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James Traub: The Tea Party’s Path to Irrelevance

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: foreign policy, James Traub, John Quincy Adams, Federalist Party, early Republic



James Traub, a columnist at foreignpolicy.com, is writing a biography of John Quincy Adams.

WASHINGTON — THE Tea Party has a new crusade: preventing illegal immigrants from gaining citizenship, which they say is giving amnesty to lawbreakers. Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, recently told Politico that his members were “more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare.”...

Tea Partyers often style themselves as disciples of Thomas Jefferson, the high apostle of limited government. But by taking the ramparts against immigration, the movement is following a trajectory that looks less like the glorious arc of Jefferson’s Republican Party than the suicidal path of Jefferson’s great rivals, the long-forgotten Federalists, who also refused to accept the inexorable changes of American demography.

The Federalists began as the faction that supported the new Constitution, with its “federal” framework, rather than the existing model of a loose “confederation” of states. They were the national party, claiming to represent the interests of the entire country.

Culturally, however, they were identified with the ancient stock of New England and the mid-Atlantic, as the other major party at the time, the Jeffersonian Republicans (no relation to today’s Republicans), were with the South....

Read entire article at NYT


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