I’ve read that the Tea Party is a kind of rebirth of the wacko movement of the mid to late 50s represented by the old John Birch Society — a kind of conspiracy-driven movement if you will. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/18/101018fa_fact_wilentz
But at least the Birchers pretended to be intelligent or were pseudo intelligent.
Some of the Tea Party crowd seem to exude ignorance and even seem to cherish it, although you have to have some smarts to even know you are ignorant.
This is not all to say that the whole movement is populated by the ignorant. I think the Tea Party (not really a single entity with a one registered name, so really I should not use upper case, but many are now) is a legitimate grass roots, populist movement made up of a cross section of the populace who are fed up with business as usual. Many of its followers, I suspect, have not paid a lot of close attention to politics — may not have voted — but have awoken to find things awry and are angered that the elite have let things get this way. They may think they all agree on what should be done, but in reality when it comes down to actually doing things they likely will have wide differences of opinion.
But back to this ignorance thing: First it was personified, in my opinion, by Sarah Palin. Now I don’t really mean that she is mentally challenged, what I mean is I do not think she has demonstrated that she has a working knowledge of civics or political or even general history or geography — reportedly believing that Africa was a nation instead of a continent, as an example, or her uttering of a word not in the dictionary, “refudiate”, with no indication she was trying to make a joke or pun. She certainly is smart enough to know opportunity when she sees it and cash in. And she may well run for president. And if the American voters were to put her into the president’s chair, well those who voted for her would deserve what they get (but what about the rest of us?).
Real ignorance and/or daffiness is personified by this Christine O’Donnel character running for the U.S. Senate in Delaware as a Tea Party Republican, who in a candidate forum seemed to indicate that she never heard of the separation of church and state and did not know that it comes out of the First Amendment to the Constitution. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/
Her defense from her campaign staff is that she simply meant the exact wording of the First Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) does not mention separation of church and state explicitly. I could believe that and even give her the point on that one, but I saw the tape on the internet and she seems to indicate real ignorance.
Even if she was trying to make an argument that the doctrine of separation of church and state is an overreaching by the high court in interpretation of the First Amendment, she still gives off the message that she is ignorant. You do not have to be a history professor to know that there was an ongoing debate in our early days as a nation as to whether we ought to have an official religion. Kindergartners wear pilgrim hats around Thanksgiving to celebrate those folks who came over here for religious freedom. And you can’t have religious freedom if the state (the government) supports an official religion. So the only way out of it is to say that the government should take a hands-off approach to religion. Furthermore, constitutions are frameworks and often lack specificity, leaving that to statutes enacted in accordance with them. It may well be that some who supported the final wording of the First Amendment might have hoped that there was enough wiggle room — although I don’t see it — to allow declaring Christianity the official or semi-official religion. But nonetheless it has been accepted by most educated people through the years that government and religion don’t mix in a free society. Even Jesus seemed to note that government was separate from religion: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
I do think the courts and public officials get carried away, though, when they ban individual prayer by students in public schools or religious invocations at public meetings or football games. The First Amendment in my layman’s reading guarantees freedom of religion, but does not ban religious practice in any way. If the court can look the other way in allowing our money to have the phrase “In God We Trust” (that seems religious), then I think individual prayer (not led by a teacher or government official, but simply performed by the individual) is harmless to anyone — and maybe helpful to the individual.
Hopefully the Tea Party will weed out the ignorant over time from its candidate ranks. If not, then we may all be doomed, because as things stand now, I don’t think the movement is going away any time soon.
Actually if the Tea Party were to take over it might soon realize it had no more clue as to what to do than anyone else and a new movement might have to spring up — the return of the elites.
While O’Donnel is reportedly behind in the polls in Delaware, Sharon Angle, another Tea Party pick (officially she is Republican), who seems to be a little off kilter in her public appearances, is locked in a dead heat with Democratic Senator Harry Reid in Nevada. It is said by Reid supporters that her candidacy is the gift that keeps on giving to them, because until she was chosen to run against him political observers saw him losing to any Republican.
P.s. P.s. P.s.
Some observers have noted that the Tea Party seems to be putting up ignorant women candidates. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has a take on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/opinion/20dowd.html?_r=1&hp