Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tea Parties, Media Lies, and Small Business

I recently joined LinkedIn, a social networking site for business professionals. I have been amazed at the variety of interests that it has attracted, including this query posted by a businessman:

”I just watched a town hall type show moderated by Glenn Beck with the audience made up of folks who attended tea parties all over the US. Quite enlightening really. The crowd was quite a cross section of race, occupation, age, political idealogy, etc. Not at all what I've seen/heard portrayed in the main stream media. ”Anyone else see this show and/or have any thoughts?

”Also ..... I'm particularly interested in views/opinions on how the Tea Parties represent small business concerns/issues. If you have any comments on that specific aspect please chime in. “

The writer than added what LinkedIn calls a “clarification” after he received some incredibly vitriolic comments about talk-show host Glenn Beck:

”Please try to keep your answers professional and respectful in tone. Having an "opinion" is fine but express it appropriately. Thanks.”

Here is my explanation:

The tea parties reflect an emerging trend that is changing the way Americans view their politics. Traditionally, we have looked at "left" (Democrats, liberals, advocates for proactive government) vs. "right" (Republicans, conservatives, advocates for limited government). Those labels worked reasonably well prior to 1980; but with the rise of Ronald Reagan, the Republican agenda became confused -- the party no longer supported just limited government, but also a range of issues promoted by the Religious Right. This then morphed into what we now call "neo-conservatism", which allowed for a proactive government as long as it supported either an aggressive military posture or Religious Right values.

We are now at a point where the Republican Party (and technically, I am still a Republican) has become intellectually bankrupt, possibly beyond all repair. This leaves many Americans who favor limited government without a credible political home. It also has led to us viewing the political landscape not as a linear Liberal-Conservative continuum, but as a spatial one with the other axis being Statist-Libertarian. [This typology is based on the work of David Nolan.]

The followers of President Obama might fairly be described as liberal statists; those of John McCain as conservative statists; some of the very strong environmentalists as liberal libertarians; and the followers of Ron Paul as conservative libertarians. I also attended the tea party in Columbus, and found that the people were normal American citizens who simply want to return the country to a place where people can take responsibility for their own lives, without having government tax and regulate all incentive for personal growth out of them.

I personally don't care what media or what personalities support or oppose the tea parties -- the important thing is that the voice of their participants be listened to. While small businesses are as diverse in their concerns as the products and services they offer, I understand the principal concerns of small business, generally, are excessive taxation and regulation that tends to discriminate against small business owners (but often favoring large corporations). These concerns are almost in perfect alignment with the goals of the tea party movement.

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