By DeWayne Wickham
With Labor Day behind us, the nation’s voters now are expected to treat more seriously the election campaigns they thus far have given short shrift.
To say that up until now Americans have not paid much attention to the election process would be a reassuring explanation for the success of the Tea Party candidates who espouse views that threaten to turn this nation and its founding document upside down.
Tea Party-backed candidates who have won the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Kentucky, Alaska, Utah, Nevada and Colorado harbor views on a range of issues — like immigration, and the Second and Fourteenth Amendments — that ought to frighten thinking voters into the arms of their opponents.
Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, blurted out during post-election interviews that he thinks Congress went too far in outlawing racial discrimination by owners of private property. He also said neighborhood associations and private business owners should be free to discriminate on the basis of race. He’s since backtracked on both of these positions with doubletalk that falls far short of what sounds like a true change of heart.
And Paul has yet to retreat from his support of a call for Congress to find a way to undo the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of birthright citizenship. In 1856, the know Nothing Party’s platform called for a waiting period of 21 years before an immigrant could become a citizen. Paul and other candidates, like Utah’s Tea Party-Republican Mike Lee, think children born in this country to illegal aliens shouldn’t automatically become American citizens.
Nevermind that the Constitution says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens. They want to undo that constitutional provision. The Tea Party-GOP fusion candidates in Kentucky, Alaska, Utah, Colorado and Nevada back Arizona’s immigration law, which for them is an acceptable usurpation of the federal government’s authority.
And then there is Sharron Angle. In a throwback to the Wild West, the Nevada GOP Senate candidate has repeatedly talked about the possibility that people who dislike the actions of Congress might resort to a “Second Amendment (right to bear arms) remedy ” to assuage their discontent. It’s the kind of warped sense of entitlement that plunged this nation into a bloody civil war.
With the general election less than 60 days away voters ought to focus on reversing the meteoric rise of the Tea Partiers, who are the linear successors to the aptly named anti-immigration, Know Nothing Movement that flourished for a brief time during the 1850s. It elected eight governors, 43 members of the U.S. House and U.S. five senators during that time. But it ultimately collapsed from the weight of its own intolerance and blurred political vision.
The Tea Party Movement claims to be rooted in the traditional — but long compromised — Republican ideals of fiscal responsibility, small government and free markets. But its support of Arizona’s immigration law signals an intolerance of Hispanics that mirrors the Know Nothing Movement’s attempt to keep Catholics out of this country.
Left alone, there’s a good chance the Tea Party will sputter out of existence as quickly as the Know Nothing Movement did. But that may not be fast enough, given the stand Tea Party candidates are taking on issues.
Voters should speed up that process on Election Day.