College students especially should read this book. It will give you a better idea of the country you live in.
By ALAN BRINKLEY
Published: October 8, 2010...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.