WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011
UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL
To the Editor:
The Ukiah Valley Patriots sponsored a 12-week course on the U.S. Constitution this winter, from January 18 to April 5, using the Constitution and The Federalist [Papers] as texts. Ron Cannon was our instructor and class attendance varied from 39 to a hard core of 20 participants. Some of us were frankly amazed at the willingness of so many to grapple with a not so easy to read 18th Century Founding American text: it was a group of mostly middle aged to elderly Americans, many of them with jobs and families to support who took time out from their busy lives to take a class for no credits other than to have a better understanding of their country’s founding documents. Many interesting and stimulating discussions ensued and despite a recent disparaging Letter to the Editor from Robin Sunbeam (March 7, 2011, “Feeling Powerless”) there was a lot less spin in that class than there generally is from our so-called Mainstream Media.
Although a majority of the participants were either tea party members or conservatives, several progressives also participated and always felt welcome to contribute their point of view. To say the least, they were always cordial but never shy about expressing their differences of opinion. One can only hope that one day American institutions of “higher learning” could be as respectful of diverging points of view.
The reason we’re writing this letter is to counter certain misrepresentations in Ms. Sunbeam’s letter about both the Constitution Class and the tea party movement. First of all, although Ms. Sunbeam did attend one tea party meeting, ostensibly to check us out, she never attended a single Constitution Class meeting. Therefore, she has no evidence whatsoever to conclude that “[t]hey are teaching a class on the Constitution that spins it into a charter for free enterprise rather than a charter to protect individual and collective rights.” We might add that while the Bill of Rights was added to protect individual rights, there was very little in the Constitution to promote free enterprise or collective rights, unless by that term, Ms. Sunbeam means State’s Rights. The Constitution was mainly a founding document to increase the power of the central government after the Articles of Confederation had failed to produce a viable national government, according to the logic of the Founders. But the Constitution also limited and dispersed power in a tripartite Federalist system; or in other words, it was a document that limited the power of a central government to ride rough shod over the rights of individual Americans and the several states. Of course, it was a far from perfect document, but with seventeen Amendments since the original Bill of Rights, it has withstood the test of time.
As to Ms. Sunbeam’s misrepresentations of the tea party movement: it appears that she gets all of her information from far left blogs or news programs. There has been a concerted effort on the part of the left to portray the tea party as a bunch of wild eyed radicals or “extremists,” as the recent gaffe made by Senator Schumer makes abundantly clear, when in reality they are mostly like our local tea party group of middle and working class Americans. While Ms. Sunbeam claims that tea party participants “eat up the twisted lies being told to them by the Koch-trained liars,” most members of the tea party have never heard of the Koch Brothers and certainly aren’t trained by them (the last I heard, the Koch’s were funding the libertarian Cato Institute). It may be disconcerting to Ms. Sunbeam that the tea party is not a monolithic organization that can be summed up in talking point catch phrases like “trained by the Koch brothers” or “neocon fascists.” (I’ve generally assumed that when people run out of coherent arguments they resort to name-calling, misrepresentations, and distortions.) No, the tea party is not even one organization, but rather a loose consortium of grass roots organizations made up mostly of middle and working class Americans. One thing we share in common is a love for our country as well as a generally shared belief that our country has gone off the rails under the leadership of both political parties, as well as the business and media elites that think they know what's best for us while they bankrupt the country. Quite frankly, if that’s the best they can do, we’d be better off without them.
While numerous Republican operatives and perennial candidates have jumped aboard the tea party bandwagon, the tea party is not the Republican Party. Even so, it has been a leftist tactic to conflate the tea party with the Republican Party, one day blaming the tea party “extremists” for forcing the Republicans into holding the line on the debt limit, while on the next day, blaming the tea party for all the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Administration. The truth of the matter is that the Republican Party establishment is not all that thrilled about the challenges from the tea party as anyone who keeps track of current events is sure to know. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been feckless and fiscally irresponsible, but the fact of the matter is, there has been a lot more willingness on the part of disgruntled conservatives and libertarians to tackle the problem of deficit spending and our monstrous national debt, which made it tactically more feasible for the tea party to challenge the status quo in the Republican primaries, rather than the Democratic majority in 2010. As an example of why this is so, just look at the current budget battles in Congress. The tea party movement has pressured Boehner into proposing $61 billion in cuts from a budget of $3.7 trillion: That comes out to about 1.6 percent, not enough to make much of a dent, but about double what the Congressional Democrats are proposing, and as for Obama’s “tough cuts,” one would need a microscope to find them. When will the political leadership in this country finally become serious about dealing with our debt and budget woes? Before the nation goes bankrupt and the dollar is worthless, or are they waiting for an even bigger crash than 2008? Finally, we might add, most tea party members did not favor bail outs for the Wall Street scoundrels that got us into the current financial mess, unlike the political establishments for both major parties, so one might ask, who really is beholden to those Ms. Sunbeam calls the “filthy rich”?
P.S. Ms. Sunbeam finally attended the last Constitution Class meeting. We think she enjoyed the intellectual give and take, and hopefully, she now has a more accurate perspective about the class, and the fact that we’re not all a bunch of “Koch-trained” dupes, whatever that means.
Mark Amagi, Redwood Valley
Lou and Betty Morgan, Ukiah
Dave and Kathy Lowe, Redwood Valley
Mike and Brenda Smith, Willits
Ron and Katherine Cannon, Ukiah
Duane and Deborah Grilli, Ukiah
Dave Olson, Philo