MCD Blog

Blogs are the opinions of the bloggers only, and do not necessarily represent every Democrat or the Monroe County Democrats However, the MCD sponsors this blog to express and share the many ideas within our party.

The Tea Party and Nativism

             Many labels have been put on the tea party since the 2010 election when its members first dressed in 18th century garb and promoted themselves as modern-day patriots.  A look at American history, however, suggests that the best label for the tea party is “Nativist.”  Far from constituting some new movement in American politics, the tea party is a throw-back to a black hole in 19th century social movements.

            Nativists first crawled into American history in the 1840s when second and third generation Anglo-American descendants from the protagonists of the War for Independence found that their social status and political influence were being diminished during the dawn of industrialization.  Low-skill jobs in mines and on railroads were gobbled up by the incoming cheap labor working for starvation wages and their presence in cities created ethnic enclaves of poverty.  But the immigrants could vote, creating new clusters of political power.  A more serious threat came in economics.  Artisans and shop-keepers were threatened by nascent corporations that feasted on exploitation of these immigrants.  Unlike the established Anglo-American tradespersons, the immigrant labor sustained a new crop of factories that mass-produced commodities as different as cloth, candles and cables.  Factory production undercut the traditional model of a trade that made its product in the back-room and sold it over the counter in the shop.  Rather than cast blame upon the capitalist elites who were benefitting from this modernizing industrialization, Nativists denounced immigrants instead.  “If they were not here, change would not be here!” ran the argument. 

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