© Josh Sager – May 2014
Arguably the most disturbing horror movie that I have ever seen was John Carpenter’s 1982 horror movie “The Thing.” In it, an alien creature stalks the inhabitants of an arctic research station by infecting, taking over, and replacing the researchers—it copies their bodies and memories so that it can impersonate them until it can strike. Unlike in most horror movies—where there is an easily distinguishable monster or enemy—the viewer of The Thing is left wondering which of the crew is actually a monster who could, at any point, grow fangs, tentacles, or claws and start killing the real humans.
(Note – this image is from the 2011 prequel to The Thing, but it shows the same creature)
Given the subject-matter of this movie, one would think that it would have no connection to American politics—unfortunately, American politics has gone somewhat insane in recent years and a political movement has developed that has utilized the hunting habits of the creature from the movie.
In 2009, a group of extreme right wing activists, ideologies and politicians banded together, with the backing of huge quantities of corporate and private money, in order to form the Tea Party. As an extreme right wing faction, this new Tea Party imposed a party orthodoxy of absolute fiscal conservatism and Christian social values on its members. It swept onto the political scene, disrupted the Democratic attempts to pass healthcare reform (remember the town hall debacles) and made massive electoral gains in the 2010 election. These gains in 2010 led many to believe that the Tea Party was an ascendant power in US politics and led the GOP to adopt many Tea Party figures into their positions of influence.
After their 2010 victories at the polls, the Tea Party’s prospects began to rapidly fall, as people realized that the Tea Partier were simply a group of extremists who have no idea how to govern and who hold views far outside the mainstream. Because of their near-shutdown of the American government and a series of widely publicized gaffes (ex. inappropriate comments about rape), the Tea Party has become intensely unpopular among mainstream America.
Just recently, the Tea Party suffered defeats against “establishment” republicans in a variety of primary races and it looks like they are a dying breed.
Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving and the fact is that the Tea Party has become the political equivalent to the monster from The Thing. They have taken over the Republican Party from within and transformed it into an entity that serves their interests while appearing to be something less frightening (or at least more sane). In all major areas of policy, the modern Republicans are in lockstep with the views of the theoretically defunct Tea Party: they want to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations, gut the regulatory state, eliminate welfare programs, pass extreme social legislation, demonize immigrants, and shrink the federal government to the point where it ceases to be relevant for anything but the national defense.
In effect, the Republican Party is the familiar face that the Tea Party “thing” has put on in order to cover the terrifying and dangerous form below the surface. They are not dead, irrelevant, or even in danger of losing power; they are merely pretending to be something else so that they don’t scare the American public with their extreme agenda until it is too late to stop them from enacting it.