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Kevin Drum: Tea Party: Old Whine in New Bottles

Roundup: Media's Take




[Kevin Drum is a political blogger for Mother Jones]

essay about the tea party movement published earlier this year in the New York Review of Books, historian Mark Lilla provided a now-familiar explanation about what motivates the tea partiers. TheIn a widely ready are, he reckoned, angry about the recession; angry about health care reform; angry about President Obama; and angry about educated elites forever telling them what to do. "A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes," he said, and he described the movement this way:

It supports with worshipful intensity the Constitution of the United States; it places itself on the side of the individual and of liberty in opposition to an encroaching government bureaucracy; it respects the judgment of the founding fathers who had so wisely incorporated the separation of federal powers and the rights of the states into the great national document; it defends the American right to enjoy the sweat of one's own labor and the rewards of one's ability.

Actually, Lilla didn't write that last bit. Another historian did. This passage comes from Frederick Rudolph, writing in 1950 about the American Liberty League, a group formed in 1934 in reaction to FDR's New Deal. But it sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? All I did was change the verbs to the present tense, and it might as well have come from a portrait of the tea party written the day before yesterday....

Above all, though, is the recurring theme of creeping socialism and a federal government that's destroying our freedoms. In the '30s this took the form of rabid opposition to FDR's alphabet soup of new regulatory agencies. In the '60s it was John Birch Society founder Robert Welch's insistence that the threat of communism actually took second place to the "cancer of collectivism." Welch believed that overweening government had destroyed civilizations from Babylonia to 19th-century Europe, and he said his fight could be expressed in just five words: "Less government and more responsibility."...

Read entire article at Mother Jones

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