Sprawl is Patriotic

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 18 2010 9:25 AM

Sprawl is Patriotic

Stephanie Mencimer finds a school of Tea Party thinking that, I confess, I had totally missed. Why did the quickly-forgotten Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes worry about bike-sharing as a UN plot? Because the small community of people who fret about the UN have been peddling their stuff to Tea Partiers and finding a receptive audience.

Virginia activist Donna Holt is among those who believe that Agenda 21—unveiled during the UN's "Earth Summit" in 1992—is really a plot to curtail private property rights and deprive Americans of precious constitutional freedoms. In reality, the document will do nothing of the sort, but it has nevertheless been the target of conspiracy-minded UN haters for years. Holt and other tea partiers are taking their cues from people like Henry Lamb , a WorldNetDaily columnist and founder of Sovereignty International and Freedom21, groups designed to fight Agenda 21 and its ilk. He has been arguing for decades that the UN is secretly plotting to herd humans into crowded cities so that the rest of the world can be devoted to wildlife preservation. (Lamb declined to comment for this story because back Mother Jones once included him in a story called Wingnuts in Sheep's Clothing , and another article that described his role in Astroturf lobbying against the Kyoto treaty.)

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Holt has also has relied on the research of Tom DeWeese, the founder of the American Policy Center and a climate change denier whose group has been funded by Exxon . DeWeese's organization hosted a conference in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania , this summer attended by many tea partiers, which featured sessions on Agenda 21. Schooled by such activists, Holt, the Virginia coordinator of Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty , has set to work spreading the word about Agenda 21 and the evils of sustainable development. She's finding a very receptive audience among tea party groups, who she believes are going to make sustainable development the next target of their activism.

This is useful stuff. Tea Partiers are not crazy. They have economic angst to spare. And countless people with grindable axes are rushing to convert them to the belief that THEIR obsessions can explain all of the angst. In this case, Tea Party activists were instinctively worried about big spending on high-speed rail, so the WorldNetDaily crowd saw some easy marks.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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