The Tree of Liberty

Alex Pareene has a good piece over at Salon. Pareene writes:

The Tea Parties are based around the rhetoric of the American Revolution, which was a violent insurrection. It makes a sad sort of sense that a bunch of comfortable white reactionaries would dress up their childish tantrums with such grandiose language, because “desperately protecting your privilege in the face of what appears to be the demise of the empire” sounds much less inspiring than “defeating tyranny.”

As the Republican Party has become more homogeneous, more regional, and more reactionary, they have tended to make up for their growing demographic shortcomings by making sure their supporters are more motivated and energized — and the most effective way to energize them has been to make sure they’re constantly enraged.

When the GOP didn’t have the votes to stop healthcare reform from passing, their strategy — and it almost worked — was to scare Democratic elected officials. That was the point of telling everyone to shout themselves hoarse at the town halls: to terrify House members. Convince them that their constituents were incensed. If some LaRouchites or other unclassifiable political entities got into the mix, fine — more voices for the choir of rage. What was formerly a sort of uneasy tolerance of the extremists inched closer to open acceptance. Roger Ailes allows Glenn Beck to run amok spreading classic Bircher paranoia. Matt Drudge links to conspiracy-mad broadcaster Alex Jones. Everyone in the party had to pretend to be cool with idiot extremist Oath Keeper Sharron Angle, because the craziness the right-wing whipped up led their primary voters to select her over the safe party hack who would’ve handily defeated Harry Reid. There are connections — both direct and spiritual — between the far-right Patriot movements that flourished in the ’90s and some of the more out there elements of the Tea Parties.

When everyone’s hoisting guns and shouting “tyranny” and playing at being a revolutionary, there will be a couple people who don’t see the wink.

I think the simple reality is this: if Republicans had an ideology and a substantive, positive policy agenda that was greater than speeding up the transfer of wealth from working Americans to the richest 1% of Americans, they would run on that. But they don’t. So instead they stomp their feet about incremental policy reforms to things like health care and the finance industry that, at most, at a patina of liberalism to the status quo without substantially changing things one iota. They talk about these small changes as socialism, as communism, and as tyranny, exhorting their audiences to be their own little Patrick Henrys.

Again, were the Republican Party not so devoid of palatable ideas, they would not have to use violent and extreme rhetoric to drum up enthusiasm for the public. But they’re afraid to talk honestly about their agenda of class warfare on behalf of Wall Street. Surely this reality would be hilariously embarrassing for Republicans, if they had any shame. We know they don’t, again as evidenced by their absurdly extreme opposition to a health care bill effectively cloned from that proposed by a leading 2008 Republican presidential candidate. In the end, there shouldn’t merely be calls for Republican leaders to cease using violent rhetoric in their opposition to Democrats, but instead that call for cessation should be accompanied by a call for for Republicans to finally talk honestly about the things they do support and why they support them, without the trappings of Revolutionary War rhetoric and regalia.

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