Tea Party: Does it really reflect American values?


In the end, how “American” is it—really?

At the heart of the Tea Party movement is the ideal of America as a nation of autonomous individuals and limited government. Big Government is Big Brother stripping away our freedoms one by one. Bank bailouts and healthcare reforms are evidence that Big Brother is too big.

The ideals of limited government and individual liberty are part of America’s DNA. These have been cherished American values from the nation’s beginning. These were the principles Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he authored the Declaration of Independence. Ever since, says historian Joseph J. Ellis, “American political discourse is phrased in Jeffersonian terms as a conversation about sovereign individuals who only grudgingly and in special circumstances are prepared to compromise that sovereignty for larger social purposes.” (Click here to read what I wrote about Jefferson’s theory of the origin of American values.)

Whether we like the Tea Party or not, we have to recognize that it draws its power from these Jeffersonian principles. The Tea Party’s policy prescriptions may be unrealistic, naïve, or even harmful, but they resonate with America’s DNA. Small government “feels right” to many Americans and big government “feels wrong.”

“Boiling Mad” author Kate Zernike ends the prologue to her book with this statement: “The Tea Party movement went to the heart of conflicts that had bedeviled Americans for more than two hundred years and reflected anxieties that Americans had been expressing for generations.” 

I think she’s right.

Do you think the Tea Party reflects American values?

Click on the “Comment” link below to tell us what you think.

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