Tea Parties are like the confederates or something

The Sunday August 28 issue of The Kansas City Star, a McClatchy newspaper, devoted several pages of section A to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Among the stories was "The Civil War at 150: The past in the present?" by David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale. Mr. Blight begins his essay asking: "Why can't we just get over the Civil War in America?"

[I]deologically, many of the issues of 2011 are much the same as in 1861. Given the hold the tea party seems to have on the base of the Republican Party, we should take notice when some in the group invoke the Confederate constitution as a model for anti-tax, anti-centralization libertarianism.

One can easily find scoundrels and wacko nut jobs in any group, including the Democrat Party and, especially, university faculty lounges. But what animates the vast majority of the Tea Party is its allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, not the Confederate one. But Blight is not satisfied; he goes on to compare his ideological foes to slaveholders:

Indeed, yesterday's secessionists and today's nullifiers have much in common. Both are distinct minorities who have suddenly seized an inordinate degree of power. One acted in revolution to save a slaveholders' republic; the other seems determined to render modern federal government all but obsolete for any purpose but national defense. [...] Today, states' rights claims are advanced by many governors and Republican-majority legislatures in the very language of "secession" and "nullification" made so infamous in antebellum America. They are aided and abetted by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, although the justices have not justified "nullification" by name.

I googled "nullification" and was not surprised that the second hit was to a webpage at a site I'm familiar with: The Tenth Amendment Center. The webpage lists the "Current Nullification Efforts," and this statement of purpose:

The 10th Amendment Movement is an effort to push back against unconstitutional federal laws and regulations on a state level. The principle is known as "nullification," and was advised by many prominent founders.

This video of Thomas Woods, on the history and the true nature of nullification, is also very enlightening. (The video can be found here, too.)

Besides the abuse of the Constitution and the unraveling of their beloved country, another big concern of the Tea Party is deficit spending and the federal debt. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said: "The biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt."

For academia and the media to make the decent folks that comprise the Tea Party into enemies of the state is reprehensible. But Blight is right that America is experiencing "some of the worst political polarization in modern times" -- he just doesn't understand that he's contributing to it.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.

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