by Conor Friedersdorf

This song is making the rounds. 

Insofar as it's a couple of guys with guitars trying to add their voices to the national conversation I applaud their initiative, though I'd prefer if Americans cut out this nonsense where showing oneself to have been insulted is a propaganda tactic. Implicitly signaling to celebrities that their most inane political analysis matters is a foolhardy move.

Especially unfortunate is invoking a celebrity who says the Tea Party Movement doesn't know history, and proceeding to sing those lyrics. The colonists were rebelling against a European monarch more than "a bunch of politicians." The Founding Fathers, cast as country boys in the song, were actually drawn largely from a colonial elite whose members didn't push their own plows. As delegates to the Continental Congress they were also politicians to a man. And the government they established emphatically interposed elected or appointed elites between the levers of power and regular people.

Later in the song, there's a line about how "the same blood is running through our veins" today as in 1776, but actually the many waves of immigration separating us from the Founding mean that the national blood lines, irrelevant though they may be, are quite different. As different are the manifold problems that the United States faces today: the songwriters might recall, for example, that the Constitution was written to strengthen the federal government at a time when our young nation was vulnerable to invasion due to our small, underfunded citizen military, whereas now our federal government is too big, powerful, and intrusive, and our lavishly funded professional military is easily the most powerful on earth.

Aside from being totally ahistorical, the song is very catchy, and I'm sure it'll be an effective propaganda tool.That's enough for a lot of people who know better to embrace it. The irony is that one could write completely true lyrics that made the case against an overweening federal government, invoking everything from drug laws to the health care bill to No Child Left Behind, and it would be even more powerful for being correct. But that would require more thought than lazily relying on a convenient narrative, and when political allies applaud one another regardless, where's the incentive to do better? Thank goodness the actual Founders came so much closer to sound arguments and accurate grievances in their declarations. Obviously that generation produced its share of nonsensical propaganda too, but the most consequential writing passed down is so much more than that.

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