Monday, February 8, 2010
(Image by Kenneth Rougeau)
I've written before about the Tea Party, basically to compare them unfavorably with hippies, but I realized something when I was hearing about last weekend's Tea Party Convention: I'm jealous. The Tea Party Patriots—or the “teabaggers,” if that joke is still funny to anyone—are a dissatisfied group outside the political mainstream who have organized themselves, however haphazardly, around a set of principles and have gained so much steam that they're nearly viable as a third fully-fledged political party. Agree with their ideas or not, that's pretty fucking impressive. For decades, the Greens, LaRouchians, Libertarians and Socialists have been trying to win elections and make the Democrats and Republicans afraid, and then a bunch of old white people from the South who listen to talk radio all the time get together and build a bona-fide populist movement overnight? To quote the internet, WTF?
The thing is, the teabaggers and I have a lot in common. I'm dissatisfied with the two-party system that dominates the country, I'm in favor of responsible spending and scaling back government whenever possible. Like nearly everyone, including Arianna Huffington, I'm not happy with the direction the country is going in, and I think the Democrats are incompetent. On top of everything, I've always wanted to be part of a popular resistance movement that overthrows the corrupt power struggle and defies the odds in a noble, almost cinematic way, just as the Saints did last Sunday.
Yet some of the Tea Party's positions and some of their practices are holding me back. So here's some suggestions for how they could win me, a 23-year-old New Yorker, over to their side.
#1: Promise to end the War on Drugs. It's hard to find a list of policy positions that the Tea Party actually holds, partly because there are many separate groups that form the “Tea Party,” some of whom are at odds with one another over all kinds of issues.But most groups are at least somewhat Libertarian, and they all agree that government should interfere with our lives as little as possible. And Sarah Palin, in her keynote address at the convention, mentioned “common sense,” whatever that means, a lot. So it should be a slam dunk to oppose the most nonsensical, most intrusive, bureaucracy-creating set of policies in the history of our country. Legalize marijuana and at least decriminalize the other drugs and you'd save money, collect a ton of money in taxes (that could reduce the deficit), open up a new area for legitimate entrepreneurs and small businessmen to exploit, and capture the much-prized pothead vote for a generation. And if the Tea Party adopted this as an official position, they would differentiate themselves from either party and broaden their appeal. (Also, “tea” is old-timey slang for marijuana.)
#2: Downplay the conspiracy stuff. If you spend much time poking around the conservative blogosphere, you run into statements like, “I hope and pray that we get the chance to vote Barack Hussein Obama out of office in 2012,” the implication always being that the United States is a couple of statues away from becoming a totalitarian society, when in reality all that happened is a left-of-center president supported a plan for government-subsidized (not government-run, the doctors would not be government employees) health care. When people compare Obama to Hitler or Stalin, it's like when Black Nationalists start talking about how the White Man is the enemy and needs to be killed—an irrational sentiment that makes outsiders think of you as insane, obscuring your legitimate concerns.
#3: Let go of the social issues. If the Tea Partiers were really in favor of keeping the government out of our lives and reducing government interference in private matters, they'd be pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, for much the same reason that they should be anti-anti-drug. Something along the lines of: “Hey, gay people? I think you're going to hell. What you do with your bodies is wrong, and I don't like your choice of music either. But as long as you don't have sex in front of my kids or try to suck me off when we're at the gym, I'm fine with you, since this is America and America is a mosaic of differences. If you can find a church that wants to marry a couple of sinners, fine, just know that it won't be my church. And lady? If you want to have an abortion, I probably can't stop you even by changing the laws. Just as long as it's not paid for with my tax dollars and you know you're going to hell too, it's fine with me.”
#4: Pledge to eliminate the government entirely. Interestingly enough, the platform of the Boston Tea Party is to “reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose.” If you take this literally, it means that this one particular branch of the movement, at least, supports the complete elimination of government, which makes a lot of sense. Do these people really think that if they replace one group of politicians with another, slightly less polished group of politicians, suddenly everything will be all right? Or that if they elect Sarah Palin to the highest office in the land that she'll try something that no one has tried before and we'll be able to cut taxes, reduce the deficit, and spend enough money to make us safe from terrorism forever? Were they listening to the halftime show at the Super Bowl? The new boss is always the same as the old boss, and even Ronald “least gay man ever” Reagan increased the federal budget and tripled the national deficit. The only way to get the government to stop spending is to get rid of the government entirely. If the Tea Party wants to do that, they'll have my vote.