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Nice note from a reader who disagrees with me about tea parties

You know what I love? Vigorous-but-civil disagreement about the issues of the day. Which is why I’m a fan of this note I received over the weekend from Greg Thompson in South Carolina:

Hi Joel,

I’m one of the people who attended a tea party (Greenville SC) and we get your column in my local paper. I am writing to dispute your overall assertion that the tea parties were little more than a Fox News/Republican contrivance.  I realize that you did include some less dismissive language but the overall theme of your column seemed to be to minimize the significance of the parties and to deny the sincerity of their outrage.

I can only speak for myself but I am completely outraged at the Democrats AND Republicans.  I am outraged about virtually every issue and every government intrusion under the sun.  I complained about Bush through most of his 8 years and I was displeased with the Republican Congress as well as the current Dem one.  Personally, I think the catalyst for the tea parties was not Obama’s victory (sore loser as you suggested) but the combination of the recession, market crash, housing bailouts, Wall Street bailouts, AIG bonuses, and stimulus plan.  Most of this stuff really festered in the past 3 or 4 months so I don’t find the timing as suspect as you do.  I will concede that you are correct to question Hannity and that he is little more than a Republican hack.

I guess my overall point is that I know there were a lot of people out there like me who were genuinely outraged by the deficits, spending, etc. regardless of who is doing it.  I won’t deny that some of the people out there were out to protest Obama as you contended.  My contention is that unless you ran a poll of the crowd, there’s really no way to know which group was in the majority.  The impression I got though was that these people were very serious about fiscal responsibility.  Some in the crowd even jeered Gov. Mark Sanford for even accepting ANY of the stimulus funds.  Our conservative Repub. congressman (Gresham Barrett) was booed for almost his whole speech. (There is footage of this on Michelle Malkin’s site if you are interested)

Oh well, I just wanted to speak for those of us who are genuinely disturbed about what’s going on.  Please don’t dismiss our message just because there may be some who were there for political reasons.  The problems we were protesting were legitimate and will hurt all of us eventually.

Greg

I really do appreciate Greg’s civility in his note, and given that I opened my part of the column by calling the tea parties a display of “sore loserdom,” that’s probably far more civility than I was actually owed.

There are three legs to my feelings about the tea parties, two of which I’ve explored and one of which I’ve not said much about publicly.

Those three legs:

• RHETORICAL: Sorry, but there was a lot of douchebagginess on display at the tea parties. Lots of it. And I just hate that kind of stuff. I hate it from my side, too: I’ve never run with the Kos crowd or Firedoglake because shrillness seems (to me) to be their stock in trade. I don’t watch Olbermann and can only occasionally watch Rachel Maddow. (Her dialogue with Ana Marie Cox about “teabagging” was painful for me to view.) If I hate that stuff from liberals, you can imagine how I feel about it when it comes from conservatives.

I know. I’m a delicate, wilting flower.

• POLITICAL: That’s mostly what my post-slash-column contribution were about. I get cranky about hypocrisy and I’m not wrong that many of the folks trying to whip up a frenzy right now were pretty quiet about similar sins during the Bush Era.

• POLICY: There were a lot of topics thrown in the pot of the protests, so I’m not going to say the protesters, broadly, have a point. However….

…when it comes to debt: They have a point.

I don’t like that how deeply we’re plunging into the debt hole. I think a short-term case can be made for it, but it appears we’re returning to an era of blithely running deficits, big ones, as the usual course of business. And if the current meltdown is teaching us anything, it’s this: Debt as a way of life is unsustainable. And expecting to grow your way out of debt is a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps I need to be louder about this. (And perhaps it makes my criticism of the tea parties unfair; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.) I do think I’m on record about being ambivalent, at best, about this stuff. It’s kind of silly to continually shout one’s ambivalence to the heavens, however, which is one reason I refrain. Nobody wants to read the Hamlet shtick.

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