The “hobbits” vs. Mordor

Did you hear about how former Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been mocking the Tea Party folks as “hobbits”?  He apparently never read Lord of the Rings.   The lowly hobbits ended up defeating the unlimited government of Mordor.  And, according to Marc Thiessen, this is what happened in the debt reduction battle:  How the Tea Party ‘hobbits’ won the debt fight – The Washington Post.

I think the Tea Party folks should drop the Boston harbor revolutionary label.  They should do as “Christians” and “Protestants” and “Lutherans” have done:  embrace the label intended as derogatory.  Tea Partiers should change their name, trademarks, and stationery and start calling themselves “Hobbits.”  That reference, with its connotation of ordinary down to earth villagers up against overwhelmingly superior power, would make them far more sympathetic.  I know John McCain’s attempt at a putdown (what if he were president?), which he got from the Wall Street Journal, makes me appreciate more these populist activists who are forcing the government to control itself.  Again, conservatives need to win the battle of language and the battle of metaphors to win over the nation’s imagination.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • helen

    The hobbits are being maligned.

  • helen

    The hobbits are being maligned.

  • WebMonk

    If that debt deal was a victory, I’d hate to see a defeat! Talk about Pyrrhic!

  • WebMonk

    If that debt deal was a victory, I’d hate to see a defeat! Talk about Pyrrhic!

  • Jeff Bolzman

    Hobbits are made of “sterner stuff.” The more you know about them, the more they surprise you. No man could be the “ring bearer.” His nature could not endure it. Human nature cannot handle power–it ALWAYS CORRUPTS. That’s why our Founders built a limited government–because they understood the sinful condition of the human heart. Yet a handful of “hobbits” can do amazing things, because they do not crave the power.

  • Jeff Bolzman

    Hobbits are made of “sterner stuff.” The more you know about them, the more they surprise you. No man could be the “ring bearer.” His nature could not endure it. Human nature cannot handle power–it ALWAYS CORRUPTS. That’s why our Founders built a limited government–because they understood the sinful condition of the human heart. Yet a handful of “hobbits” can do amazing things, because they do not crave the power.

  • Cincinnatus

    I have to confess that I’ve never considered the Lord of the Rings or any part thereof to be a cautionary parable regarding big government.

  • Cincinnatus

    I have to confess that I’ve never considered the Lord of the Rings or any part thereof to be a cautionary parable regarding big government.

  • helen

    Jeff @ 3
    Human nature cannot handle power–it ALWAYS CORRUPTS.

    According to this morning’s NYT on line, our “heroes” of the last election are digging into the pork barrel with the rest, while preaching austerity ["down" but not "up"!]

  • helen

    Jeff @ 3
    Human nature cannot handle power–it ALWAYS CORRUPTS.

    According to this morning’s NYT on line, our “heroes” of the last election are digging into the pork barrel with the rest, while preaching austerity ["down" but not "up"!]

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @4
    If cynicism prevailed, one could see [the Rings] as a bunch of little people caught up in a struggle that’s mostly over their heads (but it nonetheless wreaks destruction on their homes). There are heroes and manipulated heels, just as in the human world. Hobbits were not entirely immune to the lust for power. It would have been a much tamer story, if they were.

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @4
    If cynicism prevailed, one could see [the Rings] as a bunch of little people caught up in a struggle that’s mostly over their heads (but it nonetheless wreaks destruction on their homes). There are heroes and manipulated heels, just as in the human world. Hobbits were not entirely immune to the lust for power. It would have been a much tamer story, if they were.

  • Jon

    McCain said what he said on the Senate floor, but when he was questioned about it on Fox News, he recanted entirely.

  • Jon

    McCain said what he said on the Senate floor, but when he was questioned about it on Fox News, he recanted entirely.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D.

    Rather than worrying about the name of their club, maybe they should take courses in economics.

  • http://jdueck.net Joel D.

    Rather than worrying about the name of their club, maybe they should take courses in economics.

  • SKPeterson

    From who Joel? Paul “Let’s Spend Our Way to Prosperity” Krugman?

    The Tea Party’s problems are their worship of foreign military adventurism and inability to recognize how big government abroad equates to big government at home, not their economics per se. Given the swathe of economic ideologies available in D.C., theirs may be flawed, but also is likely the least pernicious.

  • SKPeterson

    From who Joel? Paul “Let’s Spend Our Way to Prosperity” Krugman?

    The Tea Party’s problems are their worship of foreign military adventurism and inability to recognize how big government abroad equates to big government at home, not their economics per se. Given the swathe of economic ideologies available in D.C., theirs may be flawed, but also is likely the least pernicious.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    Did you hear about how former Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been mocking the Tea Party folks as “hobbits”? He apparently never read Lord of the Rings.

    Man, speaking of not reading…

    If you follow the link’s in the article Veith linked to, you’ll find the WSJ op-ed in question that McCain quoted, where you see that there is but a single sentence mentioning “Hobbits” or anything Middle Earth, and here is the entire paragraph for context:

    But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

    So I think it’s stretching the truth to say McCain’s “been mocking the Tea Party folks as ‘hobbits’”, since he appears to have done so once, and was actually quoting from the WSJ.

