The Real Reason the Founding Fathers Aren’t Like the Teabaggers

Bill Maher has a point —

Maher is going for laughs, but I think a serious case could be made that the teabaggers represent the kind of mob factionalism the Founding Fathers most dreaded. See, for example, James Madison from Federalist #10

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

Madison goes on to say that “The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation.” However, he also believed factions would not be a threat to the nation as a whole because it was too big to be taken over by any one group —

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

However, modern technology has changed that, especially communication technology. Now “a general conflagration” can spread everywhere in an instant.

Maher is right that the Founding Guys were the elites — aristocrats, for the most part — of their time, and part of the objection some expressed to creating a strong central government was the possibility that it could be taken over by a mob of common, ignorant men.

9 thoughts on “The Real Reason the Founding Fathers Aren’t Like the Teabaggers

  1. What I find endlessly amusing (not really) is that righties, and their extreme right Teabagger wing, think that the Founding Fathers were Conservative.
    Uhm, what part of “creating” a new form of goverment is ‘conserve’ative, exactly? Conservatives fight to “conserve.” Liberals and Progressives fight for change, or somehow advance society forward. To ‘liber’ate, to make ‘progress.’ But, I guess etymology is too close to a science. Or it’s too elitist, or “hard work.”
    They really don’t seem to understand that the Founding Fathers, and those fighting the British, were the LIBERAL’S, and that those who were a Tory, or fighting against the Revolution were the CONSERVATIVE’S. They were trying to “conserve” the status quo reign of King George the IIIrd.
    No, they have this “belief” that the FFers were Conservative, just like them. And that meme has stuck, and is now adding an extra layer of concrete to their already thick skulls. And no ‘bunker-buster’ of facts or information will dent it, let alone smash through and let them see the light.
    I’m surprised it wasn’t Ted Nugent who named an album, “Thick as a Brick.” Of course, the lyric’s would have been far different from Jethro Tull’s. Here’s just one line:
    “So you ride yourselves over the fields and
    you make all your animal deals and
    your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.”
    If you’d like to read the rest, here it is:
    I’d give you the link to the album for you to listen to it, but I’m too lazy. Sorry…

    I remember when rock was ‘young’er, and you had thought provoking songs and albums.
    Those were the days…
    And the joke in this album, was not that it was a progressive “concept” album, but a spoof of one.
    Not all people get that.
    Just like a lot don’t understand that the FFers were Liberals.

  2. Wow, that painting he showed with Jesus in it was really disturbing. I find it incredibly insulting to the FF and their outstanding human achievement to suggest that they were merely bystanders as a glowing divine entity handed down the (presumably holy) Constitution. Instead of months of hard work and debate in the hot summer of Philadelphia, peacefully wrangling with difficult issues of political philosophy and law, and balancing the competing interests of geography, population, and economic sectors, the painter suggests that it was all Jay-sus’ work.


    • Wow, that painting he showed with Jesus in it was really disturbing.

      Yes, and it goes along with what a lot of us have been saying lately, that in the heads of wingnuts, America and American history are extensions of biblical history and Christian eschatology. No good can come of that.

      On the other hand, Maher’s comment about the Founding Guys finding the Bible “complete bullshit,” which is hyperbole, is the part of this video being picked up by rightie bloggers as proof that all liberals are evil. In Christian eschatology, that would put us on the side of Satan.

      I fear things are going to get a whole lot crazier.

  3. Maher is a bit one sided, but he drives home his point brilliantly about how the founders would’ve detested the tea bagging rabble, and vice versa.

  4. Cause or effect? John Adams said that the lure and pursuit of empire was corrosive of early republics, as in Rome where an imperial spirit preceded the actual office of emperor. What began as a republic was remolded by expansion, loss of virtue, luxury, concentration of wealth, extended terms of office (or rule by one faction) and finally monarchy. Sound on-the-way to being familiar?

  5. It’s a good rant on the tea idiots; it’s rather a pity that Maher is rather an ass. Instead of saying the FFs thought the Bible was bullshit, would it be that hard to get it right? Why talk like a teatard as if those guys all thought alike? Then again, one of the most distinguished among them made his own version of the New Testament, leaving out all the superstitious stuff that later writers had stuck in; or so he believed. Would they want a guy like that writing their Declaration of Independence? But he did, and many people badly need their noses rubbed in it.

    And James Madison a lawyer? Well, yeah; and he, more than anyone else, wrote the freaking Constitution. Couldn’t hurt to mention that, could it?

    What Maher said is pathetic next to what anyone who cared could say. But maybe just noting that the founders weren’t as stupid as Sarah Watzername is radical enough to be dangerous.

  6. Good point, Felicity.
    And the right seemed to appreciate the fact that the Bush admin just steamrolled everything, no need for pesky process, just “Git ‘Er Done!”.

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