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An Open Letter to the Tea Party

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This is prompted between watching this wonderful interview last week, hearing a guy in the laundromat talk about how "the Cold War was all about fighting communism like Obamacare", and then having my uncle jump on my sincere request in Facebook. In many ways, this is similar to my open letter to John McCain back in 2008.

Dear Tea Party:

This letter has nothing to do with your political position. Make no mistake, I do disagree with your political position, but that's not my point. I think healthy debate is necessary for good governance - otherwise I'd be a hypocrite about my point of view during the entire Bush administration, right? Groupthink is a bad thing, and only healthy debate can prevent it.

But we're not seeing healthy debate. We're seeing a war of snippets and slogans. You want to be heard - that's fine by me. There are just three simple things I'd ask you - or any other political party or political "movement" to do.

  1. Denounce your extremists. Muslims, Christians, Liberals, Democrats, Hindu, Atheists, men and women - we've all had to do this before. Some asshat decides they want to hijack our movement, and makes us look like idiots. (Examples of a racist tea party sign and socialists at a peace rally in the pictures.)

    I don't mean kick 'em all out. For example, the Socialist Party USA is horrible at peace rallies. So are these "9-11 was an inside job" morons. I don't care whether or not they show up. I do care when they use the rally as a platform to talk about the upcoming worker's uprising or their own conspiracy theories. In the same way, I get that you'll find racists and truly anti-government wackos at Tea Party rallies. Who cares if they show up - but the racism and threats need to be disowned from the top of the Tea Party on down.

  2. Don't talk in soundbites. It's hard to do, I know. But avoid those trigger words like "socialism", "communism", "tyranny", and "fascism". If you don't actually know the difference between communism and socialism, maybe you shouldn't be using the words as your political slogans. If you somehow support tax breaks for industry, trade tariffs of any type, and so on, then please stop expounding the virtues of the free market. You get the idea.

  3. Educate yourself on what you're talking about. If you don't know what a CDO is, I'd suggest that your opinion about bank bailouts is... uninformed at best. If you don't understand how corporate limited liability, corporate personhood, and obligations to stockholders create perverse incentives for CEOs, CFOs, and the like, then maybe you're not the right person to be critiquing economic policy. (Even worse, if you think "perverse incentives" has anything to do with gay marriage, please go educate yourself now.) Speaking of marriage, if you think "marriage" has always been about a romantic relationship between one man and one woman in the United States (let alone throughout the Bible, let alone throughout history), then go educate yourself about that too.

Again, let me repeat: I am not saying you have to agree with me. I'm saying that if you're serious about reforming the country, then actually talking knowledgeably about it is going to create the change you want to see. Soundbites and slogans sound nice - but they're divisive and don't make for good policy.

See, when you're trying to discuss real problems and real solutions, shouting "socialism" or "fascism" when it's not isn't actually helping our country get any better. If you're pontificating about bank bailouts - and you don't realize what was at stake, and why there's not any clear "bad guys", and what really needs to be done to make sure it won't happen again (and the consequences of that), then you're not adding much more to the conversation than my 12-year-old. And when you don't shout down the racists and nutjobs at your own rallies, you condone them.

Tea Partiers, do you want your cause to be taken seriously, or do you just want the rest of us to think of you as nothing more than racists and sloganeers?

Your choice.

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