Tea Party Surge Just a Bump in the Road?

Guy Carawan

Guy Carawan

“We Shall Overcome” was an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Before that, it had been a labor movement song. In 1960, a tall, skinny 1949 graduate of Occidental College stood up in front of the just organizing Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (“SNCC”) and taught We Shall Overcome to students who would go on to organize voter registration and anti-discrimination campaigns across the south.

The song that encouraged workers’ seeking better pay and conditions, and then became a Civil Rights anthem, and then served the anti-Vietnam War movement, then went on to become a song of choice for the students who gathered in Tienanmen Square. Guy Carawan was the 1949 Occidental College graduate who arranged the song in the way that gave it such motivational power. Guy Carawan, now 83 years old, played We Shall Overcome, at a fundraiser in Santa Monica on Saturday afternoon.

As he sat, strummed and sang, the entire audience of old lefties, middle-age business folks, current activists and college students stood and joined in, arms linked and swaying. Even the young children, who had been loudly running around underfoot, stopped and took note. The Progressives have won!

From labor efforts in the 1930s until today, the philosophy of progress has been consistent, pressing always for more equality, more justice, less favoritism and corporate greed. Contrast this with the Republican Tea Party. Although Tea Baggers loudly proclaim “fundamental values,” the last few weeks of the current campaign season have proven, once again, that there are no values to the Tea Party other than the old self-interest, greed and racism that have fallen to the labor, civil rights and anti-war movements for decades.

Sure, the Tea Party will win this fall’s election cycle. Yes, they will do every thing they can to disrupt any progressive efforts of the President. But even now, before their election victories have been counted, they are already beginning to war amongst themselves. They are eagerly acting to disprove any belief in the “values” they proclaim. Their hypocrisy will be their undoing.

Tea Partiers focus on three types of values. Moral values, which they claim come only from the Bible. Constitutional values, which come from what they pretend the founding fathers meant. And Capitalist values, which they claim is God’s chosen economic system. The lives revealed through their campaigns tell us all we need to know about their devotion to these values.

Moral values from the Bible? The commandments tell us: Thou Shalt Not Steal; Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Alaska Tea Party hero and Senate candidate Joe Miller stole computer services from the town he worked for, then lied about it – double header Joe. Tea Party heroine Christine O’Donnell took money illegally from one of her campaigns to pay her personal expense. She stole academic credit from a college by attending classes but refusing to pay tuition. Then she lied about both thefts. Double header Chris.

In the Bible, Jesus stood up to power. When people asked him questions and challenged him, he sat with them and argued. He laid out his truth and let people study it. Courage is a Biblical moral value.

Rand Paul and Joe Miller, and Sharon Angle, and Michelle Bachman and Christine O’Donnell are all showing their view of courage by following Sarah Palin’s tactic of fleeing as fast as they can whenever anyone even suggests asking a question. Jesus knew that he had truth on his side and that hard questioning would only confirm his truths. Contrast that with the Tea Party Republicans, who don’t dare let anyone even ask them hard questions.

Last week, Tea Party hero Joe Miller had his security forces arrest and handcuff a reporter who tried to ask a hard question. Then it was revealed that the guards were not Blackwater thugs, but active duty military personnel in plain clothes. For the benefit of a millionaire corporate candidate, our generals now assign active duty soldiers to harass, handcuff and assault reporters who pursue candidates too scared to take questions.

On the few occasions a Tea Partier has dared to submit to a debate, they follow a course of launching personal attacks against their opponents and ducking questions, or denying that the videotape of their earlier appearances is true. If they don’t even have the courage to stand up to milquetoast reporters, how can anyone believe that they will have the courage to stand up to foreign powers, or even worse, stand up to Wall St. bankers?

Tea Party Constitutional values? In 1787, 55 men from 12 of the American colonies, met from May 25 to September 17 to negotiate, argue, propose and ultimately draft the U.S. Constitution. They came from big cities and small farms and plantations with slaves. There were men who believed in science and men who believed in Biblical truth. There were men who thought great thoughts of international finance and trade and men who believed that societies should remain small, rural and isolated.

They created a great experiment in governance – a novel enterprise unlike anything seen before in history. They argued with each other about its chances for success and they drafted it so that future generations could recognize problems and make changes to adapt as the world, and the nation they were creating, developed. When it was done, they offered it to the voters. Some of the drafters opposed ratification. The majority promoted ratification and we ended up with this remarkable document.

The Tea Party Republicans want to “restore” the Constitution by denying its history. A corporate ad agency created the slogan “original intent” to let business lobbyists pretend that there was no arguing among the Founding Fathers. The Tea Partiers latch on to “original intent” because it’s so much easier than studying through the multiple, competing intents of the various Founding Fathers.

The Tea Partiers now say that they will “restore” the Constitution by cutting away the parts they don’t like. They want to take the First Amendment out and replace it with government by corporate church policy. They want to repeal the 14th Amendment, and end citizenship for “brown” people. They remind us that when the Constitution was written, neither women nor black people could vote or hold office. They want to get back to those good-old days by electing Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle! And by impeaching the usurping Obama.

This “restoration” of the Constitution fits nicely with the Tea Party view of the Bible. Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Tea Partiers say that Jesus was wrong. They insist that we have to force Biblical principles into government. They insist on their Biblical principles – not the principles of the Pilgrims or the Puritans, or the Pope – but the Mormon principles of Glenn Beck.

Recently, O’Donnell denied that the words “separation of church and state” appear in the Constitution. According to her and the dozens of corporate pundits who support her, the absence of that phrase means that the Founding Fathers didn’t intend that concept. This is the view of Biblical literalists. What then does it mean that the word “abortion” never appears in the Bible and that Jesus never criticized abortion?

Tom HallFree enterprise and capitalism? This fall, Tea Party Republicans blocked legislation to take tax welfare away from corporations that ship jobs overseas. They blocked legislation to make businesses accountable for pollution, corruption, and hiring illegal aliens.

Tea Partiers say that they don’t want illegal aliens coming to the U.S. But they use the power of government to protect companies which hire illegal workers. They just want to keep the workers illegal, so they will work for less and not get demanding about any rights. And, they want the government – the taxpayers – to pay to clean up oil spills and industrial pollution, and to keep paying for the roads and services the corporations use generate their profits.

Values? Restoring the Constitution? Restoring Honor? Clearly, the Progressives win in the long run.

Tom Hall

Published by the LA Progressive on October 27, 2010
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About Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family lawyer in West Los Angeles. He is from Boston, and was raised in Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers) to think that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people in techniques for disciplined nonviolent demonstrating. After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make a comfortable life. The Bush administration shocked him back into social concerns. Now he’s working to see that the Obama administration lives up to its progressive promises. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com