Since the Tea Party faction of the Republican party came to power in the 2010 mid-term elections, it has put a hold on any forward thinking macro-economic policy. It has done so by either enacting regressive fiscal measures (such as sequestration) or blocking any new legislation (including any new stimulus, jobs or infrastructure bill proposed by the President) – let alone by its recent threat to allow a national default if the Affordable Care Act was not repealed. As the radicalism of the Tea Party has increased, the vibrancy of the metaphors used to describe its tactics has become equally intense.
I have likened its members to the anti-Federalists, who favored a loose confederation of states and opposed adoption of the U.S. Constitution. The comparison was meant to be somewhat ironic because Tea Party types, such as Michelle Bachmann, like to pretend that they are acting in preservation of the Constitution that created the federal system of government which they seek to undermine, or even destroy.
An even older comparison can be made to the French Revolutionaries who instituted the Reign of Terror (which we would have revisited in the event of a national default) and devoured their own children (featuring Ted Cruz as a latter-day Robespierre). The Jacobin Club that ran the Committee on Public Safety was probably one of the first manifestations of the totalitarian mindset that infected the coming centuries. In truth, it’s difficult to decide whether Senator Cruz has more of a propensity toward Jacobin purity or McCarthyite slander, but both metaphors work well.
The most accurate metaphor that I’ve heard for the Tea Party Caucus is that they are neo-Confederate insurrectionists. The reference to the Civil War is right on, especially since the rise of the Tea Party marks the take-over of the Republican Party by the forces of the Old Confederacy of the southern states. And while Lincoln fought to preserve the Union, this “Suicide Caucus,” as they have been dubbed by more establishment Republicans, seeks to dissolve it. Jefferson Davis also thought he was standing up for “constitutional liberty,” a favorite Tea Party phrase, which actually means the opposite of what it says.
On this Halloween, one last metaphor for the Tea Party: zombies who don’t know they’re dead yet. Beware the undead!