Thursday, March 11, 2010

Greater Lowell Tea Party Candidates' Night

The Greater Lowell Tea Party is having its Candidates' Night tonight from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Bunting Club on Boylston St. in Lowell. I know there will be a lot of media folks on hand, so you can always just read about it tomorrow, but if you're able to go, here's why I recommend it:

A lot of folks have strong opinions about the Tea Party movement and its members that are formed predominantly, or even entirely, by short video clips or stories. However, many of these people, who would no doubt ascribe to themselves the highest-levels of "open-mindedness" and "non-judgementalness, dude" if, say, asked to do so in a survey, have never taken the time to meet any of the Tea Party members.

I've crossed paths with quite a few Greater Lowell Tea Partiers just by going to events with Sam Meas. While I have no doubt there are some loony toons elements within the movement nationally (just as there are within whatever organizations you or I belong to, writ large), the people I've personally met within the TP haven't lived up to any of the stereotypes, or to the Janeane Garofalo school of pseudo-intellectualism that says anything remotely negative about the current state (or size!) of our government must be some kind of codeword for latent hatred.

So if you're able and willing to check this event out, I recommend it, no matter what your political persuasion.

And if you do, and still come away thinking the Tea Partiers are a bunch of wackos with tinfoil hats, at least you can say you saw it in person with your own eyes as opposed to a thirty-second news clip.


shirts4freedom said...

This voter is mad as hell!

kad barma said...

I find this opinion to be disingenuous at best, and dangerously naive at worst. Though founded on "libertarian" principles and the goal of smaller government via cutbacks in government spending, the movement has become evermore a caricature of itself, opposing small-government and low spending candidates like Ron Paul, (even going so far as to enter an opposition candidate against him), and now espousing silly right-wing slogans like "protect our country and the Constitution upon which we were founded!". (It's right at the top of the "official home of the american tea party movement" web page).

I'm offended to have my patriotism questioned because I support a candidate whose platform is fiscal conservatism, smaller government and reduced government spending. I'm further unwilling to associate myself with any group who perverts a message of fiscal conservatism to include these sorts of associations:

Charter Schools: "Rescuing blacks from Democrat policies"

Immigration policy: "This dirty trick will give Obama enough votes to win a second term".

It's no longer a movement of "small government" interests, but, rather, a populist, right-wing sound-byte machine used by the various networks to stir up and encourage partisan bias.

Count me out.

The New Englander said...

Just for clarification -- it's somewhere between disingenous and dangerously naive to say that not ALL people associated with the Tea Party are a bunch of nutjobs?

My point was that yes, there are bad elements within the Tea Party, but that among the actual local Tea Partiers that I've met, there are some perfectly reasonable people with reasonable concerns about government size and spending.

C R Krieger said...

Could we go back to "Charter Schools: 'Rescuing blacks from Democrat policies'"

Federal Judge Garrity, in 1974, ruled that the Boston Public Schools were violating state law regarding desegregation.  It is now 36 years later.  A young person might have entered the Boston School system in the fall of 1974 as a first grader and done 12 years and left school in 1986 and had a child who then entered the Boston School System, to graduate in 2005, to then have a child who will enter the Boston School system in 2011 and the question is, is that school much better or is the paradigm broken. (NB: We are talking about the grandchild of the person who entered the Boston School System after Judge Garrity ruled.)

(I note in passing that the late Senator Ted Kennedy was a profile in courage when the Garrity ruling came out and we should all note that.)

I contend the paradigm is broken.  Charter Schools are a way of trying out a new paradigm.

At this point we need a lot of new paradigms.  We are not getting them from the Democratic or Republican Parties.  You may like the Ron Paul approach, but it is fair to say it is not the only new approach.

And with the US House of Representatives about to not really pass, but just pretend to pass the Health Insurance Reform Bill (Senate Version), we need those new views sooner, rather than later.

I thought the 100 some people who showed up to listen to 14 candidates represented a reasonable cross-section of local people who are active voters.

Maybe not your cup of tea, but these are people who care about the process and whose vote deserves to be counted in November and in the Primary before that.

And, while some may proclaim themselves the national Tea Party, the Greater Lowell Tea Party is an independent organization and it includes a lot of different, and independent, views and a bunch of good neighbors.

Regards  —  Cliff

kad barma said...

My point is that the demographics of an extremely small sub-group within a much larger one do not excuse responsibility for the whole. Doubtless, there are many points of view in all sorts of ideology-based associations. However, just because someone doesn't ascribe to the "sum of the parts", doesn't mean they aren't complicit in the results.

