Robert Stein 1924-2014

Contact Information

If anyone has comments, questions or condolences, please feel free to send a private message to the family at

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tea Party Goes Back Too Far

Patriots who revere the Founding Fathers may now be overshooting their mark by almost a century--back to the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s: If anything went wrong then, the answer was to find the servants of Satan responsible and get rid of them.

In Congress and statehouses across the country, newly minted Tea Party officeholders are hounding public employees and their unions as a response to frustration over economic woes--a solution that makes as much sense now as it did in Salem--and are edging into the kind of behavior that prompted Arthur Miller to write "The Crucible" in the 1950s as a response to McCarthyism.

For asserting that the GOP has blighted Wisconsin’s tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect,” a distinguished historian has been subjected to a demand for copies of all e-mails to or from his university account with the word “Republican” and names of Republican politicians, in a reprise of what Paul Krugman calls "the thought police."

In Washington, House Republicans are putting the AARP in the dock for supporting "Obamacare" with hearings intended to smear the senior citizens' organization, while the Florida GOP votes to ban automatic deductions of union dues and the climate of reprisal spreads in state after state.

In the last election, Christine O'Donnell failed to win a Senate seat with the claim that "I am a not a witch," but many of those who did attain office are not satisfied to leave it at that.

Someone should explain to them that, 300 years after the Salem trials, all the alleged witches have been exonerated and that memorials have been erected to them. In today's world, we may not have to wait centuries to correct that kind of insanity.

Next year's elections would be a good time.

Update: Maybe we don't have to wait that long, as Wisconsin voters work on recall petitions for Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts. Witch-burning may work both ways.


Yellow Dog Don said...

Non-profits (501c's) have to be careful about taking partisan positions. I do not know if AARP is one of these corporations, but unions are.
AARP will be able to withstand the inquisition. The Republicans are upset since their only attempt at job creation so far has been to try to overturn ObamaCare, that "job killing" bill.
Every sailor knows that it is impossible to make way while sailing in irons.

Octopus said...

I don't see this as a Salem replay or as a group of Luddites on steroids. This is one party ruthlessly trying to destroy the loyal opposition every which (or witch) way they can.

Consider the asymmetry between union busting and the Citizens United decision. If Citizens United opened the door to corporate funding of political speech, events in Wisconsin have closed the door on union funds for Democrats. All told, union busting, Gonzo-gate, voter caging, voter ID cards, and the hit on Acorn are manifestations of a GOP master plan to eliminate traditional bases of Democratic support.

In theory, true democracy is predicated on choice, and choice connotes a policy debate between rivals. If one party, however, employs ruthless tactics to cripple the opposition beyond viability, what we have left is essentially a one party system with only token opposition. In other words: A democracy in name only. Wisconsin is where the GOP changed the dynamics of democratic engagement from contest to conquest. Wisconsin is where Chicken Little crossed the road to fascism. And no, this is not a Godwin fallacy but the truth.

Yellow Dog Don said...

Well said Octopus.
I never thought to call up the Swash Zone with my sailing reference.
Allow me to mention Michigan. A new law allows the Governor to appoint an EFM (Emergency Financial Manager) to any community or school district at the Governor's discretion. The EFM will have the authority to get rid of all elected officials and require the community to provide the EFM's salary.
This goes beyond union busting and into voter disenfranchisement.

Octopus said...

Yellow Dog Don,
If these legislative initiatives in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, among others, appear to have features in common (as if crafted by the same Evil Genius), they are. This was the subject of a blog entry authored by University of Wisconsin Professor Bill Cronon, who was subsequently targeted by the Wisconsin State GOP.

About the FOIA request, my friend Lindsay Beyerstein of Focal Point has written an excellent background post here. And here is Professor Cronon’s first blog post since the controversy made headlines – a half million hits on the first day.

Cronon investigates an organization called ALEC as one source behind these fascist takeovers of state government. The GOP's FOIC request is an attempt to find any dirt on Cronon that can be given a Breitbart style out-of-context smear treatment.