Monday, June 20, 2011

I shock Tea Party Slim: "You guys are geniuses!"

Tea Party Slim couldn't wait to hear what I learned at Netroots Nation. He was pounding on my door five minutes after I returned from my trip.

"Let me sum it up," I said. "You Tea Party types are (pause for effect) geniuses."

This knocked Slim for a loop. "Geniuses?"

There was a time when I would have responded the same way. Geniuses? The same guys and gals with kindergarten spelling skills, who get all their news from the Fox Propaganda Channel, who shout nonsense at Congressional town meetings?

"Let me rephrase. I'm a little groggy from five days of Liberal politics."

"God forbid." There was a strange light in Slim's eyes, as if imagining Life in Hell.

"The Tea Party movement is genius," I rephrased.

"The Tea Party movement?"

"The big picture, Slim. The motivating force behind all of you."

"You mean the Constitution? The dreams that motivated our founding fathers?"

I summarized a presentation by Van Jones. Van Jones is an environmental advocate, civil rights activist and attorney. He's black, too. All of these assets made him a conservative target in 2009 when Pres. Obama appointed him as point man for the Green Jobs Economy.

"Van Jones said that he spent the past year studying the Tea Party," I said. "His conclusion: there is no Tea Party. It has no director, no D.C. office, no receptionist. It's an open-source brand."

I could tell that Slim was wary, as if he was being lured led into some kind of Liberal trap.

"I know what that is," he said. "It' something anyone can use."

"That's right. A brand ready-made for every Right Wing group in the country. Anti-immigrant groups, Ayn Rand Book Groups, KKK..."

"There you go," he said. "We're not Right Wing, we're true conservatives. You Lefties want to paint us a radicals."

"Lefties?" I smiled. "You got me. Anyway, there were thousands of 'true conservative" organizations ready to adopt the Tea Party mantle. Those small groups became a large force of like-minded people pushing their politicians."

"And we won in 2010."

"Yes, and you want to win forever. But you can't."

A wry smile from Slim. "Wanna bet?"

"No offense, Slim, but you're old and white. I'm getting there too. Tea Party rallies feature gray hairs and gray beards and people with walkers."

"And we vote in large numbers."

"Agreed. But you and I are an endangered species, Slim. Sure, you elected people like Rick Scott and Scott Walker and hundreds of ultra-conservative legislators in Wyoming and all across the U.S."

"And a U.S. House majority -- don't forget that."

"How could I?" I shivered as my mind flashed on an image of Michelle Bachmann. "But your crazies are motivating us. Those Wisconsin legislators who bullied teachers and firefighters are being recalled. Young people are rising up. And progressives have open-source brands of our own."

"Name one."

"Rebuild the Dream, for one."

"And Van Jones is the big cheese?"

"No, he's just getting the ball rolling. Local groups in Wyoming can be a part of it and won't have to pay dues or kowtow to some vaunted leader. The Netroots will be a part of it too."

"Bloggers." Slim said it with scorn.

I decided to switch the narrative, a timeworn Republican trick that Dems are slowly beginning to learn. "How does it feel to be a trailblazer?"

He brightened. "So you're coming to our Open-Source Brand Tea Party rally Friday at the State Capitol?"

"I'm at every Tea Party rally, Slim. Usually I come to privately revel in my scorn. This time I'm attending for research."


"Sure. Van Jones said he wants his open-source brand to be as warm and fuzzy, kind and sharing, as the Tea Party. And as patriotic -- liberty and justice for all, eh?"

Slim rose and headed for the door. "I'll see Friday at noon. Better wear protective coloration and not that." He pointed at my red-white-and-blue Democracy for America T-shirt.

"You guys don't believe in democracy?"

"We're a republic -- as in Republican."

And I thought we were making progress, Slim and I. Maybe we will find common ground Friday at the Tea Party rally.

Photo: Van Jones says that the Tea Party could be a model for Liberal activists.

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