Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tea Party Trashing?

Vicki and have just returned from an absolutely fabulous 20 days in Italy where we visited Rome for a couple days and then spent our 44th wedding anniversary with friends up in Tuscany. I will do my first travel post in a few days as soon as I get my photos organized and finish setting up this blog site so you will be able to see the beauty and charm of this most historical part of the planet.

In the meantime, recognizing that we have less than two months to decide who the next President of the United States will be (or will remain), I thought I would once again venture into the always treacherous waters of politics and voice an opinion about a program I recently watched on HBO. The new series is called "The Newsroom" and is the most recent creation of Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is, in my opinion, one of the most creative screenplay writers of our time. His credits include the Golden Globe-nominated "The American President" feature film and "The West Wing" television series; the latter winning over 90 Emmy Awards in its eight seasons on NBC.
 "The Newsroom" has the same punch, provocative as well as timely topics and rapid fire delivery of "The West Wing", but without the censorship of network television.  It's stars, including Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterson, Emily Mortimer, Allison Pill and Jane Fonda, among others, are quite brilliant and Sorkin's dialog makes them come alive.  You might tune in if you like this kind of intellectually stimulating, often humorous, drama.  Now let me tell you what I don't like.

Politically speaking, Aaron Sorkin is a typical "left coast liberal" and his slant is definitely present in his writing.  In the aforementioned works his characters in and around the White House were Democrats.  So it was not surprising when issues concerning gun control, environmental legislation, armed conflict, social welfare and political correctness were presented they reflected a liberal position.  Many times I was positively influenced by these presentations or, at least, they gave me pause for reflection about my own positions on these topics.

In "The Newsroom" the Anchorman and News Director of this fictional cable news network is a self-confessed Republican.  It is inferred that the General Manager and Owner of the network are conservatives as well.  For the first five episodes, I was drinking the Kool Aid.  Even though a ray of liberalism shown through the crack in the door occasionally, I was enjoying seeing how Sorkin was able to suppress his left leanings and present a "fair and balanced" slant on the hot news topics of our day.  Then came the season finale where the topic of some states new voting laws requiring a government-issued photo identification to be able to vote was debated.  Personally I don't think that is too much to ask.  Anyone can go down to their local DMV and get an ID even if they don't want or are not applying for a driver's licence, but I can see how the very poor, or those without a car or adequate transportation, the disabled, or the very elderly might find this an inconvenience.  And, to be honest, voter fraud in the United States is quite low by most informed estimates.

What I found repugnant, however, was that Sorkin used this topic to launch into a full frontal attack on The Tea Party.  Now, to be sure, the Tea Party Movement is a conservative movement.  It is to the very right of the Republican Party and was most likely spawned from the failed bid of Ron Paul in the 2008 Presidential race.  It is a movement which has gained momentum since then and has even influenced the outcome of several state and congressional elections.  And I think it has the liberals scared to death.

 Back in my college days the opposing factions at the fringe of the political system had radical camps on both ends of the spectrum.  On the Left was the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS.  It was an ultra-liberal, anti-war, protest-rallying and sometimes armed and dangerous coalition of malcontents.  On the Right was the John Birch Society.  It was an ultra-conservative, anti-communism, anti-Civil Rights, protest-avoiding and sometimes armed and dangerous coalition of malcontents.  I never thought that we would ever see again two diametrically-opposed political factions as these.  While never mainstream, both these groups stretched the fabric of the political middle and influenced thinking of liberals and conservatives in the decades that followed.

In "The Newsroom" episode, the Tea Party Movement is described in an editorial newscast using the following background bullet points:

*  Ideological purity
*  Compromise as weakness
*  Fundamental belief in spiritual literalism
*  Denying science
*  Unmoved by facts
*  Undeterred by new information
*  Hostile fear of progress
*  Demonisation of education
*  Need to control women's bodies
*  Severe xenophobia (fear of people from other countries)
*  Tribal mentality
*  Intolerance of dissent
*  Pathological hatred of the U.S. government

The news anchor then summarized his attack on The Tea Party by characterizing them as "The American Taliban"!!

Not only was I shocked at this horribly biased, seemingly unfair, broad-brush and very negative portrayal but the insulting characterization is just totally below the belt.  O.K., personal reaction any of it true?  I do not profess to know everything about The Tea Party Movement or what it stands for but from what I have observed and read, the movement seeks to fix some of the problems that are seriously effecting the stabilization and growth of America and do it with strict adherence to our Constitution.  What they say they want is:

*  Identify the constitutionality of every new law
*  Simplify the tax code
*  Legislation to balance the federal budget
*  Repeal Obamacare and replace it with a health care system we can afford
*  Set annual limits to growth in federal spending
*  Reduce taxes
*  Repeal "cap and trade" 
*  Develop reasonable energy policy which will provide independence
*  Reduce "earmarks"
*  Audit federal government agencies to ensure constitutionality 

Now, if you see any relationship between these two lists or any reason an organization whose soul purpose seems to be to develop a new path to prosperity for our country should be labeled the "American Taliban", then please help me to to see it.....cause I don't. 

In my opinion, the Tea Party Movement could become a game changer come November; effecting needed change in the Congress and possibly even in the outcome of the Presidential election.  At a minimum, The Tea Party will stretch the fabric of the political middle and could influence thinking among liberals and conservatives alike in the decades ahead.


Jud Smith

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