It's time to stop treating the tea party as an organic political movement, or even a single movement. On one hand we have paid front groups like ALEC, Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity who are hopefully getting their comeuppeance in Wisconsin today.
A second aspect is religious dominionism, as Ryan Lizza's Michele Bachmann profile makes plain. This group is even plugged into a view of Southern history that treats the Civil War as a battle between the Christian South and the Godless North, the role of religion in the abolition movement notwithstanding. (Liberal Christians don't count, don't you know.)
A third is this bit of crazy:
Tea-party activists called McCain "out of touch" when the senator said he didn't know about United Nations "Agenda 21."One man described the initiative as a "takeover of the United States of America by taking over our farms."
"First, our firearms, then our farms," another man added.
McCain said no Congress would allow that to happen, but that didn't satisfy several in the room who subscribed to the theory.
Gilbert has been a hotbed for the conservative tea-party movement for a few years, and groups have organized anti-tax rallies there and had a growing influence on local elections.
Dr. Strangelove, Dean Manion, Robert Welch, and black helicopters all over again. Everything old is new.
The only thing that makes the tea party anything is the circumstantial overlap among these strains of radicalism. That just makes for a bunch of radicals, not the second coming of bootlegger John Hancock, without even getting into their hypocritical views on government spending and deficits.
Maybe we don't need a Barack Obama to fight this crew, or some other Democrat, but a William F. Buckey, Jr. to recognize the harm they're doing from inside the conservative movement. The so-called tea party has only a 31% approvalagainst a 33% approval for the Republican party.
John McCain actually could have been the man to stand up to the tea party, as he stood against his own party on issues of torture, against the party's race-baiting in South Carolina, and against the woman on the campaign trail who was afraid of President Obama's religion. But he let his personal ambitions get ahead of "Country First." It's all fine to laugh at how John McCain gets treated when he heads back to Arizona, but as long as a fringe group isn't being treated like the several overlapping fringes they are (both objectively and perceptively) by a lot of different stake holders in our democracy, we are not going to get enough done in time.
Indeed, while these strands of lunacy could be good for the Democrats' political fortunes in the coming years, they're already causing enough trouble with the downgrade of our debt, the ongoing war on women, and frontal assault on workers' rights. This unfounded paranoia also makes it more difficult to solve problems, as long as government is seen as the enemy and not, as Congressman Frank says, the name we give to things we do together.
I realize this isn't particularly novel, but the part about government taking over farms is new to me.