Translated from Gegenstandpunkt: Politische Vierteljahreszeitschrift 4-2011, Gegenstandpunkt Verlag, Munich

The New Tea Party
A Second American Revolution to Restore the Health of the “Land of the Free”

“The Tea Party Movement, born from obscurity, without funding, without planning, is a spontaneous force shaking the very glass foundation of the oligarchy that rules in our name, but without our blessing.” (Tea Party website — from which all of the following quotes have been taken unless otherwise noted.)

Ever since Obama took office, the power struggle in Washington has been escalating. Political competition is no longer reserved for official political parties that vie for votes with policy proposals and candidates, and that after counting up the votes fight and negotiate with each other — the one side as the administration in power, the other as the opposition — over how to manage the country. That is precisely what a fundamentalist popular movement is no longer willing to tolerate, and its very name conveys its conviction that a new American revolution is necessary. Just as the Boston Tea Party sparked a revolt and a war of independence against the British Crown, the descendants of these early American revolutionaries seek to take back America for Americans, freeing them from an un-American oligarchy that has usurped power over the country, suppressing freedom and ruining the land: “We must take back our nation!” Crisis, rising debt, unemployment, lost and unwinnable wars, as well as the country’s diminished capacity to dictate American playing rules to the rest of the world — the movement views all these phenomena as representing a widespread decline of “God’s own country” owing to a betrayal of American virtues. But it is not only the ruling party and its president that have been accused of betrayal; the entire political establishment is under suspicion. Whoever wants to be cleansed of this suspicion must submit to a “purity test” to determine whether they have the proper ethos.[1] So the Tea Party sets off on its quest to rescue the country. It is in the process of thwarting Obama’s healthcare reform; recently, their members in Congress nearly forced the government into default. In a number of states, they are demonstrating what the nation can expect in terms of policies toward immigrants, unions, and schools once they come to power. In the Presidential election campaign that is currently underway, movement activists are fighting to make the Tea Party program the official Republican party line. They have been turning Republican primaries into an opportunity to pressure candidates to commit to the movement’s core beliefs, promising support in return while issuing the warning that all candidates will be placed under strict supervision and voted down at the earliest opportunity in case of betrayal — that is, in case the politicians they have brought to power end up making compromises after all with those who are ruining America.

A Call to All Good Citizens: Take a Stand for America!

“The Tea Party is a grassroots movement that calls awareness to any issue that challenges the security, sovereignty, or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation, the United States of America. From our founding, the Tea Party represents the voice of the true owners of the United States: WE THE PEOPLE. Many are credited to be the founders of this movement; however, it was the brave souls of the men and women in 1773, known today as the Boston Tea Party, who dared to defy the greatest military might on earth. We are the beneficiaries of their courage. We stand by the Constitution as inherently conservative. We serve as a beacon to the masses that have lost their way, a light illuminating the path to the original intentions of our Founding Fathers. We must raise a choir of voices declaring that America must stand on the values that made us great. Only then will the politically blind see and deaf hear! By joining the Tea Party, you are taking a stand for our nation. You will be upholding the grand principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

With a pathos that would suit a crusade as much as the swearing in of a Scout, the members of this movement for a national revival pledge their “lives, liberty and sacred honor to the greatest nation that ever was or ever will be: The nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.” They view themselves as the true Americans and — what isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere — as the true owners of the nation! In fact, they are the most American of their fellow citizens in that they take the constitutive lie of their political order especially seriously. Born out of a revolution against foreign colonial rule, their government has supposedly only one reason and purpose, which is to establish and secure their freedom from any kind of domination and clear the way for the people to live out their nature as citizens. When it comes to other countries, it might be true that a political authority imposes order on the citizens, subjecting them to its law and tying down their freedom to what it allows and forbids, but that’s not true of America and Americans. Of course, just like anywhere else, American citizens, insofar as they are subjects of the law, are creations of a state power that grants them these very rights. But according to the Tea Party, free American citizens are in their very essence identical with the principles of order imposed by the state; the law it creates is an expression of their own nature and a means for their self-fulfillment. They view the law as their vested right — which consists in the permission to do anything that they, as free private property owners, want and do anyway in their fierce pursuit of happiness.