    But what’s more, the context of the sentence (whether in the WSJ or in McCain’s reading of the same) makes it clear that they fully understood the Hobbits’ role in The Lord of the Rings (even if they mistakenly believed that Mordor was not in Middle Earth). Again, even as Veith takes pains to note that “The lowly hobbits ended up defeating the unlimited government of Mordor,” one must note that McCain/WSJ also noted that the Hobbits “defeated Mordor”.

    I really don’t think the comparison itself invites vast amounts of analysis, but still, I think the idea to mock the fantasy-world ideological purity of “tea party” politicians. If you really want to stretch the analogy (remember: they didn’t even get “Middle Earth” right), you could argue that they’re noting the naivete of “tea party” members’ refusing to see the world for the big, complicated, messy place it is. Remember, the Shire that the Hobbits returned to was not the simple place they had left. Having engaged the wider world, they found that the Shire was a part of that big, complicated, messy world. Or something like that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    Did you hear about how former Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been mocking the Tea Party folks as “hobbits”? He apparently never read Lord of the Rings.

    Man, speaking of not reading…

    If you follow the link’s in the article Veith linked to, you’ll find the WSJ op-ed in question that McCain quoted, where you see that there is but a single sentence mentioning “Hobbits” or anything Middle Earth, and here is the entire paragraph for context:

    But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

    So I think it’s stretching the truth to say McCain’s “been mocking the Tea Party folks as ‘hobbits’”, since he appears to have done so once, and was actually quoting from the WSJ.

    But what’s more, the context of the sentence (whether in the WSJ or in McCain’s reading of the same) makes it clear that they fully understood the Hobbits’ role in The Lord of the Rings (even if they mistakenly believed that Mordor was not in Middle Earth). Again, even as Veith takes pains to note that “The lowly hobbits ended up defeating the unlimited government of Mordor,” one must note that McCain/WSJ also noted that the Hobbits “defeated Mordor”.

    I really don’t think the comparison itself invites vast amounts of analysis, but still, I think the idea to mock the fantasy-world ideological purity of “tea party” politicians. If you really want to stretch the analogy (remember: they didn’t even get “Middle Earth” right), you could argue that they’re noting the naivete of “tea party” members’ refusing to see the world for the big, complicated, messy place it is. Remember, the Shire that the Hobbits returned to was not the simple place they had left. Having engaged the wider world, they found that the Shire was a part of that big, complicated, messy world. Or something like that.

  • WebMonk

    tODD you silly idiot, we’re having a lovely bash-fest here. Don’t ruin it with things like facts. Who cares what McCain said or meant or whatever. We’re bashing here!

  • WebMonk

    tODD you silly idiot, we’re having a lovely bash-fest here. Don’t ruin it with things like facts. Who cares what McCain said or meant or whatever. We’re bashing here!

  • SKPeterson

    Yeah, tODD, facts are the Gollums of little minds.

  • SKPeterson

    Yeah, tODD, facts are the Gollums of little minds.

  • steve

    I must have missed all the bashing.

  • steve

    I must have missed all the bashing.

  • helen

    LOL!!!

  • helen

    LOL!!!

  • WebMonk

    steve – it’s called “dramatic overstatement” commonly used in conjunction with sarcasm and is not intended to be taken literally.

    From now on I will put all sarcasm in bold italics with footnotes so no one will miss it. *

    *That was sarcasm.

  • WebMonk

    steve – it’s called “dramatic overstatement” commonly used in conjunction with sarcasm and is not intended to be taken literally.

    From now on I will put all sarcasm in bold italics with footnotes so no one will miss it. *

    *That was sarcasm.

  • Jasper2

    The Tea Party should call themselves what they are: Conservatives. This will distinguish them from RINO’s like John McCain who is to the left of most Democrats. Non RINO Republicans should be encouraged to join them. The remainder of the Republican party will be marginalized, and will thereafter become largely irrelevant. Most Americans identify themselves as either Conservatives or Independents, both of which will largely vote Conservative.

    Conservatives should dissociate themselves from the Republican party long before November 2012. They will have plenty of time to caucus as a cohesive, real political party. As far as John McCain goes, as far as I’m concerned, he can go to hell. He has become the useful idiot for the Democrat party.

  • Jasper2

    The Tea Party should call themselves what they are: Conservatives. This will distinguish them from RINO’s like John McCain who is to the left of most Democrats. Non RINO Republicans should be encouraged to join them. The remainder of the Republican party will be marginalized, and will thereafter become largely irrelevant. Most Americans identify themselves as either Conservatives or Independents, both of which will largely vote Conservative.

    Conservatives should dissociate themselves from the Republican party long before November 2012. They will have plenty of time to caucus as a cohesive, real political party. As far as John McCain goes, as far as I’m concerned, he can go to hell. He has become the useful idiot for the Democrat party.


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