New Orleans One of the post-lecture questions from a perceptive Lafayette College student that has stuck with me in the last couple of days, began with a phrase something like, “Since you seem to support the Tea Party, ….blah, blah, blah.” I answered with a couple of jokes, since the premise was in some ways ridiculous, and more seriously quoted Chris Rock as the best source for an answer to the question: it’s not that I support the Tea Party, but in Rock’s classic terms, “I understand!”
But, upon reflection, a more honest answer, though probably more confusing and less useful to the fine students of Lafayette, would have been to say, that “yes, I support the ‘party,’ just not the principles and the politics.” I’m a party-guy, just not a Tea Party guy.
I’m frankly bored by all of these articles in the wake of the mid-term election that argue in such lofty terms that the Tea-people will have to move to the center and get their “govern” groove on. I think the real fight is going to emerge between the Republican Party pols that sucked up to the Tea-people to get elected and hope their movement runs out of steam and caffeine, dying in the cup so to speak. This is all of the big whoops of the established structure trying to pretend that compromise is all that counts and their way is always the best way, because they believe it’s the only way. No listening there.
The movement stories about isolated and angry citizens who found their voice in the Tea Party and a life defining cause by channeling their anger and alienation into the movement and the elections, should not be forgotten. Those are activists and organizers who I can guarantee anyone who will listen, will NOT be happy as Republicans. They need their own party. They need a Tea Party that is a real party fighting (win or lose) for votes from a local base, rather than simply another caucus in the elephant herd.
There are states where that is easy and they can even fuse with the Republicans, like New York, Connecticut Vermont, South Carolina, and, perhaps even Oregon, just as the Working Families Party has done in some of these same states. There are states where it is harder, but in every state, the rules still allow distinct parties to be built, and whether progressives or tea-people, these are real alternatives despite the fact that the work is hard and the road is long. We simply need more parties that just the Rep-Dem Party that rules now with the favor of big money, daily pundits, and the more powerful Business Party that funds and focuses the whole shebang, but doesn’t have a separate ballot line on election day.
The prevailing wisdom seems to most clearly support the “Me Party” or what Dharmendra Kumar, who directs ACORN International’s work in Delhi famously referred to in the Indian context as the many “parties of one.” Individuals who believe they are a “brand” or have sufficient wealth to be able to run in state after state as a “Me Party.” The New Yorker speculated at length on whether or not Mayor Bloomberg from NYC was once again testing the waters to run as an independent for President as a standard bearer for the Me-Party. I think the Me-Party is the largest in the United States right now no matter what Halloween mask the candidate might be wearing. A Rand Paul in Kentucky or a Mario Rubio in Florida may be tea-people one day, libertarians the next, or whatevers most of the time, but the press continually tries to document their movements to the “center” while they try to brand themselves with the Me-Party label and run from the rest.
It would all be easier if politicians rather than constantly shucking and jiving, coalesced with like-minded and stood and fought accordingly. Let there be a Blue Dog Party or a Right Democratic Party with a rural and southern base. Let there be a Tea Party where they have the muscle. Let there be a Libertarian Party with its small base and in fact I think there is one, but since it can’t build a base it ends up having to infiltrate the Republicans. Let there be Progressive Party for whoever is comfortable there. Let there be a national Working Families party to merge the people of labor, left, and liberal persuasion. In fact let there be a Liberal Party for whoever is out there willing to say they are liberals and let it stick to them. Let the Republican Party and the Democratic Party figure out what they really are and even what they really are not.
All of this would make it easier for citizens to both decide how to be active and how to choose, rather than this mush in the middle where no one can make heads or tails of truth or fiction, policy or program. All of that would be better than the Me-Party which has been in ascendancy for the last several decades.
So, yes, I understand the Tea Party and support their right to be a party rather than a short grass prairie fire or a milquetoast caucus with the elephant band. Good question, young man!