“In America, the people are sovereign, not just as a group, but individually. We are endowed by our Creator with this sovereignty. That means no person, no king and no government, can rule us without our consent. We all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that wasn’t given to us by government; it was given to us by God. Therefore, it can’t rightly be taken away by government.” (Sarah Palin, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, 2010, p. 11)

Perhaps in other countries the people as a “group” are sovereign, but in America, according to this radical definition of popular sovereignty, each individual embodies the political sovereign. Unlike in any other democracy, the individual is not seen to be subsumed under the nation, it is not an element of the sovereign by virtue of being a part of the collective from which state power arises. In America, a gathering of independent petit-sovereigns becomes a people through a free act of will. Unlike in myths in which states are founded on the basis of “natural law,” Americans give up nothing of their pre-state personal sovereignty when they create the state they desire.

On this basis, Tea Party patriots see themselves as individual licensors of state power; they empower the state to act, finance the overhead costs and, if they are unpleased with its works, can revoke this license at any time.[2] The task they assign the state does not include the power to monitor and restrict their pursuits. After all, Tea Party Americans do not need a state to organize their lives and their social interactions. But they do need political force — against the others, the varmints and the criminals, immigrants and foreign countries. As soon as the state acts as a restricting and commanding authority towards true Americans like themselves, they can only see despotism, oppression, and un-American foreign domination.[3] Therefore, the further the state apparatus is detached from the grassroots and neighborhood level, the more suspicious they are of government. Within their communities, they settle their own affairs: “Government” is their own business, the sheriff and the judge are their elected officials who ensure their safety and security. But when it comes to the state level, not to mention the federal government, they see largely detached elites at work, alienated from their base and using their power to serve themselves instead of good Americans. Far outside Tea Party circles, “Washington” and the “establishment” have become four-letter words in the battle over public opinion; every candidate for office in Washington must offer credible evidence that he or she has always been at war with Washington and its personnel.

Now, the Tea Party has put these convictions into action. Wherever they do not regard government as an extension of the interests of good Americans, they seek to reduce it to a minimum.[4] In a list of demands that comprises 15 points and reads like a potpourri of various beliefs thrown together pell-mell, these conservative revolutionaries have formulated — with unparalleled concision — whatever seems to come to mind when they define the America they love. But there is one thing that joins this mixture together: none of these beliefs are negotiable.

The Agenda of a Staunchly Committed Community of Free Competitors —
Non-Negotiable Core Beliefs of the Tea Party

  1. Illegal aliens are here illegally.
  2. Pro-domestic employment is indispensable.
  3. A strong military is essential.
  4. Special interests must be eliminated.
  5. Gun ownership is sacred.
  6. Government must be downsized.
  7. The national budget must be balanced.
  8. Deficit spending must end.
  9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.
  10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must.
  11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.
  12. Political offices must be available to average citizens.
  13. Intrusive government must be stopped.
  14. English as our core language is required.
  15. Traditional family values are encouraged.

1. “Illegal aliens are here illegally.”

If you were to ask members of the Tea Party why they need and want a government at all, foreigners are the first thing that come to mind. They need a government that acts as ruthlessly as the legal definition of these people as foreigners will permit. What the bleeding-heart authorities in Washington need to be reminded of is that “illegal aliens are here illegally.” It isn’t right that immigrants can somehow get by without proper papers, that they are treated in clinics when they are deathly ill, that their children go to school even though they have no right to be here. The government mustn’t be willing to accommodate or compromise with these people. They simply need to be kicked out of the country, so that America can once again be the unrestricted property of its native owners. Tea Partiers won’t be denied their birthright by a federal government that has forgotten its duties to the nation. And wherever the government does not take action, they do so themselves at the state level, or even as private citizens in a particularly militant fashion.[5]

2. “Pro-domestic employment is indispensable.”

