Meeting the Tea Party
First off, as thousands of people walked by, 99% of them didn't care at all about what was going on. Most New Yorkers don't care about either the Teabaggers or the progressive counter protesters who were there.
I have several observations from my experience with the Tea Party folks. First, the VAST majority of teabaggers I met were mouth breathing fools who didn't even realize that they were contradicting themselves with each statement they make. Most of them seemed to want to cut government and cut taxes as far as they could, but still wanted all entitlements they are used to. And saw no contradiction in that. It seemed they were lobbying for a Somali style government, but wanted Sweden level of services. This is impossible.
Second, my fellow progressives have shown their most foolish side this Tax Day. The first problem is that we only realized there was a Teabagger protest a day before it happened. Those of us who tried to organize a response met with the following responses: a.) silence, b.) the excuse that it was too short notice and people are too busy, and c.) why don't we just ignore the teabaggers so the press will ignore them. All of these are lame responses if we want to win. Together they cede the spotlight to the Teabaggers. The worst is the "let's just ignore them" response because the press already follows the teabaggers. Lou Dobbs was supposed to speak on Tax Day in Manhattan (I left before then so don't know if he showed). EVERY media outlet was covering it. By ignoring them we cede completely the stage to the most extreme right wingers around. THIS IS FOOLISH! And is typical of progressives. We LOVE to excuse laziness by pretending our action is not needed. NO!!!! If we don't respond to the right wingers, we lose. On Tax Day, Billionaires for Bush was there. But not many other progressives were there. So the media got a few pictures of my Obama T-shirt, a few pictures of Billionaires for Bush...and a hell of a lot of footage of teabaggers. EVERY media outlet was there. Most progressives were not, so the message delivered was by default an extremist right wing message. Way to go progressives. ONCE AGAIN you drop the ball. Learn a lesson. From Goldwater to Reagan to Gingrich to the Teabaggers, they realized LONG ago to drive their message home over and over and over. Progressives still think they can win by staying home and staying silent. NO. We can't. Way too many people I tried to recruit took the same old lazy excuse to do nothing. The Tea Party knows better than the progressives how to win. So on Tax Day they got their message out there yet again and yet again we failed.
Third, SOME of the tea party folks clearly were liberals that we are not reaching. I was struck by how much better the right wing is communicating its message (mostly composed of lies and hypocrisy) than the progressives are (even though their message is far more reality-based and FAR more popular. Some of you who have paid attention to my writing before may recognize that this is an issue that has already been taken up in the book The Political Brain which I have highlighted and suggested over and over. Had Democrats taken this book to heart, a good chunk of these Tea Party folks would be eager liberals. Instead, the left is ONCE AGAIN letting the right define the talking points and hence losing. Let me give an example.
I engaged several Teabaggers. Most of them were fools. But one person sympathetic to the Tea Party was clearly at heart a liberal who self-identified as a conservative. Her voting record included, quite enthusiastically, Reagan AND Clinton. Most of her points I AGREED with. This Tea Party sympathizer and self-identified conservative expressed her support for:
1. Universal Healthcare
2. Marriage Equality
3. Public Education
4. competition for insurance across state lines
5. ability to purchase pharmaceuticals from Canada
6. Preservation or even expansion (certainly not cutting) of Medicare
All of this is liberal territory, yet she saw it as conservative territory. Her only real conservative view was that (contrary to the above very strong stands) she wanted smaller government and lower taxes.
Here again let me emphasize what I and The Political Brian emphasize: People LOVE Liberal views but liberals lose the communication war to conservatives. And let me emphasize that almost every complaint she had against Obama really was thanks to Blue Dogs diluting the Democratic message and stands. We are LOSING thanks to Blue Dogs. We are losing people whose stands are liberal because Blue Dogs make them think Democrats don't support their views. Blue Dogs are driving people who are at heart liberal (though they claim to be conservative).
1. To my fellow progressives, stop thinking you can ignore the conservative propaganda just because it seems so absurd. If you don't confront it (by counter protests, letters to the editor, etc) NO ONE WILL and we will lose. Why not write some letters to your local paper right now? No one else can express your view for you.
2. To my fellow Democrats, we have to weed out the worst (NOT ALL!) of the Blue Dogs. May I suggest some donations in key primaries. Daily Kos has an Act Blue site focusing on some very key primaries that can actually help us win general elections. I would add Connie Saltonstall, who is the default frontrunner for MI-1 now that anti-Choice Stupak is retiring. You can donate to her and to Regina Thomas (another great primary choice) through my Healthcare 4 America Act Blue site. Let's fight for BETTER Democrats to prevent this kind of Blue Dog surrender that loses us supporters to, of all things, the Tea Party.
3. Let's look forward to defeating the right in November. I have a Top Races for 2010 as a guide for the key races this year. Any donations will be helpful in winning this year and keeping the right wing extremists at bay.
4. Counter the Teabaggers by joining or creating your local Coffee Party group or Living Liberally group. These are fun and effective ways to expand progressive networking.
5. Join/support MoveOn.org and/or Democracy for America, the progressive grassroots organizations that predate the Teabaggers by several years. Donate and/or attend local meetings. Or, if there are no local chapters, form your own.
If you can do one or two of the above actions, you will be doing your part to counter the next Gingrich-style takeover of our government. Don't you think it is worth it?