Tea Party Blues

Tea Party Blues 040611


I’ve been slow to bash the TEA Party.  I recognize that the huge majority of the members have no idea what’s going on in the wider world.  Still, I hesitate because I understand where they are coming from, in a general way.


They are right: We have too many bureaucrats.  The bad bureaucrats sit at their desks all day doing almost nothing and pissing away the taxpayers’ money.  We need more of those; the terrible bureaucrats drink the koolaid every day when they come to work and busily turn the rhetoric founded in the Camelot the legislators imagined into the hell of meaningless bullshit we all endure.  Good bureaucrats, of course, are unemployed, retired or beneath the sod.  Or, so I believe in my worst moments.


There is only one way to prune back the number of nit picking bureaucrats: cut off their feed.  Anything else will simply require more bureaucrats to monitor the bureaucrats we already have.


The Taxed Enough Already Party gets that.


The problem with doing it that way, just cutting retirement so the job is no longer attractive, and cutting funding so the offices are understaffed, the problem is that some of the jobs they perform are actually important.  We have too many; the TPers want none. 


I can think of several bureaucrats who simply don’t fit that cynical description.  Holly George.  Tim Beals.  Heather Foster.  Every county and even the state has a handful of people who work hard to do good.  Some jobs really need doing.



Next, we’ve gone too far in protecting the environment.  Our forests have become tree museums, and to see them you have to stay between the red velvet ropes, unless you’re a corporation and have a timber harvest plan, which is becoming almost a janitorial duty in the woods, since they don’t burn regularly anymore.  A small group of true believers can stop an entire county, or an entire forest.  Every new change to protect something we value comes at the cost of things we used to enjoy. 

I’m no longer certain that land and resources are best off in the hands of a few elitists acting in the public name.  I think we might be better off with someone we can offer money to. 

At some point, we have to become realistic.  Species die all the time, and especially when the weather changes.  It comes to the point you can’t see the dog for the fleas.  When a species dies, a new one moves into the niche.  Nature is incredibly fecund, nearly all species could be destroyed and in no time there would be new ones.  We have to expect some fringe species to disappear, and, yes they’re all “indicator species” but who knows what they’ve indicated?  Maybe they’ve indicated that we prefer trout to yellow legged frogs.  We need to change our perspective somewhat and re-evaluate what the word “evolution” actually means.  We need to weed out our own egos and our own fear of our specie’s mortality and get a little real.


The Tea Party People get that.


The problem is, they want to trash every protection.  They want to stop conservation reserve because it slightly limits corn production.  They want no public money going to protect real, vital wetlands.  They want to ignore recent past lessons of over development, of draining swamps, of stripping forests that never return. 



A popular TEA Party claim: We’ve moved too far from the spirit and intention of the Constitution.  Bureaucrats, judges and politicians have parsed our rights and, by ceaselessly, relentlessly expanding their purview, have whittled away at the spaces where we were free.  I don’t mean to be a fetishist about the Constitution, but it’s all we have.  No living bureaucrat is going to make people more free, only our original yearning for individual liberty keeps us free.  I realize the phrase “we the people” was penned by an elitist who thought the mob needed an aristocracy.  I realize “all men” literally meant all free, landowning men, not women, not slaves.  We have to be as ceaseless and unrelenting as those who pretend to know what’s best for us or they will pilfer our freedom.


The Tea Party Patriots get all that.


The problem is, they only want some freedom, and they only want some of us to have it.  They are often the same people who don’t believe in abortion for others, or who complain about the undocumented workers who serve their meals and paint their houses.  It’s no one’s fault that a contractor would rather hire a smart Mexican national than your stupid son-in-law.  Borders are bad ideas to begin with, they are nothing more than national hubris, and people who have families on both sides suffer so “patriots” can feel exclusive.  The answer to immigration is to improve the economy of Mexico so people can make more money at home with their families than they can by crawling under a fence and kissing ass on wealthy North Americans.  TPers don’t complain about American companies making goods just across the border and bringing them in, a very common practice (some goods are actually marked “made in USA” because they were made in “special trade areas”).  Patrolling the border with a pistol on your hip doesn’t make you a patriot, it makes you a racist freak. 


