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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On This, Let’s Take The Tea Party At Its Word

This country is in a world of hurt if the likes of Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry wins the next election. It might be in greater trouble if Barack Obama does.

I can take no credit — or blame — for that analysis. It originated with one of my colleagues, a veteran political reporter, and he shared it one day not long ago as we were chatting in the office. It troubles me for one simple reason: It makes sense.

So here is how his thinking goes. The genteel, pragmatic Republicanism of the past has been supplanted by a pitchforks-and-torches mentality, a funhouse mirror distortion of traditional conservatism. Meaning, of course, the tea party.

These are folks who don’t just support the death penalty; they cheer for executions. They don’t just oppose health care reform, they shout “Let him die” to the uninsured individual who faces life-threatening illness. They are the true believers: virulently anti-government, anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-tax, anti-facts and, most of all, anti-the coming demographic changes represented by a dark-skinned president with an African name. They are the people who want “their” country back.

The old guard of the GOP doesn’t much like them, but it likes winning so it keeps its mouth shut.

You might think Obama’s re-election would solve this, offering as it would stark repudiation of the politics of panic, paranoia and reactionary extremism this ideology represents. The problem is, these folks thrive on repudiation, on a free-floating conviction that they have been done wrong, cheated and mistreated by the tides of history and progress, change and demography. So there is every reason to believe, particularly given the weakness of the economy, that being repudiated in next year’s election would only make them redouble their intensity, confirming them as it would in their own victimhood.

And ask yourself: What form could that redoubling take? How do you up the ante from this? What is the logical next step after two years of screaming, rocks through windows, threats against legislators and rhetoric that could start a fire?

An awful, obvious answer suggests itself. You reject it instinctively. This is, after all, America, not some unstable fledgling democracy.

Then you realize it was not so long ago that a man blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City out of anti-government sentiment not so different from that espoused by the tea party. And you remember how that tragedy exposed an entire network of armed anti-government zealots gathering in the woods. And you read where the Southern Poverty Law Center says the number of radical anti-government groups spiked to 824 in 2010, a 61 percent increase over just the previous year.

And you wonder.

This is not a prediction, only a speculation — and a suggestion that those of us who have regarded the craziness of recent years as an aberration, a temporary temper tantrum from people who feel threatened and dislocated, may have been entirely too sanguine. In less than 20 years, the locus of radical anti-government extremism has moved from remote woods to Capitol Hill.

How should the rest of us respond? That’s a question we urgently need to answer. They say they’ve come to take “their” country back.

Maybe it’s time we took them at their word.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at [email protected])

(c) 2011 The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

  • Thomas McMahon

    Most us who care to admit it know the true and devastating international financial collapse has yet to really come yet. All we have seen and experienced so far are the bubbles bursting here and there globally. The international banking systems and consortium’s have not failed or collapsed yet except for a few. Without the rich recognizing that a new humanistic Renaissance where the wealthy spend great majority of their fortunes can save the worldwide economies from the collapse on the horizon
    Thomas McMahon
    Millis Ma

  • Dr Snake

    Most of the TPers are upper middle class, middle aged or older white people with money, ie, not the dynamiting type. They’ll parade with a gun but that’s about it.

  • dan daly

    Dem- Wake up and see what’s happing to our country

  • Kevin

    To point out the truth about your bizarre claims:

    Tim McVeigh NEVER said he blew up the Murrah building to revolt against the United States; he said he did it specifically because of actions employed by the ATF in Waco, Texas.

    No one in the Tea Party EVER spoke as a representative of the Tea Party movement in favor of or cheered for an execution. None of the factions of the Tea Party movement address Muslims or gays. There is no portion of scientific fact that has been opposed on the principles of the Tea Party (if you might be referring to Al Gore-inspired so-called man-made climate change, you are only stating your opinion. You are certainly entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts). There is no principle that says, No Taxes; the principle stated is, Control (or Reduce) the Spending. There has been no stated policy of anti-Black president as you claim. In point of fact, your friend (or is it really you trying to pretend to be a disinterested observer?) is as useful to the facts as Rachel Maddow.


    Republican President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech at Provincetown, Mass, accused the “Trusts” of causing the financial “panic” of 1907. He went on to say: “. . . [these men] combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.”

  • SteveHanken

    It sounds as if the best way to deal with this is to let the idiots run the asylum if I follow the logic, but on the other hand, it seems like throwing in the towel is not a choice many of us want to make, I suggest yet another alternative, give them something to really howl about and elect a socialist or a communist for president and run enough independents/socialists and communists for public office to give the right wing the willies. Create enough wedges in their defense wall to really throw them for a loop, they won’t know who to challenge or who to blame!

  • Joeham1

    The paranoid person who wrote the article doesn’t have a clue what their talking about. I’m not a tea party person but I have studied them. The tea party represents people who are only against over taxing, over spending, and big government. The tea party people scare the nutty left wing liars. Hey Leonard ! Debate the issues! Don’t make things up and blame your colleague for your b.s. Adding all the lies to what the tea party really stands for is Leonard’s way of avoiding the facts that lefty’s like him hate capitalism, and hate what made our country great. He is the kind of person that says…do what I say not what I do. Please Leonard! Tell the truth even though it will mean the end of the socialists like you!

  • dmcrane

    I wonder if the defenders of the Tea Party on here have been to any Town Hall Meetings and listened to these false patriots shown down other citizens trying to state their opinions. They make it impossible to conduct any business, scream at anyone who disagrees, no matter how civil that person is, and act like irrational nut cases and snarling dogs. I’ve been there; I’ve seen it at more than one meeting and I resent the way they have stolen our open sounding board to our representatives. They don’t accept that you win some and lose some and the majority rules, it’s all about screaming until they get their way or stop others from speaking.

  • Joeham1

    From your comments I see you have never really been to a tea party rally. Try debating the issues! Calling the tea party people names and accusing them of stealing the sounding board or saying they scream at anyone who disagrees is simply not true! Talk about the issues! Can you? Has the government grown to big? Does the government spend to much? (study a little about Greece) The top 20 percent of the American people pay 84% percent of all the taxes…is that paying their fair share? The real problem dmcrane is leftys like you only have name calling and lies to use because the facts are to powerful to dispute. Our country got where it is by having a small government. The more taxes there are the less opportunity there is. Study history…we became the greatest country the world has ever known by limiting our government and putting the power into the hands of the people. Socialism doesn’t work and never has. A big government kills opportunity and therefore jobs. Are you getting it? The fraud and waste are crippling our country, and the bigger the government gets the worse it gets. Our current administration has spent 4 trillion more than it took in. Did anything get better? The facts are there to see. So again I say that demonizing the tea party may make you feel better but once people like You face the truth our country can get back on track.

  • Danc

    It appears true that civility is on the wane. Having those who are most often uncivil castigate those who are most often civil is a common tactic, and, like the race card and the heartless card, so abused is carry no weight. My assessment of the bulk of the tea party is that it’s focus is on conservation of resources and accountability for expenditures.

  • ggodfrey

    DMCRANE needs to get a few facts “straight” rather than trying to spin everything to his/her liking. If all legislators were T-Baggers all of a sudden, the country/world would be thrown into a colossal depression that we might not get out of for decades, if ever. We would really see class warfare and the “lower” socio-economic classes would be back to working for dimes on the dollar with no benefits. None of their ideas addresses the global economic issues of today. They say Socialism has never worked, great cliche, but in fact Social Security, if that qualifies, is one of the best and most successful programs anywhere. All it needs is a few tweaks and it is solid for another century. A lot of things could be done, but obstructionists want it destroyed, NOW.