The Idiot: By Charles Robertson, Broward Tea Party Co-founder
By Charles Robertson, Broward Tea Party Co-founder
As I was walking through the parking lot, I noticed a license plate that said “Idiot”. I stopped in my tracks and thought for a moment. Yes this person was clearly an idiot; they had paid extra to proclaim that title. What struck me is how we are all defined. My bumper sticker says Broward Tea Party; “that’s me, political activist”. If we’re not labeled by our careers, then it’s our hobby or whatever we do with our free time that usually labels us. But for me, political activism is just a small part of who I am. I think its part of my civic duty and an important part of being a well-rounded person. “Don’t we all have this responsibility?” I’ve been thinking about American’s apathy toward politics and civic duty, wondering what has happened to us.
The Tea Party movement is understood by most as a spearhead force to counter liberalism. At our rallies, we hear the honking horns of support from others who see Us as the answer, but not themselves. We wear the title of activist which is something most people shun. They share our feelings of contempt for corrupt, greedy politicians. They share our fear of financial meltdown. They share our frustration at the continual onslaught of scandals and government gone wild. In fact, they share everything except our commitment and willingness to get involved! Their bumper stickers say soccer mom or I’d rather be fishing; that’s their identity. “Let the political activists fight the political battle, that’s our thing right?”
For many people, the act of voting is where their civic duty ends. Sadly for our country, there’s a large percentage that fail to meet even this minimal threshold. Voter turnout in Broward County’s last local election was 8.14%… less than 1 in 12 voters showed up! Then there are those who vote but always vote R or D regardless of the candidates or their platforms. Maybe, they’re too lazy to take the time to learn about the candidates. Maybe, they’re comfortable believing they are supporting a philosophy. Regardless of the reason, I’d prefer they join the group that doesn’t vote. Voting carries a responsibility to invest some time to learn who the candidates are and what they stand for. Civic duty calls for more than just the act of voting; it calls for people to stand up for causes that are important to them (or should be), to send a message to their Representative or Senators. This type of civic involvement has been declining for decades.
I’ve measured the decline in the number of displayed flags. There was a time in my neighborhood in Miami in the 60’s, it seemed everyone displayed the flag on holidays; that included the new influx of Cuban refugees who were eager to fit in and show their patriotism. In broken English, they would join in at school as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “God Bless America”. Patriotism was instilled. Then came the 70’s and our flag was being burned in protests by fellow Americans. Our generation, the “Baby Boomers”, had turned civic duty into a counter-culture attack on the system. Bumper stickers said, “Make Love not War” and “Flower Power”. Blaming America was cool and patriotism was suddenly passé. Last Memorial Day, I was hard pressed to find any flags flying in the neighborhood. To me, it was a symbol of our civic decline and a culture that takes it all for granted. The entitlement culture has taken hold… let’s all coexist.
Politically speaking, we’ve developed a society that doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and doesn’t care to know. When you add those traits together, you end up with elected officials like Alcee Hastings. Hastings, a former Federal Judge, was convicted of soliciting a bribe and committing perjury during his trial. The House Judiciary Committee approved seventeen articles of impeachment against Hastings which should have sealed his fate and ended his political career. Four years later in 1992, Hastings was elected to Congress in Florida’s Twenty-Third Congressional District. OK, for those who would vote for someone like Hastings, and there are plenty more like him, let’s break this down in real simple terms. People elect criminals. Elected criminals corrupt the system. People get used (polite term)…People blame government. People re-elect the criminal 10 times no less. This is stunning, unbelievable, ridiculous, and totally emblematic of the real problem. People succumb to the smooth talking con man again and again; character means nothing. It’s a form of masochism really, victims who complain about being victimized while making sure the victimizer stays put. The problem here is people. People who are just bright enough to find their way to the polls yet not quite sharp enough to understand how they’re being played.
“So how do you reach the uninformed and apathetic?” I think we’ve tried many of the traditional methods, now I think it’s time for the unconventional approach. Something targeted at the youth and at the very groups that Liberals dominate. We need something creative, something unexpected that will shake things up. I’m thinking bold, newsworthy, edgy, surprising, and most important – something that delivers our message with impact… memorable! This is where you, the brains of this operation come in. You’re the idea person and a great idea can lead to a great plan that can accomplish great things. The time has never been better to stir up support and awaken those who simply need a push. So bring it on, whatever your idea may be, an event, a head turning eye-opening billboard, a flash mob parade, a viral video. OK, now you see why I need your help. Send your ideas to me, no matter how crazy they seem. I’ll sort them out, confer with our BTP leaders and announce a winning plan of action in the next blog. Send ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org and for the subject use IDEA. Looking forward to what we can create, thanks.