Tea Partiers, Keep Your Damned Authoritarian Hands off of Thomas Jefferson


oklahoma-city-bombing-4I got an email from the conservative website, Texas Insider, pointing me to a blog by one Bernie Quigley. It’s all about how the Tea Party movement is all about the restoration of the power of individual states and the illegitimate power of the federal government. So much for interstate highways, the Post Office, and the military the secures all 50 states, not one or two. Whatever became of the National Anthem? Or the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States?

Speaking of the military, some Republican legislators in Oklahoma and that state’s Tea Partiers are calling for the creation of a state militia to go to war with the U.S. government. You can’t make this stuff up. And,  you’d think the citizens of the state victimized by a “volunteer militia” in the horrible 1995 Oklahoma City bombing would be just a wee bit skeptical about using their tax dollars to pay for  a, uh, “volunteer militia.”

Anyway, Mr. Quigley, after taking the broadest possible mud brush to the 1960s, complains about the broad brushing of the Tea Party movement. He does, however, have the good sense to note that the movement will fail if it continues to call for the creation of state-based armies to go to war with the rest of the country. Top notch thinking, Mr. Quigley.

You will enjoy E.J. Dionne’s masterful teacup-smashing analysis here.

What most irks me about the Tea Party — besides the thuggish racism and the constitutional ignorance — is its defense of the corporatist status quo and dis-empowerment of individuals and communities by, say, the insurance industry, which kowtows to neither state nor fed. I’m with the Tea Party on individual liberty, and I’m stronger than they seem to be on individual responsibility (I’m still waiting for the first Republican this millennium to accept responsibility for something, anything).

Where were these people when George W. Bush destroyed habeas corpus, made an official policy of state-based torture (an attack on individual liberty long cast aside by democracies across the globe), or tripled the national debt to pay for a war based upon a lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Seems like people worried about the loss of individual freedom would have spoken up about these matters.

I suspect they did not because they hold to radically different ideas about liberty than some of us. To them, liberty is all about obedience to authority, to a particular kind of authority as it turns out. Protest as they might, Tea Partiers have a difficult time getting around the fact that they are chanting the racially loaded “states’ rights” mantra in the wake of the election of our nation’s first African-American president.

I don’t think liberty has anything to do with obedience. I think we have a moral obligation to challenge authority at every turn, and I actually support the Tea Partiers in this regard, however misguided I believe them to be in the content of their protests. It’s just that they talk about freedom when they really mean:  Do What the Insurance Industry (insert your favorite powerful corporate interest here) and It’s Hired Hands In Government Tell You To Do.

I oppose hierarchy of all kinds, not just the federal government kind. We are all God’s children, equal in worth and deserving of dignity, opportunity and respect. What the Tea Partiers are looking for is a Boss Man whom they will obey so long as they are assured there are people chained below them in the hierarchy. What’s freedom if you can’t kick someone else in the face?

And, by the way, Tea Partiers, keep your damned authoritarian hands off of Thomas Jefferson, who never confused freedom with obedience to authority or hierarchy.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

4 thoughts on “Tea Partiers, Keep Your Damned Authoritarian Hands off of Thomas Jefferson”

  1. Great article, Glenn. What the Tea Party wants is a "daddy" to tell them what to do so they don't have to face the scary unknown tomorrow. Thanks for the thought of Jefferson – my personal hero.

  2. It seems more and more obvious that the entire Tea Party movement is manufactured by powerful corporate and political interests that have a strong profit motive to maintain Bush’s market driven status quo. They are harnessing the nation’s ignorance (the result of a collapsing public education system), our inherent racists tendencies and selfishness that has been fostered by our market economy. Instability breeds unease which tends to make people shop further enhancing bottom line of the companies fabricating this revolution.

  3. I oppose hierarchy of all kinds, not just the federal government kind. We are all God’s children, equal in worth and deserving of dignity, opportunity and respect. What the Tea Partiers are looking for is a Boss Man whom they will obey so long as they are assured there are people chained below them in the hierarchy. What’s freedom if you can’t kick someone else in the face?

    This right here is what we need. Many Democrats are all too willing to point to these folks and condemn them without taking this next step – which is saying what we are for. Having an enemy is good for keeping your supporters in line, but knowing what you are about is essential.

    Of course, doing that will lead us to criticize some on our side as well (which is why many prefer we avoid that move.) For example, progressive critiques of executive overreaching have been largely (though thankfully, not entirely) muted since Obama took office. That’s certainly not because the White House has been doing a great job protecting the Constitution. Here’s hoping more Democrats use this as a opportunity – not just a political opportunity (although its that too) but a change to better engage our principles.

  4. any time the d-baggers want to army up and fight with anything other than bullshit – i’d love to see it. get after it. but don’t let us catch them planting those sneaky bombs – roadside or otherwise – that would make them iraqui insurgent copycats. an army is an army. get after it losers-baggers.

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