Sunday, October 10, 2010

What are the TEA Party supporters really mad about?

They say its immigration, taxes etc.  But is it really?  A new book just came out that studies the Tea Party as its relates to the U.S. Constitution. Because of the way the media and the rest of our society spreads messages, the Tea Party has latched onto some complaints that aren't related to the real problem.  Jill Lepore in the book The Whites of Their Eyes:  The Tea Party's Revolution lays it out very nicely. So please, those of you who love the Tea Party:  read this book and think twice before you trash the immigrants you encounter.

College students especially should read this book.  It will give you a better idea of the country you live in.


Anatomy of an Uprising

 ...Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book, “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History,” which combines her own interviews with Tea Partiers (mostly from her home state, Massachusetts) and her deep knowledge of the founders and of their view of the Constitution. The architects of the Constitution, she makes clear, did not agree about what it meant. Nor did they believe that the Constitution would or should be the final word on the character of the nation and the government. It was the product of much compromise, and few were satisfied with all its parts.

There were enormous omissions — among them the failure to define citizenship, the lack of a clear definition of suffrage, the evasion of most of the issues connected to African-Americans and Native Americans. Jefferson insisted that “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.” Madison asked in Federalist 14, “Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?” The reality of the creation of the Constitution is a far cry from the idea that it instituted immutable limits to what government could do.

Listening to the many and diverse demands and ideas that the Tea Partiers express in their rallies, pamphlets and oratory does relatively little to explain why so many Americans are so angry. After all, most of those railing against government deficits (mostly created by Reagan and Bush tax cuts), protesting against taxes (the rates on the top income bracket are lower than at any time since before World War II, with the exception of a brief period two decades ago), and complaining about violations of the Constitution were, only a few years ago, much less concerned about these and many other issues that now loom so large in their vision of the future. Without the economic crisis, these same issues would remain unaddressed. Similar outbreaks of outrage and blame have accompanied most major economic crises over the last century and more. The populist movement during the adversities of the 1890s spawned the People’s Party, a powerful but short-lived organization based on hostility to corporate malfeasance and the gold standard. The Great Depression produced multiple movements that reviled the power of bankers and the concentration of wealth. In both cases, as in our own time, the movements soon became immersed in innumerable other grievances and prejudices.

We should not be surprised that so many Americans are angry. Almost four decades of growing inequality have left most of them no better off than they were in 1970, and many worse off. The recklessness and greed of much of the financial world — the principal causes of the crisis — have done far more damage than taxes or the deficit. The corruption and dysfunction of Congress and much of the rest of the government have disillusioned many. Everyone should be angry about these injustices, even if no one has proposed a workable solution to them. The Tea Partiers are right to be angry. But the objects of their outcries — taxes, deficits, immigration and supposed violations of the Constitution — are of far less consequence than the great failures that plague the nation.

Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins professor of history at Columbia and the author, most recently, of “The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century.


Anonymous said...

When I first got to Los Angeles five years ago, I thought I was going to have a great time here. I looked forward to a new mix of cultures, the next chapter in the American saga. What a fool I was. There is no mix here, only a mad grab by each of the many immigrant groups to get what they can for themselves. It is take, take, take and no give. What they give us are dirty looks. They insult us. They spit, drive and sleep on the pavement. They disrupt our classrooms, libraries and computer labs. When I was first here, I was all for the illegals. I was certain there was plenty of room here for all of us. That was long before I had worked out the illegals do not want the citizens of the United States here. They want this place for themselves. They don't want to be Americans. They want us gone. I was never called a racist in my life. Now I am surrounded by racists who call me a racist because they were brought up to be racists and because the liberals in this city have brainwashed them into believing I am a racist. I was always a liberal myself until I lived in LA. These people are here illegally. When anyone tries to speak to them in a civil manner, they shout, "Racist!" We have had enough. How dare someone in Massachusetts presume to pass judgement on what we are going through? Wait until there are a few million of them in your neighborhood. Wait until they are in the majority, and then you will see what they are made of. We are under threat. Does that answer your question? Wake up.

Ken said...

Fundamentally, professor, you just don't get it, and you let your bias show when trying to discount Tea Party concerns. While you rightly assert that there is much to be angry about, you fail to realize that Tea Party anger is directed against the very corruption you mention. The Tea Party doesn't believe that the Constitution shouldn't be changed. It believes that it should be changed through the amendment process, the way the designers intended. The Tea Party believes that the political and intellectual elite in this country, and that would include you, have forgotten that the power is with the people. In your view, and by your assertions, you obviously believe the people are too stupid to know why they're angry. But you have it backwards. They still believe that a return to fundamental principles begins with re-asserting their power. And that means holding their representatives accountable. And that means that the representatives better be listening. You're right in one regard. There is much fixing to do. You, who denigrate the Tea Party, do nothing. They do something. You talk. They act. You theorize. They live. You don't get it at all. They completely do.