Election 2012

Historian Jaffa: Tea partiers ‘no different than Communists’

Historian Jaffa: Tea partiers 'no different than Communists'

In this month’s New York Magazine, historian and conservative thinker Harry Jaffa called the tea party “anarchists” and said that they are “no different than Communists.”

The 94-year old Jaffa, a distinguished fellow at the Claremont Institute and author of the groundbreaking book on the Lincoln-Douglas debates, “Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates,” spoke with the magazine’s Eric Benson for its election special edition.

Topics included the history of one of the most infamous lines in political speechwriting: “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Jaffa attended the 1964 Republican convention as a staffer at the American Enterprise Institute, but ended up crafting one of the most important speeches in the history of the conservative movement. “After a meeting where I heard Nelson Rockefeller warn about the dangers of extremism, I wrote a two-paragraph memorandum with the line about extremism in defense of liberty. Somehow that filtered up to [Presidential Candidate Barry] Goldwater. Then he said he wanted his speech written around those lines,” Jaffa told the magazine.

Aside from the 1964 convention, Jaffa was asked about this year’s presidential race, and the state of America’s political parties. “Political parties are always being formed and re-formed. They’re never a fixed entity. The great danger to the Republican Party right now is Ron Paul and the—what do they call themselves?” he said.

“[The tea party] as far as I’m concerned, they’re anarchists. And they’re no different than Communists in their opposition to capitalist government,” Jaffa said.

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