One of the claims of the Tea Party movement is that they want a return to traditional values. They want to restore honor. They want more fiscal discipline in government. They want to put the Bible back into schools. But they have been very hesitant to disclose exactly what “values” means, or what legislative steps they will attempt if they gain power.
Following the primary victories of so many Tea Party Republican candidates, an interesting thing has happened. As Tea Partiers move to take control of the Republican Party from the corporate lobbyists who have run it for decades, the factions have started to quarrel among themselves. Parts of the squabbling have led to publication of clearer information about what Republican plans are for after the elections.
The fiscal policies embraced by both parts of the Party are embodied in the Party’s new Pledge Against America. This is modeled on Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract on America. Remember that the Contract on America was followed by a period of total gridlock, where the Republicans blocked all government actions for a while, while letting corporations run free to pollute and rape the environment and grab as much tax money as they could.
This week, describing the Republican Party plan for after the November elections, Republican House Leader (and life-time corporate lobbyist) John Boehner said "We are not going to be any different than what we've been." No Tea Party faction leader has disputed this description. So we know that as far as fiscal policy, what a Republican victory in November means is a return to borrowing to pay for foreign wars, and for no-bid contracts, cuts in veterans’ health care, public schools, and an end to enforcement of environmental and other public benefit laws and regulations. For Tea Partiers, clean drinking water and safe bridges are luxuries we just can’t afford in the good old USA.
I know, I know. Elaine and Jay and Joshua and Marshall, and other Republican Party regulars will post long criticisms of my analysis. But will they be able to point to any Republican Party or “tea party” leader who regularly disputes Boehner’s description?
Fiscal policy is important, but it isn’t the only important thing. Tea Party Republicans were coached for months to shout about “restoring the Constitution,” without ever risking any details of what parts of the Constitution need “restoration.” But the growing influence of the Tea Party faction has forced the party managers to be more specific.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is now openly promoting repeal of the 14th amendment, to do away with automatic citizenship for non-white children born in the country. Kentucky Senator-in-waiting, Rand Paul, has called for the Roberts Court to declare civil rights legislation “unconstitutional.” Just this week, an email sent by Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss’ office called for the death of all gays. Roy Moore, Republican leader from Alabama, has asked that Moslems be barred from holding elective office in the United States.
In the name of “freedom” these Tea Party Republican leaders want to strip citizenship from brown people, want to take the life from gay people and want to deprive all citizens of the right to vote for candidates whose religion isn’t corporate “christianity”. Again, the critical comments will not point to any Tea Party leader disputing these ideas.
Roy Moore provides some insight into the concept of getting back to traditional values. Moore was the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, elected on a promise that he would oppose 1st Amendment religious freedom for anyone other than “conservative christians.” After a few years of corruption, funded by some of the nations most profitable televangelists, and forcing Alabama tax payers to pay years of legal bills for his law firm buddies, a unanimous decision of an ethics panel tossed him off the Court.
Consider, for a few moments, the degree of dishonesty and corruption that is needed to offend an ethics committee in the Republican South. Remember that South Carolina’s Republican governor, Mark Sanford, used tax dollars to fund his affair, including travel to Argentina, while he was married. Then recall that the Republican Party accepted him back, not even making him repay the tax money he had stolen.
Moore has gone on to make millions of dollars hawking religious souvenirs. In 2006, as a fundraising stunt, he launched a campaign to bar Moslems from being allowed to hold elected office. His first target was a Moslem elected to the U.S. Congress. To “restore the Constitution,” Tea Partier Moore wants to deny voters the right to elect candidates of their choice.
The ‘80s and ‘90s campaign to “defend” the 10 Commandments can help us understand Tea Party Republican “values". Roy Moore said that it was critical to Alabama’s (and the nation’s) survival that the state erect monuments to the 10 Commandments.
Although different religions number the Commandments differently, almost all proclaim that the 2nd Commandment is “Do not make or worship idols.” But making the 10 Commandments an idol to be displayed in every school and courtroom was just too profitable an opportunity. So people who had no concern for what the Commandments actually said made bucks promoting the sale of displays.
The 9th Commandment is “Don’t lie.” Promoters of 10 Commandments idol displays claimed that “activist judges” had driven religion out of our schools. Like “restoring the Constitution” this claim was always made without specifying legal cases in which this was done. Cases weren’t cited because those who actually reads the religion cases (as Roy Moore has done) knows that religion can be taught in school – schools just can’t teach students to favor one religion over another. So saying that Courts had pushed religion out of schools was simply a lie. The people promoting display of the 10 Commandments simply lied about the law to improve their sales.
This is the same value that we see in today’s Tea Party Republican movement. Tea Partiers lie about death panels in the health reform bill. They lie about crime by immigrants, and about corporate welfare. They lie that Hawaii has not confirmed Obama’s birth there. They lie that Obama was raised as a Moslem. Statistics prove that the Obama administration is arresting far more illegal border crossers than the Bush administration ever did, but Tea Partiers lie that Obama encourages such border crossers. Lying is a value the Tea Party movement embraces.
Sex is another favorite topic for Tea Party Republican attention. While Tea Party Republicans want to reduce government’s role in regulating polluters and corporations that sell us tainted foods, they want to increase government’s role in regulating people’s sex lives. They want more restrictions on, and punishment of, ‘evils; like homosexual conduct, and even birth control. And they want more regulation of salacious content on TV and radio. They do not believe in personal responsibility so much as making people turn off their own TVs – NO! Instead, it’s better to censor all programming to protect those who are too lazy to hit the channel change button or the off switch.
This leads to interesting conflicts between the love of lying and the hatred of other people enjoying sex. Many South Carolina and Washington conservatives have long accepted that Senator Lindsay Graham is gay. He served honorably in the military as a gay man. And he, with male lovers in private, publicly voted this month against letting other gays serve in the military that he served in. Graham is a Tea Party supporter and is loved by Tea Partiers all over the South. He is beloved for both his lying and his sexual hypocricy.
This essay only skims Tea Party Republican “values.” We still need to look at the idea of “restoring honor,” with a particular eye for what “honor” means to them. And although John Boehner has told us that their fiscal plan is to restore the glory of George Bush’s economics, we should look a little, in the next few weeks, about what that might mean for real working people.