Chadwick Harvey is lazy.
In his recent piece “Tea Party Uses Religion to ManipulateWorking Class Americans Into Buying Their Dogma” Harvey makes a number of unsupported assertions, attempting to cast the tea party phenomenon as an elitist con-job perpetrated on ordinary religious Americans.
Harvey begins with his interpretation of what seems to be Marx’s quote regarding religion being “the opiate of the masses.” He claims that Marx believed religion was used as a tool of oppression by the wealthy classes. Harvey states: “…society seemed to be defined by a class struggle in which the wealthy brainwashed the working class with religion to influence them to work hard and produce more goods so that the rich could continue to get richer.” But a quick search of Marx’s ENTIRE quote provides a different view:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.
Now, I’m no fan of Marx, but even I can see that Marx said nothing like the words Harvey is putting into his mouth. Mischaracterizing a quotation in order to balance an entire argument upon it is no way to begin a serious conversation about the role of religion in tea party politics.
In his full quote, Marx is referring to religion as (in his view) a coping mechanism for the suffering that the lower classes undergo at the hands of the wealthy class, not a tool of those elites; a balm, not a yoke.
Harvey goes on, building from his error, to cast the tea party as a vehicle for elites to manipulate middle-class religious conservatives: “In America today, one need not look any further than the Tea Party and its influence on middle class evangelicals to find Marx's theory proven correct.” So Harvey sets up his thesis: The Elitists cooked up Tea Party to mollify those losing economic ground every day by distracting them from the serious economic issues of the day and diverting them to social issues with far more light, but less heat.
However, Harvey immediately begins to “prove” his assertions with unsupported statements:
When the movement burst onto the scenes of American politics in 2009, it was a group of unpatriotic typical elite Americans complaining that they had been taxed enough already. As the movement grew, a large number of middle class evangelicals joined. In addition to the fiscal issues and national debt concerns that led to the formation of the Tea Party, the movement has adopted a strong focus on social issues that is more typical of religious right-wing evangelicals.
- · “unpatriotic” offered with neither definition nor explanation
- · “typical elite” also offered with neither of the above
- · “a large number of middle class evangelicals joined” as opposed to evangelicals being intimately involved in the origins of the movement
But the proof Harvey attempts to cite concerning elitists is the establishment of the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. Congress by Rep. Michelle Bachmann in July of 2010, an event that took place a full SEVENTEEN MONTHS after the beginning of the nationwide tea party movement. He compounds his error with citing the names of wealthy congressmen with religious ties. He names:
1) Trent Franks, wealthy oil businessman from Arizona who is a faithful member of a Baptist Church.
2) Joe Wilson, a wealthy Real Estate attorney from South Carolina who is a faithful attender of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia.
3) John Fleming, a wealthy businessman and long time Sunday school teacher who last year on MSNBC infamously complained that he has only $400,000 left over at the end of each year.
I hate to remind Mr. Harvey, but a good number ofRepresentatives and Senators are very wealthy including:
- · Sen. John Kerry
- · Sen. Dianne Feinstein
- · Rep. Nancy Pelosi
- · Sen. Claire McCaskill
But it isn’t merely wealth that’s disturbing Harvey; apparently all of these are (gasp) religious people. And what’s worse, OPENLY religious people. THAT’S the issue he seems to have. However, he doesn’t take this objection anywhere:
While the overwelming (sic) majority of congressmen and congresswomen are affiliated with some religion, not all choose to share their religious dogma openly. Not surprisingly, the percentage of those in the Tea Party caucus who share their religion openly is more than double that of the rest of Congress.
They SHARE THEIR RELIGION OPENLY. MORESO than the REST of Congress. Scary religious people, talking about their religion. That’s all he has.
Or is it? He continues:
The motive is not hard to figure out. Members of the Typical Elite Americans Party have little else to offer the middle class, so they use religion as a toy to create a culture war. This leads to working class evangelicals voting against their personal best interests due to their reliance on a religious dogma that gives them hope that although they are the losers in the class struggle, they can be winners in the next life.
Harvey renames tea party with “Typical Elite Americans” in an attempt to be cute, and then claims the tea party has little else to offer the middle class except religion, the means of perpetuating a culture war. He doesn’t explain how this works at all, how a movement devoted to lower taxes and spending, following the Constitution, and personal responsibility is cleverly being used by elites to manipulate working-class evangelicals into “voting against their personal best interests due to their reliance on a religious dogma that gives them hope that although they are the losers in the class struggle, they can be winners in the next life.”
Harvey essentially charges that religious tea party members are being spoon-fed a social issue narrative designed to distract them from the real economic issues facing the nation. Or something. He really never even gets around to addressing the economic situation at all.
Ironically, at the same time, Harvey takes the mainstream-media-driven narrative about the tea party straight, no chaser; he swallows the spoon-feeding that the MSM have been doling out for years, and attempts to regurgitate it. And he doesn’t even do that skillfully or originally.
His piece ignores the tea party involvement in the Health Care Town Hall meetings where average citizens quoted the Constitution at their representatives; the massive tax-protest rallies around the country and in Washington D.C.; the nationwide effort to support Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts; and innumerable other issues unrelated to social issues and religion.
Essentially the only thing that Harvey does seem to be offering, when you wade through all the nonsense, is this single huge revelation:
Harvey thinks religion is for stupid people.
That’s his entire complaint – that the tea party has religious people in it. I could have slept in; I can get that anywhere, from much smarter and more articulate people.