I am preparing for the total collapse of reason, rationality, compromise and openness when the Tea Party takes over the Republican Party.
Perhaps you have seen the highly-popular NatGeo reality television series called “Doomsday Preppers.” If not, you are missing something really special. In its third year on NatGeo, “Doomsday Preppers” is the highest rated show on the network. The concept of the show is to profile the frenzied actions of “preppers” who believe the country is on the precipice of a catastrophic event that will mean an end to “the world as we know it.”
Some of the cataclysmic events anticipated by these “preppers” include a total economic meltdown, complete societal collapse triggered by illegal immigrants, an electromagnetic pulse (caused either by terrorists or the sun), nuclear incidents, terrorist acts, pandemics, famine, war or the reversal of the earth’s geomagnetic fields. On a recent show, one fearful prepper was convinced that the American government had a plan to “nuke” American citizens and then round up the survivors for internment in concentration camps. Another prepper, in the belief that all the hospitals would be closed, was practicing a Caesarean-section procedure on his pregnant wife, in the garage.
The survival plans of the preppers highlighted on the show details the extent to which they are willing to go to prepare for the oncoming Armageddon. The fervent, almost obsessive dedication to these efforts in the form of time, money and effort – not to mention the disruption of the entire family – is amazing to witness. Preppers have gone to great lengths to secure and fortify their homes with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition that would outstrip most Central American armies. Thousands of dollars are spent on stocking and preserving literally years-worth of food and supplies; not to mention gas-masks, bio-suits and flack-jackets. You might call these preppers “hoarders with a gun.” All of this of course is intended to protect the family in time of societal chaos and to defend against the attacks of marauding bands of desperate survivors who did not plan. Hard to argue against that idea.
In addition, most of the preppers have acquired a secret “bug-out” location that – by taking their bug-out bags and following a secret bug-out route – they can escape to their havens of refuge. If not, the preppers have built or purchased – at the cost of multiple thousands of dollars – large, fortified bunkers that have been buried in their backyard. (Some of the more dedicated preppers even move to Mississippi so they can get a real-time idea of what living in post-apocalyptic times will be like.)
All of this doomsday prepper stuff may seem entertaining, if not farcical, but there is a disturbing undercurrent in this movement. On the surface these preppers seem like the typical All-American relatively well-educated, reasonable, patriotic white family. (I may have missed it, but don’t recall an episode ever featuring a minority family of preppers.) When listening to the preppers talk – when not explaining the “field-of-fire” they have set up from their bedroom window – what comes across is not only a paranoid fear of the future, but of any government and society itself. These preppers seem to view non-Christians, illegal immigrants and non-whites as foils for terrorists; if not actually terrorists.
Rather than reaching out to work with government and other members of society, preppers view them to be as much the enemy as the coming calamity. The strident belief of these preppers is that the government (all government) and other members of society (not like them) are either inept or complicit in the upcoming crisis and that others in society will be bent on taking what they have. The prepper’s only concern and interest is for themselves and their families. It is a disturbing posture suggesting that in a national crisis, everybody should fend for themselves and play by their own rules; disregarding the concepts of civility, mutual respect and community assistance. This is certainly far from the time-honored practice of Americans to come together in support of each other during a calamity.
Could “Doomsday Preppers” be members of the Tea Party movement on steroids?
Some have suggested that the “Doomsday Preppers” show is intended to be a subliminal mocking caricature of the Tea Party. And you can see why people might draw that conclusion. Doomsday preppers and Tea Party activists seem to live in a parallel universe. On the surface, Tea Party members seem like a typical releatively well-educated, patriotic white American. The members of the Tea Party Movement (TPM) certainly believe that America is rushing head-long toward the destruction of “the country as we know it.” The catastrophic events foreseen by the TPM are the denuding of individual rights granted by the constitution and the well-planned, highly coordinated tyrannical invasion of the government into their daily lives.
To rally their “preppers” the TPM has adopted the spirit of Barry Goldwater (Republican presidential candidate in 1964) proclaiming that extremism in the defense of what they define as liberty is no vice and that moderation in pursuit of what they define as justice is no virtue. The Tea Party adheres to this viewpoint by proudly and staunchly proclaiming that their demands are “non-negotiable.” And anyone who even hints at the possibility of negotiation on these demands is, after being ostracized-and-feathered, kicked out of the TPM bunker.
While the doomsday preppers stock their underground bunkers with an abundance of food, guns and ammunition, the TPM stock their bunker-like minds, with ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, contradictions and a no-way-but-my-way mentality.
The TPM leaders are politically astute. They hide behind and use as weapons principles that few could disagree with and the ignorant will accept at face-value. Who could disagree – at least in principle – with the desire to increase domestic employment, reduce taxes, reduce government while increasing individual freedom and an end to deficit spending?
But then there is the reality of real life. When it comes to reducing government spending, a recent survey discovered that 86% of the Tea Partiers favored the repeal of Obamacare, Food Stamps and Medicaid (programs that admittedly are intended to help lower income and minorities); while an almost equal number of TPM respondents 84% didn’t believe Social Security or Medicare spending should be reduced. The majority of the TPM want tax reform but they don’t want to lose their deduction for mortgage interest.
The TPM calls for virtually Libertarian views on individual freedom and rights and yet a large majority of TPM members favor the repeal of the 14th amendment defining citizenship for all. While calling for individual freedom in the form of unrestricted gun rights, a majority of the TPM favor a constitutional amendment banning “flag burning” and other forms of free speech. While demanding the protection of individual rights, the TPM has supported voter-restriction laws in 16 states.
The number one priority of the “non-negotiable core beliefs” listed on the TPM web site is, “Illegal aliens are here illegally.” Aside from being a simple declarative statement, this is nothing more than a blatant, racist appeal to fear. Rather than work to solve the issue, the TPM has ferociously fought any effort for immigration reform. (If immigration were not an issue, the TPM leadership would have one less fear-lever to fire-up the troops for the oncoming catastrophe.)
The TPM claims that it is not racist (80% of members are non-Hispanic whites), but TPM rallies offer a different picture. The racist rhetoric, signs and tee-shirts were so in abundance at TPM rallies the leaders have had to openly beg the followers to “leave that stuff at home.” The TPM members may leave their signs at home, but they still carry around their half-baked bigoted and contradictory beliefs.
When it comes to tolerance, moderation and respect for the ideas of others, you don’t see any of these on the TPM list of “non-negotiable core beliefs.” Quite to the contrary, for the TPM a 100 percent defeat is better than a 50 percent win coupled with the ability to come back to fight again. The TPM would rather see the American government default on its obligations than find a reasonable solution. There is little doubt that Mitt Romney lost the election to President Obama because the TPM forced Romney – in order to gain the nomination – to take positions he really didn’t believe in (shame on him) and that were unacceptable to the majority of Americans.
It is true: The Doomsday Preppers and the Tea Party Movement do revolve in a parallel universe.
And the Moral of the Story …
When it comes down to it, if you had to pick one group – Doomsday Prepper or TPM member – to co-exist with, the best choice would always be the prepper. At least the prepper retreats to his bunker to hide behind his guns and chomp down on cases of MREs, but doesn’t bother others. (Just don’t knock on their door!) As for the Tea Party, their desire is to force their non-negotiable core beliefs – as they define them – on everyone and to reject any form of moderation, compromise or diversity. The very attributes of political activity and approach that, in the past, made and kept America great.
In the end, the difference between the Doomsday Preppers and the TPM is that the preppers seek to be prepared for a catastrophic calamity that may never happen, while the TPM is a catastrophic calamity just waiting to happen.