You hate our president. I know the feeling well.

I hated our previous president. His policies struck me as wrong-headed, and his way of expressing himself rubbed me the wrong way almost every time. Perhaps you can relate.

A month or two ago, when Osama Bin Laden was killed and our current president was being hailed as a hero, I couldn’t help but think of you. I pictured you sitting in your living room watching the news and stewing. The fact that I imagined you stewing had nothing to do with you, or anything you’ve said or done. I imagined you stewing because I remember a day in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was captured, and I was listening to the news and stewing. You see, even though I understood on some level that Saddam was an evil leader who’d used poison gas on his own people, and therefore that it was a good thing for him to be removed from power, I couldn’t help but feel this capture was a justification of the war and its president–both of which I deeply opposed. There were moments when I hoped the war would fail, despite the good it might bring to the Iraqi people. That didn’t matter. My own psychic battle with this president was the more important battle.

I remember being in high school when the St. Louis Cardinals won what was then Major League Baseball’s eastern division. I was a Cubs fan, and I found it intolerable that the Cubs’ heated rival had won the division. I told my dad I was rooting for the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals in the playoffs.

“No,” he said. “We root for the Cardinals now.”

“What?” I said. “I’ll never root for the Cardinals.”

“They represent our division,” he said. “That’s why we root for them.”

I didn’t care what he said. I didn’t root for the Cardinals then, and I still don’t.

But in 1998, as I became more aware of the political culture of our country, I started to understand what my dad was saying. He was trying to teach me that competing doesn’t have to result in the utter defeat of those we compete against. In fact, in most cases it shouldn’t. When it comes right down to it, we’re not fans of the Cubs or Cardinals or any other team as much as we’re fans of baseball. If the Cardinals or Dodgers or even (gasp!) the Yankees play some good baseball and win the World Series, baseball wins. That this sentiment seems so old-fashioned speaks volumes about our current political discourse.

I have no doubt, Tea Partiers, you have your reasons for hating this president. I had mine for hating the last. But I believe the truth of these matters transcends all that. It’s not a political party’s job to give us the truth. It’s its job to get us to vote for its candidates. They can do that with the truth, or with half-truths, or with lies. It doesn’t really matter to them. As long as we pull the lever for their candidate, they win.

Somewhere deep inside both or us, somewhere that doesn’t know or care about this president, or the last president, or the president before that, we know this. It hides from us a lot, especially in a political climate that has both parties stirring up hatred for the other. The truth lies outside this politics. It’s what you and I share when we strip away all that trumped up anger and we’re left with nothing but our common sense and common decency. That’s where our hope lies.

You may read this, Tea Partiers, consider it, and maybe even agree with some of it. But you’re like me; you’ll go back to your well-heeled political nest, where things are warm and comfortable. You’ll lash out at this president, or the last president, or the next president, enjoying the warmth and comfort. It’s so much easier, isn’t it? And that’s just how our current political industry wants us: ready to fight for them on a dime, reveling in the heat of our words, not caring what they burn.

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ART EDWARDS's third novel, Badge (2014), was named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's Literary Contest for 2011. His second novel, Ghost Notes, released on his own imprint Defunct Press in 2008, won the 2009 PODBRAM Award for best work of contemporary fiction. His first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, has been made into a feature film. His writing has or will appear in The Writer, Writers' Journal and Pear Noir!, and online at Salon, The Los Angeles Review, Word Riot, The Collagist, PANK, JMWW, Bartleby Snopes, The Rumpus and The Weeklings. In the 1990s he was co-founder, co-songwriter and bass player with the Refreshments.

26 responses to “To Tea Partiers”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    Overall, it’s lovely, rational sentiment indeed, Art. I’ve been banging on this same drum for years. Sadly, my experience has been that there is a willful rejection of such entrenchment-nullifying observations. People don’t like to cast off from their prejudicial moorings. The open ideological sea is a complicated, tempestuous, and scary place, and people take a great deal of comfort in the tidy despisals spoon fed to them by their political “home ports.” The cognitive dissonance inherent in confronting one’s own ideological and/or rhetorical hypocrisy is, for most people, just too much to bear, even at a superficial level. Their psyches simply won’t let it happen.

