Keep the tea Kool-Aid-free: Five stupid conservative tactics that serve the media's narrative
By Christian Hartsock
Having done video coverage of almost 50 tea parties in over 45 cities in 25 states, it's safe to say I know the tea party well. And as a 23-year-old coming from a generation primarily influenced by mainstream media, I believe the mainstream media's lampooning and stigmatizing of our movement, while nefarious yet somewhat successful, has not been achieved entirely without some cooperation on our part. I believe in our movement, and believe we will win in November, but if we lose, here are five reasons why.
First: Let's not overdo it with the 18th century costumes. While festive and somewhat thematically appropriate, it doesn't speak to my generation, and often begs the mainstream media to caricaturize us as Halloween-padded fringe throwbacks. We can all agree on restoring the constitutional vision of our founding fathers, but restoring their fashion sensibilities? You will have to call me a progressive on that one.
Second: A convenient tea party mantra has been the presumptuous, and seemingly amnesiac notion that President Obama "betrayed the American people," that "We the People have spoken and never wanted Obama's policies."
Obama made his agenda clear during his campaign: He promised to socialize health care, to push for cap and trade, to implement tax policies that would "spread the wealth around," he equated redistribution of wealth with "neighborliness," supported the 2008 Wall Street bailouts, demonstrated his faith in Keynesian economics, his class warfare mentality, his distrust for the free market.
We the People were given these promises and facts, and We the People elected Barack Obama president by a 7 percent margin. Period. In fact, many of the promises the left held Obama to were broken, including his promise to preserve bans on offshore drilling, to close Guantanamo, to pass an immigration bill in the first year, and to pass the Freedom of Choice act, among other things. Thus the president has even fallen shy of satisfying his most liberal supporters.
To trumpet this narrative makes conservatives seem like sore losers in denial, and to threaten a "second revolution" with upside-down flags as a reaction to losing a fair election speaks more about a general bitterness towards the electoral process itself which is inconsistent with our supposedly superlative support for the constitution.
Third: Obama's "Muslim faith" is not a winning issue. Since eye-opening footage of Obama touring a mosque in Turkey and shocking soundbites of him pandering to Muslims (much the same way Bush did) hardly constitutes proof, it would behoove me to insist that the burden of proof is on those that trumpet this charge. But even more pressing is the burden of proving why moderates should consider this worthy of the term "charge." Most who embrace our conservative ideals will have a few questions about the difference between the Muslim way to veto a spending bill and the Christian way to veto a spending bill.
The issue raised by this "issue" is not the president's, it's ours. Frightful imaginings of American intifada may be conjured in the minds of the few who have never met a civilized Muslim and are unaware that there happens to be a difference between Faisal Shahzad and Ice Cube, but amongst moderates and independents, even more frightful imaginings of paranoid xenophobia on our part are likely to arise. The only eyebrows raised over claims of Obama's "Muslim faith" are not at Obama, they are at us.
Fourth: The incessant nitpicking of the president has got to stop. As a teenager during the previous administration with few political beliefs but a belief in basic human decency, the pathological hatred and obsessive scrutiny of George Bush's every move spoke volumes to me about an opposition with a deficit of decency and an oozing, unconditional bitterness that was disturbingly viral. This was the first observation that had me veering right. Thus, CNBC's Larry Kudlow hosting a panel discussion on the president's choice to give a departing Rahm Emanuel a "weakness"-projecting hug rather than a "dignified" handshake, and FOX News' Sean Hannity running a segment about Obama's choice to order French Dijon mustard on his cheeseburger rather than American ketchup begins to sound an unpleasant echo.
Fifth: The apocalyptic end-of-the-republic-as-we-know-it rhetoric, while possibly true, probably makes moderates feel they are being put on and reinforces the right's reputation for fear-mongering, and most importantly, deludes our message. The most effective communication of the conservative message today has come from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who speaks directly to an issue with matter-of-fact reasoning and a down-to-earth demeanor and without any apparent need for a green-screened lightning bolt behind him with thunderbolt sound effect cues. He will explain to an initially indignant union teacher why balancing the budget required a 1.5 percent payroll deduction and have her nodding in agreement by the end of his explanation, and will manage to do so without a long-hanging cravat and full-bottomed wig and without sounding the seven trumpets.
The beautiful simplicity of the conservative message risks getting muffled in a chorus of intellectual dead end mantras and mouth-foaming contrarianism. It has been made clear whom we stand against, but not what we stand for. Our message is simple: That the sole purpose of government is the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice, and that when government ventures beyond these functions, it accumulates power, which diminishes liberty; that when it interferes with the work of the market economy, it reduces the strength of the nation; and when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both.
I'm confident most in my generation would embrace our message if they simply knew it was that simple, and could hear it more audibly over the screaming about Obama's Muslim faith, the hyena-like cackling over his every move, the beating of the drums and the battle cries for the coming revolution.
Besides, Dijon mustard tastes alright.
Christian Hartsock is a filmmaker, columnist, and activist. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production from Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. Christian is a leader in Young Americans for Freedom and is Editor-in-Chief of PoliticalVanguard.com, the website published by California Republican Party Vice Chair Tom Del Beccaro, and is a producer/correspondent for RightNetwork. He was born in Oakland, California and currently resides in Los Angeles.