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17 September 2010
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Tea Party Movement
diffuse American grass-roots group
that taps into antigovernment sentiments
Tea partiers / Tea Partyers
cartoons > Cagle > Tea Party is
fringe groups and movements
The Tea Party’s Path to Irrelevance
The Nexw York Times
By JAMES TRAUB
— THE Tea Party has a new crusade: preventing illegal immigrants from gaining
citizenship, which they say is giving amnesty to lawbreakers. Judson Phillips,
the founder of Tea Party Nation, recently told Politico that his members were
“more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare.”
They’re so upset, in fact, that Republican supporters of immigration reform,
like Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have
become marked men in their party, while House Republicans have followed the Tea
Party lead by refusing to even consider the Senate’s bipartisan reform plan.
Tea Partyers often style themselves as disciples of Thomas Jefferson, the high
apostle of limited government. But by taking the ramparts against immigration,
the movement is following a trajectory that looks less like the glorious arc of
Jefferson’s Republican Party than the suicidal path of Jefferson’s great rivals,
the long-forgotten Federalists, who also refused to accept the inexorable
changes of American demography.
The Federalists began as the faction that supported the new Constitution, with
its “federal” framework, rather than the existing model of a loose
“confederation” of states. They were the national party, claiming to represent
the interests of the entire country.
Culturally, however, they were identified with the ancient stock of New England
and the mid-Atlantic, as the other major party at the time, the Jeffersonian
Republicans (no relation to today’s Republicans), were with the South.
The Federalists held together for the first few decades, but in 1803 the
Louisiana Purchase — Jefferson’s great coup — drove a wedge between the party’s
ideology and its demography. The national party was suddenly faced with a nation
that looked very different from what it knew: in a stroke, a vast new territory
would be opened for colonization, creating new economic and political interests,
slavery among them.
“The people of the East can not reconcile their habits, views and interests with
those of the South and West,” declared Thomas Pickering, a leading Massachusetts
Every Federalist in Congress save John Quincy Adams voted against the Louisiana
Purchase. Adams, too, saw that New England, the cradle of the revolution, had
become a small part of a new nation. Change “being found in nature,” he wrote
stoically, “cannot be resisted.”
But resist is precisely what the Federalists did. Fearing that Irish, English
and German newcomers would vote for the Jeffersonian Republicans, they argued —
unsuccessfully — for excluding immigrants from voting or holding office, and
pushed to extend the period of naturalization from 5 to 14 years.
Leading Federalists even plotted to “establish a separate government in New
England,” as William Plumer, a senator from Delaware, later conceded. (The plot
collapsed only when the proposed military leader, Aaron Burr, killed the
proposed political guide, Alexander Hamilton.)
The Federalists later drummed out Adams, who voted with the Jeffersonian
Republicans to impose an embargo on England in retaliation for English
harassment of American merchant ships and impressment of American sailors. This
was the foreshadowing moment of the War of 1812, which the Anglophile
Federalists stoutly opposed.
Finally, in the fall of 1814, the Federalists convened the Hartford Convention
to vote on whether to stay in or out of the Union. By then even the hotheads
realized how little support they had, and the movement collapsed. And the
Federalists, now scorned as an anti-national party, collapsed as well.
Contrast that defiance with Jefferson’s Republicans, who stood for decentralized
government and the interests of yeoman farmers, primarily in the coastal South.
They ruled the country from 1801 to 1825, when they were unseated by Adams —
who, after splitting with the Federalists, had joined with a breakaway
In response, Jefferson’s descendants, known as the Old Radicals, did exactly
what the Federalists would not do: they joined up with the new Americans, many
of them immigrants, who were settling the country opened up by the Louisiana
Their standard-bearer in 1828, Andrew Jackson, favored tariffs and “internal
improvements” like roads and canals, the big-government programs of the day. The
new party, known first as the Democratic-Republicans, and then simply as the
Democrats, thrashed Adams that year. (Adams’s party, the National Republicans,
gave way to the Whigs, which in turn evolved into the modern Republican Party.)
Today’s Republicans are not likely to disappear completely, like the Federalists
did. But Republican leaders like Mr. Rubio and Mr. Graham understand that a
party that seeks to defy demography, relying on white resentment toward a rising
tide of nonwhite newcomers, dooms itself to permanent minority status. Opposing
big government is squarely in the American grain; trying to hold back the
demographic tide is quixotic. Professional politicians do not want to become the
party of a legacy class.
The problem is that the Tea Party is not a party, and its members are quite
prepared to ride their hobbyhorse into a dead end. And many Republicans, at
least in the House, seem fully prepared to join them there, and may end up
dragging the rest of the party with them.
The example of those early days shows that American political parties once knew
how to adapt to a changing reality. It is a lesson many seem to have forgotten.
James Traub, a
columnist at foreignpolicy.com,
is writing a
biography of John Quincy Adams.
The Tea Party’s Path to Irrelevance,
On This Day - August 26, 1967
From The Times Archive
a former propaganda minister
for the American
served eight years in jail
for the murder of George Lincoln
who founded the party in 1959
MR George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi
Party, was shot and killed by a sniper today in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of
The police later announced that they had charged Mr John Patler, a white man,
with the murder of Mr Rockwell. Mr William Hassan, a state attorney, added that
Mr Patler, who had been arrested a block away from the scene, was a former
associate of Mr Rockwell.
Mr Rockwell was in the Dominion Hills shopping centre in Arlington, near where
he lived, and the sniper fired from a roof across the street, according to the
police and witnesses.
Mr Robert Hancock, aged 17, an attendant in a coin-operated laundry in the
shopping centre, said he had heard two shots at about 12.20pm. He walked out of
the “laundromat” and saw a man standing on the roof of a beauty shop next door.
He said that Mr Rockwell had been driving out of the centre’s parking lot at the
wheel of an old model Chevrolet when he was shot and that he then apparently
dived for the door of the passenger’s side of the vehicle and fell out. The car
crashed into another vehicle.
Mr Tom Blakeney, the owner of a barber shop next to the beauty parlour, said he
had seen the bullets go through the windowshield of Mr Rockwell’s car. He and
another barber had run after the sniper who immediately leapt from the roof of
the beauty shop and ran into Bon Air Park.
From The Times
Archive > On This Day - August 26, 1967,
The Times, 26.8.2005,
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