Left, Right and Center

By Smiley Courtney


At a recent TEA Party meeting[1] I attended, I was struck by the (almost vehement) insistence on Christian values when discussing political modalities. This is not news, of course; it has become almost cliché that the 'Conservative' faction of American politics has been heavily infiltrated by the religious right. Since Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, the so-called 'Family Values' planks of the Republican Party have grown in prominence, as well as rhetorical volume. But the TEA party (Taxed Enough Already) has the rather specific agenda of constitutionalism and limited government, as codified in the TEA Party Mission Statement[2]. How then does the Greenfield Area group come up with such "Principles of Liberty" as:


5. Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.

9. To protect man's rights, God has revealed certain principles of divine law.

28. The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example to the entire human race.

Which violate their 22nd Principle: A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men.


But then I attended a Center for Inquiry get together[3]. This Non-Profit Educational Organization has a focus of Public Understanding of Science, Secular Ethics, Skepticism. And yet, as discussion turned to politics, I heard a unified condemnation of the GOP, and a general consensus that 'the government needs to solve these issues' - with the exception of the 'bedroom issues'. The idea that a 'conservative' could adhere to the principles of critical thinking, scientific method, and the rule of reason seemed anathema to them.


While the internet offers access by an unprecedented number of individuals to ideas, information and other people from all across the globe, it is so often used as an automated filter to select out those ideas, issues, people and information that conforms to the searcher's preconceptions. Thus, this potential tool for ubiquitous dissemination of information, this instantaneous leveler of access, is in practice used as a delimiter of information. (The anonymity of the net also seems to promote a radicalization of expression.)


Labels are important; they represent an essential epistemological tool for human comprehension. And yet, people have an unfortunate propensity to focus on the tab-name, and not fully consider the file's contents. The one outstanding capacity of humanity is the ability to reason. When we envelope ourselves in dogma, we insulate ourselves from the very thing we need most from thinking humans: new information. There is an aspect of civility, as well as democratic participation and personal accountability, in face to face discourse which gets lost in the ether of the WWW.

As we supplant education with training, dialogue with indoctrination, critical thinking with dogmatic adherence, we move from a participatory democracy toward a nation of ideologues; numerous armed camps willing to sacrifice the common good for their own pet agenda. As in all wars, truth is the first casualty. The one notable exception on the national political scene is Ron Paul, who (although standing for the Republican presidential nomination) has stated repeatedly that what he hopes to accomplish is to open an honest debate among Americans about the Constitution and the appropriate role of government. "I have chosen to promote change through education and political action."[4] As a 'political agenda', who could argue with that?


From the time of the Greek Polis, participatory democracy has been about a large percentage of the population actively staying informed, their voices being heard in open, honest debate. Despite the incredible quantity of information we are each daily bombarded with, can we truly claim to seek to be informed before we insist on being heard? Faced with data-overload, who can honestly claim to be open to all sides of a discussion? Or of all the myriad issues and discussions impacting our civilization? The great Greek democracies began to fail when factions developed, and it became more important to win than to lead.


Neither the political dogmatism of bible-thumping  conservatism nor of bleeding heart liberalism will solve the very real, very convoluted issues of the 21st Century. Here is one example: there is the continuing call for 'compromise' regarding the dept crisis. And yet, there is ample research to establish that this is a spending  problem, not a revenue problem; that cutting government expenditures to lower debt to GDP ratio is the only way that has historically worked; raising taxes, even combined with spending cuts, leads to a worsening of the crisis.[5] Yet our pundits decry the lack to cooperation between the two parties; news anchors, political experts and Hollywood stars all call for 'the two sides to compromise'.


But compromise between two ideologies is not the best solution; we need to find practical, effective solutions to the problems we face. Left or Right is irrelevant - what matters is results. Without clearing the air of political entrenchment, without replacing party loyalty with reasoned debate, how can we hope to resolve national, or even state and local issues, with anything approaching real change?


The fastest growing political identification in the United States is 'Independent'[6]. The average voter is beginning to understand that a bipolar government is not an effective government. We cannot continue to stand on opposite street corners shouting slogans; we must sit around the table and craft workable solutions. If everyone in the U.S. becomes insular, limiting debate, how will that lead us into a better tomorrow? Me, I welcome all to a free, open, and honest discussion of the facts. I can only benefit from it.