As for Charter Schools, I'd say that proposals for intelligently-funded public schools (proudly, ours here in Massachusetts remain the best in the nation) are quite different from politicizing the statistics as a polemic cudgel to be wielded against a partisan political foe. Or, put another way: Are you here to improve education, or oppose "Democrat policies"? The semantics are extremely important.

The evolving semantics of the national Tea Party movement have almost nothing to do anymore with fiscal conservatism and reduced government spending, except as a footnote to a partisan rant.

Once again, count me out. If it's meeting my thoughtful and reasonable neighbors, I will choose another forum so that I won't be aiding and abetting something unfortunate at the same time.

C R Krieger said...

I just don't wish to be lumped in with some "national" group of which neither I nor our Greater Lowell Tea Party are membes.

As for education, I spent 7th grade in the Falls Township School System, part of Bucks County, the best schools in Pennsylvania, which at the time had below average schools.  I loved that year!  In our great Commonwealth, Boston is not doing so well.  There is a place for Charter Schools.

I have been in public education up to my Master's Degree.  I am all for public education.  I am against bad education and I am against public education as indoctrination.  And, I think there is a place for Charter Schools.  Part of the value of Apple is as a spur to Microsquish.

Regards  —  Cliff

kad barma said...

Agreed completely on the importance of, and need for, Charter Schools!

Here I am specifically objecting to the politicization of the issue in order to oppose a specific political party, which necessarily dilutes the message and distracts the proper focus, which should be solely on excellent (and cost-effective) education. "Rescuing blacks from Democrat policies" has nothing anymore to do with Charter Schools, except by coincidence--it has to do with opposing Democrat policies. That, to me, is wrong, if what you really mean is to support Charter Schools as a means of delivering excellent and cost-effective education to all.

So I would say it is also the responsibility of local "Tea Party" folks to speak out on their impied association with national "Tea Party" folks on this and other issues. If you called yourself "Lowell Scientologists", I'd expect you to explain why you were or weren't devotees of L. Ron Hubbard. Can't have it both ways.

C R Krieger said...


I think there is a difference between the Greater Lowell Tea Party (not associated with any "national" tea party operation), which is a ground-up organization and Scientology, which is more of a top down organization, which is not to say that there might not be small groups out there following L Ron without being associated with the national organization.  The nature of Scientology seems to be top-down direction and the nature of tea parties seems to be bottom-up organizations.  We are more like those thousands of "free will" Baptist churches in neighborhoods across the fruited plain, who have no association with the American or Southern Baptist Conferences.

So, by religion I am top-down (Roman Catholic), but by tea party I am bottom up (Greater Lowell Tea Party).

Regards  —  Cliff

Jon and Kate said...


Politically, I am opposed to everything the Tea Partiers believe. But Greg's point is deeper than political dogma -- it's the way the media insists on making obscene caricatures of any political movement outside the corporate, globalized center that dominates both parties. Were there insane kooks marching alongside me to protest the Iraq War? Yes. Are there insane kooks at these Tea Party Conventions? Yes. By focusing on the kooks does the corporate-conglomerate media keep the status quo? Yes.

Because any consideration of the real issues (American's blind support of Israel, corporo-socialized defense spending, offensive deficit mismanagement) would lead to what anyone with political power -- the politicians, the corporations, the corporate media -- fears most: a viable third party.

The New Englander said...

As to the media characterizations and the bottom-up nature of the movement, I'll definitely file those under "Things I Wish I Had Said Originally." They're both good points and they feed into the original idea, which is to say that: a) not all people who associate with the Tea Party are hateful wackos, and b) there's at least a smattering of irony in the fact that many "enlightened" folks who bear strong opinions about the Tea Party have never actually met with the people in it.

JK -- you may agree with them more than you realize. You mentioned the deficit mismanagement as a major problem. On Thursday night, this was the single-biggest issue that came up. There were no hateful words said about the President or Governor (in fact, the only ad hominem attack that night was Mihos against Baker). However, almost every candidate cited the problem of runaway spending and the burden it'll place on future generations.

To me, that seems like the Tea Partiers' biggest issue.

And as a public sector employee, I take ZERO offense. I've seen it, I've lived it, and a lot of what they say about the way government spends money is true..

kad barma said...

Ok, I can't resist: Al Qaida is going to a "bottom up" strategy these days--does that make any difference? My point is not how the groups are formed, but, rather, how they associate themselves with words and symbols. My objection is that local "bottom up" apologists want the name-recognition of "Tea Party", without taking on any of the responsibility to communicate, loudly and clearly, their ideology and how it does or doesn't differ from that of others who choose the same name for themselves.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC, which is one solution. Or, as has been practiced by Sinn Fein and others, a consistent and persistent communication of beliefs and differences in all cases of possible confusion is the most responsible course of action.

