As part of the US Uncut movement, on April 1st I sent an email to the organizer of the local Tea Party group in a (perhaps naive) attempt to bring the two groups together around a common cause. Here's my email:
Subj:Portland Uncut/Portland Tea Party Alliance?
I'm involved in the Uncut movement an was thinking that the Tea Party may be open to working together to get corporations who are not paying any taxes to pay their fair share. While I know that we may disagree on what represents a fair share and how those tax revenues should be used, I'm sure we can agree that the corporations who are paying nothing while making huge profits (or even claiming a tax rebate), are cheaters and need to pay into the system they use, just like the rest of us. As you said at the TP rally on tax day 2009, it's not a partisan issue, so I hope we can come together around tax fairness for these corporate tax cheats. What do you think?
I had watched a video of the Oregon Tea Party event in 2009 where the organizer spoke and he seemed somewhat reasonable. I got a response back from him fairly quickly saying:
I've cc'd your message to the current TP chair.
With kind regards,
I asked him to keep me posted, but never heard back. A friend from the Uncut movement asked me on the 21st if I ever heard back from them and when I said I hadn't, he said it wasn't surprising and sent me a link from their website to a posting called Rules for Republicans.
I read this and was blown away. I understand not agreeing with someone's ideas or their reasoning, (see my series: Deflating Conservative Arguments), but this was way beyond the pale. This seems more like hate speech than any rational thought and it actually scared me. When we cannot have a conversation with people who disagree with us, when there is no trust, when they think of us as "evil", what is next? This is the kind of talk that lead to the genocide of my people. This is the kind of talk that lead to the genocide in Rwanda. It is wretched and it doesn't belong in our political discourse. Follow me below the fold for more specifics.
Here's the first of the "Rules for Republicans":
1. The era of liberalism is over.
Today there are no liberals in power; there are only radical leftists. They are the enemy, not the opposition. Their ideology is not simply wrong; it is evil.
In all quotes from this document, Italics are in the original, bold is emphasis added.
In their 8 stages of genocide, Genocide Watch outlines the first stage as Classification. This means dividing people into "us and them". The main counteraction is creating universalism among the population. For instance, we're all Americans. While Classification is not in and of itself problematic, when combined with the third stage, Dehumanization, it becomes a veritable tinderbox of hatred.
In this first Rule, it is clear that the author is not only classifying those of us on the left as "radical", but also dehumanizing us. This is not an isolated incident. I know people on the other side who I strongly disagree with on many topics, but I don't think of them as the enemy or as evil. I may think of them as misguided, deluded, inaccurate, lacking the facts or simpleminded. I may even have real hatred for the policies they advance. But evil? Really??? They think we're EVIL?
2. It is impossible to be too cynical about the intentions, motives, and truthfulness of radical leftists.
They will always exceed our most horrifying expectations.
Wow, according to Rule 2, we're not only radical and evil, we're worse than evil! One cannot be too cynical about our intentions because they'll always exceed one's most horrifying expectations! Um...what? I don't understand my intentions, I guess. I thought I just wanted what's best for all of us. I'm not really sure what my motivations are either. I suppose they must be rooted in pure evil and borne of satanic vice. I guess I just don't get myself...oh, that's because I'm obviously not able to be truthful!
3. Radical leftists are continually seeking to destroy America's historic foundations, particularly our Constitution.
Their goal is to rebuild upon the rubble according to their own evil vision and to gratify their insatiable lust for tyrannical power.
Oh, that's my goal! I had no idea. It seems that the author of this document has no knowledge that the foundation of our republic is based on the work of the father of liberalism, John Locke. Our constitution was written by liberals steeped in Lockean philosophy. "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness", ya know, that quote so oft used by the tea party which is taken from some declaration is a paraphrase from Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government. According to Rule 3, we want to destroy the constitution! I'm not sure what our "evil vision" is that we want to replace it with, but this whole point is ridiculous. While I do think we need to amend the constitution to eliminate corporate personhood and thus help to roll back wealthfare (aka. corporate welfare and welfare for the rich), I'm not in favor of scrapping the document itself. Or at least I didn't know I was...until now.
4. Radical leftists are continually seeking to infiltrate and undermine American institutions.
They are especially attracted to institutions where there are unearned wealth, sinecures, and ambiguous standards of accomplishment.
I'm not even really sure what this means. I suppose it means that we're trying to destroy the government from within by...working? Or perhaps somehow gaining positions that require little or no work but pay anyhow? How? Your guess is as good as mine.
5. Our people must always be seeking to restore America's tested, historic, foundational principles and to guard and protect our Constitution and our cherished institutions.
Again with the us vs. them. So, the Tea Party is the defender of true American values, principles and guardian of our constitution. Oh, I get it, if you say you support the constitution and its values and principles even while the politicians you support actively work to undermine those same institutions, values and principles, you're the true patriots!
6. Civility must never trump truthfulness.
Civility is a highly commendable virtue; truthfulness is vastly more commendable.
'Cause you can't be both truthful and civil. Sometime truth is indeed hard for someone to take, but it doesn't mean you should be nasty in how you say it.
7. Ideology must never trump truthfulness.
We Republicans need to constantly examine our own ideological principles to make sure they are, first and foremost, true. Then we must proclaim them boldly and straightforwardly.
