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Bill Moyers’ 4th of July Message to Tea Party: Asking What the Founding Fathers Would Do is Fundamentalism, Not Democracy

Bill Moyers and Company have a message for the Tea Party this 4th of July – claiming to ‘know’ the wishes of the Founding Fathers does not make you a better leader, it just makes you a fundamentalist.

The Tea Party movement is big on insisting that they have special inside knowledge to what the original Founding Fathers meant to say. Yet, Moyers and Company point out that evoking the name of the Founding Fathers is a tradition nearly as old as the country itself and as a result the Founding Fathers have been backing wildly divergent ideologies for years.

“The tea party movement isn’t the first to claim itself to be the true defenders of the Constitution, or to enlist its Framers in a political cause,” a editor for Bill Moyers notes. “Throughout American history, activists across the ideological spectrum have insisted that the Framers would roll over in their graves upon encountering the perfidy of their political opponents.”

Further, even using the Tea Party habit of plucking Founding Father’s words to prove your point, you can get vastly different results and ideologies depending on who you cite, since the Founding Fathers rarely agreed on anything.

In fact, you can even pull a historical ‘scripture’ to prove you should not take too much stock in historically penned phrases or what the Founding Fathers thought.

After all, James Madison wondered, is it “not the glory of the people of America, that… they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons or their own experience?”

This, Jill Lepore said on the Bill Moyers site, makes the Tea Party’s political grandstanding in the name of the Founding Fathers an exercise not in good politics but futility.

“What would the founders do?” is, from the point of view of historical analysis, an ill-considered and unanswerable question, and pointless, too,” Lepore wrote, adding that when Tea Party does so it is “not history. It’s not civil religion, the faith in democracy that binds Americans together. It’s not originalism or even constitutionalism.”

Instead she said it is something else entirely, it is “fundamentalism.”

Photo Credit: Pargon

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.