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November 02, 2010



The uses and abuses of history in American politics is nothing new, and it comes from both sides. It is all part and parcel of constructing a narrative that will capture the imagination.

FWIW, I think the Tea Party movement is best understood as a populist movement firmly within the tradition of such things, and its best precursor is William Jennings Bryan. The Tea Party happens to have found more common cause with the GOP this time than the Democrats, but at base it is rooted in opposition to bigness. Like Bryan, it is strongly anti-bank, and deeply opposed to the alliance between the government and the really big corporations. See, e.g., the promises from the Tea Partiers to "punish" the big corporations -- Johnson and Johnson, the big banks, etc. -- that promote and benefit from the Obama agenda. I think the Tea Party is a genuine grass roots movement and that it has a lot of longevity, probably akin to the populism of 100+ years ago. Moreover, the GOP is riding a tiger, and it will not necessarily benefit in 2012.


Many issues raised. I'll pick only one to tip: the anti-history goes beyond pamphlet and stump speech. With control of school boards in places like Texas, it gets written into textbooks distributed across the country. With placement in military information offices, it gets taught to JROTC students as fact.

This is a virus more potent and dangerous than any pamphleteer, sloganeer, or opportunistic campaigner open democracy has faced down before. It is the civic AIDS of our day, recruiting the body's own defenses to work its damage.

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