Incumbent US Senator Mike Castle's defeat in last Tuesday's primary by Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell has sent shock waves through the political world. According to the New York Times, the Democrat Party and the Obama administration are looking at ways to "cast the Republican party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists" (NY Times, Sunday, September 19, 2010). The Times went so far as to call O'Donnell an "insurgent", a term that seems more suited to a mujaheddin rebel in Iraq or Afghanistan than a US politician.
So, why does "Tea Party" have to equal "right wing" or "extremist"? Why can't it mean "independent thinking" or "sick to death of the crooks in both parties"? After all, it is entirely possible for people to be middle of the road on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and legalization of marijuana while being strong advocates of tighter borders, reduced government spending, and reduced taxation. Seems to me that many people I speak to in Berkshire County - 75% plus of whom are Democrats - fall into this category, yet most would never attend a Tea Party rally or vote for a Tea Party candidate.
Let's face facts. It was only a matter of time before the rampant corruption in both parties and the complete lack of fiscal restraint got us to this place in our history. The US Government has been spending money like a drunken sailor since the 1930's. I recently read some stats - and I'm paraphrasing here - that from 1980 to 2010 our national debt as a percentage of GDP grew from 25% of GDP to 125% of GDP. What an incredible lack of restraint! Both parties are to blame, but we are ultimately to blame for continuing to elect them.
I hope the Tea Party can continue to distance themselves from the kooks in both parties, but especially those on the extreme right wing. Those folks are just as dangerous as the extreme left wingers are. The elections in November do NOT need to be about religious issues. We need fiscal prudence, period.
On Saturday I was driving into the office and Dave Ramsey was on 810AM. A woman called in from Iowa. Early 50's, her and her husband had decent jobs, but they had under $100k in their retirement accounts. She wanted to retire at 62. Dave told her to plan on 72. She said, "But, we really want to retire at 62." And, Dave said, "Be realistic. You can't. Wishing won't make it so." He ran the numbers and by 62 they would have about $150k in the bank and would still owe on their home. At 72, they would have $600k in the bank and their home would be paid off. "The facts are what the facts are," Dave told her.
That's exactly the type of leadership the country needs. A group of people who recognize the facts are what the facts are and start doing something about it. Those are the type of people we need to elect, regardless of their political affiliation or in spite of it. I say that makes me an independent. If you say that makes me a Tea Party guy, so be it. I'm not worried about labels. I'm worried about actions. I'm worried about results. I'm worried about our nation's future.
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The Tea Party is extremist because of all the signs they brought to rallies saying "GUNS TOMORROW" and "WE DIDN'T BRING GUNS THIS TIME" and some of them even carried guns. Then there were the signs of Obama dressed as an African tribesman with a bone through his nose. Then there are all those people saying Obama is a Muslim terrorist because of his name. Then there are the crazy tea party birthers. On policy matters, the tea party says they like the constitution but want to gut the 14th, repeal the 17th and repeal others.
So there are some kooks in the Tea Party. Let's face it - there are some kooks on the extreme fringes of both parties.
What I'm trying to figure out is how we can broaden the appeal of a 3rd party whose primary role is either a) getting the two corrupt parties out of power or b) making the two parties answer to the people again. Can we all buy into that? I'm talking about a party of fiscal responsibility that takes on the tough issues of Social Security, health care, illegal immigration, etc. but does it with a realistic view of the costs involved and the taxes required. A party of facts, not rhetoric.
As a region we are pre-disposed to elect Democrats. Lockstep. No variation. For 40, 50, 60 years or more. Why? Are things improving around here? Have the Dems done a good job? Believe me when I say that I don't think things would be much different if Republicans had been in power for the last half-century either. They are all crooks. But why do we continue on the same path?
I want to know if people locally are angry enough about how things are to want to make a change. Or, do we want to just keep going in the direction we're going in, with our local economy in shambles and with the elite ruling class on both sides of the aisle lining their pockets while the entire nation suffers?
I'm not saying that Berkshire County should all of a sudden start voting Republican. I'm not that naive. What I'm saying is we need to start electing people who are going to put the country on the path to solvency, not people who tax too much and spend even more. If those people aren't available in either the Democrat or Republican party, then where should we look?
This blog raises an interesting question about Why does "Tea Party" have to equal "Right Wing" or "extremist"? Commenter Howaboutthis does make a good point about the some of the images that come from these Tea Party rallies as one answer, and your response verifies the point that I would like to comment about when in you point out, "So there are some kooks in the Tea Party. Let's face it - there are some kooks on the extreme fringes of both parties." As an independent, I don't see the balanced objective opinions coming from anyone representing the Tea Party movement. Sure some of the points about spending and fiscal policy are valid but they are overshadowed with all the additional rhetoric that is extreme. Yes there is an extreme left, but it is truly extreme and such a minority of the mainstream lef that it doesn't get the kind a numbers or attendance of the Tea Party movement. I live the in DFW area of Texas and as an experiment, I have been listening to a variety of talk radio stations since Obama was elected and it is the most overtly biased commentary claiming to be truth I have ever heard in my life on any subject, much less politics. I mean Bill Maher and John Stewart, which are examples of overtly left leaning shows, cleary are entertainment and never claim to be truth. If you listen to Rush, Hannity, and Mark Levine in succession you really would think that heathly debate and dialogue are a lost cause in this country. It is embarrassing to me how often it is overtly biased and to me that is the Tea Party's fatal flaw. Fiscally I agree with much of what is said, but it is wrapped in such crazy accusations about our government and the office of the President. Sadly people in this country now want their information presented to them polarized. No one cares to be presented information in an objective manner or take the time to research and engage in debate and dialogue.
If the "Tea Party" wasn't a right-wing organization, they wouldn't be all about issues historically raised by the right-wing movement in America: anti-immigration, anti-"big government", anti-civil rights, anti-anything-but-white-Christians, anti-Soviets.
The left may be a lot of things but none of these things are on the commie librul agenda that most of the Tea Partiers are against.
If the "Tea Party" weren't disposed to being right wing they wouldn't be running as Republicans, in Republican primaries, or caucusing with the GOP if they get elected.
THAT'S why the Tea Party is right wing.
I guess my point was more that there are a lot of things on the Tea Party platform that strike me as things that we should all get behind. Balanced budgets? Fiscal prudence? Is there anyone out there who believes we can keep spending more and more? At some point China or whoever is going to say, "We're not buying your debt anymore. You're a bad credit risk."
I wish I felt a true movement existed about the fiscal prudence you speak of, but it doesn't. For me as an independent, sadly the Tea Party has too many other extreme elements in it's platform that are grossly invalid and are the true nature of the movement. Anyone that believes Obama alone has caused this recession is mistaken. The crash occured well before the election and the first bailout did as well. The housing crash was caused by years of paper derivates and crazy financial products sold to the market under a different political party. The Tea Party loses is authenticity to me when it ignores factors contritbuting to our nations problems not caused by the current President. Is George Bush any less of a socialist than Obama when the goverment grew during his 8 years at an alarming rate or spending grew at an alarming rate. So why does this movement happen now? Because people need a face to put a problem on and Obama is it. I find it grossly ironic as well that the average american is thousands of dollars in debt, let's assume 50% for simplicity sake, so 50% of the audience at a Tea Party is crying for fiscal conservatism when the can't even excerise fiscal conservatism themselves.