    Then again, as a liberal, you will likely have more luck than me getting the liberals at least–at least around here–to nod. Not because you’re saying anything super different than I ever said, but because that’s just how this all works. You are “us” and I am “them.”


    • Art Edwards says:

      Thanks, Becky.

      And I recognize much of the sentiment above is something you’ve espoused here many times.

      I considered turning off the comments for this one, just because I don’t want to lose a day or two batting various points back and forth, so let me just say thanks for reading.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I didn’t realize I’d said anything controversial or worth arguing about.

        But I think leaving the comments on was a wise thing to do anyway. Just because people respond doesn’t mean you need to bother arguing with them.

        The responses are proving (and will continue to prove, I suspect) interesting and even telling.

  2. dwoz says:

    My political allegiances are really pretty simple. I root for the Boston Red Sox, and whoever is beating the Yankees.

    Since the last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup was before Becky was born, I have to get used to being a Bruins fan again.

    As far as my sports allegiances, I usually just follow the money and let my cynicism take over. Neither side is any good, but generally speaking I prefer the side that at least has the decency to use lube when they’re ass-raping me.

    Generally speaking, I also don’t like it when the ass fucking is sold to me as the “Clear Colon Act.”

    That’s all. I don’t care who gets my money, conservatives or liberals. No matter what, someone other than me is going to be holding my money. I just want them to leave me a shred of dignity.

  3. Nice work, Art. Also: you’ve managed to generate some ads that have probably never been seen on TNB before.

    I’ve been feeling a similar way lately…and am mostly just sick of the partisan bickering. Not that the democratic party is anything to be proud of, but my biggest hope for this political era is a reshaping of the right. A party that is truly about small government and fiscal responsibility seems like it would be a useful thing on the political landscape. But all these campaigns based solely on culture wars have dumbed down the whole process.

    You can turn comments off?

    • Art Edwards says:

      Yeah, Tyler. It’s a click-box towards the bottom of the edit page of any individual post. You can opt out of comments, or pings.

      I love the comments part of a post, but as someone who’s spent five minutes on the internet, I know how fast political discussions can go awry. And ruin your day.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    When Democrats appeal to their base, they have to get smarter; more discussion of greenhouse gases, single-payer health care versus other models, the legality and morality of Gitmo.

    When Republicans cater to their base — which now, in my view, includes Tea Baggers (I’m going to be a conservative and use their original moniker) — they have to get dumber; they must reject the science on global warming (hello, Gov. Christie), bash gays, bash minorities (and reflexively hating on Obama, a pragmatic centrist, is racist; I don’t care what anyone says to the contrary), and willfully ignore 200 years of U.S. economic history to advance the notions that small government is better (it isn’t, and that inkling by the presidents of the late 19th century gave rise to the power of corporations), that deregulation is better (it isn’t; even Standard Oil wanted govt regulation back in the day, because deregulation is anarchy, and anarchy is bad for business), that extreme deficit deduction is the best way out of a deep recession (FDR tried this his first 100 days; it made shit worse; we only got out of the Depression when he started spending more and creating jobs).

    This is a fine, fair, well-argued piece, Art, but you give them too much credit.

    Also: Obama didn’t need to launch a decade-long invasion of Pakistan to kill Bin Laden.

    • dwoz says:

      For me, Greg, it’s really a simple measuring stick: “works?” vs “doesn’t work?”

      a) trickle-down economic theory: doesn’t work.

      b) supply-side economics theory: doesn’t work.

      c) No Child Left Behind is true to it’s name: doesn’t work.

      d) No Child Left Behind, the program: doesn’t work.

      e) Large-scale land war in middle-east: doesn’t work.

      f) torture: doesn’t work.

      g) wildly expansionary monetary policy (M3 triples) during protracted low employment (2002-2008) masks deep economic problems without causing inflation because the money goes screaming offshore into speculative investments instead of heating up the economy: doesn’t work.

      h) wildly expansionary monetary policy during protracted low employment causes massive asset bubbles instead of providing critical economy-boosting investment: doesn’t work.

      i) half-heartedly throwing some bottles of “Dasani” and some formaldehyde-laced trailers at hurricane Katrina? doesn’t work.

      j) funding protracted land wars in the middle east via off-budget emergency supplemental funding: doesn’t work.

      k) slashing federal budget creates jobs: doesn’t work.

