The Conventional wisdom is that the Tea Party represents the far right and the Coffee Party Movement the left. This makes it easy to categorize and pre-judge their respective opinions, but this over-generalization is not accurate. Two of us, from seemingly different sides of the track, sat down to discover that what brings us together far exceeded what divides us: Dale Robertson, the Founder of the Modern Day Tea Party.
And Paul Silver, a member of the Coffee Party Movement and other campaign reform groups. The core beliefs of the Tea Party are fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. The Coffee Party wants to promote cooperation in government, recognizing that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will. The principles are quite general.
We found each other when Dale was mentioned in an article on possible common ground with Democrats We started talking after that and this piece represents our personal conversation and doesn’t necessarily represent our colleagues.
First, we agreed the inflammatory conflicts between conservatives and liberals are mostly a proxy war promoted by special interests (insurance companies, banks, trial lawyers, unions, etc) aiming to manipulate public opinion and public policy. A predatory special interest cannot admit that it wants to dilute air and water regulations, so it backs a candidate willing to carry their cause with the well-funded argument that over-regulation is hurting our national competitiveness and ability to create jobs. Unions might make similar arguments.
After laying a foundation of common ground we found that we were not that far apart on most other issues. To be sure, there were areas of disagreement, but we think there are areas where reasonable people can disagree and the appropriate grist for a representative government free of special interest manipulation can exist. As our conversation meandered, we saw some level of consensus on many things—nonpartisan redistricting, the need for comprehensive immigration reform, sensible gun control laws, deficit reduction.
We agree that the solution is a new campaign system that helps to neutralize the financial influence of predatory special interests – the Fair Elections Now Act. With Fair Elections, public office is more accessible to citizens without wealth or connections to it. We want to expand speech and replace a handful of bundlers with thousands of small contributors. Fair Elections would allow members of Congress to focus on the needs of their constituents, instead of worrying about their next campaign check.
We share distress at the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that threw out decades of common sense restrictions on corporate and union electioneering. Members of Congress already spend too much time raising campaign cash, giving constituents and the policy-making process short shrift. Now with the added fear of political reprisal from deep-pocketed special interests, the fundraising pressure will only increase. Congress’ first response, the Disclose Act, doesn’t go nearly far enough to fix this broken system.
No doubt we will find more areas of agreement as we continue to talk.
Our country faces many challenges and there are differing views on how they should be confronted. We might come from different backgrounds, but we both agree that members of Congress must start doing the work for which they were elected — to represent us. That won’t happen as long as they have to spend so much of their time dialing for dollars.
This is what two average citizens, looking from what at first seemed like different points on the political spectrum, discovered about ourselves when we looked past first impressions and simplistic media analyses. We were both relatively centrist when we got into the meat of the issues - sometimes liberal sometimes conservative. But certainly more aligned than the media would lead you to believe.
From Dale Robertson, Founder of the Modern Day Tea Party Movement and Paul Silver, Member of the Coffee Party Movement