State Senator Bob Rucho really is a silly little man. When he didn’t get his way on tax reform, he threw a temper tantrum and resigned as Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Now, he’s tweeting that “JFK could have been founder and leader of the Tea Party movement.”
How ridiculous. Conservatives have been trying to claim JFK for years but when he was in office they abhorred him. JFK may not have been the screaming liberal that some on the left wish he was, but he was not even close to the Tea Party.
Conservatives are trying to claim him primarily because he supported cutting taxes. Let’s put this into perspective. When Kennedy was in office, the top marginal tax rate was 91% and the top corporate rate was 52%. You read that right. So when Kennedy was calling for lower taxes, it was not comparable to what we have today.
In contrast to the Tea Party, JFK was a huge proponent of foreign aid and started the Peace Corps. He also didn’t have too much respect for states’ rights when it came to civil rights. Remember, he federalized the Alabama National Guard and sent them to desegregate the University of Alabama. Can you imagine the Tea Party cheering on the armed forces to undermine a Southern governor?
The Tea Party does have historical precedent but it’s not leaders like JFK. As a movement, its historical ancestors are the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. They were paranoid organizations who saw themselves as patriotic saviors of the nation and used economic fear to encourage poor and working class whites to vote against their own self interests. The Tea Party are from the same strain of political paranoiacs.
So if Senator Rucho wants to claim a hero for the Tea Party, he would do better to look to Joseph McCarthy instead of JFK. McCarthy is much more of an ideological soulmate to the Tea Party than the assassinated president.
But here’s my bet. In 50 years, the same ugly strain of politics that defines the Tea Party will still be around. And just like the Birchers and the Klan, their ideological descendants won’t claim them, either.