This weekend I attended a “Day of Resistance” Rally in Sevierville, Tennessee and was not surprised to see mainly folks from the Tea Party movement in attendance. The event was part of a national movement in support of defending our rights under the Second Amendment in response to the national debate over proposed gun control legislation. While listening to the speakers and talking to people at the event, it occurred to me that this was another example of a worthwhile movement that lacked a strategy of creating a “win”.
Most of us are aware that there is quite a partisan divide in our country, but I believe those debates are clouding where the real philosophical debate is occurring and distracting us, as a nation, from finding opportunities to protect and improve our country.
Coming out of Washington D.C., the barbs and name-calling between Democrats and Republicans are in full force. At the national level, the Democratic Party is mainly controlled by those from progressive movement and Republican Party is controlled by a group that believes in a strong centralized government. But in the communities and in social media, the Tea Party movement, libertarians, conservatives and statists are engaged in the real debate over what type of government we want for our country.
I have been an active participant in the Tea Party movement since 2008 and have seen the movement get some big wins by sticking to the original idea of reducing the size of the federal government. Where I fault some in the movement is when the different thoughts within the movement begin to fight with each other and with those that identify themselves as libertarians or Republicans. Disagreement and debate in politics and government is essential, but when those disagreements turn into attacks and people walking away from the debate, you end up with all sides losing. It is time to stop this fighting and start winning.
On Fox Business Network’s show “Stossel” last week, the host John Stossel introduced guests from different political perspectives to a crowd of college-age libertarians. One exchange particularly highlighted the problem of discourse between conservatives and libertarians. Well known author and conservative Ann Coulter was challenged by a young libertarian on the question of legalizing marijuana. Coulter rejected the question by stating our problem is that we are in a welfare state and that legalizing marijuana at this time would only compound the problem. She also accused the libertarians of using the drug issue to win favor with their liberal friends. Her answer was quickly rejected by the crowd of young libertarians. The result of this kind of exchange will likely be the young libertarians dismissing any of Coulter’s arguments and Coulter will continue to admonish the libertarian movement for its insistence on putting the drug question out front.
Coulter and the young libertarians have many issues they can (and do) agree upon. Instead of finding common ground on those issues and working together, too many times the differences define the relationship. The same happens with the Tea Party vs Republicans, Republican vs libertarians and libertarians vs conservatives. Instead of looking for ways to create coalitions and consensus, we put a laser focus on our differences. And that is not a winning strategy.
I urge my friends that are conservative, libertarian, Republican and independent to keep up the debate. It helps us all define our beliefs and sharpen our thoughts. But let us all make a bigger and better effort to educate ourselves and others on the areas in which we agree. Let us all take those areas of agreement and turn them into action. Then we will all start winning.