Friday, July 10, 2009

Insulting the Memory of Our Founding Fathers

I have had some writer’s block lately as I have pondered the recent Tea Party activities in my own back yard, specifically, last week’s protest outside Congressman Tom Perriello’s office over Cap and Trade.

I‘m not so much troubled by the event as unable to place these events in any context that is consistent with concepts of logic, common sense and just plain decency.

I understand disagreeing with Rep. Perriello on the Cap and Trade Bill. While I believe that the fact of global warming and the fact that human activities contribute to it is beyond any kind of reasonable scientific and political dispute at this point – there will always be flat-Earthers making noise at the extremes -- there is plenty of room among reasonable people of a wide degree of political worldviews to disagree with respect to how we ought to deal with it.

Cap and Trade is but one way, and whether one happens to agree it is the best way, or even if it will be effective at all, it is simply not so far out on the fringe of science or acceptable political and social belief to engender the hatred it did at Congressman Perriello for voting for it.

Or so I thought.

But there, outside Tom’s office, were my neighbors calling their Congressman “traitor” and “coward,” and as far as I could tell, not a word of condemnation from any local leaders of the Republican party. Not a word from declared congressional candidate Bradley Rees. Not a word from rumored candidate Cordell Faulk. Not a word from local Glenn Beck wannabe Rob Schilling. Not a word from Delegate Rob Bell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have no problem with a person passionately expressing their political beliefs, but these are the supposed mainstream GOP leaders in this district. If they do not find this sort of rhetoric objectionable, then I submit we have nothing to debate with the Republican Party. Let them pitch their fits, but don’t give them the attention they so desperately seem to require.

While I don’t think this sort of behavior is consistent with healthy or productive political debate, engagement is pointless. Whether this movement ascends to power or simply becomes a marginalized small group remains to be seen, but I suspect the latter because the political circumstances are not even close to supporting the level of anger these people seem to have, notwithstanding the fact that in their fevered imaginations these people seem to imagine themselves as some kind of modern-day iteration of the Patriots of the American Revolution.

They are nothing of the kind. In fact, in their protests, in their use of the symbols of Revolution and defiance against the very leaders elected under the system that Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Washington risked their lives for, these Tea Partiers do not, despite their loudly professed intentions, honor the memory of our Founding Fathers. They besmirch it.


  1. Thank you Alan, for this post.

    I have been really troubled by the pictures of this rally, of people holding posters calling Tom a traitor and a prostitute. While I respect everybody's right to protest, and their right to be deeply held and opposing convictions, I do not see how this behavior is productive. I'm speculating here, but this, to me, is an act self-marginalization, as would be sympathizers are turned off by the vitriol and hatred.

    Let's debate, through fruitful dialogue, the virtues (or lack thereof) of this bill, but let's not incite hatred, whether through rhetoric or symbol.

  2. This was a great post, Alan. Unfortunately, the leaders of the Tea Party movement know very well what they are doing, even if many of their followers do not.

    It's not about logic or respectful debate. Indeed clear, critical thinking, open debate, and a true marketplace of ideas are not what these people want. In fact, they fear that.

    The real leaders of today's GOP, the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters, are actually very well educated people. They understand logic. But they also understand political manipulation.

    It's no accident that so many of the operatives and professionals in the GOP have a background in advertising and marketing. They understand the use of symbols, metaphor, and rhetoric to stir up emotion. And they realize that appealing to hatred and fear are the most powerful motivators of their marginalized base.

    This is no accident. It's carefully crafted, and we must call it out as such.

    Anybody interested in politics who hasn't read George Lakoff or Drew Weston needs to do so immediately to understand what is going on and how to combat it.

  3. AIAW - I could not agree more. I think one thing we on blogs can do is not allow these extremists to co-opt American history in their war on the United States.

    Forget their rhetoric, the Tea Partiers are not simply a group of well-meaning Americans who wish to engage in the policy debates of the day. They are, in fact and deed, anti-American and anti-Constitutional. Members of the Republican Party who wish to work within the Constitutional framework to achieve their political vision for the USA should be separating themselves from the organizers of this movement and condemning their message, but they are not.

    For a variety of reasons, I don't think the Tea Partiers will prevail, at least in Virginia, if only because the Progressive blogosphere in the Commonwealth is too large and organized by now.

  4. All excellent points. There's not much more that I can add to this. What does concern me about this group is their views and interpretation of the Constitution is so warpped that they would likely be supportive of the Bush Administration's wire tapping program, which is now coming to light just how fast it got up and running. Who was it that said "Those that would give up their freedom for short term security deserve neither freedom or security"?

