FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tea Party Panic

by DAVID ROSEN

Tea Party advocates and rightwing media pundits were gleeful in the aftermath of this week’s primary election results. They were buoyed by their candidates’ strong showings throughout the country against the Republican establishment, particularly in Delaware and New York. The November election will determine whether the Tea Party will take control of the Republican Party and pull the Congress even further to the reactionary right.

Amidst all the victory hoopla, stories about the questionable sexual- and race-related attitudes and behavior of two of the Tea Party’s principal proponents, Delaware’s senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell and New York’s gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, have garnered as much notoriety as their often-questionable policy pronouncements.

Delaware candidate O’Donnell proposed in a 1996 MTV program and again in a 1998 article, “The Case for Chastity,” that masturbation is sinful and that looking at pornography is equivalent to adultery. She proudly declared:

When a married person uses pornography, or is unfaithful, it compromises not just his (or her) purity, but also compromises the spouse’s purity. As a church, we need to teach a higher standard than abstinence. We need to
preach a righteous lifestyle.

She has apparently not revised or repudiated her position in the intervening years.

The New York gubernatorial candidate Paladino has come under increasing media scrutiny for a growing number of apparent indiscretions. They include revelations about his collection of Internet porn which he gladly shares with his construction-industry “buddies” and racially-provocative e-mails depicting Pres. Obama as an African tribesman or a ‘70s-era pimp (with his wife, Michelle, depicted as a “ho”). More troubling are revelations about his extra-marital affair with an employee and the “love child” he fathered.

What is most striking about these incidents is not the specific actions, but the fact that Tea Party proponents have shrugged off these embarrassments as inconsequential in assessing their candidates for public office. With an almost, aw-shucks attitude, the Tea Party right sees the values and actions of their candidates like the conduct of ordinary folk, their next-door neighbors.

In fairness, a candidate’s private actions, to the extent that they are not criminal (e.g., pedophilia, rape) or inflict real suffering on another (e.g., physical and psychological abuse), shouldn’t be the principal factor in evaluating the candidate’s competency to govern.

Over the last few years, Republicans like Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign and Gov. Mark Sanford have been outed for their sexual indiscretions with little political fall-out. These conservative Republicans have adhered to a liberal moral standard and have gone on with their political careers with only a little mud on their respective faces, suffering no real price to pay. Yet, as was evident with the revelations about president candidate John Edward and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, when comparable revelations of sexual indiscretions about Democratic came out, those involved were forced from the political playing field. Such is the nature of the moral double-standard that defines American politics.

Hidden at the root of the Tea Party movement are the issues of sex and race, especially interracial sex and the resulting “pollution” of the white “stock.” The movement has sought to keep conventional “culture wars” issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research at an arms-length’s-distance from its organizing efforts. Knowing full well that the majority of Americans reject conservative Christian values, the Tea Party has campaigned on fighting personal taxes, the federal debt and the “tyranny” of Washington.

Nevertheless, the Tea Party’s appeal to traditional Christian values, its unstated secret agenda, was publicly exposed by the O’Donnell and Paladino revelations. At the heart of this unstated agenda are white Christian America’s deep-seated fears of sex, race and interracial “pollution.”

* * *

The sex-posses at the heart of the O’Donnell and Paladino campaigns are not isolated occurrences. As a “grassroots” movement, innumerable local Tea Party political leaders have been exposed in a variety of sex scandals and questionable practices. A handful of these are illustrative:

In South Carolina in the wake of the Gov. Sanford scandal, a conservative blogger, Will Folks, revealed “several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki [Haley].” Haley immediately responded, “I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage.” The revelation came out amidst a hard fought Republican primary that she won.

In Ohio, the Constitution Party candidate for U.S. Senate, Eric Deaton, was indicted for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Facing likely criminal prosecution, Denton dropped out.

Also in Ohio, State Senator Kevin Coughlin, a Tea Party die-hard from Akron, was outed for his affair with a fellow Republican while his wife was pregnant.

In Indiana, Rep. Mark Souder resigned his seat from the 3rd District that he held since 1994 over an illicit affair. He was a true-blue conservative Republican with an A-plus standing with the National Rifle Association and 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Without referring to the unstated affair that drove him from office, Souder pathetically proclaimed, “I am so ashamed to hurt those I love.”

