No, Tea Partiers, you don’t get to own American history

So, last night, Tea Party types won big when Christine O’Donnell took the Republican party nomination in the U.S. Senate race in Delaware.  That might not work out so well for them, of course, but I’m more interested in something she said during her victory speech:

Don’t ever underestimate the power of We the People!

“We the People”, huh?  I hadn’t even known that she had used this line until my wife pointed it out after hearing it on NPR.  She brought it up because of a pin I wear:

I first saw this pin on a friend’s lapel at a meeting of the Drinking Liberally social group I organize in Peoria, and I had to get one.  Back in the dark, late-Bush, still-possibly-McCain-Palin days, I felt the phrase “We the People” went a long way toward signifying what I felt was at stake.  We the People – all of us, in this together – had a lot to lose if conservative-Republican rule continued. 

So, along come the Tea Partiers and swipe We the People.  They already lay claim to the Gadsden flag, like hardcore religious and economic conservatives don’t want to tread on the rest of us.  They claim the U.S. flag, of course.  They claim freedom.  And of course, they claim the Constitution.

In my experience, liberals and progressives tend to shy away form using American imagery.  That’s a mistake.  American history – with its constant advancement of individual freedoms and quality of life – is our story, not theirs.

Let’s take a quick look at the preamble to the Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 Let’s review:

  • Justice – dare I even say social justice?
  • The general welfare – hello, social security and Medicare.
  • Liberty – for everyone, not just the select.

Six goals laid out in the preamble and easily half of them clearly liberal and progressive.  The preamble, remember, spells out why the entire rest of the document exists – to serve those goals.

Now, I understand the liberal and progressive impulse to not overly glorify American history.  There were a lot of mistakes – horrible mistakes – along the way.

But it is no solution to simply concede the words and imagery of American history the Tea Partiers and hardcore conservatives.  Nope.  It’s ours.  And we’re not giving it up without a fight.

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