Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Hi, do we really know what a Tea Partier is?

The anti-Tea Party "Hi, I'm a Tea Partier" cartoon video is critical of tea party members, primarily upon social grounds, and paints Tea Partiers as intolerant, paranoid, and self-contradicting. But can we really trust this to be a true portrait of the Tea Party movement, however tempting the notion is? And if we believe in this portrayal, doesn't that tend to say we have a gloomy and condescending view of the millions of Americans who have flocked to support the Tea Party movement?

Intolerance may be associated with individual Tea Partiers, and they do tend to be socially more conservative than most Americans, but with a libertarian flavor and a far stronger focus on economic than social issues. It may well be that the de-centralized, new, and anti-insider tea party is much less able to filter out idiosyncratic or erratic candidates who would be rejected by more traditional, centrally controlled parties. However, paranoid or kooky behavior can be found at every extreme of the political compass and can be found in many other political venues other than among tea partiers.

It is important to distinguish the movement as a whole from the behavior of individual candidates who claim to be tea party supporters. And one can't really debate the tea party people without knowing what their self-described beliefs are, and without going well beyond caricatures drawn by opponents or derived from fringe behavior. We have suffered far too much from the lack of dialog, understanding, and compromise in our national discourse and leadership and need to take the first step of seeking to truly understand others' views. If we criticize without understanding we run the real risk of being guilty of the very intolerance we seek to criticize.

The movement's defined issues are "cutting back the size of government, lowering taxes, reducing wasteful spending, reducing the national debt and federal budget deficit, and adherence to the United States Constitution." Tea partiers also feel that the federal government is not doing a good job of listening to the people. (Wikipedia).

Its "contract from America" has 10 elements... (1) Identify the constitutionality of every new law, (2) Reject emissions trading, (3) demand a balanced federal budget, (4) Simplify the tax system, (5) Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality (and eliminate waste and duplication), (6) Limit annual growth in federal spending, (7) Repeal the healthcare legislation passed on March 23, 2010, (8) Pass an 'All-of-the-Above' Energy Policy (to reduce dependence upon outside energy), (9) Reduce Earmarks, and (10) Reduce taxes.

Americans may disagree with items from this list, but these items are legitimately debatable and are likely to be part of our political conversation between now and the 2012 election. And, if as a result the federal government does a better job of showing that it listens to citizens, one of the major complaints of the tea partiers will have been addressed.


At 2:18 AM, November 03, 2010, Blogger Pat said...

Interesting quote from one of the Tea Party leaders:

Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, said it's important that the Tea Party movement stay true to its fiscal discipline roots while welcoming a range of viewpoints on almost all other issues.

"To be a majority in America, you have to have great diversity," he said. "We're going to have people that are pro-life, pro-choice, for the war, against the war."

But the less government, less spending mantra has been non-negotiable. The Tea Party is by no means monolithic -- it comprises hundreds of local and regional and national groups, some of which have a tribal dislike for one another -- but the unifying issue among almost every one is fiscal restraint."

At 1:34 PM, November 03, 2010, Blogger Pat said...

Sorry to be my own biggest commenter but I keep thinking of post-scripts:

To make an off-the-wall analogy that might annoy people, the Tea Party is more like Islam than Christianity. That is to say, most Christian denominations have some sort of hierarchy, such as the chain from individual Catholics through their priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Pope. But in Islam, there is significantly less centralization and just about any mullah can issue a fatwah calling for some dire horrible thing or other to be done against the Infidels in the name of Allah the Compassionate.

Similarly, the Tea Party is much more decentralized and amorphous than traditional parties, and once you get away from its core economic-constitutional focus it harbors members and leaders with generally conservative, but hugely divergent social views.

That results in it being very easy for critics to catch Tea Party leaders saying odd things. But often, these oddball statements don't reflect typical Tea Party views or what Tea Partiers believe is their core message.

At 9:08 PM, November 03, 2010, Blogger Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I'll give it to you like this, Pat:

I was a split voter before Geo Bush ran for President. I voted for Ronnie Reagan (twice). After Bush, I employ the rule Never Vote Republican (NVR).

Republicans supported the greatest atrocity in American Foreign policy, ever: an unnecessary, unprovoked and bloody invasion and occupation of another country. 4,427 Americans KIA there (that's a lot more than the 2,977 we lost in the 911 attacks); untold thousands of our fellow countrymen maimed with life-changing, debilitating injuries requiring life-long deficit spending to treat.

Let's talk about deficits. Bill Clinton left office with an estimated surplus of at least $230 billion in FY2000 and was on track to pay off the entire debt by 2012. Republicans elected Geo Bush and we got massive tax cuts for the rich and a useless war which cost trillion$ paid for with deficit spending.

Now I don't give a silly rat's ass if you call them Republicans or Teapartiers. They loved Bush's deficits because they voted for him twice. Their track record is to produce bad government through shrinking revenues. This group is financed by the unseen hands of corporations thanks to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This group trades on the collective amnesia of millions of Americans who call themselves 'independents'.

These guys and Gals don't have the answers for any of our problems. They are the 'CON' in conservatism. And, alas, they have conned you.


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