Tea Partiers Fear America and Its Progressive Promise


    What is even more irritating than my generation blowing the promise of the American experiment is our heirs neither objecting nor even caring enough to call us on it. Worse, as Christopher Hitchens alleges in a Vanity Fair piece, Tea Partiers are being suckered into active participation in the scam.

    Much credit to a fellow boomer, Glenn Beck, replacing hope, dreams, and aspirations with fear, nightmares, and consternations. The flames are stoked by using reliable bogeymen:

    “Millions of Americans are currently worried about two things that are, in their minds, emotionally related. The first of these is the prospect that white people will no longer be the majority in this country, and the second is that the United States will be just one among many world powers.” – Christopher Hitchens

    Hitchens points out a potential alliance, once a dream of liberals, forged into a nightmare. Black Americans are concerned that “Hispanic” immigration will exclude them. Imagine: whites and blacks locking arms (the dream part) to discriminate against Hispanics (the nightmare part). Enough to make one shed a tear for the liberal dream. Yes, the liberal dream; all those founding fathers, to the very last one, were damnable liberals.  

    Here is the art of today’s “principled conservatives:” the domestic political “surge” of the populist right requires those who Hitchens calls “sophisticated conservatives” to “conjure the nasty bits away.” In the day, “sophisticated conservatives” would be the intellectuals like William F. Buckley and Senator Barry Goldwater and there is absolutely no reason to believe hate was at the foundation of their beliefs (it is difficult to find intellectual conservatives these days). In fact, were they here, they would swiftly marginalize the tea baggers. But today’s principled conservative guys and gals are neither.

    Hitchens does something else. He calls the mouthpieces out for uncorking poisonous propaganda. It is the kind of insane diatribe that conjures up demons. The kind of demons that fester into paranoia about a socialist or “Nazi, or Jew-controlled dictatorship;” not-so-easily interchangeable alternatives without a strong disregard for history and facts but the product nonetheless. Of course, they are the very tools that will enable a more repugnant oligarchy.

    Hitchens, describing a Tea Party rally he attended, observes he has never seen “grown-ups behave less seriously.” And for that reason I am compelled to defend populism. Every faddish political bent isn’t populist. As a favorite progressive disciple wrote: waves of popular sentiment do not define populism. Christopher Hitchens maybe inadvertently builds populism a firewall while he burns the notion of Tea Party rationality as defining the populist right. It isn’t necessary. As someone once told me: “There’s a little truth in everything you say.” And when hucksters like Beck appeal to the likes of caricatures like W. Cleon Skousen, that fellow whose photograph is featured above, as proof sources for “ideas that are viciously anti-democratic and ahistorical” to inspire the “believers,” you know a least a part of what they truly believe. They hate America, its progressive birth, and promise.


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