“American jobs for Americans!” That is the Tea Party’s perspective on the world of work. Regardless of the kind of jobs and working conditions that American companies offer their fellow citizens, it is crucial that these jobs be reserved for those who are entitled to them by virtue of belonging to the nation. Only American citizens are authorized to take part in competition over income opportunities — unlike the others who must be kept out. The only welfare measure that the Tea Party wants a government for is the guarantee that no unauthorized person can sneak into the American struggle for existence — but for that it definitely wants a government. That is all there is in terms of the Tea Party’s “core beliefs” on work and welfare, and that’s only logical. After all, this is the sphere where money is made, where individuals are allowed to bustle about to make a living free of any government tutelage. The Tea Party adheres to the formal “pursuit of happiness” that the United States guarantees its citizens in the constitution: every American has the right to make his fortune. The economic substance of this right, the issue of who uses which economic means to attain success and why there is little material “happiness” for the greater majority, is a matter of each individual’s private life-planning, for which each individual is himself responsible. Regardless of where one stands in the hierarchy of sources of money and income opportunities, whether dishwasher or millionaire, each individual realizes his freedom by pursuing his advantage in the struggle over money with whatever economic means he “happens” to have. The task of the state is to ensure that U.S. citizens enjoy this right to participate in competition and to fend off unjustified competitors. Apart from that, the state needs to stay out of their business.

3. “A strong military is essential.”

Free Americans also have a sizable need for force when it comes to other countries. This is the second and last task for the government, which is to protect its society of free private property owners from any conceivable threat from abroad, while conversely opening up the world for moneymaking. From this perspective, the arsenal of the American superpower does not seem oversized at all to the Tea Party. At any rate the nation mustn’t prematurely dispose of any weapons that could still be used to hold potential enemies at bay. Without having to undertake any deep analysis, these people know that “the world” is in principle hostile to America, that it envies and seeks to undermine America’s wealth and power. For the Tea Party, foreign policy boils down to not putting up with anything from anybody — and not having to as long as the nation is properly armed. They are not vexed by the fact that patriots, who pose as the licensors of the American war machine, are at the same time the human material for the nation’s wars. That only proves to them the profound unity in purpose that joins the people and the state: casualties of war enjoy the highest honor of being heroes who have given their lives for the “American way of life.” The Tea Party defends their honor at all costs, condemning any criticism of the troops in the wake of Abu Ghraib and other similar incidents as fowling one’s own nest.[6] With regard to the actual wars that America is currently waging, there is a diversity of views in the movement. These wars are justified to the extent that they represent a mighty assault for freedom and against “tyrants.” But when the occupation of foreign lands and the stabilization of U.S. supported regimes go on for too long, then they view the mission as assisting foreign nation-building. The Tea Party rejects any mission that relieves other peoples of the burden of establishing a political order as an abuse of the troops. They have completely fallen for the lie that America’s wars are a service to the countries and peoples the U.S. invades — and for that reason, they often oppose these wars. After all, these people should get by on their own!

4. “Special interests must be eliminated.”

It occurs to the Tea Party authors that there are a number of illegitimate special interests directly connected to the military question. They don’t see this as a change of subject, since they have already exhaustively covered the legitimate tasks of government: protecting Americans — their freedom and their property — from foreign enemies and illegitimate parasites at home. Now, the state only needs to stand back and let its citizens go about their business. And they do what in their eyes is normal and healthy: they use their property, large or small, and struggle to earn an income and get by. As long as each person pursues his interest in competition with others, the Tea Party sees neither antagonisms nor “special interests” at work. After all, when wageworkers, businessmen, bankers, and farmers compete, they all want the same thing — the others’ money! For the Tea Party Movement, the will to compete is the common interest of all Americans. And they are not at all surprised by the fact that when everybody does the same thing — compete — very unequal results emerge, winners and losers. The division of people into rich and poor, successes and failures, is something they accept absolutely uncritically as an expression of people’s individual talents and skills. The land of the free respects their differences in terms of hard work and achievement. The government, at any rate, must accept these differences and mustn’t intervene. According to the Tea Party, when the government permits or even lends support to unions, popular initiatives, or lobbyists of any kind; when it revises the conditions or the results of competition — whether for the sake of the common good or for social justice — then, and only then, does it act for and support special interests that tamper with the outcome of the free play of market forces. Then it robs hardworking people of their hard earned success while making sure the “losers” get the income they have been incapable of earning on the market themselves.