The movement, drawing upon its more libertarian stains, has sought to impose restraint on its most reactionary tendencies:

In Montana, the Big Sky Tea Party Association fired its leader, Tim Ravndal, over the homophobic comments he made. Referring to homosexuals as “fruits,” Rayndal insisted that he did not imply an anti-gay intention. This issue is particularly sensitive in Montana due to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Nevertheless, Rayndal opposed a Helena sex education proposal to teach gender tolerance.

In Florida, Everett Wilkinson, state director of the Tea Party Patriots, took a neutral position on gay marriage: “On [this] issue itself, we have no stance, but any time a state’s rights or powers are encouraged over the federal government, it is a good thing.” He is following the position advocated by Bob Barr, a former Republican Georgia congressman who wrote the original Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), who is a strong Tea Party proponent and a fierce libertarian who now opposes DOMA.

Nevertheless, the Tea Party’s inherent fear of sex is always close to the surface. Earlier this year, Scott Southworth, the DA from Juneau County, WS, and a strong Tea Party backer, warned local teachers that if they used a new state sex ed course they could be committing a crime and serve up to six years in prison. He found particularly objectionable sexual relations between two consenting adolescents, often referred to as “Romeo and Juliet” affairs, that, according to state law, he considered incidents of sexual assault.

* * *

Race, and particularly interracial sex and procreation, is the other unstated, hot-button issue that galvanizes the Tea Party movement. Demographic profiles depict the movement as a predominately middle-aged and older white constituency, often from smaller towns and cities throughout heartland America.

Unstated, their lives have been uprooted by capitalist globalization and they are desperately clinging to post-WWII white skin privileges that assured them the benefits of a “middle-class” life. A half-century later, capitalism has betrayed them; sadly, they refuse to acknowledge it, instead blaming liberals, immigrants and a world beyond their control. The promotion of false consciousness is corporate media’s principal responsibility.

Since Obama’s 2008 election, Congressional Republicans have engaged in a systematic campaign to block nearly all Obama and Democratic legislative initiatives that would redress the Bush-era fiscal and social crisis. This do-nothing effort has been extremely effective, making all Americans suffer while the rich have prospered and the corporate media obfuscated accountability.

Over the last two years, white, rightwing Christian activists, along with their political shills and media pundits, have rallied to the Tea Party. During this process, a mean-spirited constituency emerged that voices insulating and defamatory comments about the President as well as other black, Hispanic and (Middle-Eastern) Muslim Americans. These statements range from snide depictions of the President and his wife as in the Paladino emails to the belief among some 20 percent of the population that the President is a Muslim or not an American. These comments are not only provocative, but serve a political purpose of galvanizing discontent among a growing segment of older, working- and middle-class white Americans. This movement represents a neo-fascist propensity toward political tyranny.

Race and sex have divided the New World since its founding four centuries ago. Few recall that the first interracial marriage took on April 5, 1614, when Pocahontas, a Powhatan woman and reputed daughter of Chief Powhatan, married the Englishman John Rolfe near Jamestown, VA. Since then, fear about the “pollution” of the nation’s white “stock” has haunted American politics. It underscored the belief in America’s “manifest destiny” as an imperialist power; it framed the pseudo-science of eugenics that lead to a 1927 Supreme Court decision that legalized the sterilization of 60,000 Americans for feeblemindedness; and it inflamed the Klan, fueling its terror and lynching campaigns as well as ‘60s racists.

The great white fear of interracial “pollution” has found is most acute expression with Obama’s president. He is the offspring of not simply an interracial relationship, but an international coupling as well. He is the child of 21st century globalization, the symbolic representation of a hope for a world without boarders, without race prejudice, without white privilege.

In the face of today’s widespread sexual and racial “pollution,” those aligned with the Tea Party are fearful, furious. They are desperately holding onto a fictitious past. They worry that America is becoming a mongrel nation and that their privileged status is vanishing. However unstated, unconscious, there fears might be, Tea Party candidates O’Donnell and Paladino speak to a collective prejudice shared by many Americans. It is fear anchored in 19th century notions of nationhood, racial purity and imperial conquest. It is a prejudice that violates the spirit of what is the great hope of America.

DAVID ROSEN is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009); he can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail