We have always known that the so-called “tea party” movement is really nothing more than a throwback to the “Know Nothings” of the mid-ninteenth century.

The Know-Nothing movement was actually a group of secret anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant political organizations that called itself the American party. The movement, comprised principally of native-born, white, Anglo-Saxon males, came into being in the 1850s, grew rapidly, and waned almost as quickly.

Then, as now, it was people who feared change who wanted things to go back to the way they had been. Then it was German immigrants who settled communities and continued to speak their own language in them; and Irish immigrants whose brogues were hard to understand, and they were Catholic.

This generation’s version of the Know Nothings hate Hispanic immigrants and a black man in their White House.

Certain groups of already established Americans who called themselves “Nativists,” formed secret societies dedicated to stopping the flow of immigrants. The depth of nativist animosity was demonstrated in 1834 when a group of anti-Catholic laborers and townspeople chased a group of students and Ursuline nuns from their school and convent near Boston and then burned the buildings.

Minutemen, anyone? Or how about the precipitous rise in hate groups, as tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center? We have more than our share, with 31 groups of militia idiots based right here in Missouri.

We have also seen religious-based violence in this country, with church burnings, a shooting by a right-wing domestic terrorist fueled by a steady diet of right-wing radio hate in a Unitarian church by a man who said he wanted to kill progressive leaders, but since he couldn’t get close to them he would kill people in their house of worship.

Right now, at this moment in time, we have Glenn Beck on a rampage against churches that practice social justice – a pillar of Catholic faith.  

And if you want more evidence that the people who comprise the so-called “tea party” movement are pig-ignorant and being led around by the nose by right-wing hate radio and corporatistss with ulterior motives, read this piece at Forbes. For a group that pretends it is all about taxes, when it comes to tax policy and tax rates,  well,  they know nothing.

On March 16 the Tea Party crowd showed up for yet another demonstration on Capitol Hill in Washington. Curious about the factual knowledge these people have regarding the issues they are protesting, my friend David Frum enlisted some interns to interview as many Tea Partyers as possible on a couple of basic questions. They got 57 responses–a pretty good-sized sample from a crowd that numbered between 300 and 500 people.

The first question that was asked concerned the size of government. Tea Partyers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product. According to Congressional Budget Office data, acceptable answers would be 6.4%, which is the percentage for federal income taxes; 12.7%, which would be for both income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes; or 14.8%, which would represent all federal taxes as a share of GDP in 2009.

Not everyone follows these numbers closely, and Tea Partyers may have been thinking of figures from a few years ago, before the recession when taxes were higher. According to the CBO, the highest figure for all federal taxes since 1970 came in the year 2000, when they reached 20.6% of GDP. As we know, after that George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress cut federal taxes; they fell to 18.5% of GDP in 2007, before the recession hit, and 17.5% in 2008.

Tuesday’s Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.

Read the whole thing and digest it. And remember it the next time someone intones seriously that we need to reach out to these idiots and bring them into the political process because they have something valuable to say.

They don’t.