The Tea Party makes a strict distinction here. On the one side, they view the laws, contractual rules, duties, and rights for the world of business that they are accustomed to and that in their eyes meet the criteria of fair play in the struggle of all against all[*] as non-political principles of interaction between people. As if these rules aren’t brought into being and enforced by a state power, and as if each of these laws didn’t predetermine the scope and strength of people’s interests, and thus their success and failure, the Tea Party views these laws not as government intervention, but as natural and neutral norms for how to live their lives. On the other side, as soon as the state imposes environmental restrictions, healthcare, union rights, minimum wages, or constructs a railroad with public funds, they see non-market special interests at work — the intrusion of power relations into free and fair competition.[7] What belongs to natural law and what is to be considered unnatural governmental intervention might be a matter of debate among Tea Party members, but what they definitely agree on is the guideline for making this distinction: any good that is not produced privately and does not find a private buyer at a price determined by free competition between buyer and seller has no right to exist. If citizens aren’t willing to pay the asking price for a good, they obviously don’t need it. Things like food stamps, prescription drugs that many people cannot afford, kindergartens, public buses and trains, or even bridges and power lines that local authorities do not order and pay for, only exist because the government has tampered with the natural balance of power on the market. They owe their existence to political force instead of freedom. Speaking of which…

5. “Gun ownership is sacred.”

The Tea Party has no problem with violence, political or private, as long as it is the violence of freedom by the free. Free Americans do not have to put up with violence against their person and their property, because they have guns — not only for hunting. They do not view themselves as bearers of rights granted and protected by the state. They have received their right to freedom and property from God, Nature, or whencesoever, and they protect it themselves — even from the police. They can defend themselves and what’s theirs — and there are plenty who actually do so.[8] It is this private administration of justice which, ever since the founding of the U.S.A, makes for the world’s highest rate of violent deaths in peace time.

Any attempt to restrict either the possession of, or access to, arms for the purpose of making everyday American life less bloody encounters the fundamental resistance of the Tea Party and its friends from the National Rifle Association. The motto of every gun fanatic — “Guns don’t kill people, people do!” — derives from morally categorizing members of society as either decent citizens or criminals — there are no gray zones in this matter. Honorable citizens always have good reason to shoot, to defend their person or their rights; the others are the dangerous ones, and they belong in prison or worse. The police should disarm those whom upright citizens regard as scoundrels or lawbreakers — and if these rogues, too, claim to use their weapons only to take what is rightfully theirs, then that just proves how low-down they are. But for any government to disarm good citizens would be a cardinal sin: owning a gun is for these people what separates a free association of patriots from despotism. With their guns, they constitute the armed sovereign from whom all power arises and for whom the government must prove itself an instrument of their freedom. Without guns, they are defenseless and thus mere subjects whose rulers can force them to obey. Though these real heroes of freedom with their private gun racks would have a tough time standing up to the well-armed violence specialists in state service, this does not stop them from clinging to their guns as a symbol of their freedom. As the ultimate owners of sovereignty, they never fully hand over their rights to the state, but reserve themselves the right to withdraw their consent if the state violates their freedom. And the Tea Party can name a number of such violations; the greater part of what the government does is one.

6. “Government must be downsized.”

The movement has no understanding for the comprehensive regulation of business, for securing and promoting the general conditions for the nation’s capitalism — from public funding for science and education to roads and electricity. But above all, it rejects any socio-political measures to ensure that the private struggle for money provides a livelihood, not only for the rich, but also somehow for the nation as a whole. Free Americans don’t need any of that. If the state would only let them, they could take care of themselves and build the schools, hospitals and roads they regard as necessary and worthy investments. If not, then they don’t need any of these things.

