The Middle-Earth Guide to Campaign 2012—Updated

One ring to rule them all/one ring to find them/one ring to tax them all/and in indebtedness bind them.

Two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal likened congressional Tea Partiers to hobbits:

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.

[emphasis mine]

The trope took off the next day when Senator John McCain (R-AZ) read the article approvingly during debate on raising the debt ceiling. Liberals reveled in this GOP establishment belittlement of the party’s fiscally conservative faction, but that didn’t stop journalists from finding allegedly-offended Tolkien scholars who sliced and diced the metaphor more quickly than Aragorn did the Mouth of Sauron. And like one of the Nazgûl, the issue refuses to die — not two days ago McCain snubbed a call to recant from  a Tea Party Gaffer at a town hall meeting back in Arizona.

So the GOP establishment, via the hobbit metaphor, dismisses Tea Partiers as diminutive Don Quixotes; simultaneously, many Tolkien fans and scholars take umbrage at the very notion that hobbits were anything but bucolic deadbeats longing for official Gondorian government subsidies of their mind-altering pipe weed. Neither is entirely correct. (Nor, for that matter, was Senator Rand Paul in calling John McCain a “troll”— a doctor should know that it’s McCain’s debating skills, not his skin, that turns to stone in the sunlight.)

Tea Partiers ARE very much like hobbits -- and hobbits are not prehistoric hippies. Despite Professor Tolkien’s admonition that he “cordially dislike[d] allegory in all its manifestations,” various scholars in the last 60 years have employed Lord of the Rings [LOTR] as a palantir through which to view the world wars, the Cold War, environmentalism and Christian history (to name but the most obvious). Why not, then, do likewise for the contemporary American political scene -- especially since the WSJ has already set the first foot upon this road? Let us see where it takes us...