Rand And The Tea Parties

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JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 29, 2010

Rand And The Tea Parties

Last fall I wrote a long review essay on Ayn Rand and the influence of her though on the current right-wing mood. Jill Lepore has an article in the New Yorker about the Tea Parties and the historic use of revolutionary imagery and concepts. One of the things that struck me in her report is how frequently the Randian concepts I discussed come up -- the belief that the central horror of liberalism is stealing from the virtuous and giving to the lazy:

A nurse from Worcester who grew up in the Midwest and is registered as an Independent explained what getting back to the country’s eighteenth-century roots means to her: “I don’t want the government giving money to people who don’t want to work. Government is for the post office, and to defend our country, and maybe for the roads. That’s all.”

“Can you imagine if the British said not only do you have to pay a tax on the tea but you have to buy the tea and you have to buy tea for your neighbor?” Hess said. ...

Egan’s twin brothers, John and Joe, were there, too. Their grandparents came over from Ireland in 1907; they grew up in Dorchester. They have worked very hard, all their lives. They’re mad about the bums—the bums on the streets, the bums in Washington. George said, “Every drug addict gets a check. We write those checks.” Joe said, “Stay out of our wallets. I don’t care: Democrat, Republican? I don’t care.” Then George told me, “My little girl, when she was three, she got real sick. Had to be in intensive care for ten days. Had to have a tracheotomy. I had shit for insurance. The hospital sent me a bill. Ten thousand dollars. I got a second job; I sent the hospital one hundred bucks a week. That was the right thing to do. This is wrong. People want something, they have to work for it.”

Of course, many right-wingers understand this idea in a racialized way:

On the stage, the national talk-radio host Mark Williams took the microphone: “I am here to reclaim my home town for America. The hippies have had it long enough.” He denounced the “lamestream media,” and Communists in Cambridge and in the White House. “Political correctness led to 9/11. Political correctness led to Barack Hussein Obama.”

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posted in: jonathan chait, washington, worcester, hess, ireland, jill lepore, joe, john, mark williams, then george

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