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Jonathan Kraut: Is tea party with U.S. or against U.S.?

Democratic Voices

Posted: November 29, 2010 9:45 p.m.
Updated: November 30, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Throughout virtually every election cycle, we hear the constant cries that “Sacramento is the problem,” “Washington is the problem,” “liberals are the problem” and “conservatives are the problem.” As though it was a matter of us against them, I would like to point out the simple truth that there is no “them.”

Our elected officials are in Sacramento and Washington because we put them there. Are we against the people we ourselves elected to office?

Fairly elected officials represent us all, even if we did not vote for them. That is called “democracy,” by the way.

Liberal and conservative parties exist in every democratic government worldwide, including our own. By nature, they balance each other out. Our Founding Fathers counted on conservative-liberal stalemates except when an issue of overwhelming clarity gains bipartisan support. The brilliance of our Constitution is that it was designed so that nothing would happen unless absolutely necessary.

I would characterize “liberals” as those who want to use government as a tool to facilitate and enforce fairness and to provide for the common good. I would describe “conservatives” as those who wish to return to the core values of a powerful minority and promote personal prosperity. I believe neither perspective has an ownership nor has surrendered the rights to the concepts of “freedom” and less government.

There has been so much complaining lately from conservatives that one would think the Republicans have introduced a new meal-drink combo called “whine and bellyache.” Led by the tea party, the conservative movement is saying that our freedoms are being stripped through increased government control and that we should support smaller government and lower taxes.

Do you hear any conservatives say we want a diminished military, weaker security measures and less influence around the world? The answer is “no.” When we ask the wealthiest of Americans to allocate their fair share to support a strong military and government, the conservative answer also is “no.”

The latest conservative argument is that we, and especially the rich, should pay less taxes, keep government out of our lives, reduce regulation and let the greediest and most deceptive prey on the rest of us at will. This is as stupid as stupid gets. Sounds like a formula for a Wall Street disaster and financial meltdown. Oh, we just did that under Bush.

Liberals are not off the hook, either. Many Democratic officials, especially at the state level, have supported an increase in the number of state employees and staff, which is unsustainable and obviously has exceeded our means.

Not only are the retirement packages and salaries of state workers far beyond levels found in the private sector, there has been no real improvement in government services, despite the many thousands hired. Now, most Democrats recognize we overextended ourselves and fortunately are acting on the behalf of fiscal restraint.

The real truth about American politics is that blaming others gets votes, and taking responsibility for results has faded from our political conversation. The newly formed tea party is simply a collection of the loudest and most passionate Republicans against government. Tea partiers paint in broad strokes, depicting government as the villain, implying that, left unchecked, the nation would regulate itself and that the common good is best served when no one is in charge.

Dictionary.com defines sedition as “incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.” Not only do I find the tea party mantra destructive, it, by definition, promotes sedition. Our first tea party was a seditious action in Boston Harbor to destroy private property in order to unseat established rule. The irony of this most recent tea party emanation is that former, current and hopeful elected officials are trying to win election to government for the purported purpose of unseating government.

There is a distinction that can be found between inciting discontent with a party or a candidate, which is not a criminal act, and sedition, which is attacking government itself. We should be on the alert for candidates and movements that wish to undo the strengths and mechanisms that make this nation great. These are, in fact, liberal principles and are still embraced by the Democratic Party, even when times are tough: government is a tool to facilitate and enforce fairness and to provide for the common good.

If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, than it takes supporting democratic principles and Democrats to neutralize the seditious acts that tea party activists and their Republican puppet masters would perpetrate if left unchecked.
Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV, on the SCV Human Relations Forum, and on the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.

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