The Tea Party’s minimalist stance on government appears very anachronistic to the nation’s practitioners of politics and its educated elites. As a grassroots movement, the Tea Party takes this verdict with pride. After all, the Tea Party gathers together those Americans who have not been spoiled by the business of politics. In the current economic crisis, they also don’t refrain from making the argument that the comprehensive actions of government in all spheres of life, which the “so-called experts” take to be indispensable, have proven futile and have only led to the growth of the national debt. But in fact, the rejection of “big government” guided by their freedom compass does not derive from narrow considerations of economic policy, but is of a more fundamental and moral nature. With all its instruments and institutions, the federal government meddles with something that is none of its business: the life of the citizens. And by doing so, it is ruining America: public “services” lead those tempted to use them to incapacity and irresponsibility. They let themselves be taken care of and are no longer willing to work hard. The others then have to bear an excessive tax burden, which discourages their natural initiative. That is pure socialism and needs to be gotten rid of.[9]

7. “The national budget must be balanced” and
8. “Deficit spending must end.”

For the Tea Party, the decisive indicator that the government has totally exceeded what the community of free private property owners needs and requests is the national debt. It not only represents a growing interest burden on taxpayers, but is also proof that Washington has broken free of the limits imposed on it by the willingness and ability of the taxpayers to support the government. The illegitimate self-interest of government institutions in constantly expanding their responsibilities doesn’t only reveal to the Tea Party what the state overspends its budget on. The very way the state obtains revenue by borrowing demonstrates its contempt for the will of the citizens. They view every dollar of state debt as an evasion of the government’s duty to obtain the consent of their financial backers when it comes to spending. The apparatchiks in the government machine are not concerned with the prosperity of the citizens they serve, but rather solely in gaining more and more power over them.[10] As one member of the Tea Party put it during a budget debate, the movement wants to force the state apparatus to shrink down to a legitimate size by restricting the means at its disposal.

9. “Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.”

There is no way the government will be allowed to obtain funds for that. Here the movement is radically for the free-market and critical of large-scale property. Banks, insurance companies, and global firms are to be treated the same as small businessmen. The latter exercise their freedom, strive for profits — for which they do not have to put up with any envy — and bear the risk of bankruptcy if they mess up at making money. The state mustn’t intervene, mustn’t tamper with the results of competition to spare big guys the losses and risks that the little guy has to deal with on his own. The people from the Tea Party have never heard about any “systemic” consequences of the failure of a major bank or insurance company, and if they have, then they regard these consequences, too, as a sign of aberrations caused by power-hungry politicians, who instead of organizing fair competition have fostered and spoon-fed certain businesses until they have become “too big to fail.” The movement has no objection to collapses on this front.[11] And the state mustn’t deal with the subsequent crisis by means of stimulus packages and new debt.[12] American entrepreneurial spirit can take care of the crisis on its own, as long as it is not suffocated by government tutelage and taxation. The state is not the better businessman, and above all, it is not a legitimate one.

10. “Reducing personal income taxes is a must” and
11. “Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.”

In the middle of the biggest national budget debt crisis, and at the same time unimpressed by its own demands that the state should cease borrowing money while abstaining from cuts to military spending, the Tea Party is resolved to cut off the state’s money supply from the tax side as well. It mustn’t be allowed to take what it needs from citizens. It has already taken too much from them. Taxation should not be orientated toward the financial needs of the state; instead, the government’s need should be orientated toward what the citizens, who finance the state, are willing to provide. Washington simply needs to get by on less. The movement doesn’t care about the implications of shrinking tax revenues for the already questionable credit-standing of the U.S. government, and it makes that clear to its enemies via its people in congress: So what if the government goes bankrupt! — not extending the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes is out of the question.[13] The highest incomes attest to the best performance as honored by the market. That needs to be fostered and encouraged. Clear the way for private initiative! That will put America back on the path to success.

12. “Political offices must be available to average citizens.”

