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I was talking to someone I've known a long time the other day (he's 60ish, white, always lived in suburbia, no college but has done a lot of reading, which has made him a "know-it-all") about politics.  He often reads Tea Party blogs, and thinks of himself as some sort of supporter of this "movement."  However, when I pointed out some things about what Rand Paul and Sharon Angle have said, he claimed that they didn't really represent the "true" spirit of the Tea Party at all.  Several minutes of "discussion" on that topic ensued, without him apparently able to understand my point that if they don't represent the "Tea Party movement," then there probably isn't any reason for any independent voter (like myself) to take this "movement" seriously.

That's not the "worst part," however.  Instead, I tried to get him to explain to me what he wanted from our political leaders.  He spoke of "states' rights" and job creation.  I tried to explain to him that the states' right issue has been settled long ago, and that while I may not agree with that settlement entirely, I'm also not interested in "tilting at windmills."  Then I asked him about why he thought this "movement" would be better at job creation and other aspects of governing.  Again, I didn't really get anything resembling a coherent response, but I did point out that Tea Party people generally don't want the government involved in job creation, and in fact some of the leaders (who he does not think are "real" leaders) seem to advocate an extreme "laissez-faire" vision that would make Carnegie and Frick blush.

Things went round and round, without him willing to acknowledge that without specifics, there would no way someone like myself could support such people.  I tried to explain to him that it's nice to say that you want to "cut the deficit," but then you have a responsibility to tell people exactly how you intend to do that.  Then he said there were really several Tea Parties, and that the only one he knew he agree with was the Tea Party Patriots.  So I went to the web site that he frequents and on the home page the "principles" of this "party" were articulated.  The first is "America is good" (see  Why isn't America great?  Or superb?  Or perhaps delicious?  In any case, this is not a principle at all but rather a belief, of course (and one that requires explanation).  Nowhere is there any mention of job creation, by any person or agency.  Instead, it reminds me of a "12 Step Program."  Here are their "12 Values," for example:

* Honesty * Reverence * Hope * Thrift * Humility * Charity * Sincerity * Moderation * Hard Work * Courage * Personal Responsibility * Gratitude

Let's hope that some day the leaders of this "movement" will have the courage and honesty to tell us sincerely how they will take personal responsibility for the deficit if they get elected, and act with moderation and humility to lower it, while having reverence for the elderly, who have worked hard all their lives and need their Social Security and Medicare, and don't want to have to live "hand to mouth" and rely on charities and thrift stores.  Now, I think it would be gracious if we all recited what probably should be the Tea Party mantra:

"I'm going to help people today... because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

EDIT:  Please note that I was trying to be humorous here, while also pointing out that I don't find this "movement" to be about politics, but rather a kind of Utopian (or "dystopian") vision that was tried and failed, during the "Industrial Revolution."  I'm glad someone pointed out that these 12 Beliefs are more akin to a Boy Scout "law," but then it wouldn't work as comedy (that is, tying in with the Stuart Smalley quotation at the end).  In any case, from what we've seen of coverage of their rallies, can we at least all agree that they don't all behave like Boy Scouts?

EDIT 2:  I did get him to admit that government should "smooth out" the swings in the economy when they are pronounced (as was the case recently), and that Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare should be expanded or left alone, so I don't know how he can think of himself as a Tea Party person, but that might be more of a psychological than a political issue.

EDIT 3:  In light of some of the criticism of this diary, keep in mind that I posed this suggestion as a question.  I don't believe that there is a "right answer" to the question, but rather that it can be useful in conceptualizing how the "Tea Part movement" is unlike other major "third party movements" in the history of the United States.  In retrospect, I certainly could have provided an example of another such movement, for instance, the Greenback Party, and explained how it was focused on very specific policy notions (you can read about it on wikipedia, though, obviously), and not personal, non-political beliefs and character traits.

