I read an interesting piece by Michael Lind in Salon today. There is a perception across America that the Tea Party is a broad-based national movement. We endlessly hear sound bites from Michelle Bachmann, who hails from Minnesota and is a darling of the Tea Party. Yet, when one studies the reality, the numbers, it turns out that the Tea Party is primarily a bunch of Southern right-wingers.
Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee contribute almost half of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. Of the 62 total Congressmen and Congresswomen in the House 39 are from the South, about 63%. When one thinks about what the Tea Party stands for, I suppose this is not too surprising. Some of these people hark back to the Civil War Era when the South stood whole-heartedly against a strong national government. They’re still pissed off about that Confederate States of America thing not working out.
Seriously, there has long been a strain of political thought, concentrated in the South in which a distrust of strong national government is a primary theme. The Southern states preferred a loose association of states who each had the right to dismiss any national laws they disagreed with. They preferred to fund things at the local level instead of the national level, assuring that local interests were served. The only thing they really thought they needed a national government to do was to provide a strong military. Sound familiar? Not much has changed.
A lot of Southerners and a lot of those Southerners who identify themselves with the Tea Party are damned tired of the Federal government sticking its nose into their business. I’m sure that few of them today would advocate the legalization of slavery as they did in the mid-1800’s, but an awful lot of them would favor getting the Federal government out of the way so they could discriminate and marginalize minorities as they see fit. Pay taxes to the Federal government? Forget it. Unless you’re paying to support a military that can blow the rest of the world to kingdom come.
Come to think of it, they don’t think a lot of the Federal government enforcing that separation of church and state thing either. And we’re not talking about any old church. We’re talking about fundamentalist churches that use the King James version of the Holy Bible. I can just here them singing, “Give me that old time religion. Give me that old time religion….” And that’s just the politicians. Got a conservative social agenda? They’re pushing it. Whatever Southern fundamentalist religious agendas are out there, the Tea Party embraces it. Homosexuality as a sin against God and humanity? Check. Abortions are killing innocent children and it’s a sin (Thou shalt not kill.)? Check. Anybody who isn’t Christian can’t possibly be a real American and shouldn’t be trusted? Check. And so on.
This is not to say that these ideas haven’t caught on with social and political conservatives in other areas. there are 4 members of the Tea Party Caucus who hail from the State of California. Well some primarily Southern ideas manage to migrate with people who go elsewhere looking for the good life. It’s just that, overwhelmingly, the thought of the Tea Party takes on a strong Southern accent when vocalized,….”Y’all.” And that brings me to the part where I have to admit that this kind of social and political thought is one of the big reasons I abandoned the land of my birth and headed north in my 20’s. Never went back.
Just yesterday I was driving on the Illinois Tollway and I got started thinking, “If the Tea Party has its way, and taxes are slashed and government spending is slashed, how will we pay for basic needs of an advanced society with 300 million people?” Then it came to me. Want to use a highway. Pay for it. Make every highway in the nation a toll road. Put those electronic pass things on the windshield of every vehicle and charge everyone accordingly. Need air traffic controllers when you fly? Then you’ll have to pay extra on that airline ticket. Otherwise you have to fly into and out of the non-monitored airport and take your chances. Want police or fire protection? Fine. Use those services and you’ll get a bill when you do. Make the whole thing a fee-based, pay as you go plan.
Meanwhile as a non-regulated economy runs amok, and the rich get increasingly richer and the 90 some odd percent who are not rich get increasingly poorer, and the corporations continue to pollute the planet and increase greenhouse emissions because the Federal government isn’t allowed to regulate and isn’t funded to do anything but fight endless wars, well I think I may do some research into emigration. Rumor has it that there are some nations who actually see to it that all citizens can afford medical care, and provide a minimum standard of living for all. How do they do that? They empower a national government and they pay taxes to support it. What a concept.