Why Liberals Should Like the Tea Party

There is a difference between policy and principle.  People of bright minds and good faith can disagree about policies, but principles are usually pretty universal.  Nobody is really anti-liberty, or anti-charity, but between policy and principle is priority, and that affects how the latter is realized as the former.  That’s where people on the political spectrum differ.  Focusing on foundational principles, though, will help us build on common ground. 

A good example might be what seem to be the most disparate groups in American politics today: the Democratic Party and the Tea Party.  Since the emergence of the Tea Party about three years ago, liberals and their friends in the media have often and openly vilified these conservatives, and largely acted kinder towards the mainstream Republicans that they had previously contested with in the court of public opinion.  Maybe it’s an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing. 

This is unfortunate.  The Tea Party and many liberals have something in common here.  Why does the Tea Party exist?  Because they feel that the mainstream Republican Party has failed them.  (Consider how many mainstream Republicans have jumped on the anti-Tea Party propaganda bandwagon so the kids at the cool table will like them.)  They needed a homemade outlet to protest the betrayal of conservative ideals in exchange for political success. 

So some of their principles might include empowering citizens in their right to petition for redress, and calling for an end to waste and corruption by those in power, by demanding accountability from leaders.  Aren’t these things good people of all political stripes can get behind?  Yes, we can and should debate each other vigorously about fiscal policy, and all kinds of policy, but can we at least recognize when there are underlying principles that we share?

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7 comments on “Why Liberals Should Like the Tea Party

  1. The difference between principle and policy, between theory and practice, is the difference between what people think and what they do. What someone thinks — regardless of his agreement or disagreement with me — doesn’t really matter much in the long run. What matters is action. Principle makes for a lively discussion, an intellectual exercise; policy affects lives in tangible ways.

    We’ve had a Tea Party man here campaigning for office whose principles include ending waste and promoting personal/familial responsibility. Great … in theory. In practice, he advocates having children who qualify for free or reduced lunches stand in a separate “beggars'” line in the lunchroom, and providing only peanut butter sandwiches for them instead of the hot lunch, fruit and milk provided to other kids who, through no merit of their own, have parents whose educational opportunities led to higher incomes and who can therefore pay for that hot lunch.

    When principle meets practice, and practice is that, it’s difficult to believe we share any principles after all.

  2. I can’t speak for all my Democratic friends Jamie but I’ll tell you why I have little patience for Tea Partiers.

    The primary reason this Democrat is not embracing the TP is simple, Tea Party members were no where to be found until the last months of George Bush’s admin.

    … as our freedoms were actually being constrained in the Patriot Act in the wake of 9/11, where our calls were tapped and library card scrutinized;

    … as government spending was going through the roof even though the Republicans controlled the Senate, House and the White House;

    … as social programs were being passed (do you remember how long Tom Delay held open the House vote on Medicare Plan D beyond the traditional 15 minutes? Over 3 hours! Talk about ramming things through Congress!) that ended up costing 3 times original projections;

    … as deficits were growing in part due to unfunded, off budget wars that not only drained precious financial resources but killed our sons and daughters as well;

    ….as enemy combatants were for the first time in our nation’s history tortured, treatment that was against everything our culture, values and traditions stood for;

    Where was the TP? I’ll tell you where they were. In the stands cheering as all this was going on. Cheering and casting dispersion at those of us who dared question the policies of a sitting president, labeling our concerns as unpatriotic.

    Where are they now? Casting dispersions on the man the people of the United States hired to clean up their mess.

    I’m sympathetic to their cries, ‘Our house is on fire.’ True it is. Our house is in tough shape.

    However, until TP members admit their part in lighting the fire and warming themselves in the flames, I’m reticent to embrace anything they stand for.

    My two cents. An angry, but hopeful, two cents.

  3. One more thing, to state the obvious.

    As a Democrat I live in the glassest of houses. My very act of casting stones at my tea party friends should be reason enough to question my judgement.

  4. I’m right there with Ardis and Ken.

    I’ve followed this dialogue since LBJ’s time; I remember Nixon’s first election campaign. Naturally, I’ve had my judgment called to question several times among my LDS friends since 1979. Most of them were ardent Reagan fans. Well, Reagan was the first actor, who lead the SAG to strike; he defended people’s right to unionise; he also was very belligerent towards the Soviets. I don’t know if that brought Gorby to Reykjavik, but I doubt it. Russkies were just running out of money and friends.

    It was GHWB’s conciliatory rhetoric that actually got some results. He also balanced the budget in the end, after doing the unthinkable and raising taxes.

    Á propos raising taxes: I think that GOP is considering only candidates whom they know to unelectable; the next president, if he wants to be a two-term one, positively must either bring all the soldiers home or raise the taxes, unless some miracle makes most Americans fully willing to bring their standard of living down a few notches (that is, slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which are about 80% of the budget as of now, and rising). This, naturally, will enrage most of GOP voters any which way you put it. So no, they don’t want a GOP President in 2012, as much as they wish to destroy Obama (which, I still see having some racist overtones when you listen to the freak shows–meaning Rush and Hannity -kind of people).

    I’m “liberal” I guess. In my book “liberty” means deciding about your own life, not that of others (re: the drive to overturn Roe vs. Wade, trying to get sex ed out of schools, banning books, censorinship, Citizens United, letting big corporations off from serious misdoings with a slap on the wrist, blocking class actions, etc.); that does not mean liberty from consequences, but it means keeping the rest of civil rights intact; preferably overturning the Patriot Act; getting the election finances finally in some sensible frame; giving consumers and the environment some of their protections back; “packing” the SCOTUS with liberals in the FDR mold so that Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas axle won’t be the controlling one (Kennedy is unpredictable and it’s the fair thing to do after the kind of judges GWB got seated) and so forth.

    Sound weird? Sounds weird to me, because there was a time when I took Reaganomics seriously. But then I started Economics in the University and saw that it was always a hoax to begin with, a “Potemkin Economics” if you will.

    I’m sure nobody will read all of this let alone agree with a liberal hack like me, but I certainly hate the kind of atmosphere these teabaggers have brought up. I’ve always known the freakers were there, but now it looks like they’re almost respectable, and that’s a step too far. I saw the flurry of conservative pundits denying that Palin’s and others’ crazy talk that used very militaristic phraseology had anything to do with Gibbons case (the sicko naturally shooted fairly indiscriminately, but we have a good reason his target was Gibbons). I’ve always know that crazy talk brought to mainstream brings the crazies out of the woodwork, and so they have. They’ll be shooting their assault rifles at Obama-lookalike effigies before the election in 2012. No, that doesn’t make anyone think it’s okay to shoot the President?

    I’m sure there are some spilling mistakes, pelase forgive me. :P

  5. Sorry I haven’t responded to these excellent thoughts yet but, as I’m sure you’ll understand, this time of year is supremely busy for me. For now, suffice it to say that these are all worthy, valid ideas, and I intend to address them in a future post. Thanks.

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