And now for something completely different — or maybe not? In any case, everything is wrong in all areas of government because the power center has been occupied by a self-styled educated elite. Normal Americans, such as the active ones in the Tea Party, would govern entirely differently. But the elite won’t let them. Instead of legalese and economic expertise, instead of a calculating diplomacy and legislative tactics, they would use their healthy common sense. And that means that they would be resolute in making the patriotic morality of competitors their political program. Above all, they would ensure what they have been calling for all along, but which cannot be said often enough:

13. “Intrusive government must be stopped.”

That cannot be said often enough.

14. “English as our core language is required.”

Where are we now? After the ban on government borrowing, the possession of firearms, etc., is the obligatory use of the local language also supposed to be one of the non-negotiable core beliefs that will rescue America? Exactly! After all, we’ve come back to the normal citizen, who belongs in public office so that he can reduce government activity to the minimum that is reconcilable with freedom. Any average American is qualified as long as he is a real American. And there are no limits on his freedom when it comes to choosing his life path and living out his individuality — but he has to speak English, not Spanish like in some areas of the Southwest, where local agencies even acknowledge foreign tongues as official languages. To a native-born American, English is natural; immigrants who want to live in the country must correct their linguistic birth defect and live in explicitly declared belief in an Anglo-Saxon America. Being an “average citizen” is a state of mind, a matter of patriotic ethos and morality of freedom. Perhaps such convictions cannot be directly heard in the degree to which a person has mastered the nation’s official language, but a lack of that mastery is a sure indicator that such convictions are lacking.

15. “Traditional family values are encouraged.”

Unlike the language, they don’t have to be made compulsory. It is enough that the self-styled elite does not discourage or undermine them with their perverse lifestyles — by making abortion legal and permitting same-sex marriage and gays in the military. Family values are an integral part of being an average citizen: if you are not a family man, then you are not a normal American; you are more a problem for the “stable of liberty”[†] than an enlargement of it. An American’s natural essence is realized in the divinely ordained rootedness in family ties: to be bound and committed to one’s closest relatives is to live in just the kind of community that an autonomous competitor needs. His concern for his family is what gives his drive for wealth meaning and a moral dimension; it is in the family that he makes himself and his property eternal, beyond the short span of his own life, by giving life to descendants and putting them in his will. It is in the family and through its means that the upcoming generation is taught how to succeed in life’s struggle. The more respected and well-off the parents, the better the schools and the degrees of their offspring. What in other countries is condemned as a violation of equality of opportunity in the competition for education is for these conservative revolutionaries a hard-earned right of the family. The children who carry on the family name pay their respects to their forefathers by cultivating a virtually dynastic sense of family and — just like kings — numbering the first names inherited from their fathers and grandfathers. The ethical institution of the family, created autonomously by the citizens, independent of and prior to the state, ensures the binding force and continuity of the American way of life.

“Faith, Family, Flag” — Tea Party values in alphabetical order

The consciousness of being absolutely bound to superior obligations and ways of life without ever having chosen them, the commitment to a beneficent bondage as the basis of all freedom is not complete without the appeal to the highest authority.[14] The God that righteous Tea Party Americans worship is, of course, Christian — but they don’t want to exclude anybody.[15] A good God is for them any God, regardless of what it is called, that views America as its own favored country. Their true religion, after all, is America:

“The Tea Party Movement sees America as something exceptional, as something unique that came into existence to fulfill the hope of all previous generations that longed for freedom. It came into existence because it is more than simply a country with land and population and riches and armaments. America came into existence because LIBERTY is an eternal concept in the mind of both God AND man. The United States of America came into existence because Mankind needs freedom the same way it needs food and air and property and security and love. (Declaration of Tea Party Independence)

