What’s with the Tea Party?

David Brooks has one of the best columns he’s ever written in today’s New York Times, chastising the Republican extremists for destroying the party, debasing conservatism, and ignoring the principles that democracy is founded on.  He reminds us that

“Politics is the process of making decisions amid diverse opinions. It involves conversation, calm deliberation, self-discipline, the capacity to listen to other points of view and balance valid but competing ideas and interests.”

In other words NOT what the Tea Party is doing. Ah, the Tea Party!  What can you say about that restive group of our fellow citizens?  It was founded with some worthy goals, but the tea party we’ve been invited to seems to be not so much Paul Revere’s and Sam Adams’ as the Mad Hatter’s and March Hare’s.  Surrounded by those who seem hell-bent on dragging us through the rabbit hole into Wonderland, you have to applaud the “No Labels: Problem Solver Convention” that took place just up the road in Manchester, NH yesterday, where sensible politicians like Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman invited the candidates to talk about what they would do to fix things as opposed to hurling invective.  Ted Cruz did not attend.

Our country was founded on compromise when the big states and the small states agreed to a two-house Congress, but compromise has become anathema to some of the Republican Radicals who would rather see the government grind to a halt than give an inch to the other side. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of my favorite movies, but, folks, it’s time to get rid of the filibuster, that tactic that allows a minority, or even a single individual to hold the government hostage.  Let’s get on with it and pass a budget!

It might also be time for a change in our two-party system with its winner-take-all elections.   In many other parts of the world they have proportional representation with small parties represented in the legislatures, forcing the creation of coalitions that must work together to govern.   As Italy will attest it’s not a perfect system, but it’s more democratic, and thanks to the Tea Party, we could be on the road to jettisoning the two-party system anyway.   As Brooks’ article demonstrates, the more moderate conservatives are fed up and heartily wish these pesky interlopers would go away.  Perhaps they ought to purge the Radicals from the party as the Bolsheviks did to the Mensheviks back in the good old days of revolutionary fervor. Or would the Tea Party purge them? If they did, perhaps that would spur the kind of change I’m talking about: the traditional Republicans would see their star waning to the vanishing point unless they changed the way the votes are counted and the seats divided up.   The same thing could be brewing on the Democratic side with the support for Bernie Sanders growing.   Is it time for a Socialist Party with more than one member in Congress?

Could we ever get rid of the filibuster and winner-take-all elections?  There is probably about the same chance as there is at repealing the Second Amendment, so in the meantime, welcome to Wonderland.

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