HahahHaHAHahhahhahHHAHhahAHHAhahahHAHahA!!! Oh, let me breath for a second...hahahahhahHHhahhahhhahahahahHhaAhaHaHHahahAhaAhahahaahahaahhAhaaa. whew Wow...damn.
I don't really even know where to start here. This is the most hilarious thing I've read from the right in a long time. They don't usually know how to use humor, but this is outstanding. What?!? It's not meant to by funny? Yeah, this must come from someone who doesn't understand the meaning of the terms "ideology" or "truth/truthfulness". If they did, perhaps they wouldn't support people like Jon Kyl.
8. Never try to out-compassion a bleeding-heart radical leftist.
Conservatism is the most compassionate -- and most truthful -- political philosophy there is. Radical leftism, by contrast, is based on false promises intended not to better the lives of anyone, but to recruit gullible, ignorant people as "useful idiots."
Another doozy. The last line in this Rule seems an awful lot like psychological projection. If Conservatism were the most compassionate political philosophy, why are there so many people going hungry in America? Why are there so many poor? Why after over 30 years of trickle down economics is there a growing income gap? These are not merely Republican problems, they are problems that both parties have contributed to over the years, mostly because they have both become more conservative and have thus followed the failed policies of supply side "voodoo economics". If Conservatism was truthful, it would recognize its own failures.
9. Challenge radical leftists to live up to their own publicly proclaimed ethical principles.
They never do. They just fake it. (Cf. Alinsky Rule #4: "Make the enemy live up to their [sic] own book of rules.")
Well, they may have a point here. A lot of what we believe in may be impossible to live up to in our current society because of the way our society is set up. I'm not sure it means we are faking it, it just means that some things are not possible to do. While I am all for living in a more ecological way, if I need to visit my family in Chicago, bicycling there is not really a viable option. I must say however, that there are an awful lot of members of the Tea Party who are on government support (social security, medicaid, medicare, employment insurance, etc.) or use government infrastructure such as roads or mass transit to attend the rallies to protest the taxes that pay for these services. While I try to live up to my ethical principles to my utmost ability, I'm not sure most Tea Party members even understand the impact of the policies they're advocating upon their own lives. I also find it endlessly amusing that people on the right are quoting from Alinsky. Most of them have probably never read his work as it seems some of his statements are grossly misunderstood.
10. Refuse to use the favorite language of the radical left.
Their language is always intended to spread lies and propaganda and to create confusion, fear, and retreat, not to convey truthful information.
Again, this is intended to sow the seeds of distrust. It is one thing to be skeptical, but quite another to accuse a whole group of people of lying and spreading propaganda.
11. The language our people use should boldly convey real information accurately, precisely, and above all, truthfully.
With all the emphasis that the author of these Rules puts on truth, you'd think that they'd make more of an effort to make sure their statements are true. I rarely (if ever) hear any constructive ideas coming out of the Tea Party. They just say that our budget is out of whack and we need to get it under control. I agree with this, but the question is "How?" Their only answer seems to be to take a hatchet to social programs and foreign aid. This approach will not get us to a balanced budget, it'll just cause a lot of misery while still requiring a serious look at cutting military spending and increasing taxes on the rich.
12. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon.
This is Alinsky Rule #5, word for word, but we Republicans have a special advantage in applying it to radical leftists because ridicule or satire, to be really effective, must be rooted in truth. That's why leftist ridicule flops; it's usually based on lies.
Indeed, ridicule is man's most potent weapon, however I'm not sure why they think leftist ridicule flops as the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are top rated comedy shows. These shows are all about ridicule of the right (though they do ridicule politicians of all stripes). There aren't too many good comedians from the right, but hey, you can't win 'em all, right?
13. Attempting to reason with intractable, hardcore radical leftists will always end in futility.
Such people are incorrigibly anti-rational, so it is impossible to establish an authentic interlocutory interface with them. The only realistic way to engage them is to crush them politically, using any and all truthful and lawful tactics.
Therefore we shouldn't bother to get into debate, it will only be frustrating. Let's just go home and polish our guns instead. As the last Rule, it seems that this is trying to say, we're right, they're wrong, so there! This is also saying that it is impossible that we may have a valid argument. Whenever I see my hardcore reactionary rightist cousin, we have some good, productive and interesting conversations. Perhaps those in leadership positions on the right don't want their flock talking to the other side for fear that our ideas may prove to be more powerful than theirs. Perhaps we may even sway some of the faithful to look at things in a different way. Maybe some might defect. If we don't work to heal our political discourse, we will only become more polarized, leading to further rancor; the possibilities that flow from that are frankly frightening.
Rule 13 has the only use of the word "lawful" in this set of Rules and I'm glad it's there. The beliefs outlined in these Rules are what leads people who are mentally unstable to commit acts political violence. This seems to be a shot across the bow, an attempt to raise the bodies of anyone who is willing to buy into this madness. I maintain a steadfast hope that this kind of thinking could soon be eradicated and we can return to a more civil and reasonable discussion of policy and the effects thereof.
Cross Posted on Progressive Ideas.
Updated by Ross Lampert at Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 02:06 PM PDT
Thanks for all the Rec's!