Anyone with an ounce of compassion or half a brain who witnessed the last two GOP debates has to be wondering what is happening in American society. The acid test of all Republican candidates was a repudiation of science (“no” to evolution, “no” to climate change). This is disturbing enough in a world where scientific innovation is the vehicle for economic prosperity, but what about the repudiation of such fundamental American Values as justice and compassion? When asked about the record number of executions in Texas, including the execution of innocent men, not only did Gov. Perry defend the slaughter, the audience cheered it! In the most recent debate, when asked if an uninsured man should be refused medical treatment and left to die, members of the audience shouted out “yes” and others cheered.
GOP events are being swamped by Tea baggers, errrr, Tea Party activists and to understand them, one need only look back into history. The Know-Nothing party was a political party formed in the 1850s in response to the perception that immigration was threatening jobs and the fabric of American society. It was covertly funded by wealthy families who had an economic and political interest in maintaining the status quo and fueled by fear and conspiracy theories (e.g. the Pope was seeking to take over the government by flooding the country with Irish). They were called “know-nothings” even though they were officially the “American Republican Party” because when confronted about their secretive nature or violent attacks of immigrants, they responded “I know nothing”. However, over the years the label “know nothings” has come to reflect the judgment of history on their policies and beliefs.
The Tea Party began as an anti-immigrant, anti-government political movement funded by billionaires during a time of economic uncertainty, just as the original Know-Nothings were. Just as the predecessors were, the Tea Party is energized by fear and conspiracies (Obama is a Muslim, is not American, immigrants are threatening the fabric of American society, etc) and is anti-Muslim, if not anti-Christian, in its nature. The difference is that because of the media-political complex, their importance has been greatly exaggerated and their views moderated to seem main-stream. The fact that virtually all of the leading GOP candidates are pandering to their anti-science and anti-immigrant and Hobbesian bigotry, is disturbing, even if it is insincere (except of course Perry and Bachman who appear to be genuinely bigoted).
One more historical fact: the rise of the Know-Nothings marked the end of the existing two party system of the time (the destruction of the Whigs). Is this the end of the GOP as well?