Areas of agreement with the Tea Party

October 19, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More

In the interests of our burgeoning movement to devolve power from  corrupt bankers, politicians and other power-elite, I would like to remind the fervent and honest members of the Tea Party that we are all the 99%.  To that end, let’s explore our common ground.  I didn’t know much about what the current incarnation of the Tea Party supports, so I sought out their platform.  If I am mis-informed about the platform, please educate me.  I’ll be happy to issue any corrections that are needed.

Tea Party & Occupy movements love America. A scene from my local #occupyomaha protest. Photo by Brynn Jacobs

Before I get into the list, let me say that I was excited to see the new Tea Party’s birth.  Watching the corruption of our government become more and more brazen, it was only a matter of time before counter-movements began to spread.  Both the Tea Party and the #Occupy movements were born of this impulse.  The original patriots of the Tea Party movement formed in opposition to the bank bailouts.  I think it became apparent rather quickly, however, that their admirable movement had been co-opted into another arm of the Republican machine.   I don’t say this to cast aspersions though, as I do want to keep this post exploring our common ground rather than emphasizing our differences. The #Occupy/99% movement is actively resisting attempts to co-opt its message by the Democratic party and other left-leaning organizations, so let’s keep exploring our similarities.

Here then, is the 15-point “non-negotiable core beliefs” which I found on teaparty.org:

NON-NEGOTIABLE CORE BELIEFS OF THE TEA PARTY
1. Illegal Aliens Are Here Illegally.
2. Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.
3. Stronger Military Is Essential.
4. Special Interests Eliminated.
5. Gun Ownership Is Sacred.
6. Government Must Be Downsized.
7. National Budget Must Be Balanced.
8. Deficit Spending Will End.
9. Bail-Out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal.
10. Reduce Personal Income Taxes A Must.
11. Reduce Business Income Taxes Are Mandatory.
12. Political Offices Available To Average Citizens.
13. Intrusive Government Stopped.
14. English As Core Language Is Required.
15. Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged.

I see a huge amount of overlap between the goals of the Tea Party as set out here and those being expressed by members of the 99% movement. Let’s run through the list:

1. Illegal Aliens Are Here Illegally.

OK, a little bit of tautology never hurt anyone.  I think we can stipulate that illegal aliens are, by definition, here illegally.  What to do about that fact is another matter, but let’s not get bogged down in policy right now.  By the way, some of the very same giant corporations we are protesting encourage illegal immigration to reduce their labor costs, and it’s their failing neoliberal globalization policies which provide much of the impetus for immigration in the first place.

2. Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.

#occupy movement shares goals with the Tea Party. Photo by Brynn Jacobs

Agreed.  Tea Party/Occupy movement share the goal of putting our people back to work.  With 14 million unemployed in this country, it’s a moral and economic imperative.

3. Stronger Military Is Essential.

Stronger than what?  Stronger than currently exists or stronger than anyone else’s military?  Because I’d disagree with the former and say that we already have the latter.

4. Special Interests Eliminated.

Agreed.

5. Gun Ownership Is Sacred.

Can we agree on constitutionally protected? I get where you’re coming from, and I’ve got no problem with it.

6. Government Must Be Downsized.

Agreed.

7. National Budget Must Be Balanced.

Possible agreement here.  Budgets have two sides: revenue and expenses.  Let’s put both sides on the table and see where we come out.

8. Deficit Spending Will End.

Agreed.

9. Bail-Out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal.

Agreed.  And if they’re not technically illegal, they sure should be.

10. Reduce Personal Income Taxes A Must.

OK, I’m with it.

11. Reduce Business Income Taxes Are Mandatory.

I’ll agree if we’re talking about small business.  Giant multinational conglomerates, however, should pay reasonable taxes.  As in, up from the zero that they mostly pay now.

12. Political Offices Available To Average Citizens.

This demand, in particular, is perfectly aligned between the Tea Party and Occupy movements.

13. Intrusive Government Stopped.

More areas of agreement. Photo by Brynn Jacobs

Again, total agreement.

14. English As Core Language Is Required.

Hmm.  We probably disagree here.  Can we agree to disagree on this one?  We’ve never “required” a language in our history, and I see little reason to start now.

15. Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged.

This might be another area where we have to agree to disagree.  I know what you mean when you say “traditional family values”, and I suspect that neither one of us is going to be able to change the other’s mind.

So how did we end up?  I count 9 areas of total or near-complete agreement, 4 areas for further discussion, and only 2 areas where we will probably never see eye-t0-eye.  If we can focus on fixing the areas in which we have broad agreement, all of our lives will be vastly improved.

But in the interests of extending an olive branch between us, I’ll do you better.  Here’s some other areas where I’m sure we can agree:

1. Obama has been a disaster for this country.  Hope and change was just a silly slogan. Like most other politicians, he’s completely out-of-touch with the common man or woman.  Skilled at political rhetoric, his actions have been destructive to our great nation.

2. Electoral politics are completely corrupt at this point.  The average person’s voice is not heard. There’s too much money in the system.

3. Government is doing too much these days.  Its intrusive fingers are pushing into every pie, and we are all the worse for it.  We need to have a national discussion about what the proper role of government should be.  I happen to think we ought to be doing more to invest in domestic infrastructure and education, rather than investing in wars and nation-building around the world, but it’s a discussion we ought to have.

4. Big money deals behind the scenes illustrate just how corrupt the system is.  Deals like Obama’s Solyndra scandal go on far too often, and by members of both parties.  We can all agree that crony capitalist deals like this are not in the interests of any of us (except the 1%).

5. The original Boston Tea-Partiers would be joining this movement.  Remember, the Boston Tea Party was a reaction against a monopoly corporation (The British East India Company) and its corrupt crony-capitalist relationship with the British government.  No taxation without representation was the catch-phrase, and we’re in a similar situation today.  Our “representatives” are really representing big money interests, not the interests of the people.  We, the honest, hard-working American people, pay our taxes, only to see them wasted to fraud, corruption, and graft of all kinds.

So Tea Party, how about it?  We are all the 99%.   Can we agree to cooperate in the areas in which we have agreement?  I want to help you take our country back.  Join us.  Let’s put an end to the false left/right dichotomy by which the corrupt politicians have been keeping us separated from each other.  We agree about far more than we disagree.

Lastly, something to think about.  Do you, as a Tea-Party adherent, feel that the Tea Party has been fairly portrayed in the media?  I’m willing to bet that your answer is “no”.  I’m sure you can think of several ways in which your honest and sincere attempts to encourage change have been belittled, hijacked, or unfairly maligned in the mainstream media.  The media is doing the same to us.  They’re saying that we’re secretly funded and controlled by George Soros, or Moveon.org, or whatever liberal bogeymen scare you the most.  They’re saying that we’re just a bunch of jobless, smelly hippies, probably playing bongo drums and smoking dope.  They’re saying that it’s a communist or socialist plot to take over America.  They’re saying that we’re going to “come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.” It’s not true.  We’re your fellow Americans, trying to save America in the only way we know how.  Please, join us.  Make your voice heard within the 99% movement.

Matt Taibbi explains:

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that’s a story our media won’t want to or know how to handle.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying one thing: beware of provocateurs on both sides of the aisle. This movement is going to attract many Breitbarts, of both the left and right variety. They’re going to try to identify fake leaders, draw phony battle lines, and then herd everybody back into the same left-right cage matches of old. Whenever that happens, we just have to remember not to fall for the trap. When someone says this or that person speaks for OWS, don’t believe it. This thing is bigger than one or two or a few people, and it isn’t part of the same old story.

And, Sally Kohn from FoxNews.com, making a similar point:

Most of the Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t opposed to free market capitalism. In fact, what they want is an end to the crony capitalist system now in place, that makes it easier for the rich and powerful to get even more rich and powerful while making it increasingly hard for the rest of us to get by. The protesters are not anti-American radicals. They are the defenders of the American Dream, the decision from the birth of our nation that success should be determined by hard work not royal bloodlines.

And if you’ve got a half-hour or so, watch these videos of a group of Tea-Party libertarians interacting with those occupying Wall Street, and discovering a great deal of common ground.