  5. The left complaining about "extreme rhetoric," interesting... This couldn't be the same political wing that made a film about assassinating George Bush,accused him of murdering innocent civilians, accused our troops of killing innocent civilians in cold blood, and attacked Sarah Palin at every turn in a very disturbing fashion.

    Oh and didn't you just call people "flat earthers" while simultaneously being upset at them for allegedly calling one of your congressmen a traitor and coward. I love how their are no double standards in politics.

  6. Alan,

    I respectfully disagree with your assertion that there was "Not a word from declared congressional candidate Bradley Rees." As his campaign manager, I can assure you that if go to Brad's website, there was a platform position on Cap and Trade up within hours of the House vote. It can be found here.

    That said, you will find that we essentially gave Rep. Perriello a pass on the issue, since we fully expected him to vote "Yea" on the ACES bill. Our problem actually stemmed from the 8 Republicans who received money for their respective districts in exchange for selling out their principles. But hey, they got their thirty pieces of silver, I reckon.

    I find it interesting though that the progressive movement that used to hold signs at political rallies comparing the Bush administration officials to the third reich and accusing them of war crimes are now preaching about the tenor of political protest. It seems to me that what is good for the goose...

    While I don't personally consider Perriello a traitor, nor does the campaign, I do find it telling that by refusing to face his constituents, he reveals a lot about the other epiteth. I was at the protest, doing a literature drop, and you paint a vivid picture in your piece, Alan, allbeit inaccurate. There were no pitchforks and torchs, no one was burning the fair Sir Tom in effegy. There were a couple hundred people voicing their displeasure over ACES. Rep. Perriello on the other hand, sent his director to tell the gathering that he was unable to attend because he wasn't going to be in town. His schedule however, had him speaking at UVA at 5:30. So I ask, isn't the cowardice moniker at least slightly warranted? I've already instructed Brad that I will personally lynch him if he refuses to meet with his constituents, regardless of political stripe.

    Okay, enough of my rant. Talk to you guys later.

    Michael Ernette
    Campaign Manager, Rees for Congress

  7. VASocial Conservative: Your contention that the left has no credibility to complain about extremist rhetoric because it subjected George W. Bush to the same is way off mark.

    I would agree that comparisons of Bush to Hitler were idiotic and pointless -- such comparisons are so absurd they don't say anything -- but your other examples don't seem so extreme to me. The facts are that Bush/Cheney lied the country into an ill-advised war by suggesting, first, that Iraq was involved wtih 9/11 and was an ally of al Queda, both of which the Administration knew to be false, and second, that Iraq possessed WMDs it might use on us. While the belief that there were WMDs can, I suppose, be blamed on Sadaam's own misinformation campaign, the argument that he would have used them on us was a pure scare tactic. Given the facts of the matter, I thought some of the rhetoric the left directed at Bush/Cheney was actually simewhat reserved.

    Which is my point, exactly. Whether rhetoric is extreme is circumstantial. The issues over Cap and Trade ore policy differences. They simply do not warrant the kind of invective that was directed Perriello's way in this protest.

    Issues of lying to the country about war are of a different magnitude.

  8. Michael:

    Thank you for the comment.

    I was aware of Brad's page on Cap and Trade when I wrote this post, and was careful not to suggest that Brad, himself, was using such rhetoric. In fact, Brad's tone seems right to me, even if his premises are off: "Even though 5th District residents may disagree with his vote, at least he stuck to his principles."

    But at the same time, Brad also approvingly spoke of the protest at Tom's office when he tweeted, "Good post on yesterday's protest @tomperriello's office:" The link was to a report on the protest from a gadfly blogger in Charlottesville who used an image of Perriello, unshaved, looking menacing (the same image Goode used in a campaign ad to try to make Tom look menacing). Tom's image is in a circle with a line through it, and says on the top, "Wanted," suggestng our Congressman is a criminal because he voted for a bill over which there was disagreement.

    So Brad seems to want it both ways: thoughtful debater and supporter of extreme rhetoric. Hmmm. What do you call a candidate who tries to have it both ways again? Oh, right, a typical politician.

    As for the protest itself, I only read and saw reports of the protest, so I can't characterize it from first hand knowledge. But I will tell you that some of the posters I saw in the photos, and some of the anger the photos seem to depict, was bothersome.

    Even you can't bring yourself to criticize these folks calling Tom a "traitor;" all you can bring yourself to say is you and the campaign don't agree. So I'll ask you directly: do you and the campaign think it is appropriate to refer to a sitting U.S. Congressman as a traitor because you disagree with his approach to climate change? I'm not asking about the right to call him whatever anyone wants -- I believe in free speech -- I'm asking for your judgment on doing so.

