Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 255-Tea Partying

Dear Mr. President,

It's 9/12, so I suppose I should talk about the Tea Party. I'm not feeling particularly funny this evening, so I think I'll pass on the obvious opportunities to make jokes about their diversity, average age, fashion sense, or their confusion about American history. The Tea Party may not be much more than a fringe movement of angry white people, but it has an incredibly powerful media outlet representing it and spewing a worldview conforming to the Tea Party's narrative (or, more accurately, responsible for the shape of the Tea Party's narrative.) The Tea Party has gotten so much press in the last year that it seems like the whole country must have gone conservative. I think that's why so many Democrats are running scared. While their outlook for the midterms may not be so optimistic, I have to wonder if their poll numbers started dropping because of a conservative resurgence, or because they started legislating like they were afraid of one.

I've heard lots of ideas about reforming the Democratic party. Granted, most of what I hear (and most of what I think) comes from the left. The left would like to see Democrats act with courage, to stop governing like they've got to apologize for winning the election by pandering to the people who didn't vote for them. To stop compromising to no end. To take the gloves off when criticizing the obstructionist, hypocritical, xenophobic classism of the Republicans. I think this might save a few seats on our side of the aisle come November. But I don't think it's a party strategy that you (or your chief of staff) would take particularly seriously.

I think this is why the Tea Party is so popular. Not because the country is too far left, but because it is too stagnante and slow. The Tea Party might not have great ideas, but they're unscripted and unexpected. I think most of their candidates are even worse than the establishment Republicans they ran against in the primaries- but they resemble the kind of third-party shakeup of the system that our country needs (though preferably from a saner source with less corporate sponsorship.) So while I don't like them, agree with them, or even respect them, I do understand why they came about. People are waiting on a word I'm sure you've got to be sick of hearing by now-change. Actual change. Change that makes voting feel less like an exercise in futility.

Several fellow bloggers are starting a movement to publicly burn ballots on election day. One of the things they would like to see changed is a requirement that each race have a "none of the above" option that, should it receive the most votes, would require a new election with new candidates. I admire the spirit behind this protest, even if I am not going to participate. For one thing, I am a supporter of Senator Murray and I do want to see her re-elected. I will not waste my chance to ensure (hopefully once and for all) that Dino Rossi isn't allowed to represent my state in National office. For another I'm not sure that refusing to vote is a way to be taken seriously by the government. But I understand the intent. The government shouldn't be allowed to ignore us and not take us seriously. The government should be terrified of us. This protest, just like the Tea Party, comes from the deep sense that the American people are not being listened to. That we are manipulated to keep the rich and powerful richer and more powerful. I believe in the values of the Democratic party. I want to be proud of this. I want to call myself a Democrat. Right now, all that seems to mean is centrist, compromising, cowardly and even, in some cases, corrupt. The Tea Party might have changed the Republican Party a little, but it's made the Democratic Party downright unrecognizable. We've got to stop running to the right every time we get frightened of it. The Tea Party has had its time, it has made its mark. But it isn't nearly as powerful or influential enough to justify the fear Democrats are showing this year.

So it's 9/12. Forget the polls. Forget FOX news. Forget the Tea Party. Forget the fear. Lead a Democratic Party that people in this country are proud to vote for and maybe this November won't be quite the massacre everyone is so worried about.

Respectfully yours,


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