In any case, one either understands this kind of heuristic device or one does not.  As a history student, I can report that it was commonly used in both the undergrad and grad courses I took, and then when I became a history professor, I also used it.  In short, the idea is to get people to think, and to consider how to categorize social phenomena in the most reasonable way, especially in light of what is known historically.  I do realize that some people will simply never accept this device, and I'm sure some of my students did not like me and thought my techniques were "bad," but that is the price that one pays for trying to get people to "think outside the box."  Undeniably, the Tea Party is not a "carbon copy" of any major 12 Step Program, but my point concerns one aspect of the mentality involved in both.

Originally posted to NoRightFighting on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 07:47 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  personally.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      debedb, allep10

      I think they're more like 2 steps forward and 10 steps back. But that's just me.

    •  Oh, I see...twelve steps, twelve values, (0+ / 0-)

      twelve eggs in a dozen. Sounds like your neighbor isn't the only know-it-all on the block. The only thing in common is the number "twelve," and a healthy dose of ignorance. The ignorance of the teabaggers re:the realities of American social and political life, and your ignorance re:"twelve step programs."

      •  We'll have to agree to disagree here... (0+ / 0-)

        ...because the point is that there is a moral vision to both, though the TP is supposed to be about politics.  Sure, the TP think they already possess these virtues while the 12 Step People are trying to attain them, but it is the way they are presenting their "movement" that I found very strange and more akin to notions embodied in 12 Step Programs, and as another member pointed out, Boy Scout "laws."  I'd be more than willing to debate this formally, but I'd insist on an impartial moderator.

        •  Wrong...twelve step programs do not (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          address a moral problem, nor do they claim to. Or do you believe that, say alcoholism, is a moral failure? Because if you do, you have no understanding of alcoholism or the twelve step program that addresses it, the same program that all other twelve step programs are based on. Nobody joins AA out of altruism. People join AA to stop destroying their lives with alcohol. NA to stop destroying their lives with drugs. Twelve step programs have no moral vision for the country or the world, they stick to the business at hand, which is a large part of why they work. Any member of any twelve step program limits his "moral vision" to himself. AA has no agenda for anyone but its members, who themselves are not even compelled to follow the "recommended program of recovery." Perhaps you should also read the twelve traditions of AA.

      •  t's also like (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        twelve apostles, twelve sons of israel, and twelve hours in a day. What do you mean 24, the clock has only 12. And there are 12 commandments. Godless communists told you there are only 10, but there are 12.

  •  If it were a 12 Step Program, millions of people (6+ / 0-)

    ...would be receiving heartfelt apologies from TP members by this time.  (Step 8)

  •  I don't get it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurious, socalmonk

    What is the supposed commonality with a 12 step program, other than that they have 12 of something ("values" as opposed to "steps")?

    "With all this manure around, there has to be a pony somewhere!" - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

    by jrooth on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 07:55:49 PM PDT

    •  Perhaps we think of politics differently... (0+ / 0-)

      I want to know what a potential Representative or Senator will do (or try to do), and now what his/her religious beliefs are or whether he is gracious or moderate, etc.

    •  There's a value associated with each step (0+ / 0-) lists the basics of a 12 step program very nicely and includes the spiritual values as well. Each 12 step program will vary a bit and each meeting places more or less emphasis on the various steps, traditions and values.

      •  yeah, yeah .. "the principles behind the steps" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        which some AA members in California made up back in the sixties and which enjoy some popularity, but which appear nowhere in the literature.

        They have about as much significance as Wino Joe's "five questions to tell if you're an alcoholic" ("have you aver been sunburned on the roof of your mouth?" "have you ever been run over by your car while driving it?"  ...)

        "With all this manure around, there has to be a pony somewhere!" - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

        by jrooth on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 08:20:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They're an official part of NA (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          AA isn't the the only 12 step program out there.

        •  I looked at those & at least some of them (0+ / 0-)

          are included in the literature:

          a honesty open-mindedness, willingness


          Willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery." - AA Big Book

          Now I am off to look up Wino Joe's "five questions to tell if you're an alcoholic". Because I love the two you posted.

          I don't think you can be a success at anything if you think about losing, whether it's in sports or in politics. ~Edward Kennedy

          by denig on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 09:11:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but that's more in the line of you're not going to be able to take the actions without some modicum of honesty, willingness and open-mindedness.

