Defending the Tea Party: Sometimes politicians should be stubborn

Many Democrats blame the Tea Party for America's reduced credit rating. But has bipartisanship become overrated? Photo: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, August 10, 2011 —They’ve been called everything from “hostage takers” to “terrorists.” Those who choose a gentler approach merely dub them “partisan.” Yes, prior to the passage of a compromised debt-ceiling bill, the Tea Party was portrayed as some kind of dangerous obstacle by Obama and his surrogates. Then came Act Two, the subsequent credit downgrade. Now, heated, anti-Tea Party rhetoric is turned up hot enough to evaporate a real honest-to-goodness pot of tea.

I’ve been saying for quite some time now that we should retire the word bipartisanship. Not that it’s a bad term; it’s just that Democratic politicians don’t apply the definition responsibly. When they win elections, (such as in 2006) we hear, “The American people have spoken! Deal with it, Republicans!” When they lose elections (such as in 2004) we hear, “The American people want bipartisanship.” And naturally, we get a similar speech when Republicans control half of Congress.

Today’s application of “bipartisanship” is a major hint that Republicans should do things exactly the way Democrats want them done. Not getting behind President Obama is an example of partisanship (Sheila Jackson Lee’s additional theories not withstanding.) Of course, when Bush was in office, Democrats lectured us about how American it was to offer healthy dissent.

Let’s clear up this utter nonsense once and for all: The Tea Party congressmen and senators were elected based upon the promise that they would cut government spending without raising taxes. That’s why they won! We are not a dictatorship. We are a democratic republic, which sends people to Washington for the expressed purpose of doing what they pledged. If you don’t like the Tea Party, vote their candidates out of office. But don’t be mesmerized by endless spin. After all, it’s not as if Democrats aren’t honoring groups and voting blocks who put them in power.

Right now in Washington, Tea Party politicians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they break their campaign promises, they’ll get voted out of office by conservatives, something Democrats would love to see happen. If they hold firm, they’ll be demonized by Democrats so that Independents can vote them out of office, something else the Democrats would love to see happen; a win win for Democrats! This apparent tactic isn’t partisan at all, is it?

On Sunday,  August 7, Former White House adviser David Axelrod went on CBS’s Face The Nation. First he explained how the financial institution, Standard & Poor’s, “made an egregious analytical error.” Then he went on to say that they were not entirely in the wrong. After all, they clearly must have been concerned about the Tea Party movement without actually mentioning the Tea Party by name, right? I guess with such a premise, Axelrod was forced to find Standard & Poor’s not quite as egregious as he himself articulated moments before:

 “They want to see the kind of solution that the president has been fighting for… that will be balanced, that will include revenues, that will deal with some of our long-term issues….The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a Tea Party downgrade.”

Standard &  Poor’s did indeed express concern about the current political process. But that wasn’t their full story. They also said, “We believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed” (Standard & Poor’s Ratings Direct on the Global Credit Portal August 5, 2011).

As you can see, the Tea Party’s concern about “entitlement reform” was shared by Standard &  Poor’s. Certainly Obama would prefer the other part of the sentence about “raising revenues” but this only reminds us that initially our “bipartisan” president was every bit as unwilling to budge on his position of raising taxes. Tax hikes (at least obvious ones) were finally removed, but many of the Tea Party politicians also agreed in the end to settle for less than what they wanted. Others held their ground, convinced that the financial direction of our nation is taking us dangerously close to a bankrupt, rioting country called, Greece.

When the Tea Party reminds us that the rights of people are diminished by amorphous government, or that over taxation by King George was a catalyst to the American Revolution, they are simply speaking the truth. Conversely, when President Obama insists for the eight-hundred and ninety-fifth time that “the rich must pay their fair share,” his words do not automatically become true by repetition. They are as much a fantasy as Dorothy clicking her heels together, repeating Glinda’s smiley cues. In point of fact, the top one percent of taxpayers shell out almost as much as the bottom 95 percent combined!  Most conservatives are in favor of closing loopholes, but make no mistake, the rich are already charged more than their fair share and the problem with our revenue is not that taxes are too low, but rather, government spending is too high!

Not all independent Americans are buying the anti-Tea Party spin. Instead, many are expressing frustration with Washington in general, desiring to see our representatives work together more. The notion of compromise always sounds nice but is often based upon an erroneous assumption, which goes something like this:

“Whenever there is a conflict going on, we should immediately assume that both sides are partially right and partially wrong. There is no other explanation for conflicts. They are a matter of perspective. If people aren’t getting along or if politicians aren’t working together, there are always two sides to the story.”

Sound familier? We have all been conditioned by our culture. For example, many of us grew up on one or more incarnations of Star Trek, where Captain Kirk or Captain Picard arbitrated between two planets or two factions on one planet. Can’t you just hear Shatner right now with his drawn out, dramatic, emphatic voice? “If you could each just listen to one another…”

Listening with empathy is certainly ideal. But the real world doesn’t always work exactly that way. Supposing our only choice is to compromise an important value or decide not to give in? Isn’t it just remotely possible that on certain occasions one side is completely in the wrong while another side is in the right? Actually, this is a concept we all embrace at times.  Starting at the level of family, are there two sides to the story when a husband beats his wife? As a society, we quickly and properly condemn the man. We admonish the wife to take a stand, get a restraining order, and press charges. We exhort her to stop enabling the abuse. Indeed, by enabling the abuse, she often puts her own children in harm’s way.  

Unfortunately, the role of the enabler is not limited to family members. Whole nations can also be guilty. In the days of slavery, when abolitionists debated slave-owners or challenged anyone advocating that despicable institution, would it have been appropriate to say that both view points were equally valid, simply because two strong opinions existed? When the Civil War was over, and the North held all cards, should the new Republican Party have worked in a bipartisan fashion with southern Democrats? What would that have looked like exactly? Should they have struck up some kind of compromise where slavery continued as an institution but the slaves received free health care?

Early on, Lincoln actually was willing to compromise:

“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that” (Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862).

Many today condemn our sixteenth  president for that statement. Others defend Lincoln because he did what he could when he could. But who would say that Lincoln should have ever apologized for being a strong (extreme, if you will) abolitionist? 

Likewise, about half of the Tea Party representatives did vote for the more compromised bill in the end, realizing that they can only do so much while Republicans hold the House but not the Senate. They still fought hard for their values and got as many of them into the bill as they could. They will do even more if 2012 returns our government to conservatives. Why shouldn’t they? Why should they not be allowed to have an agenda? If one person’s agenda does not get through, it only means that somebody else’s did.

It’s time to lay off the Tea Party. Even if you sincerely disagree with their platform, at least have the decency to admit that an elected politician has a right to hold true to his convictions and/or do what he promised to do. Isn’t that what our country claims to expect from Washington? Let us not make martyrs out of ordinary citizens simply because foggy political climate keeps us from recognizing what the idea of a republic was originally all about.

 

ALSO BY BOB SIEGEL:

Conservatives must brace themselves: Obama could still win in 2012

 

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Many comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170. Read more Forbidden Table Talk in The Washington Times Communities.

 


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Bob Siegel

A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations.

In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Park radio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah.

Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Newsroom and San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach.  Bob has also published two books;  A Call To Radical Discipleship, and I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...

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