Chancelucky

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

George Washington and the Teabaggers



I’ve been reading Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of George Washington, Washington: A Life.  It's a fascinating portrait full of unexpected details like the fact that George Washington had issues with his mother who may have even sympathized with the English during the revolution and that Washington had frequent money troubles.  

In the last several years, the conservative movement and the Teabaggers in particular have made a point of claiming the Founding Fathers.  I've even seen Chernow quoted in one blog as a source to support Washington's view of Jesus as essential to the American government.  Chernow's book does nothing of the sort.  He acknowledges that Washington prayed and mentioned "Providence" frequently.  He also mentions that Washington was not a regular churchgoer, very rarely used Jesus's name in public,  and made a point of visiting a variety of churches and synagogues to underscore his belief that the government did not have a chosen religion or religious sect.  He even said nice things about atheists on at least one occasion.

The Teabaggers have always puzzled me with their talk about history, because they so often leave out the fact that Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father. In fact, Hamilton and Jay (both Federalists) were two of the three main authors of the Federalist Papers.  Hamilton did things like help establish a bank of the United States (not the Federal Reserve, but something of a cousin), persuaded the President to go to war to enforce a Federal tax on whiskey, and encouraged what became the national debt.  No, he probably would be upset that it's gotten as big as it has, but the bigger wealthier states were none too happy when Hamilton endorsed the idea of the federal government taking on the debts of the individual states and borrowing a large sum of money from (get this!) France.  Washington almost always backed Hamilton in financial matters, which might suggest that Washington who wanted a stronger Federal government and who discouraged the formation of militias in favor of a Federally-controlled standing army wasn't exactly a Teabagger.

Maybe most significant, Washington, in his own life, regretted the formation of political parties because he believed that we were Americans-first not members of a political party.  Of course, the Tea Baggers claim to not be affiliated with a party.  They just happen to vote Republican and never support Democrats.  If they believe what they say they believe, Shouldn't they be voting for Gary Johnson anyway?

Washington was also very much in favor of the new government encouraging the manufacturing sector, by investing in it and in developing infrastructure through roads, bridges, etc.  When it came to the growth of the US, he wasn't anti-tax at all (though they didn't have a federal income tax back then).  

Bottom line, George Washington, if he were alive today, likely wouldn't be agreeing with the Teabaggers or the conservatives about much of anything. Just as interesting, the Constitutional period and the early years of the Republic reflect a period when there was vigorous disagreement about most every imaginable matter.  The great minds from both sides Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison found ways to work together on the basics rather than demonize one another.  It was part of Washington's greatness as a President that he presided over this and the mix that resulted was the result of give and take between big state vs small state, merchants vs farmers, east vs. west, pro-English vs. pro-French, strong central government vs. states' rights. This country was the result of any number of compromises.

In that sense, the Teabaggers have run deeply counter to the spirit in which this country was founded and how it evolved.  It's little wonder that they've depended so heavily on a "fantasy" history of the United States.        

 

 




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