      l) slashing federal taxes creates jobs: doesn’t work.

      m) using patently false testimony and faked information to justify a major world war to congress: works altogether too well.

      n) Stopping mine and mining regulation enforcement, thus getting off the backs of corporations that create jobs, and let them handle mine safety, because it’s their expertise, not some desk-job guy in Washington DC: doesn’t work AT ALL.

      o) slash taxes as a response to high inflation: doesn’t work.

      p) slash taxes as a response to stagflation: doesn’t work.

      q) slash taxes as a response to disinflation: doesn’t work.

      r) abandon Glass-Steagall as to arcane and outmoded for this new world: doesn’t work AT ALL.

      s) calling legislation the “Clear Skies Act” convinces people that it actually will result in clean skies: doesn’t work.

      t) filibustering or placing anonymous holds on every single judicial appointee helps clear case backlog in federal courts: doesn’t work.

      u) making corporations “super-people” by removing political spending limits in the name of “free speech” makes elections more effective, better by any standard you care to pick, increases the ability of a voter to make an informed choice: doesn’t work AT ALL.

      v) filibustering and blocking the extension of unemployment benefits puts those people back to work: doesn’t work.

      w) filibustering and blocking increase of the minimum wage prevents rampant job losses among the lowest-paid workers, because companies that pay minimum wage will just not hire: Huh?????

      x) failing to block increase in minimum wage caused rampant job losses among the lowest paid workers, because companies that pay minimum wage simply didn’t hire? no apparent affect whatsoever on hiring and employment levels. Apparently those companies weren’t destroyed.

      y) blocking equal treatment of gays in civil marriage, to protect the institution of marriage? didn’t work, the institution of marriage is just as unstable as it ever was. Divorce rates unaffected.

      z) demonizing the act of “being able to afford going to the doctor” by calling it “Obamacare”? works.

      shit. I’m out of letters. We need a longer alphabet.

        • dwoz says:

          On the list, or the fact that the alphabet is too short?

          I couldn’t even get to some of the big ones.

          I of course agree in principle and in practice with the core premise of Art’s piece. Comity is sorely lacking, and it’s not really that difficult to see why: it’s been soaked in sulfuric acid.

          As much as it’s convenient to just fall in and agree with statements like Becky’s above, about how blame can be evenly split, it’s pretty clear to me in an objective way that much of the problem originates from the vitriolic tone coming from the hate radio talking heads, who are overwhelmingly far-right ideologues. The problem being, that the progressive left and center can only stand for being sucker-punched in the back of the head for so long, before it just becomes non-viable to turn the other cheek and not answer.

          And thus we get sucked down into the vortex.

          But beyond the question of social comity and the accommodation of other viewpoints, we must not be drawn into allowing it into the arena of ideas.

          An idea (or ideology) deserves absolutely no respect nor comity, just for the fact of its existence. There are a great many political ideas that SHOULD draw fierce scorn.

          Climate change denial and GM crops, to name two. Intelligent Design as a credible scientific concept. Milton Friedman school of economics. Ayn Rand social policy.

          These things are simply flawed, objectively flawed. (pun intended) They do not deserve a “fair and balanced” review.

          Federal Deficit reduction is a Jobs Program. Fuck that shit. Don’t waste my time.

          The correct relative balance of federal vs state power? sure, let’s man up for that debate. Intelligent people can agree to disagree.

          “You” deserve my respect. “Your Ideas” have to earn it.

          There’s one other irony in this whole discussion. It has been my experience, to listen to a self-styled “conservative” rip into the “liberals” and laundry-list their mistakes, perhaps comparing them to hitler or Genghis Khan for good measure…then espousing their own laundry-list of what SHOULD be done…which reads as a synopsis of Classical Liberalism.

          Yes. The people who spew hate at the “libs” are themselves liberals.

          So apparently half the problem is that there’s so much ignorance and co-opting of language out there, that nobody really has any idea about ANYTHING anymore. And as far as I can tell, it’s intentional.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh yes I see. I see how it might be inconvenient for you to place the blame solely at the feet of the people you already despise. How heroic of you.

          Leave me the fuck out of your pontifications, dwoz. I’m not interested. I won’t say it again.

