One of the reasons I’ve been rather scathing about various Tea Party conservatives is that they manage to routinely demonstrate that the “broad brush” attacks made against the movement are … true. Particularly when it comes to those who managed to get themselves elected to a national office, and style themselves as being among the “leaders” of the Tea Party movement in Congress. When you see straight-up intolerance being promulgated by them, as well as a lack of anything resembling a grasp of historical reality, it’s hard not to think that it’s a serious facet of the Tea Party. If not “representative” of the Tea Party movement in general, then the Tea Party definitely has a serious problem when it fails to distance itself from these people. Who am I talking about?
Let’s start with Representative Allen West. He was being interviewed, and the interviewer asked him about Representative Keith Ellison. Who happens to be, in case you missed it, a Muslim. Here’s what happened:
PERITZ: Since you’re with a new crowd, people you haven’t really met before, and will be very closely associating with in the future, including Keith Ellison, who supports Islam, how will you manage that, if I may ask, because it’s not really easy to be polite with individuals one totally disagrees with, which I believe may be the case.
WEST: Well I think it’s most important that I stand upon the principles that people elected me to go to Washington, DC and represent them on Capitol Hill. So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you to just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.
Really. Seriously intolerant, wouldn’t you say? He just said that a fellow member of the House is someone who’s the “antithesis of the principles upon which this country was founded.” It’s outright intolerant religious bigotry on his part. It’s also astoundingly stupid of him. You see, Representative West is an African American. Which means that among the principles in the same Constitution at the founding of this country, he would have been considered “property.” Not really a human being, and definitely not allowed to vote or accorded any rights. Even more ignorant, any reading of the Constitution would show – to a disinterested reader – that there is no religious qualification specified for election to federal office. That’s because they didn’t want one.
Then there’s the always reliably stupid Michele Bachmann. Again. This is a woman who wanted a leadership post in the Republican caucus (didn’t get it), and who claims to be the “leader” of the “Tea Party caucus” in the House. Besides her inability to … write and sponsor legislation, which is a remarkable achievement in itself, she has a perfect record of failing fact checks. Which happened when she gave a speech recently:
Why does Michele Bachmann like the history of the founding fathers so much? Because, apparently, you can just make it up as you go along! Listen ye children as we do a “close read” of this speech and discover the many amazing improvised historical facts Michele Bachmann made up for us.
In other words, she didn’t get a single fact right. One particular gem (with snark commentary from Wonkette):
Eighteenth-century America: “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status… it made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable.” Yes, yes it certainly is! Those black slaves and poor white indentured servants were idiots! They didn’t realize they lived in a totally equal society, completely in line with one another. They just thought they were de-jure or de-facto owned by other humans! Whoops! COLONIAL FAIL! (Also: If this sounds like socialism, it WASN’T. Michele says the Pilgrims didn’t come over here for universal health care, so there.)
Amazingly, people in the audience thought this was a good speech. Which goes to show the level of history education that seems to be rampant in many parts of the country – it’s non-existent. Here’s Anderson Cooper going over it:
I’ve been listening to various Tea Party members complain about their being painted as intolerant, ignorant bigots. “It’s not what the movement is about!” they claim. The problem is that the people they’re putting in office are doing everything they can to show that it is a big part of it. I, probably too idealistically, rather expect a member of Congress to have a firm understanding of the Constitution and it’s history, as well as a good background about the history of this nation. I expect them to recognize that there is such a thing as “freedom of religion” here, and that they represent a diverse constituency, and act accordingly. It’s probably a bit too idealistic, but still, I have leanings in that direction. But when the Tea Party claims they’re “misunderstood” and then I hear silence – or applause – coming from them when things like this happen, it says something. Intolerant and stupid? If the shoe fits, wear it.