I was introduced to a new side of the Tea Party recently. It had to do with a discussion with a friend who said that the members of this “nonpartisan grassroots group” as they are self-defined, minus its more unruly elements, are just people who believe in smaller government and less taxes (“fiscal responsibility,” “Constitutionally limited government,” and “free market” as their mission statement states).
A group wanting less government and taxes already exists: the Libertarians, the professed party of this friend, who went on to say that even if Hitler was for lower taxes and less government, he would have been worth the vote. Now, let’s pause.
There are those who think taxes are all that matter, leaving aside one’s children’s futures, education, environment, the interconnectedness of society, etc. Fine, keep more money, get the third car or summer home, and call it a day. But Hitler? (and why are Nazi figures and symbols so visible in this protest?) Never mind that the person who said this would have gotten his rights taken from him, his livelihood and perhaps his life since he was a minority, brown, and did not fit Hitler’s idea of a German, making any thought he had on matters of government much less taxation irrelevant.
It did beg the question: can one separate the ideology of a party from those who run it? Do not the ideologies espoused, the antics that are allowed, the form of the protests as much as the content, all reflect the values of those who are part of it?
Even if one gives the benefit of the doubt that most of the Tea Party are passionate about the ideology of only less taxation, it is supported and led by people such as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh, people who do not care for debate as much as vitriol and hate. I cannot tell what many of them are saying because they yell so loudly. I can’t sift through the hate and anger enough to get at the gist of the argument, which is usually nonexistent.
If any party had these role models with manners I would not teach to my children, with disrespect for entire communities stated in language that I would not want in my home — and I live in a politically passionate and sometimes divisive home — then it is simply not a party or organization of which I would be a member. Because these are not just some whacks — they are very public figures with public responsibility who an entire party, and I mean the Tea Party not the Republican Party, does not mind having as its spokespeople. By “does not mind,” I also mean do not speak out against, which is essentially one and the same.
Underlying this is the “we are mad as hell,” stance, which is completely ineffectual if one is to be a serious policy or political rainmaker because it leaves out the very practical question: who will pay? Less taxation is great but at what price? Who will pay for the wars — ironically, taxes was actually a huge consideration for those who protested the Iraqi war. Now that we’re there, with a duty towards our soldiers and the people we “liberated,” who will pay?
Republicans are hesitant to get into bed with the Tea Party because as professional politicians, they know the basic rule: the Piper will pipe. Thus, lobbyists and special interests and donors with an agenda are a politician’s bff’s. No real party can promise less taxation for the industrialized country with the least taxation already. So, what are the solutions? There, the Tea Party goes Web and media silent.
To me, the overwhelming bond that separates Libertarians from the Tea Party is that the latter is resolutely more anti-Obama than anti-issues. Thus, open the floodgates for the birthers, the racists, and all the rest part of the Tea Party who are against Pres. Obama for whatever reason.
It is time to be suspicious of those who yell with no answers; filled with so much rage that it makes one think whether it’s the public issue or some personal issue fueling that fire; of those who want status quo when experts and numbers from non-partisan sources show irrefutable evidence again and again that the status quo is a mess, i.e. healthcare.
Even if you don’t like the current healthcare reform, no sane person could argue that the status quo was working. Libertarian, Republican, and Democrat alike — and everyone in between and on the fringes — all had something taken from them in the status quo when it came to healthcare. It means you haven’t done your homework or you are so privileged that the gross inequities and ineffectiveness of status quo don’t matter to you. If you can afford private healthcare then the mess of healthcare makes no difference.
I am equally suspicious of any party claiming excessive “patriotism.” As soon as the “National Party” of so-and-so or the “Patriotic” blah-blah is said, from history one can deduce it means there are a whole lot of people — their dissenters — who are “unpatriotic” who’s fates have not been good.
Are the Tea Partiers more patriotic than the rest? They wave enough flags to cause a windstorm, but waving a flag signifies patriotism as much as wedding rings symbolize a happy, faithful marriage for all those wearing them. Unless they’re doing something spectacular about those who are the very blood of our patriotism, i.e the soldiers, and let’s say, demanding more veterans’ rights, providing support for the increasing military suicide rates, demanding more media coverage of our nation’s soldiers so they’re not forgotten — I’d say no. Unless, every other American loves recessions and unemployment and fear of bankruptcy from an illness, I’d say no. But of course, they’re not about all that because as they state, they’re mainly about taxation.
Yes, the Tea Party believes in the Constitution and the Declaration, but is that patriotic much less a mission statement? Every one of the founding fathers who wrote those documents believed in them, yet between John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, they all had astoundingly different views on what our republic would look like. That’s what makes democracy works.
If “Dissent is Patriotic” as the signs claim, where were there no voices of dissent allowed when the Iraqi pre-emptive attack was announced? I still remember Stephen Colbert’s White House Press appearance as a breath of fresh air that I wasn’t going crazy since the media and the country were so silent. Political satire itself was frowned upon.
Why are those who cherished the futures of our young men and women, often from lower economic strata, and did not want them sent to another war seen as “unpatriotic”? Why were any critiques against the powers in place when Wall Street was like a cokehead in a cokehouse that led us to our mortgage and fiscal crises seen as unpatriotic but brandishing Obama who must fix all the messes of his predecessors is patriotic? Why is holding someone accountable and questioning the legality and Constitutionality of exposing a CIA agent, or wire tapping, or torture cells, or Haliburton’s indiscretions, or Gitmo wrong but attempts to fix all of that viewed as “liberal bullshit”?
I am fine with the Tea Party protesters. It makes a democracy stronger and keeps leaders in line to have the fringes speak out. Bush or Obama, once you hit the national stage, every President, in fact every politician at any level will have to succumb to the middle and go to battle with Congress, the Supreme Court, and lobbyists who might as well get their own branch of government.
What I am not fine with is the hypocrisy that stifles this same democratic right with hatred, name-calling, and/or dismissive comments on those who do not agree with their policies. If you would like a debate, then begin with arguments, with a thesis, talk about issues, and most important, offer solutions and alternatives.