pathology in our politics or the losing side in the debate over the Constitution, the devotion to limited government lies at the heart of the American experiment in liberal democracy. The Federalists who won ratification of the Constitution—most notably Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay—shared with their Anti-Federalist opponents the view that centralized power presented a formidable and abiding threat to the individual liberty that it was government’s primary task to secure. They differed over how to deal with the threat.

It is the centralization and abuse of power by the authoritarian right which defines the viewpoint of many liberals. While there is some diversity among its ranks, the Tea Party is dominated by social conservatives who see imposing their religious views upon the nation as a proper role of government. Their view that we were established as a Christian nation is contrary to the view of the Founding Fathers who created a secular government.

When conservatives speak of freedom, they are speaking like the Confederate slave owners who fought for their freedom to own slaves. To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. You cannot claim to support a limited government when you support a government which restricts the rights of a woman to control her own body, restricts scientific research such as on embryonic stem cells, or intrudes upon end of life decisions which should be left to the family as in the Terry Schiavo case based upon religious dogma.  A government which invades other countries, practices torture, and restricts civil liberties is not a limited government. The threat of centralized power comes not from liberals but from conservatives who ignore the Constitution with their view of unrestrained presidential power (or the unitary executive theory).

When conservatives speak of a limited government they typically exclude any government actions they support. We’ve even seen Tea Party members protest against cuts in their Medicare or Social Security, failing to understand that cries to cut government spending are meaningless without cuts in entitlement and military spending. They use spending cuts as a mantra but have no idea what could be cut and no understanding of how little discretionary spending there actually is. Nor do they realize the degree to which it has been Republican administrations as opposed to Democrats  which have increased spending, and increased the deficit, in recent years. While they might complain a bit about past Republican administrations, they concentrate their misinformation on Democrats. They act as if Barack Obama is a Marxist due to current tax levels, ignoring the facts that taxes under Obama are significantly lower than under Ronald Reagan and that Obama has cut taxes since taking office.

In any analogy to the founding of our nation, the Tea Party movement and the rest of the conservative movement would be the Tories who opposed the revolution. The Constitution was written due to the failure of the Articles of Confederacy which showed the need for a larger federal government–but one constrained by the types of checks and balances which conservatives regularly ignore when in office. The nation was founded by liberal men who would be appalled that their words would be cherry picked by today’s reactionaries to promote their views.

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16 Comments

  1. 1
    Tea says:

    A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers: Source: liberalvaluesblog.com — Sunday, October 17, 2010There is a c… http://bit.ly/dn8Hm4

  2. 2
    Mariano says:

    RT @RonChusid: A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  3. 3
    Alan P8 says:

    RT @RonChusid: A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  4. 4
    Paul smith says:

    RT @RonChusid: A Tea Party Insult To the Founding Fathers #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  5. 5
    TheRiverWanders says:

    RT: @RonChusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  6. 6
    PLepp says:

    RT @ronchusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  7. 8
    Anomaly One Hundred says:

    RT @TheRiverWanders: RT: @RonChusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p2 http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  8. 9
    Shirley C says:

    RT @ronchusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  9. 10
    Super Voter says:

    RT @Anomaly100: RT @TheRiverWanders: RT: @RonChusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p2 http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  10. 11
    linda says:

    RT @TheRiverWanders: RT: @RonChusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  11. 12
    Patrick Daniel Quinn says:

    RT @TheRiverWanders: RT: @RonChusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  12. 13
    Ahab says:

    I found a link to this commentary at Infidel753, and I think you hit the nail on the head regarding the Tea Party’s concept of “freedom”.

  13. 14
    Anonymous says:

    I totatly agree with you. I think the tea party organization is an insult to the funding fathers of the United States of America.

  14. 15
    JB Wagoner says:

    RT @ronchusid: To conservatives, freedom means the freedom to impose their views upon others. #p21 #p2 #topprog http://bit.ly/aybwvJ

  15. 16
    Dennis says:

    @ArizonaPaul er·u·dite: Having or showing great knowledge or learning. Exactly why that piece is bullshit. http://t.co/A1slrcbR (5/5)

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