David Reynolds: Coffee or tea?

Which shall it be? You say that calling yourself a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent is just fine with you. But those parties are over. Happy days are not here again. Party lines have become blurred. Everyone is serving the same shrimp. We want clear choices to feed on.

So we stayed home. No more old party labels for us. They were not sticking to the new issues. Don’t those pols know that this is a new century, a new political era where old solutions don’t move us? And that we are tired of doublespeak by incumbents – of both parties!

Now there seems to be just two party labels – the IN’s and the OUT’s. Just examine your navel. All that matters is whether a candidate is in office or out of office. If in, throw the rascal out; if out, put the rascal in.

But deep down in our political hearts we know that doesn’t work. People will always lean one way or the other. Try walking straight down an independent road. Its hard with baggage. And we all carry baggage. We have ties to family, school, home, friends, church, job, race, gender – you name it. Pollsters examine these ties for they determine to a large degree how we cast our ballots.

That means that all that is left is culture. We are in a cultural war. It is no longer the left against the right, liberals vs. conservatives. It is an elite governing class versus everyone else. And everyone else is “Mad as Hell.” That’s the title of pollster Scott Rasmussen’s new book which seeks to explain why the political and media elite have overlooked the people. Sound familiar?

So what have we done to try to keep from not stepping on more of you know what? Crazy as it seems, we created two new parties. There is now a Tea Party and a Coffee Party, two very loose organizations which attempt to hide elephants and donkeys in their closets.

Go to a meeting. It’s easy. Both groups have local chapters which meet in Lexington, the tea drinkers at the regional library and the coffee sippers at the old court house.

Stop by the regional library the second Tuesday of the month. You will see a room full of ordinary folks, maybe a neighbor or two, cooly sitting there. But don’t be fooled. They are hot under the collar. They hear all about the Constitution and the names of those who signed it. It tends to be repetitive. Sleepy stuff. But what always wakes them up is what unites them, the D-word, debt – too much 21st Century government spending. The Tea Party is in love with the 18th Century.

Over at the new meeting room at the old courthouse (do I have that right?), there is another group that meets regularly. It is the Lexington Coffee Party. Attendance is smaller. It has the air of a college faculty meeting. There, too, are presentations on government, these in more scholarly detail. Maybe the coffee drinkers are looking for the devil in the bottom of their cups. On the other hand (as they like to say in academic circles), the Coffee Party is of the 21st Century. After all, they created it.

Both meetings are conducted with civility. Both put sugar in their favorite beverage. Why, I don’t know. Its a mystery to me why they feel compelled to sweeten their strong views.

And the winner is . . . envelope please. The Tea Party! Why? It’s the spending, stupid. And as we said, it is a cultural war. The masses always win. They have the numbers.

On a recent Sunday talk show (ABC’s This Week) a leading liberal commentator (Robert Reich) described the views of Republicans and tea drinkers as “emotional, out of touch, irrational, unnecessarily fearful.” He’s right! But he is also laying the foundation for Democrats to fall flat on their elite swords come November 2.

Here’s the irony. Long, long ago, way back in 2008, we elected a president because a majority of those under 40 felt that he would give the nation a new feeling of hope. He had the “Audacity of Hope.” Now his party is accusing the other party of doing the same – giving in to their feelings without thinking through the issues. Is turnabout fair play? In politics everything is fair play.

There’s more irony: In spite of what happened in Boston Harbor in 1773, Americans are finally acquiring a taste for tea.

Column by David Reynolds.

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