We all can!

[1] Greenfield Area TEA Party monthly meeting, 10 November, 2011, Greenfield, IN.


[2] "To restore limited government, fiscal responsibility, and accountable representation through citizen activism and education, in order to preserve the Constitution for the United States of America." Per various published TEA Party documents.


[3] CFI 'House Party', 12 November 2011, Indianapolis, IN


[4] Liberty Defined, by Ron Paul, Grand Central Publishing, NY, 2011, pg 44


[5] "Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes Versus Spending", by Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna

August 2009. See also the work of former Obama Council of Economic Advisers chairman Christina D. Romer with David H. Romer, "The Macroeconomic Effects Of Tax Changes: Estimates Based On A New Measure Of Fiscal Shocks", University of California, Berkeley, March 2007


[6] See The Declaration of Independents, by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, 2011, Public Affairs, NY.

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Replies to This Discussion

The "TEA PARTY" is not. Nor are many of those who support it. Trouble is, many have usurped the ideals of the TEA Party movement to promote their own agenda. The same thing has happened on the left of politics as well (environmentalists, as an example), but it has almost sunk the GOP with 'normal voters'. I have heard SO MANY folks say they will not vote Republican because of thier 'radical, religious' social agenda. But the GOP is supposed to be a political party.

Does anyone remember that piece of parchment called the Constitution?

Promoting religion is not what being a Libertarian is about. It is a staple of conservative politics, but what is misunderstood is that conservative and liberal are completely arbitrary labels. Both are for the establishment, so they can speak to what you want to hear, but they ultimately cave to the lobbyists. The past couple decades of presidents can serve as evidence for that. 

The Tea Party is about liberty. Now, don't get me wrong that some Tea Partiers get it wrong. The point is when  it comes to these "key issues" like marriage, and abortion and such, which directly relate to religion, Libertarianism is about consulting the Constitution, and doing what is right for freedom, not what you feel is right by your emotions and faith. The state is not to regulate or make laws regarding these issues. It has nothing to do with your personal values, liberty is liberty. You can't draw lines, you have to stand for the liberty of Americans, or stand for the power of the left or right. Those are the choices....period. 

From what you've said, you need to vote for Ron Paul. The "finance too many wars" stance is why so many main-stream Republicans don't like Paul - he wants to use our military ONLY when the US is threatened, not to 'spread the American way' (read 'corporate profits'). Paul is no NeoCon.



I disagree. Ron Paul is an isolationist. You can look at history and see that doesn't work. But fighting for fighting sake is also bad. There needs to be a balance.

I would ask you to elaborate on what you've said. You are claiming Ron Paul to be an isolationist, yet he promotes talking with all countries and promoting trade. If you don't understand that you are just plain wrong. He does speak against interventionalist war, and nation building, which is the business that has helped to bankrupt America over the past couple decades. We should not enter into either and I would love know two things.

1) Elaborate on Ron Paul as an isolationist, a simple statement without articulating is not acceptable. 

2) Explain to me how a candidate such as Romney is conservative but Ron Paul is not.

You seem to be for conservatives, but agaisnt Ron Paul, who is the only true conservative choice in 2012. However, if you are reverting to the define conservatives by the republicans of the past couple decades, you not only discredit Paul, but fail to be conservative. 

You are entitled to your opinion of all these terms, however, I ask that you articulate your point and provide evidence to support it, rather than simply assert it. 

The fair tax is nonsense, and still an unecessary tax. It's late, I am tired and not gonna go into detail, but surely you can research and make up your own mind. As far as bias for the rich and powerful, well that's partisan politics in the US. The left and the right support the rich and powerful. Perhaps they can speak better about certain aspects, but once elected they all cater to the same people.

Yet, we have Ron Paul as a candidate who favors only personal liberty and sound money, and he is blacked out by the MSM and disregarded as a contender as a result. Never mind he draws close to 10 thousand people at multiple rallies. Never mind he is cleaning up on delegates, he's not even a candidate if you watch the mainstream media. 



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