"Does the Occupy Movement or the Tea Party best reflect the needs and goals of America?"
That was the debate question at CCU on Jan. 30 as an overflow crowd cheered, laughed, and occasionally hissed at the crossfire between former congressman Tom Tancredo and Colorado Springs activist Michelle Morin on the Tea Party side and Democratic legislators Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Daniel Kagan on the Occupy side.
More than 200 partisans of the two viewpoints (conservative for the most part) packed the Beckman auditorium for the 90-minute event, moderated by Centennial Institute Director John Andrews.
Video of the full program will be posted online later this week. Here is Tancredo's opening statement:
I begin by congratulating CCU and John Andrews for hosting this program. Our political season is largely devoid of good quality humor, and this debate question should get awards for political parody: Anyone who takes the “Occupy Movement” seriously as a force for fulfilling America’s destiny probably also believes Stephen Colbert is a serious political commentator.
Maybe in Greenwich Village, Hollywood and Boulder, but not in the America I know and love.
However, in a perverse way, the debate question is indeed a good jumping off place for a vigorous debate on “America’s needs and goals” because the differences between those two political forces are about as stark and extreme as you can find in politics today.
The debate may put a bright spotlight on the deep divide in America today, a divide between two radically different understandings of America---
And I mean more than differences over “needs and goals.” I mean deep differences over the very meaning of the Constitution, different concepts of our “core values,” and extremely different visions of what constitutes American greatness.
§ On the most obvious level, the Tea Party Movement began as a citizens' protest against high taxation and government debt, whereas the Occupy Movement wants even higher taxes and ENDLESS GOVERNMENT DEBT.
§ So which of THOSE visions do you think offers hope for America?
§ On the level of political activism and civil behavior, the Tea Party movement has followed and respected traditional American tools of protest—public rallies under legal permits, speeches, petitions, and organizing for political participation in caucuses, conventions, primaries and elections.
§ On the question of civic virtue and the rule of law, it is worth pointing out that at the HUNDREDS of Tea Party rallies across the country since the first ones in February 2009, conducted in full view of a critical and often hostile media, there was not one rape, one shooting, or one reported theft of property. YET, in the dozen or so OCCUPY movement’s tent cities, there have been several such crimes.
§ On the level of grassroots legitimacy versus “Astroturf choreography,” the Tea party Movement is as genuine a grassroots protest movement as we have seen since the Populist revolt of 120 years ago.
§ It is totally funded by local donations. Led by local citizens, young an old, and not coordinated by national funding or national structures. And its program of grassroots organizing and protests does not rely on or depend on media favoritism or messaging.
§ WHEREAS, BY CONTRAST, the “Occupy” movement is totally dependent on a fawning media to tell its story and gain a national audience.
§ The Occupy Movement explicitly rejects the traditional American means of protest and chooses -- instead—WHAT? –
§ The “Occupy Movement” chooses PHYSICAL VIOLENCE as its preferred means of protest, not petitions, not rallies, not speeches, not organizing for candidates in an election.
§ The very NAME of the movement – “OCCUPY” is a PHYSICAL assault, not a form of speech.
You see, behind the choice of its name and its choice of violent rhetoric, the “Occupy Movement” has made a choice to reject the basic institutions of American democracy.
Its primary tactic is not persuasive argument but physical threats and intimidation. We know where those tactics come from, and its called totalitarianism.
To the “Occupy” movement, all of these American institutions are illegitimate.
To the Tea Party Movement, by contrast, America is a nation with problems that can still be fixed and our basic institutions are still legitimate.
To the Tea Party Movement, our problem is to restore faith and adherence to basic values and core institutions that have been slowly undermined and weakened over the past decades.
In short, the Occupy Movement cannot claim to represent America’s needs and goals because it does not understand what America IS. And to the extent it does have any understanding of American values and institutions, it REJECTS them.
The contrast between the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party Movement is not a contrast between Republicans and Democrats, for I cannot believe all Democrats or even a majority of Democrats share the thoroughly socialist principles of the Occupy Movement.
I prefer the Tea Party Movement, which reveres the legacy of freedom and seeks to preserve and extend our freedoms, not further control our lives through an expanded and avaricious federal government as envisioned and championed by the Occupier–in-Chief, Barack Obama.