Share

Tags: , , ,

Category: Community, Corruption, Current Events, Politics, Protests and Actions

About the Author ()

is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Occupywallst.org has released the results of their internal polling, and those results tend to support the notion that this is not a lefty protest: about 70% of respondents consider themselves politically independent. Other interesting findings:

    -92% of respondents have some college education, a college degree, or a graduate degree.
    – 50.4% were employed full-time and an additional 20.4% were employed part-time.
    -71.5% of the sample earns less than $50,000 per year.

    More here: http://occupywallst.org/article/70-percent-ows-supporters-independent/

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    I campaigned for Obama and supported him, but as soon as I saw him going to the dark side, which was immediately after he became president I became quite critical of him. Brynn, I suspect that we’ve run parallel paths in that regard. Until recently, however, people like us have been feeling isolated, because there has not been an outlet to our great frustration that Congress and the Presidency have been bought and paid for.

    This situation reminds me of the power of tribalism to blind people. So many democrats I know still haven’t a clue that Obama has repeatedly sold them out. Obama thinks he feels a kinship with the Occupy protesters, but the Occupy protesters I have spoke often express a deep resentment of Obama.

    It just occurred to me to say this, because so many Americans continue to be afflicted with this conflict-driven tribalism. Certainly, this dysfunction is cultivated by the media, since conflict causes viewers to become transfixed and thus more willing to buy the products on the commercials. This same tribalism makes it taboo to cross over and acknowledge the good points made by one’s opponents. Unless we do reach out to find things that we truly agree upon, we will never be able to work together in Congress or anywhere else. Obama’s problem is that he reached out and shook hands with his opponents for the sake of a compromise, even where it betrayed his most important campaign promises.

    In your article, you have had the courage to steer completely clear of tribalism so that you can see where you do and don’t agree with the Tea Party. As you point out, there are more than a few points of agreement, and I know that you are not agreeing for the sake of agreeing. I agree with you that the Tea Party has positions, or at least concerns, in common with their opponents. If you had taken the modern approach to political discussions, you would have villainized the Tea Party, distorting their positions and trying to make fools out of them. We’ve seen what that leads to: ever more fruitless argument. I have faith that we can work with our opponents, that we must do so to get the country back on track, and that your approach is thus the correct one. You have indicated where you agree and where you don’t. I think that this approach is the right starting point, combined with recognizing that Tea Partiers are sincere in their beliefs, even where we think they are misguided. We can knit together the Republic this way, which, as I’ve written earlier, reminds me of the tried and tested way of restoring the two conflicting parties to a marriage. http://dangerousintersection.org/2009/11/01/what-we-need-to-do-differently-when-talking-politics/

    Make no mistake that I have massive agreements with Tea Partiers on numbers issues, but in the spirit of your article, I’ll add some of the things on which I can agree, or at least sympathize with Tea Partiers (as I understand them).

    Not all wealthy people are bad. There are some people in the 1% who are not abusing the system. I do not resent wealthy people, even extremely wealthy people as long as they A) work hard for their money and B) their work makes the world a better place. For me, this does rule out Wall Street speculators and so-called banks that peddle exotic financial instruments.

    Government must be accountable to ordinary folks, and this means that government programs should be small enough to be manageable. Any societal need that can be efficiently handled by state governments should probably be handled by them. Many things cannot be handled by state governments, however, and many types of social legislation (e.g., civil rights) are best promulgated by the federal government. Like many in the Tea Party, I’m suspicious about the ability of government to accomplish many of its objectives. I am especially suspicious where there are no meaningful metrics and huge amounts of money are being spend. The Tea Party might point to welfare, whereas I would point more to our warmongering, but I do think we are both suspicious about the efficacy of a lot of big government spending. I differ with the Tea Party in that that I believe that we can remake government to accomplish great things like interstate highways and space exploration, as well as helping the poor with food and medicine, whereas tea partiers believe we can do away with government completel. I think the aim of eliminating government completely is foolish and self-destructive because this is where we are currently headed and it’s destroying the country; in the absence of government, we will be ruled by profit seeking entities that will call itself “government” but is not a true expression of the will of the governed. One more example: Obamacare. I agree with the Tea Partiers that this is an atrocious program, but we disagree about why it is atrocious. I think we should have single-payer, medicare for everyone, and Obama’s program lacks meaningful price controls. Tea partiers believe in a “free market” even though there is no meaningful competition I the health insurance market.

