It may sound far-fetched, but the rise of the Tea Party movement amongst the American right have much in similar with the Afghan Taliban, writes Gareth Browne.
The Taliban are known to the majority of us as the Muslim zealots responsible for sheltering Osama Bin Laden and the group that coalition forces have only just managed to scarper in a multi-trillion dollar war. However across the Atlantic a Taliban less recognisable yet far more potent are taking the United States by storm; they have been doing so for the past few years and the American right are embracing them with a worrying enthusiasm.
Known as the Tea Party movement and operating under the guise of a Republican Party sect, the Tea Party claim to be conservative Republicans. Yet Republicans they most certainly are not. The true Republican Party is one that emancipated the slaves, champions free-market capitalism and promotes civil liberties. Whether you disagree with them or not, these are all reputable principles – unlike those of the Tea Party.
At first the term “The American Taliban” may seem somewhat far-fetched, yet on comparison many parallels can be drawn between both the American and Afghan Taliban: a fundamentalist belief in ancient scripture, a drive to control females, intolerance of diversity and the rejection of scientific progress to name but a few.
Yet the perils of this movement don’t stop at its bigotry or ignorance but extend to a desire to ignore the secular principles of the United States. Secularism is after all one of the most significant mainstays of the US. For the world’s only remaining superpower to be controlled by a person taking their ideals from an ancient scripture which Christopher Hitchens described as being “…put together by crude, uncultured mammals…” would be quite a hazardous state of affairs. Secularism is found not only in the First Amendment which states that “…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” but also in numerous texts authored by the country’s founding fathers and early leaders, such as John Adams who insisted that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”. The fact that the United States is a secular nation would appear insurmountable. Thus it is worrying that so many Tea Party activists and figures believe the Bible to be ample defence for their xenophobia, ignorance and other undesirable “qualities”. Be it Rick Santorum’s comparisons of homosexuality to incest and bestiality, commentator Anne Coulter’s post 9-11 claim that we should invade all Muslim nations and convert them to Christianity or George W. Bush’s claim that God told him to strike Al-Qaeda.
Now one could easily conclude that The American Taliban are just the US’s current breed of right-wing lunatics – albeit a particularly potent on – but you would be wrong. The Tea Party is not a fringe group; in the current 112th congress 61 representatives claim Tea Party membership and in the Senate the number is at 4. The Republican presidential primaries also showed the sheer prevalence of Tea Party politics with Michelle Bachman, Hermain Cain, Rick Perry, Rich Santorum and Newt Gingrich all being serious contenders for the Republican nomination to run for the White House. Even in defeat the Tea Party’s influence is still evident. Mitt Romney, though previously a moderate, has been seen to shift to the right on many issues be it abortion, gay marriage, foreign policy and immigration. This has been solely to pick up the huge number of Tea Party aligned voters and, like all successful operations, the “American Taliban” are not just a political machine but also a social and media engine with Tea Party rhetoric spewing from the likes of Rush Limbaugh’s widely listened-to radio show or Anne Coulter who has sold over 3 million books.
Thanks to the recession, several wars and Barack Obama’s perceived broken promises, many American voters are looking for alternatives and many are finding the Tea Party. If the thought of the man with the nuclear button under one hand having a Bible under the other hand worries you then the huge growth in this group of voters should send shivers down your spine.