    I'll also ask whether you think that kind of rhetoric is conducive to meaningful debate?

    As for whether Tom Perriello is a "coward" because he couldn't come, as a result of a scheduling conflict, talk to a group of constitutents who made it clear, frankly, that they were not interested in meaningful discussion of an issue, but in symbolism and agitprop, is a total red herring.

  9. Trivia quiz question, who emits more greenhouse gas, cows or humans? termites or humans? If you answered humans you would be wrong. WHere are all of the stories in the news that the artic ice has been growing at a rate faster than in the last several years? You can find the articles overseas?

    Trivia quiz question, what is the largest greenhouse gas? I will answer that later. Hint: It is NOT Carbon Dioxide. Global warming is one of the great hoaxes of our lifetime. Almost as bad as second hand smoke will kill you.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. RedAlex: Some Progressive Haiku for you:

    The dangling bait
    Progressive swims quickly past
    Not hungry tonight

  12. Aznew,

    FACT: Water vapor IS the largest greenhouse gas. Carbon Dioxide makes up .03% of the atmosphere and man is only responsible for .117% of the greenhouse effect. Look it up.

  13. Aznew,

    1) Iraq was involved in 9/11 and had ties to Al-Qaeda. Get Obama to release ALL of the CIA memos. Not just selectively release them.

    2) Iraq had plausible WMDs as we gave them to them in the 80s and they got more in the early 90s from Russia and China. And there were WMDs recovered in Iraq. Only the liberal media failed to tell anyone in the US about it.

    Be sure to post something factual before posting.

  14. Aznew,

    I will say right here that to make a statement that tea-partiers (I have never been to one - so there) are anti-American is pathetic coming from a liberal. What tea partiers belive in is less Government intrusion into our lives and less Government taxation.

    Excess Government involvement is when things start to cost more like in health care, why is health care out of control? Companies like Blue Cross/Blue Shield spend between 1 & 2 trillion a year dealing with Government regulation.

    And when the liberals complained about Bush and Republicans then and now it is okay?

  15. Red: I never said that Tea Partiers were anti-american and you know it. I objected to their apporpriation of the founding Fathers in furtherence of their arguments as a substantive matter. I never aid they were anti-American.

    As for your other rants, Iraq was not involved in 9/11. It is not up to me to produce evidence of anegative; it is up to proponents to produce evidence proving their assertions.

    As for WMDs, my argument was not based on the fact that there were no WMDs -- I think most people assumed they existed -- but rather on the specious assertion that those weapons would be turned on the U.S. civilian population. That was a scare tactic, pure and simple.

    I did check my facts. Please read more closely before levelling a baseless charge.

  16. Az,

    Having worked in intelligence, I can tell you there are many things that have happened and are happening that the Government is not telling either you or I via the airwaves.

    If you want to know the truth about 9/11 and Iraq's involvement including the info about their WMDs and proposed use, get Obama to release ALL of the CIA memos. Not just selectively release them which makes us weaker as a nation.

    As for your 'not' saying the tea-partiers were anti-american, I suggest you re-read where you said to AIAW above the following:

    "Forget their rhetoric, the Tea Partiers are not simply a group of well-meaning Americans who wish to engage in the policy debates of the day. They are, in fact and deed, anti-American and anti-Constitutional."

    I was just repeating what you wrote.

  17. The problem with liberals is their determination of the Constituion. The Constitution, an imperfect document, is silent on many issues. For me and other conservatives, not the many phony ones in Washington now, where the Constitution is silent, that is where the people get to speak up and be heard. For liberals like Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Webb, and Warner, where the Constitution is silent, that is where they get to impose their will.

    We will not take it anymore.

  18. Fair point. Poor choice of words on my part. I was trying to articulate the idea that by advocating resistance of a democratically elected government they are opposed to the essence of what makes America the unique place it is.

    But that said, your earlier characterization of my words was accurate, so I apologize for my snarky response.

  19. The fact that people, unlike those in Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, North Vietnam, get to protest on both sides of the aisle is exactly what makes this country great.

    What pisses me off about liberals is when they're questioned and proven wrong, they cut off debate.

  20. Red: Which is what I'm going to do now. Not because you have proven me wrong, but because you are not debating, you are lecturing.

    And you have every right to lecture, but not here. Just head over to Blogspot like I did and create a blog for yourself. It takes 10 minutes, and you're up and running.

    But you have had your say here.

  21. You see? Debate is cut off. .

    BTW/ I have one already, just click on the name.