The Boston Tea Party Has Become a Symbol of a National Disgrace

by Ben Hoffman

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist. It is also Disneyfied, sentimentalised, and whitewashed.

Here’s a monumental historical irony: a moment in the origins of the United States that every American schoolchild learns to view with pride, the Boston Tea Party, has now become a symbol of our (inter)national shame. In one sense, it is difficult to know what to say in response to the utter irrationality of the Tea Party’s self-destructive decision to sabotage the American political process – and thus its own country’s economy, and the global economy.

Last week, while the US government was locked in stalemate and risked defaulting on its national debt for the first time in its history (and thus also defying the Constitution that Tea Partiers supposedly hold sacred, which declares in the 14th Amendment that it is illegal for Congress to default), Michele Bachmann instructed her followers not to listen to those who attempted to “scare” them with untruths that the US would default if it didn’t raise the debt ceiling. When, of course, that is precisely what it would have done. But the Tea Party has never let facts get in the way of its belief system, and now that belief system is genuinely threatening the wellbeing of the nation they claim to love.

Mottos are supposed to express a philosophy: in so far as the Tea Party can be said to have anything so exalted as a philosophy, their motto is quite telling. They are one of the most inaccurately named movements in American political history, but that inaccuracy is itself emblematic of the party’s adamantine ignorance. Any American schoolchild can tell you the motto of the historical Boston Tea Party from which they take their name and – they mistakenly believe – their inspiration: “No taxation without representation.”

Impatient with those extra two words, evidently, the Tea Party has truncated this proposition to something simpler: “No taxation.” Never mind that the US has among the lowest levels of taxation in the developed world, matched only by Mexico and Chile (are these the nations the Tea Party would like to emulate?). Never mind that the nation’s actual Founding Fathers were perfectly prepared to pay taxes – they just thought those taxes should purchase them a democratic voice in their own government.

Tea Partiers love mentioning Thomas Paine because they think they share his “Common Sense” (otherwise known as a sense held in common) but they haven’t bothered to read it, and are clearly unfamiliar with essays such as “Public Good”, in which Paine wrote that, especially while at war (as America currently is, of course): “To have a clear idea of taxation is necessary to every country, and the more funds we can discover and organise, the less will be the hope of the enemy.”

The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist: it is also Disneyfied, sentimentalised, and whitewashed. It rests on a naïve, solipsistic and exceptionalist faith that for America it will all work out in the end, because America is “the greatest nation in the world”. They take solace in tautology: America is great – this they know – because Fox News tells them so.

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15 Comments to “The Boston Tea Party Has Become a Symbol of a National Disgrace”

  1. C’mon, Ben – fix the headline! I told you what you needed to do…

    • The headline is grammatically correct the way it is. “Disgrace” is a noun modified by the adjective “national.” The Tea Party is a national disgrace and has usurped the “Boston Tea Party” as its symbol.

  2. As usual your post is full of lies and falsehoods. Default was never going to happen.

    “In a series of phone calls, administration officials have told bankers that the administration will not allow a default to happen even if the debt cap isn’t raised by the August 2 date …

    It’s people like you that have destroyed this nation. Typical lying white trash.

  3. Mr. Hoffman ,

    Thank you for confirming my belief in the tea party . The debt ceiling deal is hard to figure out as to who won anything . I figure they must have done really well for the country or you would not be attacking them so vehemently . You are my barometer . The more you hate someone the more I like them . Keep up the good work .

  4. Mr. Hoffman ,

    ” But you can tell it’s bad for our economy by Wall Street’s reaction. ”

    But you hate Wall Street. Those rich bastards need to be taken down . You bash them all of the time . It’s about time they suffer like the rest of us . The fact that Wall Street is losing money should have you cheering . Since they are sitting on their money anyway, if they are losing it, that’s good. Isn’t it ?

  5. Mr. Hoffman,

    Good news, those rich wall street guys got slaughtered again today . Life is good .

    • It’s not just the wealthy who are paying for the bad debt deal. Everyone with a 401k took a hit. Face it: conservative policies are bad for America.

      • Face it: conservative policies are bad for America.

        There was a time when conservative policies were actually good for America. When the corporate lobby took control of the Republicans any sort of real ‘conservative’ policy died. What we left with is neo-liberal prescriptions wedded to simplistic populist tropes meant to baffle the public and get them to support policy that is inherently against them and their interests.

      • Conservatives caused the Great Depression. They have a long, calamitous history of wreaking havoc on our economy.

  6. Mr. Hoffman,

    It doesn’t matter. The rich are finally getting what’s coming to them . I’m just glad to be here to see it .

  7. Mr. Hoffman,

    I have come to the realization that it does not matter whether President Obama looks good or bad . The only thing is what happens to the people rich or poor. You believe the rich have to suffer in order for the middle class and the poor to do better . Except for the speculators who shorted European bonds while the stupid European bureaucrats went on vacation and caused this mini crash over here, the rich got hammered. So you got what you wanted . So lets see if the middle class and poor do better .

    Actually events may bear you out. I see the jobs report was better today. Maybe there is something to this class warfare after all .

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