Unlike them, the nation's founders, whom they profess to emulate, put themselves on the line, pledging "Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" in behalf of the entire nation.
Instead, tea partiers want others to sacrifice. They believe that the poor, sick, and powerless have brought their troubles on themselves. That such failed human beings should be despised and mocked rather than helped to become well and self-sufficient.
They dress up in their tri-cornered hats and knee britches because they imagine that the few syllables of the founding fathers' thoughts that they have misappropriated out of context justify their rage-driven pranks. In fact, their Halloween costumes signify how far in the past is the fantasy world that they inhabit.
Representative of their attitudes, a Tea Party organizer in Michigan told the New York Times, "Things we had in the '50s were better." They were better for some. That decade's intensification of racial segregation, expulsion of women from the work force, overthrow of heads of state elected by their people, and rabid persecution by Joseph McCarthy and the Tea Party's forbearers made it less than ideal for others.
They long for an historical moment that will never come again no matter how intense their tantrums. World War II had destroyed every other industrial nation's manufacturing base, while expanding ours. Median household incomes increased at a rate never seen before. All that has changed, in part because the congressional and presidential corporate servants whom they honor successfully opposed fair trade policies.
They deny that they are bigoted, while former Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams pens a satirical letter from "We coloreds" to Abraham Lincoln. It urges repeal of the 13th and 14th Amendments because "Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with rewards." This deep thinker also describes Islam as a "7th Century death cult coughed up by a psychotic pedophile."
More commonly, they imagine that freedom is the absence of government "interference" rather than the opportunity for fulfillment. They bray against a fictional theft of freedom perpetrated by the Healthcare Act's requirement that all citizens have health insurance, ignorant that this was precisely what their Republican suitors flogged in the 1990s as an alternative to the Clintons' healthcare proposal.
They despise government control, except for control of things that they oppose, like same-sex marriage, civil liberties, or medical marijuana. Their "limited government" plank states that government should exercise "only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among them being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety..."
No public schools, no publicly owned infrastructure, no aid to the poor and homeless. But the Medicare funding that they enjoy is sacrosanct. They are middle-aged infants, unconcerned about government spending that benefits them, while branding that which helps others as tyranny. Instead of "Tea Party," their movement's name should be "Me party."
They oozed onto the national scene in reaction to the financial meltdown and the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Indeed, TARP has rewarded those responsible while minimally altering their behavior.
But you don't see tea partiers focusing their rants, pranks, and disruptive protests against Wall Street. Instead, they virulently oppose any government effort to prevent future financial crashes through regulation. Their ignorance, anger, and myopia make them easily manipulated by right-wing organizations funded by corporate America.
Their influence is disproportionate to their numbers. This is because those elected officials whose hunger to be reelected dominates their integrity, pander to them. And it's because Barack Obama, who many expected to be a transformational president, is essentially a centrist. As tea partiers and their ilk pull the center to the right, there is no counterbalancing movement.
Meanwhile, those who decry the Tea Party's ideology and tactics fail to unite in a positive movement of their own. Alexis de Tocqueville reportedly observed that in democracy, people get the government that they deserve. Maybe he was right.