Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Went To The Tea-Bagger Rally


I attended Dayton’s big Tea-Bag Rally yesterday. Big crowd. The rally was held at Courthouse Square, where, 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln once spoke. It was great that 8000 people cared enough to take the trouble to come down town on a chilly afternoon to express themselves politically. I kept looking around wondering, “Who are these people, what are they thinking, what is motivating them?"

I wrote a blog that asked, “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?”

Making democracy work has been the theme of a lot of my posts over the last couple of years. Just last month at our South of Dayton Democratic Club (I’m the VP), the guest speaker was Mark Owens, Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. During the question period, I asked Mark to explain to the group the Party's policy of primary endorsement. I made a post the next day with the headline: Mark Owens Says Most Montgomery Dems Approve The Party’s Suppression Of Primary Participation

My gripe is that the Montgomery County Democratic Party is controlled by a small clique of well meaning individuals who feel that the Party is best advanced via antidemocratic practices, such as suppressing primary participation. This clique puts Party over democracy. The ends (electing Democrats), in their view, justifies the means (antidemocratic processes). The result is that a lot of Democrats sent to congress are lackluster -- lacking in ideas, vision, and capacity or inclination for authentic leadership. Loyal Party workers, who have a source of campaign funding, are the candidates the Party endorses. We fiddle while our democracy burns. The point is, our system of democracy is failing us -- at every level. We are failing to find the best and the wisest among us to take the responsibility of governance, and we are paying the price.

I don’t suppose the Tea-Baggers really want democracy to work. Tea-Baggers take hard positions that have enthusiastic support, but these positions are far from representing a majority view. If our democracy works, the positions advocated by Tea-baggers don't stand a chance -- but Tea-Baggers want their positions to prevail, regardless.

I concluded my post, “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.”

My first post for DaytonOS, Sept, 2007, was, The Ascending Issue In Our Democracy Is Democracy Itself. My conclusion to that article said, “The idea of democracy, itself, I believe, will increasingly drive our politics, and increasingly the idea of democracy will be the benchmark used for evaluating the actions and the merit of political parties.”

That, at the time, was my argument to Mark Owens and subsequently to the Executive Committee when I urged they change their primary endorsement policy. I lost the argument, but it’s nice that next May, 2010, a whole new Montgomery County Central Committee will be elected. The new Central Committee will then have the authority to completely reorganize the County Party -- starting with the election of a new Chairperson. In 2006, at the last reorganization meeting only 105 Central Committee members showed up out of 200 or so elected. If every precinct were represented, 548 Central Committee members would be in attendance. We have a system of democracy already in place. We simply need to use it.

I think it might be fun to imagine a speech I might give at a Tea-Bagger rally -- using these ideas in this post.

My flowers are blooming.


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