TPers are freaks for interpreting the law.  Some of my best friends are Tea Party members, (or at least they were friends prior to this article.)  They aren’t stupid, they aren’t greedy, but they do tend to love the “law”.  They tend to like their ideas clear and sharp, don’t like “fuzzy” logic.   They aren’t comfortable in a world without a web of rules. 


Personally, I have always thought of laws as recommendations, or guidelines, like “serving suggestions”.   To me, people who break a complex and variegated world into clear “categories” simply don’t have a wide enough view.  Laws aren’t connected to any truth beyond their own; they don’t reflect an intrinsic “rightness”.  They are agreements some people made up to constrain the behavior of others, which is an insult to all of us.  Certainly, we need laws, to control business and constrain government, but imposing laws on individuals is how societies maintain social strata.  A nation that believes that all humans are created equal shouldn’t entertain such laws.



Who are Tea Partiers?


It turns out the TP moniker has been thrown around a group of people who have always been with us, and usually been politically active.  Polls differ in their description of TEA Party people, and that’s because “Tea Party” is less a clearly defined platform than a general sense that our tax dollars are being squandered and our resources bound.  It describes a loosely associated group of like-minded individuals but defies nation wide organization, kind of like “Earth First!”.

What the polls do agree on is that most TEA Party supporters are old, white, and religious.  Most are Republican, but there is a smattering of Catholic Democrats and other conservative old party Dems, and some “libertarian” or “disaffected” voters. 


In the United States, conservatives are generally about money, and the TEA Party is certainly no different.  They hate universal health care, they hate it that Mexican nationals work in the U.S. 


It is pretty clear that most TEA Party members are linear thinkers.  When linear thinkers are presented with complex problems, they try to break them down into a series of linear elements. 


An example is the analysis by the Tea Party Barbie, Sarah Palin.  Obama described his plan for intervention in Libya, and the plan has several junctures where it makes sense to see what happens.  Gaddafi is bad, we all get that, but he’s the recognized ruler of a sovereign nation.  If his people overthrow him, that’s one thing; it’s something else to simply go in and throw the bastard out (a nice, linear plan).  First of all, the UN resolution and NATO directive don’t include that, and the various other players, notably China and the Arab League, haven’t endorsed that.  Secondly, the “go in and get the guy” logic worked in Panama, but pretty much nowhere else.  Look at the terrific success we had in Iraq, and continue to have in Afghanistan.  Do we have to be taken to our knees by yet another Vietnam, or locked in an expensive stalemate like Korea?  Are you made more safe by huge U.S. military bases in Iraq?


Palin, though, saw the flexibility in Obama’s plan as “chaos” and claimed his plan is “dodgy, dubious”.  Further, she stated that the only purpose she could see in American military action in Libya was to take out Gaddafi.  The resolutions call for humanitarian intervention, to keep Gaddafi from using mercenary aircraft against his own people.  That’s the reason, and it isn’t simply American self interest, though we all understand without saying it that’s part of the plan: more oil for us. 

Still, even Palin only represents the most hardcore, most rock headed TEA Party members. 



Moderate TEA Party members seem to understand one very important point: the two parties can’t represent all Americans.  If we can’t break up the parties, we can vote between them, or past the edges of them.


You don’t have to join the TEA Party, though, you can join MOVEON.org.  MOVEON is also a loosely based group of like minded people, though they have an administrative staff.  They frequently query members on where they want the organization to go, what issues they want to focus on, and what candidates they want to support.


As a liberal organization, MOVEON tends to be more trendy, a little slicker with technology, and more egalitarian than TEA.  MOVEON is the Olive Garden to TEA Party’s Dennys. 






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