You know, back in the 60’s, two neighbors could live next door to each other and happen across the subject of politics. One might have supported more conservative policies and voted for Nixon, and another more liberal and voted for Humphrey. Some conversation could have ensued about that, followed by an invitation to golf or the next family bbq.
Today, the same scenario does not seem possible. Extremism and hatred are common. As soon as one neighbor mention that he voted for Obama, the other one, especially if they have a Tea Party affiliation, would immediately conclude that their neighbor is a scumbag socialist Nazi apologist who deserves to die.
Such is the state of discourse in America today. It’s even worse on-line because there’s a layer of anonymity involved. You can make outrageous statements without ever really having to be accountable for them. Some seem to think that he with the most words with ALL CAPS wins the debate. Go figure.
The main reason I address this issue at this particular time has to do with an online sparring partner who just happens to be a mis-guided Tea Party proponent, looking for some answers. Maybe I can either shed some light or else hold a mirror up. Whatever works is fine by me, but I have every expectation that my efforts will be in vain.
Just like I’ve learned at work, it’s always better to have a face to face conversation with someone vs. trying to resolve an issue over e-mail or a blog. There are so many opportunities for misunderstanding. The same is true with other forums like FaceBook. Really bad assumptions can happen. Leaping to conclusions. I’ve run into false accusations… a whole slew of things that, if we were having a beer together instead, would not have happened. Nevertheless, they did happen, so here we are.
But this guy hates Obama. Hates him. Wants to impeach him and put him in jail. In his defense, there are some very legitimate things to be angry about, but taking it to the hate level, I just can’t relate. I was embarrassed by George W. Bush but I didn’t hate him.
I voted for Obama twice. Using guilt by association, apparently I’ve condoned every action by this President since he took office and should consequently, be burned at the stake. This was all news to me, especially as a registered Independent. The very reason to be an Independent, is to leave open the possibility of holding the ones you tend to agree with accountable at times, which we all need.
I can actually find some agreement, even with Tea Partiers on the subjects of accountability ( or lack there-of ), and broken promises that Obama has to live with, and dealing with crooks and liars within your own team. But given the toxic nature of the public discourse, I actually feel kind of sorry for him. No President has ever had to try to get things done in a more partisan, and hostile environment. And I doubt it’ll get much better the next election cycle no matter who gets elected. It’s a little naive to think that one person representing one branch of the Government can have so much influence over our daily lives.
The Tea Party complains about the mainstream media giving Obama a pass. I personally believe there could be some truth to this. But this is likely because the Tea Party has done a poor job of disguising their witch hunt. Every error. Every flub. Every bad thing that happened in the world is somehow Obama’s fault. I believe the mainstream media is tuned into the witch hunt nature of Fox’s programs, especially Hannity and The O’Reilly Factor, and figures that well, that’s enough on the negative side. Fox has that covered pretty good, let’s not get ridiculous and over-do it. Let’s get on with the news.
Standing For Something
At least with Libertarians, they have a well-defined platform that they speak to. They are in effect, very clearly, small (minimal) government advocates with minimal interference into our lives, strong freedom advocates, and responsibility of self. Okay, that’s clear. I get where you’re coming from. I can either be for or against it because it’s fairly clear.
The Tea Party on the other hand, suffers from the lack of issues they are for. If you were to engage one in a conversation, you would soon get the sense of what they are against…. pretty much everything. The logic seems to be : If it’s the way it is now, then I don’t like it. If it has anything to do with Obama, then I don’t like it. End of discussion. Would you care to elaborate? “We have 17 trillion debt!” and a host of other talking points that sound suspiciously like a read of Rush Limbaugh’s last show.
Talk to any Tea Partier and they’ll tell you that the movement is about ‘Taking our country back!” Okay, that sounds good. Power to the People. How? This is where it gets a little vague and dangerously mis-guided.
The reference to the Tea Party itself is recognition that some things were perceived by a group of people to not be fair, and they finally said “enough!” and did something about it.
There is indeed in this country, no shortage of issues where one could say “enough!”. I don’t think I’d get too much push back on that. The deficit is too high. The middle class seems to be disappearing, but how to fix that is up for debate. Gun violence is out of control but nobody can agree on the smallest measures to make any progress at all. Even if it’s just keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We seem to lack the ability to face the tough issues of our time like immigration. We can’t get anything done. Is it a surprise to me that a Tea Party evolved out of this framework? Absolutely not. What is a surprise is the head-in-the-sand lunacy that passes for reasonable fixes to complex problems by the ignorant leaders of this faux ‘movement’.
