October 19, 2010
THE TEA PARTY: ANTI-INTELLECTUAL, ANTIHISTORICAL, and HISTORICAL FUNDAMENTALISM
Lepore, Jill, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) ("This book also makes an argument about the American policital tradition: nothing trumps the revolution. . . . Americans have drawn Revolutionary analogies before. They have drawn them for a very long time. When in doubt, in American politics, left, right, or center, deploy the Founding fathers. . . . " Id. at 14. "But the more I looked at the Tea Party, at Beck and Hannity as history teachers, at the Texas School Board reforms, the more it struck me that the statement at the core of the far right's version of American history went just a bit further. It was more literal than an analogy. It wasn't 'our struggle is like theirs.' It was 'we are there' or 'they are here.' . . . Antihistory has no patience for ambiguity, self-doubt, and introspection. The Tea Party has an answer: 'We have forsaken the Founding Fathers.' . . . But what the Tea Party, Beck, and Hannity, and the Texas School Board shared was a set of assumptions about the relationship between the past and the present that was both broadly anti-intellectual and, quite specifically, antihistorical, not least because it defies chronology, the logic of time. To say that we are there, or the founding Fathers are here, or that we have forsaken them and they're rolling over in their graves because of the latest, breaking political development--the election of the United States' first African American president, for instance--is to subscribe to a set of assumptions about the relationship between the past and the present stricter, even , than the strictest form of constitutional originalism, a set of assumption that, conflating originalism, evangelicalism, and heritage tourism, amounts to a variety of fundamentalism." "Historical fundamentalism is marked by the belief that a particular and quite narrowly defined past--'the founding'-- is ageless and sacred and to be worshipped; that certain historical texts--'the founding documents' a--are to be read in the same spirit with which religious fundamentalists, read, for instance, the Ten Commandments' that the Founding Fathers were divinely inspired; that the academic study of history (whose standards of evidence and methods of analysis are based on skepticism) is a conspiracy and, furthermore, blasphemy; and that political arguments grounded in appeals to the founding document, as sacred texts, and the Founding fathers, as prophets, are therefore incontrovertible.' Id. at 15-16. Also see Sean Wilentz, Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party's Cold War Roots, The New Yorker, October 18, 2010.).