“I’ve seldom seen, in my longish life, grown-ups behave as stupidly, as immaturely, in an election as in the last cycle.”
That was the late Christopher Hitchens’ take on the 2010 mid-term elections which saw the Tea Party first emerge as a genuine political force in the United States. Now another British writer is asking how it is possible for the world’s most powerful country and largest economy to be essentially held ransom by a rag-tag gang of anti-government fundamentalists?
Writing in the Guardian newspaper today, Henry Porter says that the Tea Party’s crusade against the President’s agenda and his healthcare reform is not a political blip, but a “a prolonged infantile spasm” that has managed to totally hijack the direction of the Republican Party:
“This is certainly some kind of high point in the Tea Party’s mission to disrupt, but it cannot simply be written off as delinquency. The movement presents the symptoms of a prolonged infantile spasm, at the same time as a coherent belief that central government and especially Obamacare are inimical to the liberty of the individual and the freedom of individual states to determine their future.”
The Tea Party are the consummation of an intensely American form of modern conservatism. They regard the accountable state as more menacing than the unaccountable corporation. They have no coherent positions on defense or foreign policy, except to say, see, and do nothing. They are anti-abortion, but pro-death penalty. They pepper their rhetoric with largely empty references to “liberty” and “freedom”, styling themselves as the preservers of America’s founding values, without realizing that it was only through the establishment of a genuinely accountable government that such freedoms could ever be institutionalized.
It is easy to dismiss the Tea Party as crank and lunatics, which many of them are. However Henry Porter’s article is right to ask how it can be that they have gained so much deference? We have to take them seriously because they pose a very serious threat.
See Christopher Hitchens’ take on the Tea Party in this interview from 2010: