William Hogeland, the author of the progressive American history blog, Hysteriography, has been debating Michael Patrick Leahy, a Tea Party activist, about the ways in which the Tea Party uses American history to promote its cause.
The debate is taking place at “Line of Fire blog, but Hogeland is also offering summary at Hysteriography. Here is a taste of their ongoing exchange:
The Tea Party movement, for example, has laid its claim on the founding period, and to a great extent that claim is indeed an economic and financial one. Casting the modern welfare state as a form of tyranny, in large part because of what they see as its excessive taxation, Tea Partiers invoke the famous American resistance to Parliament’s efforts to raise a revenue in the colonies without the consent traditionally given by representation. . . . The Tea Party thus edits out an alternative view of government that prevailed among the ordinary 18th-century Americans who were all-important to achieving independence. . . . The internal struggle for American equality was as important to the founding as the high-Whig resistance to England, but the Tea Party can’t deal with the populist leaders and militia rank-and-file who wrote the socially radical 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, or the Shaysites of Massachusetts who marched on the state armory, or the so-called whiskey rebels who inspired federal occupation of western Pennsylvania.
Mr. Hogeland condescendingly assumes that tea party activists are unfamiliar with these three historical incidents. To the contrary, we are more familiar with their relevance to our modern circumstances than is Mr. Hogeland himself.
As an historian, Mr. Hogeland should familiarize himself with the three core values of the Tea Party movement, which we’ve loudly proclaimed in every venue possible for the past two years: (1) Constitutionally limited government (2) Free markets and (3) Fiscal Responsibility.
As he well knows, both the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution and the Shays Rebellion of Massachusetts took place before the ratification of the Constitution. As for the “Whiskey Rebels” of western Pennsylvania, their complaint against the early Federal government was that it passed a law that unfairly taxed small whiskey producers at much higher rates than large whiskey producers in urban areas. It was a violation of their individual liberties and the principles of free markets for the government to pick the “winners” (large urban manufacturers) and “losers” (small rural manufacturers).
J. L. Bell says
Historians might also wish to familiarize themselves with Michael Patrick Leahy’s writings on Barack Obama’s birth certificate during the 2008 campaign and the following year.
Scientists might be interested in what Leahy wrote in the Los Angeles Times about the “the scientifically based approaches of ‘Old Earth Creationists’ and ‘Intelligent Design’ advocates” in 2007.
Finally, scholars of American religion might be interested in two websites that Leahy managed in that period: ChristianFaithandReason.com and GlobalGreatAwakening.com, both now shut down but preserved in part at Archive.org.
That documented history makes an interesting contrast with Leahy’s careful claims about the limited basis of the Tea Party movement “for the past two years.”
Tom Van Dyke says
I think that rather poisons the well, Mr. Bell.
Crank stuff, though, admittedly.
Seems like rather a fair fight for a change: although no historian, Leahy is a magna cum laude grad of Harvard, which means for once, this won't be [and isn't] a total intellectual mismatch.
Usually, it's the historian vs. the benighted tomato can, ala Joe Louis' Bum-of-the-Month Club. [See Harvard historian-journalist Dr. Jill Lapore's “expose” of the ignorance of Tea Partiers she found at her local rallies.]
John Fea says
J.L.: Maybe Hogeland is giving Leahy too much credit.