Party time

The biggest Tea Party yet in the Northland which seems to be no bigger than the one I passed leafelets out at a couple years ago was held at the DECC yesterday.

I read this quote in an MPR story from Becky Hall, whose husband fixed my broken finger a few years back. I stopped before completing the story to post a reaction:

“We don’t believe government can solve all our problems. We believe that too often, government is the problem.

“Remember: It’s we, the people. Not we, the government,” she said.

I’m increasingly aggravated by the GOP’s historical amnesia and its repeated misapplication of one of the greatest quotes from its own seminal founder Abe Lincoln.

The quote is from the Gettysburg Address. It was a speech which largely reframed the thinking of the Union about the reason for fighting the Civil War. At first it was all about “Union.” For the North fighting meant preserving the Union. In fact Lincoln changed name of the Republican Party in its third (and Lincoln’s second) national election. Lincoln chose a Democrat to be his running mate, Democratic Senator Andrew Johnson, and ran under the label of the “Union Party.”

Tea Partier’s revere exDemocrat Ronald Reagan not Lincoln. Reagan loved FDR until he started making real Hollywood money and discovered the now long retired 90% tax rates of the Depression/WW 2 Era. Somehow after Reagan’s departure from the White House a lot of his accolytes have confused his call for limited government with extinguishing government. They seem to want a glorified anarchy with enough police power to prevent poor from taking away the money accumulated by plutocrats whose powerful friends in Congress have tilted the playing field.

Here’s the original “of the people” Address:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

“A new birth of freedom.” You’d think that would appeal to Tea Partiers. That’s what Lincoln was driving at beyond mere Union. It refers to the Declaration of Independence which begins: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That “pursuit of Happiness” business is remarkable. Some scholars have said a more pragmatic Declaration would have simply used the word “property” in its place. Afterall the Boston patriots who the Tea Partier’s like to ape were raising hell over losing their property in the form of taxes on tea to the British government. They weren’t throwing tea in the harbor because they thought “Happiness” was unalienable.

Lincoln’s address was pulling the Nation away from the notion that property rights – e.g. slave owning – was the foundation of the nation. It pointed to the Declaration’s call for unalienable rights including those of the slaves.

Union was on his mind as well and he didn’t abandon it. It would be the new wartime name for his party in the following year. His Address famously described the Union (including presumably slaves) as being: “government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

So when Mrs. Hall tries to divide the American people from their government she is trying to take the heart out of the body.

I much preferred wacko Ross Perot’s formulation that to find out what was wrong with the nation we only had to “look in the mirror.” I think the Tea Partiers…..and yes….Democrats as well as Independents should keep that in mind.

By the way. As I was typing this up I thought I heard on NPR’s Morning Edition that today is the Anniversary of the signing of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. I’m not sure how they tied today’s date into the Proclamation so I did a quick search. I obviously misheard. What did take place on this date was the freeing of all the slaves in Washington D.C. by the Civil War Congress. This took place well before the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.