The First Allegiance Of Grassroots Tea-Baggers Should Be To Make Our Democracy Work

I made it to the big Dayton Tea Party yesterday for part of the Court House Square rally, but left early.  I missed the Seth Morgan finale.  Big crowd. I finally found a parking spot at Democratic HQ on Wilkerson.  A policeman I asked estimated the crowd at 8000 people. To get so many to show up to a rally is impressive.

Kimberly Fletcher, dressed as if for the original tea party.

Kimberly Fletcher, dressed as if for the original tea party.

I heard Kimberly Fletcher’s rousing speech. That has to be fun — giving punch line after punch line to a cheering crowd. She condemned both Democrats and Republicans. (cheer, cheer). She said the people must take back their government (cheer, cheer). She said we hired them and we could also fire them (cheer, cheer) And that was just the warm up. She was interrupted repeatedly with applause. Her speech is a good model of Tea-Bagger thinking and when it is posted on the Dayton Teaparty website, I intend on excerpting it here. The content of her ideas deserves to be discussed. Claims and complaints in her speech are reflected in the signs shown below.

Fletcher is a dynamic speaker and I’m wondering if she has political ambitions. She is founder of a conservative group called Homemakers for America. According to her bio, “Kimberly has been heard on numerous regional and national TV and radio programs including the Sean Hannity Show and her articles have appeared American Thinker and Worldnetdaily. Kimberly and Derek have 8 children and have been homeschooling parents for 9 years. They currently live in Clayton Ohio.”

I also heard an impassioned speech by Kate Burch. Her bio says she is a retired clinical psychologist and aspiring fiber artist, a mother and proud grandmother, and that she, husband and two cats live in Oakwood. Burch spoke rhapsodically about the wonders of the Fair Tax. She started her speech with a litany of questions — each soliciting an audience response: “How would you like to never pay Income Tax ever again?” (Yeah, Yes, cheer, cheer) “How would you like to decide how much tax you will pay?” (Cheer, cheer) “How would you like to get rid of the IRS?” (Yes, Cheer, Cheer)

I found myself getting ever more amused at the acceleration of the absurdity in her questions and found myself chuckling out loud at the thought of what she might say next: “How would you like to live on Sugar Mountain?” Wow. (Cheer, cheer)

This crowd was having fun. You expect a rally to hep people up to new levels of enthusiasm. But, eventually, our huge and complicated problems require rational dialogue. The speeches I heard from Fletcher and Burch were Rah Rah Rah. The underlying, but unasked, question, posed by this rally is: Can we get our democracy to work? Can we have a government of the people, for the people? Can we have a country where average citizens can share in the great prosperity of this country? Getting our democracy to work will requires a process of hard work, with many people committed to building community and to participating in authentic problem solving. Many people who now see themselves as Tea-Baggers, I’m thinking, might be won over to meaningfully participate in the long term process that building our democracy requires.

Fletcher and Burch, and other Tea-Baggers, can have an attitude to raise hell, to ridicule, to threaten. They project an attitude of self righteous assurance that they have the answers, but maybe that attitude came more from the rally setting, than their own dispositions. I heard more than one Howard Beal assertion: “We’re not going to take it anymore.” But after rousing speeches, what, really do the Tea-Baggers have in mind doing? Throwing tantrums? Marching in the streets? What if they find that 70% of Americans simply reject their point of view? Can they accept the verdict of democracy?

At the Tea-Bagger rally I heard the cheer: USA. USA. USA. The USA the Tea-Baggers want is a USA with small government, few regulations, low taxes, free market. I’m wondering if these grassroots activists, who cared enough to show up at a downtown rally, could begin to buy into a different view of the USA?  Could they begin to see something more important than low taxes?  How about democracy?  Isn’t democracy more important than low taxes?  The ascendant view of the USA, I believe, I hope, that more and more people will want to support is a view that sees the USA as a place where “the people” work together to build democracy, build community, build dialogue, build the Common Good, a USA in which everyone can lead a secure and prosperous life — not a USA where a 30% minority somehow manages to impose its will on the majority.

I saw some great signs:

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