Again, my objection is leveraging words and symbols without being responsible to EVERYTHING that they represent. It's not enough for me that the Lowell TP night came without partisan politics. I believe strongly that the responsibility conferred via use of the name "Tea Party" is to explain why that absence of partisanship is central to the mission. Otherwise, In my opinion, responsible people are absolutely justified in making unflattering conclusions and skipping the whole thing.

C R Krieger said...

OK, so now I need criteria.

What is the degree to which the Greater Lowell Tea Party must spend its time separating itself form all other Tea Parties, vs the amount of time it spends on saying that the Debt and Deficit are bad and that we are concerned about what we might characterize as "Obamacare"?

I have said that those who held the recent "National Convention" do not necessarily speak for us.  Heck, the folks in the UK, who recently held a "Tea Party" do not necessarily speak for us.  What must I do or say to provide our virtue?


Regards -- Cliff

kad barma said...

Why would "Tea Party" be chosen for the group name, if not to trade on a nationally recognizable theme, to be used to attract attention and/or participation? If your politics AREN'T to be inferred to match others using the name that you so eagerly adopted, then you need to make it clear in some meaningful and equally public way, or choose a new or different name. If you would argue that you adopted the name before the "national" folks co-opted it, then I would say, like Operation Rescue folks distancing themselves from Scott Roeder, or Sinn Fein distancing themselves from the "military" wing of the IRA, you have to take responsibility for your ideological "family" whether you prefer or not.

The comments that got me started were Greg's, implying that if I didn't attend your meeting, I lacked standing to have an opinion on the "Tea Party" brand. I reject that wholly. The brand is prominent in the news, and you have chosen to align yourself with it, or, possibly, not distance yourself from it, and either one is enough for me to give the whole thing a "no, thank you".

The New Englander said...

Kad -- glad to see the explanation of what got you started, but you've badly twisted what I said.

I never said that whether someone did or didn't attend one particular meeting did or did not confer credibility on them to have an opinion about a group.

I merely said that I have come across some local Tea Party members recently, and that a) they're not all a bunch of nutjobs, and that b) many people bear strong opinions about the group but have never met anyone in it.

You didn't have to take it personally, nor did you have to twist my words.

Progressive Veterans said...

This is interesting. I don't think anyone would seriously attempt to say that KB and I are in cahoots, but there is a striking similarity between our thoughts on this.

Speaking for myself, I fully understand the "more the merrier" rule. So last year, I went to the April 15th Tea Party event here in Lowell.

Here are a couple of pics taken there:

The Tea Party folks open themselves to ridicule and dismissive taunts while they choose to comingle with Teabaggers.
Jack Mitchell

The New Englander said...

Jack -- and that's exactly what I had in mind with the last paragraph in my post. You and I have talked about this on a couple of blogs, over e-mail, and in person over beers. You've actually gone to the events, you've met people like Sandi Martinez, and come away saying you want nothing to do with the movement but still acknowledge that there are some decent people in it (i.e. Sandi). What I was going after in the post is the way people make blanket characterizations or judgements about groups or people based on things like 30-second sound bites on the TV news, as opposed to actually finding out more about the people in question.

My friend who comments here (Jon & Kate) took me to task a while ago for a rant against "Hollywood liberals." He actually works in Hollywood in the film industry, and made a well-placed critique here on the blog against the way I was making a blanket judgement against a group of people that I really didn't know or understand.

He was right, I was wrong, and I haven't made a single "Hollywood liberal" comment since -- in cyberspace or in real discussion.

Jon and Kate said...

GP -- I think the Tea Partiers and I agree that the deficit is out of control, but I think it should be reigned in by increasing the tax base, not by cutting government spending.

Thinking more about this post, and all the comments, I realized how both sides love to tar the other side as "angry." You turn on FOX, you get the "loony/angry left." You turn on MSNBC you get the "loony/angry right." Both sides act like there is a single answer or solution to governance, when it's all just one great experiment.

The New Englander said...

JK -- and if either group cared to gain exposure to the other, that wouldn't happen as much. Just think about the next time you hear anyone make a gross generalization about [insert name of political movement, ethnic group, occupation, union, etc.] The follow-up ought to be, "Okay, so how much exposure have you had or how much research have you done about said group?"

But the fact remains -- die-hard conservatives are going to gravitate towards Fox, die-hard liberals are going to gravitate towards MSNBC, and everyone is just going to look to reinforce what they ALREADY think, rather than stay open-minded.