    Simplify the tax code. The current code is loaded up with sweeteners that benefit particular industries and people. The code should be simplified enough that it can be understood by ordinary citizens. I think I’ve heard Tea Party members grumbling about this, and I would agree.

    I’m not anti-union, but I’m ambivalent about unions. From conversing with many teachers, I’m convinced that there are many incompetent teachers in our public schools who should not be there, whose jobs are being protected by their unions. I used to belong to a musician’s union that forced entertainment venues to hire musicians who didn’t even play music; they sat in chairs and watched, yet they were paid. I’m for unions that keep workers from being abused, subjected to unsafe working conditions or exploited financially. I’m against unions that are corrupt or that allow for inefficient workers who are paid significantly more than the market would bear for their services; I’m completely opposed to featherbedding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Featherbedding

    I’m highly ambivalent about affirmative action. Although there was a time when it made sense, I’m convinced that such programs are now a net negative for society. Further, I’m not convinced that there is a meaningful category of race. http://dangerousintersection.org/2007/09/24/you-are-african%E2%80%94whoever-you-are/ I find that Tea Partiers go way beyond my position, however, and tend to be overly-race conscious and often bigoted, as well as generally xenophobic.

    I’m highly suspicious of people who cheat the system, and so is the Tea Party. Whereas they are focused on individual welfare recipients, I’m focused on a much bigger source of fraud, corporate malfeasance. But I’m all for vigorous prosecution of individual welfare cheats too, and I don’t think that it’s the government’s job to give anyone a free ride where that person is capable of working.

    That’s it for now. I know that I’m not going to make any member of the Tea Party happy with these positions, but I can see that there are general principles that both sides embrace, though we apply them in different ways, presumably due to our different foundations of morality. http://dangerousintersection.org/2011/09/20/republican-morality/

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    I enjoyed the videos. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Erich, thanks for your many thoughts on this issue. I was inspired by your “mending fences” posts earlier this year. Tribalism no doubt plays a large role, and the media encourages the behavior, as you note. We have to stop demonizing each other if we are going to get anywhere as a nation. The media encourages us to create caricatures of our political opponents, which makes it easier to mock and ignore them, something I’ve fallen prey to myself. If we stop and work at listening and understanding each other, I think we can move past the caricatures and into some areas where we have substantive agreement.

    Erich says:

    I campaigned for Obama and supported him, but as soon as I saw him going to the dark side, which was immediately after he became president I became quite critical of him. Brynn, I suspect that we’ve run parallel paths in that regard.

    I know you supported him in the beginning, at least until he had a track record that proved the betrayal of his rhetoric, but I would like to point out that I was never taken in. Realizing the true extent of the political/electoral corruption in this country means that it’s probably impossible for someone to get elected and remain uncorrupted. See some of my posts from my old blog which were timed about the time of Obama’s election and inauguration. I’m going to list a few of these, not to toot my own horn, but to show that we all should have seen this coming– it’s the natural end result of a corrupt system:

    10/29/2008 For those in love with Obama:

    “As I’ve been trying to remind people, Obama may be better than the other big alternative, but he’s still not what you want if you believe in real change…Senator Obama certainly can talk the talk, but I’m concerned that the actual business of governing will not allow for platitudes of “change” or “hope”.”

    11/14/2008: Federal Election Commission won’t audit Obama:

    “…the campaign finance system in this country is utterly broken, and Obama may have found the perfect way to skirt laws and raise a mind-blowing (and election-winning) amount of money. All you have to do is opt out of the public financing system, then raise as much as you can in small donations. If you’re successful at it, apparently you don’t even have to go through an audit. This is the first presidential campaign in which the candidates have raised more than $1 billion, led by Obama’s $639 million- yet apparently the very fact that he opted out of the public finance system makes an audit less likely.”

