They tell us we are a democracy. They tell us that we elected representatives who then advocate for the interests and well-being of their constituents, the voters—the people.
But our elected officials are following a radical agenda that would dismantle the government, depriving millions upon millions of Americans of needed services and safeguards, including healthcare. Furthermore, the administration of the 45th US president is enacting a white supremacist agenda while consolidating power into a fascist stronghold.
And the people are voicing their discontent like they have not done in generations.
All elected officials have a duty to listen to their constituents. This is called representative democracy, what they tell us we have. Instead, they are trying to silence constituents’ voices and words by portraying us as bullies, as radicals, as crazy—essentially, gaslighting us. They are attempting to discredit us because we are alarmed by what’s happening. They are portraying us as unreasonable and beyond the pale of public opinion.
This is what they say when they take part in town halls or allow their staff to answer their office phones—as many GOP elected officials are now refusing to take part in town halls and have stopped answering calls from their constituents.
Disparaging protestors for exercising their First Amendment rights and taking an active part in our own democracy speaks only to the truth of our criticisms. But it is also a form of abuse—refusing to listen to the people they have sworn to represent and instead disparaging them is an abuse of power.
And as usual, the GOP memory is short: these tactics of speaking directly and passionately to one’s elected officials have been taken straight from the Tea Party playbook. If it’s good for the goose, then it’s good for the gander, right?
Tea Party tactics are aggressive and encourage what is essentially intimidation. They got the attention of the GOP because (1) their forcefulness eclipsed all other voices, which also means that many people who deserved to be heard were drowned out and their needs ignored, and (2) they were advocating for elected officials to go further down a path that many of those officials were already on; they were not demanding their representative completely change course and veer far afield of their party’s agenda.
Are these tactics really what we want to do? Is this our most effective means to, at minimum, halting the white supremacist, fascist, relentless agenda of 45 and the GOP?
(I don’t have answers to these questions, by the way.)
The Tea Party of ten years ago is different from today’s progressive resistance movement. Ten years ago was a very different cultural and political climate from today’s sensationalistic, mud-spewing, struggling-to-woke-the-masses movement. Our relationship to the elected officials we’re trying to influence is different from the Tea Party’s relationship to the elected officials of their heyday.
Should we be creating our own tactical playbook not only to win these political battles (or at least score a draw) but also to change the narrative about the power of the people, the potential of building a truly compassionate society, reinforced by a government that enacts principles of empathy and communal growth?