Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coffee and Tea at the same table? It's a start.

After some nicely constructive conversation with Rich Kasten I find we aren't the only people having this conversation.

From Facebook's Coffee Party notes.

"Tea and Coffee - Finding Common Ground on Changing the Political Culture"

Written by Dale Robertson, Founder of the Modern Day Tea Party and Paul Silver, Member of Coffee Party USA.

[This is the opinion of the two authors and does not represent Coffee Party's official view.]

The Conventional wisdom is that the Tea Party represents the far right and the Coffee Party Movement the left. This makes it easy to categorize and pre-judge their respective opinions, but this over-generalization is not accurate. Two of us, from seemingly different sides of the track, sat down to discover that what brings us together far exceeded what divides us: Dale Robertson the Founder of the Modern Day Tea Party and Paul Silver, a member of the Coffee Party Movement and other campaign reform groups. The Core beliefs of the Tea Party are Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, and Free Markets. The Coffee Party wants to promote cooperation in government, recognizing that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will". The principles are quite general.

We found each other when Dale was mentioned in an article on possible common ground with Democrats ("'We Might As Well Be Able To Vote For Disney': Tea Partiers Slam Citizens United Ruling" By Zack Roth TPM) And in a series of conversations we explored that common ground, which seemed to be agreement on the obstacles to progress on the issue that are important to us. This represents our personal conversation and doesn't necessary represent our colleagues.

First off we agreed that the inflammatory conflicts between conservatives and liberals are mostly a proxy war promoted by special interests (Insurance Companies, Banks, Trial Lawyers, Unions, etc) aiming to manipulate public opinion and public policy. A predatory special interest can not admit that it wants to dilute air and water regulations, so it backs a candidate willing to carry their water with the well funded argument that over-regulation is hurting our national competitiveness and ability to create jobs. Unions might make likewise arguments.

We agree on the solution of voluntary citizen funded campaigns to help neutralize the financial influence of predatory special interests. While making public office more accessible to citizens without connection to, or interest in, wealth. We want to expand free speech to those without access to wealth and replace a handful of bundlers with thousands of small contributors Over time our Congress would become more objective, efficient and pragmatic, instead of pandering to powerful donors. The cost of such a program is likely to be a tiny fraction of the cost of all of the unfair deals that burden our governmental budgets and waste our tax investments.. Elections should be won not bought.

We share distress at the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United. It abandoned the view that in political cases the Court should reconcile free speech with other concerns like honesty, accuracy, promoting democracy with a level playing field, and Congress's job to balance these goals. Instead, the majority framed the case entirely as a free speech issue.. It was not about the rules for the corporate role in financing elections but simply 'about political speech.'"

And we shared a concern about the lack of competition in elections because of the abuse of the political redistricting process. Partisan redistricting allows incumbents to select their constituents rather than the other way around. Safe districts allow representatives to take extreme and perhaps bribed political positions, free from the challenge by an objective voting constituency. We support non-partisan redistricting used in some States.

After laying a foundation of common ground we found that we were not that far apart on most other issues. As our conversation meandered we agreed that soldiers should be taken care of during and after their service. Our government and society should be blind to race. Illegal aliens should go to the end of the line for citizenship and scarce jobs. Gun ownership should be managed to minimize abuse by criminals and the mentally disturbed. Government shouldn't be any bigger than it has to be to provide the services we vote for. Free markets need to be also free of fraud, obscurity and predatory behavior. Lifestyle choices are not the governments business except to the extent that behavior is predatory. English should be the language for conducting government business. Taxes could and should be reduced by eliminating most exceptions, loopholes and having all of us pay our fair share. Deficits should be reduced through a combination of better managed spending and more fair revenue collections. Subsidies should be limited to those essential for the national interest. Family values of responsibility and accountability should be promoted. No doubt we will find more areas of agreement as we continue to talk.

To be sure, there were areas of disagreement: How fast should we address Climate change, Energy and Health care? What government programs are expendable? What is the appropriate balance between "survival of the fittest" and taking care of the least among us? But we think that are areas where reasonable people can disagree and the appropriate grist for a representative government free of special interest manipulation.

This is what two average citizens, looking from what at first seemed like different points on the political spectrum, discovered about ourselves when we looked past first impressions and simplistic media analysis. We were both relatively centrist when we got into the meat of the issues - sometimes liberal sometimes conservative. But certainly more aligned than the media would lead you to believe. The trick is to focus on what we have in common. Try it.

Dale Robertson -
Paul Silver -



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