The Tea Party — Again

Sharron Angle, running against Harry Reid in Nevada Senatorial race

My column last week about the tea party generated considerable comment.

I like to know what others think about my columns, even if some of the comments were knee-jerk reflexes to any disagreement with tea party ideology.

The angriest readers didn’t seem to believe that I was mainly quoting tea party spokespeople. If that makes me a “liberal” “progressive” “socialist” “idiot,” I accept the label.

I’m a persistent idiot, though. This time I just want to detail some of the political ideas that candidates for high office, who claim to be leaders of the tea party movement, have advocated for all Americans.

Sharron Angle, Republican nominee for Senate in Nevada, opposed fluoridation of water in 1999 and she recently advocated making alcohol consumption illegal. Angle thought in 2009 that it is “the right thing to do” if  “one parent stays home with the children and the other provides the financial support for the family.” Last month Angle said: “We need to phase out Medicare and Social Security in favor of something privatized.” She wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and repeal regulations which restrict off-shore drilling.

Angle implied this year that Americans might have to take up arms against our own government. In January, she said, “If Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” In a May conversation about guns, she added, “If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”

Rand Paul, Republican candidate for Senate in Kentucky, made a big splash in an MSNBC interview with Rachel Maddow by attacking the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for not allowing private businesses to practice racial discrimination. Paul also opposed the Fair Housing Act and has criticized the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Paul, and many other conservatives, have complained that President Obama has been too harsh with BP for its oil catastrophe.

Few of these political ideas are now being advocated by their former proponents. They don’t appear on newly scrubbed campaign websites. Rand Paul discovered that most of his fellow Republicans disagreed with his idea that a significant part of the civil rights triumph of the 1960s was wrong. That led him and the Republican Party into a whole new strategy of pretending that past statements don’t exist and only allowing these very conservative candidates to appear in front of friendly media hosts, who will not ask about them.

Angle and Paul have changed their tune for good reason. Each of the above political positions is far out of line with what most Americans want.

Taken together, they indicate how radical these candidates are, even how dangerous.

How many parents want their children to get more cavities so that we can protect ourselves from imaginary plots to drug us with fluoride? Much more significant is the belief that businesses should be so free of government regulation, meaning regulation by our whole society, that they can pollute as they wish and return to their former discriminatory practices against African Americans, Jews, and women.

These ideas were not misstatements by nervous political neophytes. They reveal the extreme conservative belief that the free market is not just a high priority, it is the only priority.

Steve-HockstadtI want my government to stand behind laws that make discrimination illegal in every business in the U.S.

One of the biggest changes in Jacksonville and other American towns in the 20th century was the legal end of segregation in local businesses. If some candidate for national office thinks that should not have happened, I want to know why.

And then I’ll do everything I can to defeat them.

Steve Hockstadt

Mr. Hochstadt is professor of history at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and author of Sources of the Holocaust (Palgrave, 2004) and Shanghai-Geschichten: Die jüdische Flucht nach China (Berlin: Hentrich und Hentrich, 2007).

Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, June 15, 2010. Published with the author’s permission.

Published by the LA Progressive on June 28, 2010
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About Steve Hochstadt

Steve Hochstadt is professor of history at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and author of Sources of the Holocaust (2004) and Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich (2012), both from Palgrave Macmillan. He writes a weekly column for the Jacksonville (IL) Journal-Courier and blogs for the History News Network. "His latest work is presented at www.stevehochstadt.com."