            The point is to take the actions - which if done thoroughly will change you.

            "With all this manure around, there has to be a pony somewhere!" - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

            by jrooth on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 09:21:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting... I think you've hit on something he (0+ / 0-)


    The big point is that the Tea Party is a belief system that's being manipulated.

    What is the Democratic Belief System?

    Do we have one?

    Universal Healthcare can easily become 'mandated markets', formerly 'shopping for healthcare'.


    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 08:02:06 PM PDT

    •  If you asked a top "banksta" what he would... (0+ / 0-) to "rebrand" the old Republican blind support for all things corporate, I think he'd come up with something very similar to the "Tea Party."  In fact, he might think it is too transparent and unacceptable to the masses to attempt at all, but as has been said before, nobody ever went broke overestimating the gullibility of the American public, right?

  •  Boyscout law, not 12 steps (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The only thing this list has in common with the 12 Steps is that there are 12 of them. Before making this comparison, the author should have looked up AA's 12 Steps online. Here's what Wikipedia says about AA's original 12 Steps:

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
    1. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    1. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    1. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    1. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
    1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    1. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
    1. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
    1. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    1. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    1. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    The Tea Party Patriots list of 12 qualities remind me more of the Boyscout law I used to recite in summer camp:

    A Scout is:

       * Trustworthy,
       * Loyal,
       * Helpful,
       * Friendly,
       * Courteous,
       * Kind,
       * Obedient,
       * Cheerful,
       * Thrifty,
       * Brave,
       * Clean,
       * and Reverent.

    Please get your facts right before writing a diary.

    •  Sorry, but I respectfully disagree... (0+ / 0-)

      The format may be not be identical but the practical implications are the same, IMO.

      •  How are they the same? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denig, k9disc

        First, rereading my comment I realize I may have come across as a bit too harsh. Apologies.

        Second, I'm just not sure I really understand the comparison you're making here. The story you tell about your friend is interesting, and serves as a great anecdote about ignorance in the Tea Party movement, but I think you should have picked a different metaphor.

        It seems like the Tea Party movement is more like an anti- or bizarro-12 Step Program. Instead of helping people manage an addiction and stay clean through the use of brutally honest confessions, they instead serve as an echo chamber to help support people in their political self-deceptions and to maintain their addiction to bigotry, greed and, of course, Fox News.

        In any case, thank you for taking the time to try to get your Tea Partying friend to think. I've had similar conversations with people and know how much patience it takes!

        •  I agree that they seem to be a kind of... (0+ / 0-)

          mutant 12 Step Program.  I wasn't trying to be precise in some sort of scientific way, and I was trying to be humorous.  However, let's look at step 4, as provided by another member: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."  That sounds like what they are getting at with the 12 beliefs.

          •  No ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            It's an action - one which if done properly will provide the information needed to take the actions in the later steps.

            Earlier you said

            I want to know what a potential Representative or Senator will do (or try to do)

            well if you look at steps 3 through 12, you'll see precisely what someone getting sober in a 12 step program will do.

            "With all this manure around, there has to be a pony somewhere!" - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

            by jrooth on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 08:52:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  AA's 12 step program (0+ / 0-)

          and other's replace one addiction with another.  My friend, who has a dad, brothers and 2 sons, all addicted to alcohol, states this frankly.  She sees that each one has moved to a new addiction to deal with the destructive alcoholism they fight.  They don't manage it they flee it and take up a new one to revel in.  I would not speak for others but this is her experience.  I think that that is an apt comparison to teabaggers.  It could also be likened to religion, where you state beliefs and have faith that they are correct and everyone should follow them.  

    •  If you look more deeply into 12 step programs (0+ / 0-)

      the study books associate a specific value with each step.

  •  They are whatever you want them to be! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A cigar is just a cigar.

    by Krush on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 08:08:33 PM PDT

  •  The TPers are something like Protestants in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that there seem to be all manner of them with different names but similar m-o's.  I think that most are just people who never before got any recognition for anything, but, by George, they are now and all they had to do was ride the bus, eat the box lunch, wear the tptee shirt and carry the sign.  It's like being initiated into a fraternity.  Sadly, most that I've met don't seem to be good students.