The Tea Party is Mad
The Tea Party would be wise to incorporate some sort of a theme around wine since they are clearly the party of sour grapes. They are mad that Obama won in ’08, and even madder that he carried the day in ’12. They are tired of the country’s rising debt ( though they haven’t mustered up enough courage make any cuts in military spending, in fact, they advocate for more aggression ), they are mad about The Affordable Health Care Act, they are mad about having to pay taxes, and they are mad about Benghazi. They are mad about Lois Lerner, the IRS, Unions, the Veteran’s Administration, any sort of discussion about keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people, and they are mad that Mitch McConnell caved and made a deal with Democrats to keep the country from defaulting on its debt obligations. They are mad about any discussion about immigration reform, not because there aren’t pragmatic ideas on the table from both sides of the aisle. They are mad because any movement on this issue could be perceived as an accomplishment for this administration and they are of one mind to not let that happen. I’m convinced they spend the better part of their day just being pissed. It must be exhausting to carry around that much anger all the time.
The Tea Party expresses its anger in the form of being obstructionists. No compromise allowed. If they don’t get their way exactly, then no positive steps forward shall be considered. Let Rome burn. This hurts the country as well as its own credibility. The problem they face is, the founders based everything on compromise and reasonable people. It only works if you have sensible people at the bargaining table though. Let enough nut-jobs in and the plan falls apart.
The Tea Party and Credibility
The lack of credibility in this writer’s opinion, will be its ultimate undoing. In order to have credibility, you have to be on the right side of history once in a while. You can’t just be a Monday Morning Quarterback and second guess the decision makers with no skin in the game. Yet this is exactly what the Tea Party does.
Of course the truest test of one’s resolve to stand behind their political convictions is if they are willing to pay for them. There just isn’t any doubt in my mind that if the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been pay-as-you-go, that the support would have dropped off the charts. Everyone’s taxes would have had to go up substantially or else no deal. Since it was sold as free entertainment, it was just too easy to get behind the flag waving effort. Ironic that the same people who were such strong advocates of expanding the wars are the same people now complaining about the debt.
And we can’t address credibility without mentioning just how wrong the Tea Party has been on Climate Change. Take a look at the Climate Change Deniers list, it’s a veritable who’s who of the Tea Party. Even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, they choose to put their heads in the sand and let the free markets drive us off the cliff.
The Tea Party and Hypocrisy
Of course you can’t get your message across and convince the other side of anything unless you walk the talk. This is where I struggle the most with the Tea Party’s approach. The behaviors have to back up the rhetoric or else it doesn’t work.
Take for example the fact that the Tea Party believes in its heart that it is the party of God. I’ve blogged about this in the past, in terms of the type of roll up your sleeves Christians that I admire. As someone who, at the insistence of my parents, endured 5 years of Catholic school, I can attest to some of the more lasting teachings. One of them was more about ‘show me’ vs. talk about it. Do something nice for someone else and don’t tell anyone or expect credit for it. Practice consideration always. It wasn’t all bad, there was a lot of good in there. Most of it I’ve recovered from after about 12 years of counseling.
But most of all, don’t be a hypocrite. They didn’t like hypocrites at all at my school. You’d get called out every time. Which brings me back around to the Tea Party. First of all, how come when I debate these righteous individuals who, about 1/4 of their posts have to do with getting right with Jesus …., how come they are the ones calling me a Fucking Nazi Socialist, just to provide one example ( out of several? ). How come it is they who are quick to resort to personal attacks?
When it comes to selling me on going to your church, let me tell ‘ya, you just lost me. If it means I get to behave like you, no thanks.
One of the toughest things I had to wrestle with as a young adult was to reconcile my personal beliefs with my religious ones. This is a very difficult exercise yet one I think everyone should do. After all, if your votes don’t reflect your belief system, then how come? What went wrong?
Having been educated for a time in Catholic Schools, I can tell you that whether you believe Jesus was the son of Man or not, when it came to poor people, his response was never going to be “tough shit”
The Tea Party has the conflicting problem that they are the self proclaimed party of God — yet poor people need to get off their asses and it’s their own damn fault that they are poor. Quit moochin’ off me! This just doesn’t square with my understanding of the history of Jesus, the man, and smacks of hypocrisy, which makes the Tea Party something I’ll never choose to be a part of.
Thanks to the 1st Amendment, the Tea Party and its Duck Dynasty followers get to blather on all they want about righteousness. They get to talk about JFK as a great leader who reduced taxes — never mind the actual numbers ( he reduced the top bracket from 91% to 77%. Would the Tea Party be excited about 77%? Go JFK! ).
Reagan was a great guy who told the Russians to go pound sand. Never mind his trick-down theory was wrong by a country mile and is responsible for the mountain of debt we have now ( the top bracket has had a pass on taxes since Reagan. A pass on what it used to pay anyway ).
My father, an extremely smart man once said “You know, sometimes the best response to a ridiculous statement is a deafening silence”.
It’s apparent to me, the public discourse has been degraded into Fox News sound-bites, most of which are not worth the effort to reply to.
Can you hear the quiet?