The Tea Party and Move On: Finding Common Ground? No, Not Where It Matters

This was an interesting conversation. (The audio kicks in correctly at 1:30, so be patient)

First, I applaud the idea of not losing sight of the fact that we’re all human beings. As National Tea Party Patriots co-founder and Citizens for Self Governance founder, Mark Meckler, points out toward the end of the conversation, we shouldn’t objectify each other. I agree, and I humbly admit that I need to keep reminding myself about that.

He and Joan Blades, the co-founder of MoveOn and MomsRising.org, say they agree that there’s common ground on the PROBLEM of crony capitalism.

Unfortunately, it seems that we can add the SOLUTION of campaign finance reform to the list of things that are NOT common ground.

If you don’t want to listen to the whole discussion, go to the 38:50 mark. Listen to the question asked plus the one that follows. Listen to what Meckler says in response to both.

He says that he, like Lawrence Lessig, wants an Article V convention to amend the Constitution. He says he wants it, however, for completely different reasons than Lessig.

Meckler blames crony capitalism not on the people, corporations, and organizations buying our government today. He blames it on the size of government. He posits that private money is basically being driven by self-interest. He says they are motivated to corrupt government because government is so big and so ubiquitous that private money can hardly be blamed for wanting to influence it. This becomes especially apparent when the conversation turns to his belief in the “rational actor theory” and to a basic investment and business principle: return on investment.

He says (and I’m paraphrasing) that if we just shrink government – and I assume he means primarily the federal government – that we’ll see less corruption because the incentives for big money interests to funnel millions and even billions of dollars into the coffers of our elected officials will be diminished because the returns will be smaller.

This sounds to me like he’s exonerating Big Money. He seems to be saying that the government is just too big and too tempting a place not to “invest” in because the returns from those investments are just too attractive to resist.

That is a stunning position to take. It strikes me as blaming the victim instead of the criminal, and it reveals how Meckler presumably distinguishes between right and wrong.

Meckler also says that reforming campaign finance laws is futile. He says the money will just go further underground. So like David Brooks, Meckler doesn’t see the need to reform our campaign finance laws. And while he doesn’t make the distinction, one must conclude that Meckler thinks it’s futile regardless of the size of government.

Which brings me to the question I struggle with endlessly when it comes to finding common ground.

It’s what I call “the morning after” quandary. Now that we have common ground on the PROBLEM, what about the SOLUTION?

Let’s assume for a minute that everyone agrees that crony capitalism is a problem – the problem – that needs to be solved. Great. We now have common ground from which to work.

Now let’s assume we agree that the required action is to get 2/3 of the states to call for an Article V convention to amend the Constitution. We’re not at the solution yet, mind you, but we’ve agreed on an action.

Now here’s where principles, purposes, and goals begin to diverge.

People like Lawrence Lessig (and Move To Amend, Wolf-PAC, I, and lots of others) want to amend the Constitution to reverse Citizens United and McCutcheon in order to get big money and its corrupting influence out of government no matter the size of government.

Lessig (along with Represent.Us and lots of us) also want to significantly reform campaign finance laws through legislation like the American Anti-Corruption Act.

Mark Meckler disagrees. He says so himself.

So, we all work together to get to an Article V convention only to find ourselves in opposition as to what amendments are needed. Some of us want to take the corrupting money out of government, while others want to shrink government and its role in overseeing and regulating how that money is made.

It’s the morning after.

How am I supposed to consider Meckler an ally if we’re this far apart? Hasn’t there been enough conversation and debate yet to come to conclusions with certainty on both the problems and the solutions?

Meckler disagrees with Lessig. That’s his prerogative. Perhaps the question to ask is, “Which of them knows more about the fundamentals of the problems and which one of them has the solutions that will benefit the most Americans?”

They both can’t be right when they’re this far apart.

Joan Blades deserves only our admiration and respect for her approach and her work. She’s an inspiration. But, I’m getting more than a little tired of the left always being the ones who must listen and who must keep moving to the right just to try to find some kind of center or common ground. It’s time for the right to move to their left.

Bernie Sanders recently reminded us about just how radical the right and the GOP have become since the days when Charles Koch was a Libertarian vice presidential candidate who criticized Ronald Reagan for being too liberal. The dangerous ideas and ideology espoused back then have evolved into mainstream conservative and Republican dogma.

Meckler strikes me as simply a kinder, gentler face on it, and I hope people will see and understand that.

Agreeing on the problem is great, but it isn’t enough. There also has to be agreement on how to solve the problem; otherwise, the cure could easily end up being worse than the disease.

As for open dialog and civility, I’d be glad to have a living room conversation with Mark Meckler. He seems from the video to be a nice enough guy. I’d be happy to sit on his deck, have some wine, and look out over his neighbor’s vineyard.

Until the invitation arrives, I’ll just keep doing what I can to support people like Lawrence Lessig who are far more qualified to understand the problems and to know how to solve them than Mark Meckler.

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