  •  AA 12 steps (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    involve active engagement. The tea party principles are just a list, one that the organizers put together to insinuate that President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the democrats don't have these traits.
    And the America is good thing, I hear it from my born-again friends all of the time. God is good. (they say this in times of joy & trial).

    •  But that's what it sounds like... (0+ / 0-)

      they are getting at with their 12 beliefs.  For example, step 4 of the AA is "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

      •  That's the last thing tea partiers will do. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

        They'll make an inventory of the libruls though.

        "It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening." Eloi Cole

        by perro amarillo on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 08:47:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly, it's like a 12 Step Program... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          perro amarillo

          ...that is directed towards others rather than themselves, but this is the "do as I say, not as I do" crowd, IMO.

          •  Heh ... in other words (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            perro amarillo, denig, Miniaussiefan

            it's like a 12 step program that's completely the opposite of a 12 step program.

            Similarly, the Tea Party is like the progressive movement, in that it's completely unlike the progressive movement.

            "With all this manure around, there has to be a pony somewhere!" - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

            by jrooth on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 09:00:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bingo. There's very little self-awareness there. (0+ / 0-)

              "It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening." Eloi Cole

              by perro amarillo on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 09:22:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I think the Tea Party is an attempt... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

     sound like things, such as a "12 Step Program," that are generally viewed in a positive light, while in reality it encourages the "base elements."  It is a repranding of the Bush/Cheney agenda, though perhaps more extreme.  My point is that a lot of people are drawn to this kind of language, and don't question what the leaders, like Paul and Angle, seem to want to do if they ever get the power.  This one person I spoke to, in particular, has problems with basic critical thinking skills, IMO.

      •  I think they believe (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        denig, tobendaro

        they are already healed. I think you could go down the list and say "that's me" to every trait if you fell into the trap. In AA members make an inventory of their good and their bad, and try to overcome the character defects that led to the addiction. I think the average tea party person is egotistical, but a recovering alcoholic with a large ego will struggle. The AA steps are meant to be used for a personal journey and I just don't see that as the motivation to become a tea partier. A Glen Beck 9 stepper maybe. (I think he has nine in his plan to become a real American)

        •  I agree that you may be technically correct... (0+ / 0-)

          ...but as I said, I was trying to be humorous while telling this story about this apparently typical Tea Party person.  However, I think there is an important similarity, in that instead of focusing on policy issues and explaining exactly where they differ with the 2 major parties, they get involved in things like personality traits, "higher powers," etc.  I don't care if the guy I vote for is a uptight slob who is full of himself, as long as he "gets the job done."

        •  character defects do not lead to addiction (0+ / 0-)

          They just make it real easy to take that first drink. The addiction is genetic, not moral.

          I don't think you can be a success at anything if you think about losing, whether it's in sports or in politics. ~Edward Kennedy

          by denig on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 09:20:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I can see your point (0+ / 0-)

        in some ways though. It is an attempt to quantify your level of commitment, but there is no action. I don't think a tea partier lays in bed at night and thinks about what s/he would change about themselves or do better tomorrow. I think they lay in bed at night fearing what happened today that sends the country further into whatever direction Fox told them we are going.

  •  more goose stepping than 12 stepping (0+ / 0-)

    Everybody takes me too seriously. Nobody believes anything I say. - Philip Whalen, The Madness of Saul

    by rasbobbo on Sun Jul 25, 2010 at 12:23:10 AM PDT

  •  Do you know anything about 12 step programs? (0+ / 0-)

    Because I do.  

    I think it's time to graciously you admit you made a really poor analogy, rather than continue arguing with people who know more about 12 step programs than you do.

    12-step programs are all about getting your own house in order, taking responsibility for your own actions, refraining from blaming everyone else for your own problems, getting humble, realizing that happiness comes from helping other people, and honesty.

    The tea party is NOTHING REMOTELY like a 12 step program.

    explain how letting gays marry will directly affect your own heterosexual relationship?

    by bluestatesam on Sun Jul 25, 2010 at 04:33:55 AM PDT

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