        • dwoz says:

          Becky, you’re far too good a writer and sharp a thinker for the condescension and implied meanings in your first post to have been coincidental. That post was slathered in condescension like a southern fried meal is slathered in gravy. Don’t pretend otherwise.

          This is your way, in debate. You go for a co-opting first strike and try to claim the hilltop, and then dismiss any further commentary as either irrelevant, uninteresting, or ad hominem. I’ve come to accept that, and so have been able to tease apart my personal feelings toward you from my feelings toward your ideas.

          Just as a matter of intellectual curiosity, how do you reconcile “I’ve been banging on this same drum for years” (in affirming the basic premise of Art’s piece), and “fuck you, dwoz” (my paraphrase.)

          I simply disagree with you.

          I arrive at my political ideas and thoughts after 40 years of careful study and observation. Even given that disparity of experience between you and I, it certainly does not stand to reason that anyone should need to accept me AND accept my ideas. We don’t have to be a package deal.

          You apparently accept neither, and so, given that it’s an absolutely stunning day outside and I’m sitting at a computer…it’s time for me to reorient my own priorities. I think I’ll go ride a horse. Perhaps the same one I rode in on.

        • Becky Palapala says:


          I’m not pretending anything. Here is what actually happened outside of your delusion: I replied to Art–agreed with him–using the exact same sentiment I’ve been expressing for years and sentiment that is not markedly different from what Art is saying. I wasn’t condescending, I was commiserating. To be sure of myself, I took a small poll and have been assured by others that my intent in this respect was not ambiguous.

          I ignored your first totally unnecessary and undeserved attempt to draw me out. By the time I did make the decision to tell you to leave me out of it, you’d posted 3 comments, two of which had my name in them for no purpose at all but to be snide. All of them were in some way, shape or form, directed at me, yet none of them were actually in response to me. This is the second time in a handful of months you’ve used this strategy to bait me, and the second time I’ve explicitly asked you not to do it.

          I think you should go check your email for what I hope will be the final resolution to this.

          Art, my apologies.

        • dwoz says:

          Yes, Becky, I did receive that little private note.

          Very interesting!

          I will admit that previously I didn’t quite understand your feelings, and I am sure my new-found perspective will be mutually beneficial. I found your terms of engagement to be acceptable, and really not far removed from my own opinions on the matter. A meeting of minds, as it were. fancy that.

          happy trails!

      • Gloria says:

        Fascinating, dwoz.

      • Jeffro says:

        Well said, dwoz. My kind of ABCs.

  5. Gloria says:

    I have read this in its entirety. I have nothing to add to the discussion because I hate discussing politics just as much as I hate discussing how I can be “spiritual” and not “religious” or anything to do with parenting. Ever. At all. (That said, I’ll discuss any of those things in a small, intimate setting. But in large venues like this? Not a chance.)

    But I couldn’t read this and not let you know.

  6. SAA says:

    I think politics used to be the realm of certain people, who were generally better informed than most, and who were probably arguing over policy stuff, as opposed to social issues. Now it’s just a freak show.

    Obama isn’t good or bad, he’s the antichrist. Sarah Palin isn’t just an entertaining idiot, she is the worst woman in the world. People who are genuinely repugnant (Newt Gingrich, looking at you) are considered values-oriented, whereas a guy like Anthony Wiener, who was a progressive super hero before all that stuff came out, and who was really only guilty of infidelity, got dumped by the democrats in a heartbeat because no one wanted to be guilty by association. No one has a goddamn backbone or a clue. American politics is like a self centered clusterfuck; everyone is so concerned about their wants and needs that no one can be bothered to give a reach around.

  7. Erika Rae says:

    Nicely put, Art.

    Sorry to see the strange animosity crop up in the comments. Well, I guess you had a feeling it would come to that.

    Hey, anyone feel like talking about religion? Heh.

  8. Amber says:

    In the recent NBA Finals, I was hoping to see Lebron James get his ring. Really hoping. Probably too much.

    They were beaten by the Mavericks, a team that played damned well and competed with class. When the series ended, I was happy for the Mavericks in general and Dirk Nowitzski and Jason Kidd in particular. They deserved it. And you’re right, basketball won.

    Now if I can think this way regarding politics, I’m all good.

  9. roth ira says:

    roth ira…

    […]Art Edwards | To Tea Partiers | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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