God's Own Tea Party
The first lesson in Tea Party 101 is this: Tea Party supporters are just Republicans, only more so. They're old, white, very conservative and vote Republican. They shout the same incendiary slogans on display at any McCain-Palin rally circa October 2008. Tea Baggers and Republicans believe the same Bircher, Birther, Deather and Denier myths. And as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and a long list of others made clear, the leading lights of the Tea Party and GOP alike believe God speaks to them and, in turn, they for Him.
Beck's revelation came last week. On his radio show, Beck suggested the Lord himself is brewing up a tea party:
Because now is the time. Are you here to relax and be entertained, or are you here, will you pick up the mantle left to you by the Founders to be a guardian of man's freedom? Will you do it? Because your children will ask you what did you do? I believe your God will ask you what did you do...
God is giving a plan I think to me that is not really a plan...The plan that He would have me articulate, I think, to you is "Get behind me." And I don't mean me, I mean Him. "Get behind Me. Stand behind Me."
Glenn Beck is far from alone among the Tea Party favorites touched by the hand of God. For them, the divine high-fives started with George W. Bush, an unnatural disaster still supported by 57% of the Tea Party faithful.
The portrait of Bush as Savior was painted in books like Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy and Michael Lind's Made in Texas. Phillips concludes that George W. Bush is convinced that "God wanted him to be president", a view backed by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who reported, "Among the things he said to us was: I believe that God wants me to be president." As White House official Tim Goeglein once put it, "I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility."
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who in November declared "if the Republican Party is wise, they will allow themselves to be re-defined by the tea party movement," also proclaimed a mandate from the Almighty. In 2006, she testified that "God then called me to run for the United States Congress." In 2009, she told WorldNetDaily she would consider a run for the White House if He wanted it, "But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it." Until such time as she gets the sign, Bachmann assured her constituents:
"You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ."
Truer words were never spoken.
Fallen South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, too, insists God has a plan for him. After comparing himself to King David, Sanford told Palmetto State residents, "It is true that I did wrong and failed at the largest of levels, but equally true is the fact that God can make good of our respective wrongs in life." Sanford explained that he needed to remain in office "for God to really work in my life." So, Mark Sanford explained, the Lord wants him to hike the Appalachian Trail for Him:
"I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm."
Then there's former Arkansas Governor and Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee. For Huckabee, being touched by the hand of God is now a regular occurrence.
Joining Newt Gingrich and Iran-Contra villain turned Fox News regular Oliver North at Rock Church in Hampton Roads, Virginia in June, the former Baptist Minister and 2012 White House hopeful testified to God's role in furthering both the American Revolution and Huckabee's own reactionary social policies. As the Virginia Pilot recounted:
"The notion that we are just one of many among equals is nonsense," Huckabee said. The United States is a "blessed" nation, he said, calling American revolutionaries' defeat of the British empire "a miracle from God's hand."
The same kind of miracle, he said, led California voters to approve Proposition 8, which overturned a state law legalizing same-sex marriages.
And God, in the Governor's telling, stands with Mike Huckabee.
Back in December 2007, Huckabee attributed his dramatic surge in Iowa, a state he later won, to His divine intervention:
"There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people and that's the only way that our campaign could be doing what it's doing.
And I'm not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite. There literally are thousands of people across who are praying that a little will become much and it has, and it defies all explanation. It has confounded the pundits, and I'm enjoying every minute of their trying to figure it out. And until they look at it from a just experience beyond human, they'll never figure it out. And that's probably just as well. That's honestly why it's happening."
Of course, in Sarah Palin's telling, the Lord is going rogue with her.
As the Washington Post summed it up in its review of book, Palin's worldview is "an Alaskan frontierswoman's trinity" of "God, Todd and dominion over animals." And to be sure, the Quitta from Wasilla sees the hand of God everywhere in her life:
Right away, Palin posits her faith as the pillar of her career, as if her successes have unfolded according to a grand divine plan. Her selection as McCain's running mate was a "natural progression," she writes in one section. "I don't believe in coincidences," she writes in another.
But as it turns out, Sarah Palin doesn't just have the Lord in her corner, she's also His spokesman.
The war in Iraq, as then Governor Palin told students at the School of Ministry at the Wasilla Assembly of God, is "a task that is from God." And when it came to the multibillion natural gas pipeline she hoped would span her state, Palin lectured, "I can do my job there in developing our natural resources...But really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God," adding:
"God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that."
A jaw-dropping expose in Vanity Fair revealed the shocking extent of Palin's divine narcissism:
When [her son] Trig was born, Palin wrote an e-mail letter to friends and relatives, describing the belated news of her pregnancy and detailing Trig's condition; she wrote the e-mail not in her own name but in God's, and signed it "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."
Of course, Sarah Palin apparently has long believed she was touched by both the voice - and hand - of God. In May 2005 process complete with a laying on of hands, Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee prayed over Palin, imploring Jesus to protect her from "the spirit of witchcraft." As Election Day approached last fall, the GOP vice presidential claimed to be unconcerned by her ticket's dismal poll numbers. Victory, she insisted, was in God's hands:
"To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder. And it also strengthens my faith, because I'm going to know, at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4. So I'm not discouraged at all."
God, it seems, wanted Barack Obama in the White House.
But if anything, Palin's followers are more convinced than ever that He is on their team. Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher also has a direct line to the Almighty as well. Asked about running for office, the McCain-Palin campaign prop replied:
"You know, I talked to God about that and he was like, 'No.'"
Finally, there's Sarah Palin's mini-me, Carrie Prejean. As the beauty pageant contestant turned anti-gay crusader told the adoring crowd at the Values Voters Summit:
"God chose me for that moment. He knew I was strong enough to get through all the junk that I have been through."
Sadly for Carrie Prejean, all of America soon learned that she had been touched not by the hand of God, but her own.
The list of those tea bagging for Jesus hardly ends there. Long before she signed the draconian immigration law this week, Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer announced, "God has placed me in this powerful position." And Michael Steele, who told Fox News "if I wasn't doing this job, I'd be out there with the tea partiers," described his divine ascension to the chairmanship of the RNC. "God, I really believe, has placed me here for a reason," Steele insisted, "because who else and why else would you do this unless there's something inside of you that says right now you need to be here to do this?"
Among the stars of the February Tea Party Convention in Nashville were disgraced Alabama Supreme Court Judgee Roy Moore and Pastor Rick Scarborough. Scarborough, who previously compared Tom Delay to Jesus Christ, conducted the conducted the "Organized Prayer Session for the Convention and Our Nation." As Time described the scene:
By the end of the night, much of the room knelt in prayer - one of the pastors, Rick Scarborough, went after homosexuals several times to choruses of amens -- before watching a Tea Party video.
So much for Abraham Lincoln's admonition, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side." Then again, the Republicans are no longer the Party of Lincoln, but instead the Party of Glenn Beck.