This sums up everything that needs to be said about the "populist" Tea Party. It's not populist and its values of are antithetical to those of the Boston Tea Party.
Last month, Judson Philips, the president of Tea Party Nation, suggested on his internet radio show that only property owners should be allowed to vote:
The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn't you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you're a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you're not a property owner, you know, I'm sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners. (Audio, via Street Visuals)
I wonder if he thinks that non-property owners should be exempt from taxes. Tea Partiers have latched onto the idea that the Boston Tea Party was a tax revolt, which it was. Ironically for Judson Phillips and his friends, it was not a protest against high taxes, or taxation in general, but rather a protest against taxation without representation. The American colonists rightly resented the fact that the British were imposing taxes on them when they had no right to vote on those taxes. If you favor restricting the vote to property owners, and you don't want to absolve non-property-owners from taxes, then you're advocating taxation without representation. (I wonder how much property it takes to qualify as fully human in Phillips' eyes. Do you have to own a house? Outright? What about a car? Surely in America a car is property enough. Would a gun do? I don't have any of those, so I hope a large collection of used books is enough property. The Founding Fathers would have been dazzled by my library. Not at its contents, necessarily, but that an ordinary person could own over one hundred books. I bet they'd be impressed by the concept of a trade paperback, too.)
After the liberal blog Think Progress turned Phillips' comments into national news, he sent them a whiny email pointedly not denying that he thinks that it was wise of the Founding Fathers to restrict voting rights to property owners. Phillips is righteously indignant that liberal bloggers construed him as advocating the end of one person, one vote by constitutional amendment.
You know why they think that? Because, in the very same interview, Phillips advocated "at least modifying" (if not abolishing) the 14th Amendment (home of the Citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses). He also came out squarely in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment (popular election of senators), and possibly the 26th Amendment (guarantees the right of all Americans to vote at age 18)--though Philips couldn't remember off the top of his head whether #26 was the one he had in mind.
[Photo credit: Jef Harris, Creative Commons.]