    12/19/2008: The myth of electoral accountability:

    “…neither of the two major parties will ever be more interested in what progressives say than what big business says.”

    1/16/2009: Cynicism and the electorate:

    “The only question left is why do people keep voting? What recourse do you have now? As a voter, you thought you were getting someone who was going to vote the way he said he would- silly rabbit! Now you have to wait another 4 years before you can vote him out, and get someone else who is going to tell you appealing lies during the campaign, then ignore you once they are safely in office.”

    1/22/2009: Cult of personality

    1/21/2009: Millionaire Obama freezes pay of top millionaire staff:

    “I’m all for restraining lobbyist influence, but color me skeptical that the tens of thousands of lobbyists in Washington are suddenly going to be unemployed.”

    It’s a near-impossibility to get good results from a corrupt system. Until we fix the corruption in our electoral system (which I know you’re aware of and have repeatedly spoken out about), then it really, truly, literally, does not matter who you vote for. The big policies will all be the same, the only question is whether it’s a corrupt group of Democrats being enriched or a corrupt group of Republicans being enriched.

    Thank you for your list of areas where we can forge agreement with those on the right. Let’s keep demolishing these shibboleths.

    I’m highly suspicious of people who cheat the system, and so is the Tea Party. Whereas they are focused on individual welfare recipients, I’m focused on a much bigger source of fraud, corporate malfeasance. But I’m all for vigorous prosecution of individual welfare cheats too, and I don’t think that it’s the government’s job to give anyone a free ride where that person is capable of working.

    Well said, and it’s another area where I think we can forge agreement with the Tea Party or conservatives.

    It occurs to me just how correct your talk of tribalism is. I feel a knee-jerk response to defend unions whenever they are criticized, because I understand how important they were to gaining elementary rights during struggles with past eras of corporate greed. But many union structures today are ossified and as corrupt as the government and corporate structures we regularly criticize. Same thing with many welfare recipients: when I hear criticism of “welfare queens”, I naturally seek to turn the discussion to corporate welfare, which to my mind is a much bigger problem. But that doesn’t mean that instances of failings within the social safety net is not a valid area of concern, as fraud and corruption ought to be rooted out wherever it occurs.

    Instead of talking past each other and giving “but” or “or” responses, we should be giving “and” responses.

    Sample conservative complaint: “It really bugs me when these people on welfare are cheating the system. I work hard for my money, and they get paid sit around and do nothing.”

    Standard progressive response: “Yes, but the system is necessary to take care of people who are down on their luck.”

    Better response?: “I agree. We should be trying to make sure we are accounting for the uses of our tax money in a responsible way. Speaking of which, did you hear about the huge amounts of fraud and waste from contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan? Between 15 and 30% of the total value of those contracts was lost to fraud or waste– billions of dollars! We really need to keep a closer eye on all these areas of abuse.”

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Brynn: Yep, you didn’t fall for it at all. I did and, as I said, it makes me feel naive. Obama crooned his way to many a liberal’s heart, and I now know it was all a well-practiced act. I still think he is less destructive than McCain/Palin, but I have no excuse for not calling it the way you called it. Hopefully, it’s live and learn for me.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Brynn: You’re article brings to mind this quote:

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

    F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940), “The Crack-Up” (1936)

  6. Brynn Jacobs says:

    A big talking-point for those on the right is that the Occupy movement is aiming at the wrong place- i.e. they should be upset with government, not corporations. What they need to realize is that we’re upset with both. A new article in Vanity Fair explains:

    Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

    The article also explains the several mechanisms by which extreme inequality (such as exists in the U.S. today) undermines the normal operations of the “free market”.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Brynn: Thanks for the cite to the Vanity Fair article. That nicely sums up our problem in a well-balanced way–I agree that it’s not entirely the 1% problem that is causing American to fall apart, yet the 1% problem is a major part of our overall problem.

      I’ll cross reference this post on the damage done by income disparity because it dovetails well with the Vanity Fair article.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    At Common Dreams, Frank Rich opens with a bit of history about the Bonus Army, then compares and contrasts the Tea Party passion with the aims of the Occupy movement. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/30-4

Leave a Reply