Posts tagged Founding Fathers
Posts tagged Founding Fathers
This Independence Day, as we’re drinking and stuffing our faces to commemorate the founding of our nation, let’s take a moment to reflect on just how tumultuous the Revolutionary period really was.
History bears little resemblance to the cartoonish view of the birth of the nation that most people hold. Our forefathers didn’t just wake up one morning, declare “no taxation without representation!” and then wait for Paul Revere to tell them it’s on. It was a period of 30 years of internal struggle to define what this new country might look like, and the notion that there were some immutable principles on which everyone agreed is entirely wrong.
In her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, Jill Lepore, a historian at Harvard, writes: “Beginning even before it was over, the Revolution has been put to wildly varying political purposes.”
Indeed, ever since the last of those revolutionaries we’ve come to call the “Founding Fathers” shuffled off this mortal coil, Americans from across the political spectrum have claimed to be continuing on in their tradition. Saying the Founders would be standing firmly behind one’s ideological preferences is a rich tradition in American politics. Back in the 1820s, Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Republicans insisted they were the true Constitutionalists, as did the Whigs they opposed. Both sides of the Civil War made the claim, as did civil rights crusaders and Southern segregationists.
The Tea Partiers are obviously the latest in this long tradition. Lepore found that their “view of American history bore almost no resemblance” to the one she studies and teaches. “What was curious about the Tea Party’s revolution,” she writes, “was that it wasn’t just kooky history, it was anti-history.”
The Founders were grappling with 18th century problems, and would be bewildered by the debates we’re having today. When people say that the Founders, were they to be reanimated today, would be shocked by this or that policy, keep in mind that what would really stun them is indoor plumbing, horseless carriages and flying machines, not to mention all these women and free black people daring to cast votes in our elections.
All of this…
Indeed, the Tea Party crowd so loves the Constitution that the new Republican House majority will take the apparently unprecedented step of reading the document aloud at the start of the new congressional session, presumably including the part about enslaved African-Americans being counted as three-fifths of a white person for purposes of congressional representation.
One also has to wonder if these “constitutionalists” will mumble over the preamble’s assertion that a key purpose of the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare.” And what to do with Section Eight of Article One, which gives Congress the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce among the states, and “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”?
Also, see Slate Magazine’s take on this. The Tea Party’s view of the Constitution is almost fetishistic - except when it comes to protecting the rights of those “less than” your average Tea Partier. Progressives can be excited about the renewed interest in the Constitution and Civil Liberties, but, as both articles point out, we cannot let the Tea Party redefine the Founding Father’s as right-wing ideologues.
To the public and the press, Washington, D.C.-based FreedomWorks Tea Party head Dick Armey has attempted to paint the Tea Parties as a movement by “real” Americans concerned (only) about fiscal policy and government debt. He has pooh-poohed evidence of hard-core racists in his movement. And he has pretended that there is not an anti-democratic (small d) bone in the Tea Party body. Such declarations have led some analysts to claim that the Tea Parties constitute some sort of “populist” movement, in which the voice of “the people,” however distorted, can be heard.
In a stunning set of declarations aimed at the Tea Party faithful, however, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips sounded more like an economic and political royalist. On the November 17 edition of his Tea Party Nation internet radio program, Phillips said: ”The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”
So wait - what if you have a mortgage, the bank *technically* owns your house. If you rent, you don’t matter. My reaction to this:
I can’t stop giggling.
The Zombified Founding Fathers at the end are the best, especially Ben Franklin. To the tune of OneRepublic…