I voted for the Tea Party & loved it
With its status as entertainment capital of the world, California has had a good run of making its elections as entertaining as say, a CW teen drama or maybe a late-night FX comedy.
Most everywhere else, voting is a series of bond measures and series of unimportant offices vied for by diligent public sector employees and the occasional local businessperson.
California however, knows how to put on a show. Porn stars, actors, politicians who operate under the delusion that they are Bruce Wayne (Sorry, Gavin!) and a cast of every crank this side of Fresno enliven our political debate.
Demon sheep and anti-immigrant rhetoric fill the airwaves and thanks to a government-crippling ballot initiative system, we get to weigh in on everything from marijuana legalization and gay marriage to which energy conglomerate gets to rape us first.
But even the most vote-happy of us can get bored at times (especially when you know that no matter who wins, the state is going nowhere fast), which is why as I headed to the polls today, I decided to vote as if I were a Tea Partier. And let me tell you, it felt great.
Now, let’s get a couple things clear: For the most part, I consider the Tea Party movement to be little more than a half-way home for unreconstructed racists, spoiled libertarians who want all the personal freedoms without any of the corresponding responsibilities and the sort of fat and lazy people who only deserve a place in the public discourse because every village needs an idiot.
And I understand that for some of you, choosing to vote for oh say, Steve Poizner for Governor, simply because I think he doesn’t stand a icicle’s chance in Mexico of surviving in the general election is somehow dishonest or even unpatriotic. Of course, this is an incredibly silly argument, but since we live in a hyper-partisan age, let me explain why.
In California, voters can affiliate with any political party, or if they choose to, they can vote independently, becoming a ‘decline to state voter’. Thanks to a ballot initiative, DTS voters can, should political parties allow them to, vote in party primaries, which is how I came to be a Republican for a day on Tuesday.
In the past, political parties were loathe to allow outsiders into their private party primaries for fear that jackasses like myself would hijack the vote, but with DTS and independent voters the most rapidly growing ‘demographic’ in the America electorate, both Republicans and Democrats have come to accept independent voters as a fact of life.
They may come to regret that decision. Of all the initiatives on the ballot, none scares political parties more than California’s Prop. 14, which seeks to et rid of party primaries altogether, essentially creating two elections— a primary mash-up of every candidate, followed by a general election of the two highest vote getters. This means, in theory, two Republicans or two Dems could be on the ticket come November. While just about every mainstream politician is against it (save Arnold Schwarzenegger), voters love the idea— the measure got 50% in the latest poll.
Which brings me back to my Tea Party roleplaying. While I loathe the Tea Party, I absolutely feel just as enraged as they do. The California state government is ungovernable thanks to ballot initiatives, our chronic refusal to raise property taxes and idiotic term limits that strip the legislature of the institutional memory needed to effect change.
No matter who wins the Governor’s race (Spolier Alert: It’s Jerry Brown, the one-time ‘Governor Moonbeam’ turned Attorney General), there’s no chance that the real problems facing California will be adressed, simply because there’s no mechanism for effecting those changes.
Add to that my general loathing of political parties in general. Republican’s love to quote from Washington’s Farewell Address when it comes to its defense of religion in public life, but it’s main point — that political parties lead to a factionalism that makes beating the other guy more important than creating responsive public policy and that this trend ultimately leads to tyranny — is resolutely ignored.
I take great pride in being an independent voter. You might call me fickle or unwilling to be a team player, but the evidence shows that the voter trend is away from political parties and towards a political free-for-all. Nobody’s thinking the GOP and the DNC are going anywhere, but if you really listen to the Tea Partiers and the Progressive Left, they are saying the same thing. They are tired of a politics dominated by two parties which seem more interested in protecting corporate interest over individual liberty and freedom.
The mainstream media (or in Palinese, ‘the lamestream media’) find this increasing radicalism worrisome, as if the nation will be ripped asunder by a country of old men who would like to literally whitewash the national mural of diversity, but while it’s not pretty, the fracturing of left and right seems to me an ultimately healthy thing for the country.
Whether you’re a religious fundamentalist or eco-loving green, you’re probably fed up with a government that promises you change, but fails to deliver. We’re a nation tired of being asked to compromise for a middle ground that seems to only exist in the boardroom’s of Wall Street and as the song says, ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.’
For most of America history, our nation’s political discourse has been fractious. De Tocqueville marveled at how our civics showed as much innovation and experimentation as our industry and while most of the Tea Party and Progressive experiments ought to wind up in the dust bin, they’re existence is preferable to complacency.
Unfortunately, it’s complacency which rules Sacramento and Washington, despite the economy, the environment, our infrastructure and our standing in the global economy. Is it any wonder the angriest man in the room holds our attention? Did my ‘tea party vote’ make a difference? Probably not, but it sure felt good — especially the part where I had the opportunity to vote for Orly Taitz for State Secretary. What? I think she’s just what the G.O.P needs.