TEA Partier, listen. I’m talking to you.
I know you’ve been down as of late, looking at a debt deal that didn’t go far enough, worried that the mixed results will be blamed on you and not where it should be, squarely on the shoulders of Liberal Democrats and slightly less fiscally liberal Republicans, who argue over which thing to spend too much money on. Possibly you look at the new round of attacks, saying that you threaten the Republican coalition by not playing nice and that Boener almost lost the farm back there because of you. Worse, you still get misconstrued as the favored child in the room, who the adults have been careful to indulge while still ‘doing the work ‘ that must get done to move the nation forward, a complete reversal of reality.
I want you to relax for a minute.
What the TEA Party has done is nothing short of extraordinary, and before you jump up and tell me I’m placating, listen. We on the Right haven’t institutionalized movements the way those on the Left have. “Rules for Radicals” has really nothing for us in terms of policy. But human, grassroots movements share some similarities, whatever their origin. Let’s examine them.
A real movement comes from people who cannot take the status quo any more. These people must have two things to be a real movement: integrity and community. By integrity I mean that no matter how many (or few) other people are out there, the reformer can no longer go along to get along. This doesn’t mean they want to tear the system down, it usually means they love the system so much they won’t let it descend to ugly depths anymore. This is TEA party to a tee. Having communications and relationships is what makes the movement an actual movement, and can be seen in the small groups meeting regularly around the country.
Those on the Left who dismiss TEA parties as “Astroturf” are probably split down the middle between people who have an ideological impairment to believing that a conservative can organize/would believe in something strongly enough to organize, and those who are scared to death because they recognize a movement when they see one.
Every movement has a few stages it goes through. First, people decide to be themselves, with their vote and their voice, and not live divided internally anymore. This has happened in America as many have said “Enough, taxes and debt will not solve our problems, only pass them to our children.” These people found themselves outside of the system, but still love it and want to change it.
In the second stage communities are built as these principled people find each other, coalescing into larger groups and passing information and support to each other. A movement begins to takes shape here.
Thirdly, These groups go public. They take flack, gain enemies, and stay as strong as they can, continuing the conversation with people who hopefully go from unawareness of the problem, to hatred of it, to uneasiness with it, to complete comfort and acceptance of the new ideas. THIS IS STANDARD! Evey new idea has entered the public conversation in precisely this way.
And lastly, they get a seat at the table. The system changes a little bit to accommodate them. Before you go around dogging John Boener and the lack of progress, look at the progress! While we are in the thick of arguments about debt, the argument is ABOUT DEBT! Take heart, oh TEAbagger, your ideas are here, and news organizations can look at them and judge them with the same lenses they look at mainstream policy, because you are now mainstream. Congratulations.
Don’t rest on your laurels, of course. I am not part of a TEA Party, but I can opine along with everyone. What you need now is to kill the vampire that’s been draining our national blood: the economic beliefs that debts don’t matter, and that centralized control helps us get out of recessions. Take this last part for what it’s worth, but stay strong, stay hopeful, and keep it up!