“Change” is everywhere: A series of uncompromising answers to America’s woes

The people from the Tea Party take fragments of America’s national morality and construct a political program without concerning themselves with prevailing political necessities. They give their demands the character of doctrines of faith, which mustn’t be watered down by the standard democratic process. So it’s no wonder that to many political observers, the substance of their program seems as outlandish as their approach is destructive. However, the fact that such a movement managed to derail the budget process of the American superpower, and to make a caricature of the list of candidates from one of the two major political parties, sheds a revealing light on the overall political climate prevailing in the American nation. Indeed, the Tea Party members are not the only ones convinced that “things” in the economy and the state fundamentally cannot go on like this. Nor are they the only ones to demand a radical change of course for the nation. They demand that America recall what makes it America. According to their credo, the success of the nation depends on it: what needs to be restored are American capitalism’s forces for sound growth, as well as the subservience of soundly operating banks to the economy, and the power and glory of American state power. All in all, America needs to take back its special and exceptional status in the concert of nations. Even the harshest critic of the Tea Party sees nothing odd or absurd about that. After all, it is the same fundamentalist platform on which Obama came into office over three years ago. The “change” he prescribed to the nation, at home and abroad, was to be as fundamental and without alternative as the change called for by his opponents on the right, though in the opposite direction. Future-oriented government projects were to reactivate Americas money-making capacity; a “reset” in all areas of fruitless global-political confrontation were to put America back on a path to success and allow it to live up to its vocation as the chosen country. Obama, too, evoked a popular movement against a “Washington” under Bush & Co. trapped in its old ways, a movement that was to restore America’s true values. He celebrated his election as the first black president as proof of the success of his change of course. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Occupy movement idealistically shares the diagnosis that there must be something fundamentally wrong with the way that American rule works if the American people are as bad off as they are in the current crisis. While the Tea Party places the blame for all the nation’s ills on the rule of a minority of self-proclaimed intellectuals and government bureaucrats, their left-wing counterpart sees the “oligarchy” of the 1% on Wall Street to be generally at fault. “Occupy” calls for rulers who actually serve the people, who truly represent the 99% of decent citizens and right all that is currently wrong.[16]

The American nation, both ruler and ruled, are in agreement on the need for fundamental corrections in all parts of the government and the economy. At the same time, it is obvious that none of the parties involved has at hand a recipe for success that would heal America’s ills, one that would make the fanatical program of the Tea Party look ridiculous by comparison. Obama’s stimulus projects have not had any real effect, and the national debt continues to grow. This has led many in the political establishment to acknowledge the radical austerity programs presented by the Tea Party as a viable alternative to the Obama line — perhaps not with the moral rigor demanded by the movement, but as an extreme and at least conceivable way out of the nation’s misery of high debt and low growth. The totally irreconcilable demands for the same thing — a fundamental change of course — are the practical proof for what nobody involved wants to admit: the American superpower has lost the previously valid economic and political means of success with which it attained and secured its special status. To concede that fact, of course, would be the last thing that would ever occur to both governing and governed nationalists. They prefer to cling mercilessly to their conviction that all the capacities the nation needs are there, and that they only need to be unleashed by a truly national leadership in order to function fully once again for American prosperity.

Translators’ Notes

[*] Hobbes, De Cive [On the Citizen]: “bellum omnium contra omnes.”

[†] Heinrich Heine, “Jetzt wohin?” [Now where?], 1851. “Sometimes I have in mind / to sail to America / to the great stable of liberty / populated by churls of equality”

Authors’ Notes

[1] Invoking the American war of independence from England, the movement published the “Tea Party Declaration of Independence” on February 24, 2010, declaring their hostility toward all parties and institutions of the U.S. political system, including the courts and the media. (

[2] Apparently, the core democratic ideology that “we are all the state” can be understood in very different ways. In political science, the state theorist Hobbes is, or was, popular: a philosopher who glorified the subjection and even suppression of self-centered, mutually hostile citizens by an absolute and superior Leviathan, a ruling authority that would ensure peace and the possibility of society, and that these unsocial human wolves need in order to be able to pursue their interests. In Europe, this commonplace is taken more to mean that the state — as an authority that stands over society — subjects its citizens to the basic conditions of their social interaction, thus ensuring the common good upon which all citizens depend, and who therefore must acknowledge that the laws of the state require their obedience and represent “their” order. American fanatics of liberty would scorn such a view as a case of servile mentality.

[3] Many Tea Party members mean that quite literally and thus personally: the former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is just the latest prominent figure to raise the suspicion that Obama is, in fact, not a real American, and for that reason alone not a president one ought to heed.

