My "left-leaning" friends had persuaded me that "right-leaning" folk are successful at spreading their message because they know they how to tow the party line, how to follow, and how to obey. And that this is unlike those of us on the "left" who march to our own tune, squabble for meager media attention, and splinter off to form smaller and less effective groups when challenges arise.
So it is with rueful pleasure that I read Kenneth Vogel's article, "Tea Partyers Turn on Each Other." He writes, "a seemingly potent and growing political force, the tea party movement has become embroiled in internal feuding over philosophy, strategy and money and is at risk of losing its momentum."
"These groups don't play as well together as they should..."They're fractured at the organization level...mainly because there are a lot of people who have not had managerial experience who [suddenly] are thrust into the limelight and become intoxicated with it. And when a potential rift comes up, instead of handling it and maybe agreeing to disagree, they splinter and go off on their own."
Welcome to the real world of activism, Tea Partyers!
Nevertheless, I am impressed with the right's ability to rally their troops.. Notice how quickly they replaced the term "Tea Baggers" with "Tea Partyers". Didn't take long for word spread that they'd named themselves after a high school bullying tactic: tea bagging refers to someone stronger lowering his testicles -- tea bags -- into a victim's mouth.
Since Obama's election we've seen the "right-wing" increasingly use "left-wing" tactics: creating signs and banners, forming networks of like-minded who fill the streets when called, and protesting with gusto. (Some of my friends ask: "do WE look like that?" Well, yes, we do...we just add more color.)
What can the "right" and the "left" learn from these experiences?
One thing is to recognize what I call "our mutual complex humanity."
We, the people have reached the cul de sac of "westward expansion." We have nowhere else to go. We must turn around and face...ourselves. Then we can begin the real work of recognizing our complex mutual humanity...and cop to our innate glory...and vainglory, intoxication with self, denial, egotism, and our less-than-perfect traits that cross political boundaries.
Despite the gloom about Obama's performance to date -- change? what change? -- the man is correct about the need for 'bi-partisanship' (or whatever you call a very necessary coming together to work out differences). His ideals are humane but he avoids a central tenet of American culture: it does not promote self-reflection or collaboration. Indeed, the way in which he/his administration addresses our domestic threats communicates the opposite: grab what you can for you and yours...and tea-bag the rest.
The beauty -- and the horror -- of being human is that it cannot be sold by an advertising agency or purchased from WalMart. It comes only with hard work, practice, and deep acceptance and understanding. It is time for all of us -- right/left and "evil doers"/"do gooders", and other dualistic separators -- to face ourselves, our neighbors, and our mutual predicament . A tea party that addresses our cultural underpinnings is a good beginning.