It's pretty tough up here in the North Carolina mountains these days. We've made some damn fine progressive progress over the years, but like many other places in the United States, the Tea Party opened up shop here back in 2010 and slammed us in the local and state elections. They've hung around and finally opened up a Facebook page this February.
The local Republican Party is pretty much in shambles. The George Bush/Dick Cheney Administration killed the Party off as rural people finally decided they'd been had on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and their dead and buried kids had died for nothing but lies.
So the Tea Party came riding into town to save the day and rebrand the conservative image. Most of the local Tea Party members don't look anything like the rest of us here. The leaders are high-heeled women who wear pearls when they "garden" and impressive diamond jewelry to local public hearings. It's clear they've never put in a day's work in their lives. But, by god, they're determined to whip the rest of us into submission.
Which brings me to the debate forum between the Appalachian State University College Democrats and College Republicans this past Tuesday night.
The place was pretty crowded. Several professors had apparently mandated that their classes attend and write a paper or some other kind of report. Lots of caught-in-the-headlights deer who sat as far in the back as they could get. We were there with a group of good Democrats and other progressives, hoping against hope that something, anything, would waken the deers to the fact that their futures were at serious risk and feel compelled to get involved. And the Tea Party was there, all 7 or 8 of them to cheer on their side and see some fireworks.
They got their wish.
The deer began to put their texting on hold when they heard the College Republicans argue that, among other things, women had no rights to mandatory insurance coverage for contraception: "if women want to avoid getting pregnant, they should stop having sex" and "just because I want a diet coke every hour doesn't mean the taxpayers should have to pay for it." (One of the College Democratic debaters asked him if he'd ever had a period.)
There was other "good stuff." The College Republicans argued that prison life was really just a piece of cake ("they get cigarettes, gourmet food and a soft mattress"), and the proposed same-sex Constitutional Amendment that will be on our primary ballot this May is essential because gay and lesbian couples' children are more likely to commit heinous crimes and do poorly in school.
Then there was this:
I've been attending college debates here for over 20 years. In the past, College Republicans have actually been somewhat progressive on social issues at least, but it's clear as a bell the Tea Party has managed to whip them into a frenzy of crazy. The sadness is most young people here just don't have much interest in politics, and if that's the case for most of the young people across this nation, it's going to be pretty easy to take away the rights they take for granted. Or don't even know they have.