The Tea Party movement mystifies outsiders on the left and the right. Tea Party activists often describe themselves as patriots, who stand for limited government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility. Critics have charged members with everything from lack of focus to racism.
Lepore, J. 2010. “Interview.” The Callie Crossley Show. WGBH.
There's a lot of talk these days about the ideals of the American Revolution, but historian Jill Lepore says the Tea Party isn't the first to yearn for the past. In the Civil War, both sides claimed the revolution. Civil rights leaders and segregationists said they were the sons of liberty. The problem, Lepore says, is that people are talking about an America that never was. Thursday, she joins us to talk about the struggle for independence, and the part it continues to play in our imagination.
As members of the Tea Party movement campaign enthusiastically ahead of this year's midterm elections, the political analyst Michelle Bernard and the national political columnist John Heilemann parse what members, supporters and scholars have to say about the Tea Party. Keli Carender is credited with organising one of the first Tea Party rallies - she reflects on how the movement has blossomed. The Tea Party candidate Joe Miller from Alaska explains his hopes for change in America. A Harvard University Professor, Jill Lepore, explains how she thinks the Tea Party has crafted a fable from American history in order to propel its message.
The rhetoric of the Tea Party is peppered with references to the American Revolution. And the eponymous event — the one that took place in 1773, when the Sons of Liberty emptied hundreds of crates of British Tea into the Boston Harbor — is just one such example. But the modern-day Tea Party is hardly the first political movement to use the past as political fodder. That issue is at the heart of a forthcoming book by Jill Lepore, the New Yorker writer and Harvard historian. In the “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History,” historian and writer Jill Lepore says the 1773 Tea Party has been a political device for many groups over the years.
Tea party activists and their leaders like Glen Beck claim they follow what the founding fathers intended. Harvard history professor and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore says 18th century history is a bit messier than they might realize. She talks about the battle over the meaning of history in her book "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History."
Members of the modern tea party movement take their cues from history. The only problem is the history books they read are often wrong. But that's no reason to look down on them argues Harvard historian Jill Lepore. In fact, she says, most of us don't have our facts straight when it comes to the founding of this country. Most kids learn about the American Revolution in elementary school, and they rarely visit the subject again in college. The Boston Tea Party, the Continental Congress, the entire fight for independence and the creation of a new government — our versions of these stories are often legends filled with exaggeration and oversimplification. Lepore visited Seattle in October, 2010, to talk about her book "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History." But her talk was not a condemnation of the far right wing. Instead, Lepore showed how both ends of the political spectrum have misrepresented history to further their causes, and she puts most of the blame on her own profession. If historians did a better job teaching this stuff, she points out, we'd all be better off.