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Call for a “Green” Tea Party

Over the past ten years I have watched American politics with increasing dismay. During the
administration of George Bush, and now Obama, there has been a tremendous surge in the size and
function of government. It fosters dependence and corrodes all forms of independence. The main
difference between Bush and Obama is that while Bush rhetorically catered to the right-wing fringe
anti-intellectuals of his party, Obama caters rhetorically to the left-wing fringe intellectuals. In other
words, there has been very little real difference between the parties: they have both favored increasing
the scope and cost of government, and they have both radically reduced real civil liberties. Both parties
have increasingly funded government on borrowed tax dollars, together plunging our country into
massive, emergency-level debt. Both parties have participated in the growth of rampant, stifling
regulation and bureaucracy.

My own history in politics is of the left-wing variety. As a child I marched in Martin Luther
King Jr.'s funeral, I've worked in social change organizations for the environment (Greenpeace), for
nuclear freeze (Freeze, Sane), for socially responsible business practices (Infact), and I've had rocks
thrown at me as I marched for Native American fishing rights. I could go on. And on. But my point is
that I have believed that government, where it acts, should protect and expand individual liberties while
curtailing certain egregious abuses by private industry. I still believe these things. I have consistently
voted for Democrats, almost always finding them the “lesser of two evils.”

I often pick up my son from school at the end of the day and usually let him play outside for a
while before going home. I have made friends with another parent who, after we got to know each
other a bit, told me that he came from a Republican background. He tells me he grew up favoring
opportunities for everyone, the rights of people to pursue their dreams, and the responsibility of
government to “let them” do this while ensuring the overall well-being of the nation. He's always voted

We have discovered that we have a great deal in common, and we are beginning to wonder
whether either political party has represented us.

Of course we are not alone. There is in fact a massive populist uprising called the “Tea Party.” I
believe the movement is sure to grow like wildfire over the coming years. The “Tea-baggers” want to
reject the sweeping, all-encompassing role of government as it has developed and return to “small”
government and fiscal responsibility.

I believe the time is ripe for the emergence of a third major political party. It's time to redivide
the world from “liberals vs. conservatives” to “big government vs. little government.” Done correctly,
many in both parties would find a new home.

A leftist friend of mine is quite scornful of the tea-baggers, noting that they only came into
being after Obama's election, and claiming that they will disappear with the first Republican victory. It
is quite clear that the Republican leadership is also very uncomfortable with the Tea Party, too, and
with very good reason in my opinion. The Republican leadership knows that they have collaborated
with the Democratic party leadership to orchestrate more and more massive federal government. The
Tea-baggers are going to send a lot of them packing.

I hope that the real progressives in the Democratic party will realize that they've been sold out.
Government has been expanded not so it could extend opportunities to the previously dispossessed, not
so they could make government fairer, and not so the environment would receive greater actual
protections. We are still in Iraq, still in Afghanistan, now increasing subsidies for nuclear power, still
pursuing “Star Wars” anti-missile technology, still buying more equipment but taking less care of our
military personnel, still engaged in military adventures across the world, still...well, has anything of
significance changed at all?

Behind all the rhetoric, the Obama policy has been to expand the scope and power of
government. The bail-outs, initiated by Bush but expanded vigorously by Obama, have transferred
gigantic sums of money from the people to the banks. In other words, when it is all said and done,
Obama has overseen possibly the largest transfer of money from the working classes to the richest
classes in history. The fact is camouflaged, barely, by the fact that the dollars used to enrich the richest
have all been “borrowed” dollars. The horrifying facts will come clear in time, alas, fueling the Tea
Party as they do.

But the real question, in my opinion, is whether the Tea Party is going to be co-opted and
compartmentalized by the Republicans, or whether it will take on a life of its own. If the party only
manages to attract people like Sarah Palin or others of the anti-intellectual side of the Republican party,
then it will devolve into a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party rather than the country.
If, on the other hand, the Tea-baggers can figure out how to speak to the disenchanted progressives,
who watched Obama criticize the CEO for Lehman Brothers for redecorating his office while the
company collapsed and then turn around and make it possible for Goldman Sachs to award fifty times
as much in bonuses—out of money that really came from the public till, then it can really become
something. Or who heard with dismay of Obama's plans to increase off-shore oil drilling or siphon
trillions of dollars to the banks.

I'd like to see a Green Tea Party. A party that recognizes the reality that government cannot be
all things to all people, but that it needs to get out of the way of people who are trying to make their
own way. A party that will regulate businesses in a rational way so that they cannot externalize their
costs of doing business by trashing the environment or exploiting weaker sectors of the labor force. A
party that will recognize the limits of government but prevent big business from trampling on the
people, too. I call it “Green” because it should take account of the needs of the people for protection
and opportunity, and “Tea Party” because it must shrink the size, scope and cost of government.
Individual liberties cannot flourish where the government has its hands on everything. People on
the left and the right need to remember that. Property rights and privacy rights are being equally
trampled right now.

Therefore I call for all thinking people to enter the debate. Seeing that the Tea Party is going to
grow as our economic problems increase, this need not simply be another swing of the pendulum. This
time there could be real change if we do not allow one of the existing parties to capture the flag of a
movement begun to put an end to business as usual.