[4] Rick Perry has already called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy. To the extent that these departments are considered useful for local circumstances, the individual states can take over their functions.

[5] More on this in “Wer ist eigentlich ein richtiger Amerikaner?” [Who is a real American?] Gegenstandpunkt 4-10 (untranslated).

[6] “The United States has been the instrument of Liberty against the many tyrannies that have threatened the people of this world. The Tea Party Movement rejects the idea that America has to apologize to a far guiltier world that has been largely unappreciative of the sacrifices made on their behalf by the brave and noble members of our Armed Forces, whose sacrifice and patriotic service in our defense makes all else possible.” (Declaration of Tea Party Independence)

[7] The Tea Party has used Obama’s healthcare reform as an opportunity to show how fundamentalist they are in their convictions: universal healthcare is a violation of freedom! A power-hungry government apparatus and healthcare bureaucrats degrade free Americans by forcing them to get health insurance. Even a Republican candidate ran up against this fanaticism when he argued that despite all the justified reasons to criticize Obama’s reform, people who don’t have private health insurance and shouldn’t have a public one still need to be saved from death, if necessary at the expense of the hospital. The Tea Party audience was outraged: “Free choice!”

[8] In this spirit, a judge in Arizona dismissed a case against a farmer who had detained at gunpoint illegal immigrants who were crossing his land. The man was not only defending his private property, but also his right to live in an America free of unwanted foreigners. An appellate court judge then revoked the decision, for which he received a number of death threats. Some take the Tea Party’s call to stand up for America against wrong rule in a very practical way.

[9] “For much of its history the United States has been a land of prosperity and liberty. Sound policies such as fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and a belief in the free market have safeguarded this condition. In recent years however, Congress, the President, the Federal Reserve Board and the Courts have replaced those practices with profligate government spending and expansion of the government power beyond what is constitutionally permissible. This course, if not reversed, can only lead to economic collapse and tyranny. … The Tea Party Movement is in agreement with our Founders that the government that governs least governs best. We believe that Capitalism — NOT GOVERNMENT — is essential to the creation of wealth and a vastly reduced government provides the foundation for a thriving Capitalist system. … We believe that Liberty is based in rational self-interest, in freedom of thought, in free markets, free association, free speech, a free press and the ability granted us under the Constitution to direct our own affairs free of the dictates of an ever expanding Federal Government which is as voracious in its desire for power as it is incompetent and dangerous in its exercise.” (Declaration of Tea Party Independence)

[10] “We reject a profligate government that is spending trillions of dollars on worthless socialist schemes designed to bankrupt us and put the American people in a position of dependence on the State, as peasants begging for their very sustenance from self-styled ‘educated classes’ and so-called ‘experts.’” (Ibid.)

[11] The Tea Party has called for letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go bankrupt instead of throwing billions of dollars out the window to buy up the mortgage debts of “losers.” Apparently, the fans of responsible property ownership take the ideology about the cause of the first financial crisis very seriously and demand consequences: no more home ownership for people who cannot afford it! As if finance capital failed as a result of insolvent mortgage debtors and not its own speculative accumulation.

[12] Resistance to the “stimulus package” is supposed to be the origin of the Tea Party: “Grassroots protests developed in response to befuddled politicians gathering votes in Congress with sightless determination to force through an unconstitutional stimulus package.”

[13] It is fitting that the Tea Party, which refuses to acknowledge something like classes, sees “class war” as the motive behind Obama’s planned tax increase for the rich.

[14] It’s no wonder that these people can’t stand Darwin. There is no way that the members of such an illustrious community could have descended from animals.

[15] “Yes, we are a Christian nation. However, you do not have to be a Christian to enjoy freedom. The Tea Party welcomes all red-blooded U.S. citizens.”

[16] Some in the Tea Party considered whether they might have quite a bit in common with the Occupy movement. In the meantime, the opinion appears to have prevailed that the “occupiers” are “socialists.”

© GegenStandpunkt 2012