- - Wednesday, December 15, 2021

On Dec. 16, 1773, the Boston chapter of the Sons of Liberty painted themselves as American Indians, marched to Griffin’s Wharf, boarded three ships and took hatchets to 342 chests of tea, eventually tossing the contents into the harbor. Sam Adams and his crew perpetrated this criminal act in protest of the tax on tea that the king and Parliament had imposed on the colonies.

The Boston Tea Party led directly to armed conflict between Britain and 13 of her colonies in North America. The king and the colonists engaged in sequential retributions and provocations that ended at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill.

Most Americans nowadays associate the tea party with a political movement that arose at the end of the Bush and the beginning of the Obama administrations. Tea partiers were motivated both by former President George W. Bush’s indifference to the carnage among the middle class during the meltdown of 2008 and by former President Barack Obama’s desire to take over the health care industry.

It’s been difficult not to think about both tea parties — Boston in the 18th century and everywhere in the United States in the 21st century — as the United States and her political system have strained under the weight of systemic fabrications in the last two elections.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, a handful of House Democrats refused to certify the results, unable to comprehend or accept that former Secretary Hillary Clinton had lost. Rep. Maxine Waters of California was so deranged by the loss that she promised to begin impeachment proceedings immediately after the inauguration.

During that 2016 cycle, a running thread of the campaign against former President Donald Trump was that he was somehow entangled with the Russians. That thread, sustained by the comically false and essentially unsourced Steele dossier, which multiple people in the media and federal law enforcement either knew or should have known consisted of lies, led directly to the incredible waste of time that was the first attempt to impeach Mr. Trump.

To date, no correction or apology has been forthcoming from anyone in the media or federal “law” enforcement. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, in the wake of the system’s relentless resistance to Mr. Trump’s candidacy and eventual victory — including a willingness to lie baldly and without remorse — a sizable fraction of voters became disassociated from the political and cultural system they had previously respected. Consequently, they were susceptible to claims that the 2020 elections had been stolen from Mr. Trump by some of the very same actors who lied so egregiously in 2016.

Was there voter fraud in 2020? There always is. Was it material to the election results? No court of competent jurisdiction has determined that it was. At this point, a reasonable person can conclude that probative evidence of material voter fraud does not exist, that the election was not, in fact, stolen.

The rally on Jan. 6, which gave way to a protest and then went sideways and ripened into a riot at the U.S. Capitol, was a direct result of this disassociation of voters from the system. Yet the protest in 2021, like the one in 1773, remained relatively muted. While billed as an “insurrection” by some, almost a year after Jan. 6, no charges of treason, conspiracy to commit treason or anything comparable have been filed or even contemplated.

Instead, most of the 720 or so charges have been misdemeanors (obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing, etc.) that have resulted in pleas and probation. The most aggressive charge filed by prosecutors to date is assault.

It is also important to note that it appears that no one brought a gun into the Capitol, which is odd behavior for people planning to overthrow a government with 2 million men and women under arms and 10,000 nuclear weapons.

The notion that somehow an unarmed crowd of less than a thousand people posed some risk to democracy is nonsense, a lie perpetrated by some in the media and some in politics to degrade the ability of Republicans to win the presidency in 2024. Whatever doubt remains about that should be scrubbed away by the conduct of the House select committee investigating the riot, which has focused primarily on the activities of the president and his circle, rather than whatever criminal acts may have occurred.

Which leads us back to the tea parties. In both instances, the groups in question — the Sons of Liberty and the conservative tea party — were motivated by what they perceived was best for their nation, were concerned about institutional indifference to norms and customs, and guided by the truth as they saw it. Nowadays, by comparison, there are those on both sides of the political divide who are more concerned about transitory victories and trivial advantages than with the truth.

There are always reasons why people become detached and drift away from institutions that they previously respected and looked to for guidance, whether the English monarchy, the American media or political parties. Sometimes it is when those institutions violate or ignore their own norms. Mostly, it is when those institutions lie to them about things they can see with their own eyes.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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