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Monday, October 24, 2016

I am pleased to report the sighting of an artifact so rarely seen among Democrats that it has become the stuff of legend and conjecture, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. It is called a spine.

Said spine was briefly glimpsed a little over a week ago at a “jobs summit” in Inglewood, Calif., in the person of Rep. Maxine Waters. “I’m not afraid of anybody,” the California Democrat said. “… And as far as I’m concerned, the ‘tea party’ can go straight to hell.”

Her words left the Tea Party Patriots sputtering about the need to play nice. “The president and all leaders of the Democratic Party, who have called for civility in the past, are neglecting to censure their own,” the group said, according to The Washington Post. “Is civility only required from their opponents?” Which is funnier than a Bill Cosby monologue, coming from the folks who turned town hall meetings into verbal brawls and threw rocks through windows because they opposed health-care reform.

I intend no blanket lionization here of Rep. Waters, who is the object of a protracted ethics probe and whom I have for years privately dubbed “Mad Max,” in both consternation and admiration of her feistiness. Moreover, as hypocritical and self-serving as the Tea Party Patriots’ statement is, it is also correct: telling people to go to hell is about as uncivil as it gets. I could never, in ordinary times, applaud such conduct.

But no one will ever mistake these for ordinary times.

These are, rather, times in which the nation’s civic dialogue, the ordinary political business of give and take, has been made hostage to the whims of a loud, incoherent minority that has used its very extremism as a weapon. Seventy percent of us, according to a Gallup poll, think both tax increases and spending cuts ought to be used to reduce the budget deficit. That reasonable, balanced approach was not a part of the debt ceiling deal because the tea party threatened, credibly, to push the nation into default rather than allow it.

Republicans have been shamefully complaisant toward this behavior, unable to produce a stateswoman — or man — willing to stand up for the simple idea that one should put national welfare above ideological purity.

Democrats have been their usual hapless, communicatively-challenged selves, the congressional equivalent of the kid in school who walks around all day with “Kick Me” taped to his back, then wonders why people keep kicking him.

The need of a viable third party has seldom been more apparent. What is lost here, though, is not simply points for a given party but, rather, our very ability to compromise, which is, after all, the soul of politics. Nor, obviously, will Waters’ intemperate remark do anything to bring that ability back.

But it does acknowledge a reality President Obama refuses to accept: compromise requires a partner. When the other party’s bottom line is that you fail, when that is the opponent’s prime directive, the most important item on their agenda, then you lack both that partner and any basis for negotiation.

To put that another way: after you have reasoned with the bully, bargained with the bully, tried to appease the bully, sometimes the only remaining option is to punch the bully in the nose.

That’s what Maxine Waters just did. Good for her.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at [email protected])

  • Christian and Liberal

    Most of what the tea party stands for is not in accord with what Jesus taught, so it is possible that if Ms. Waters wishes for the tea party to go to hell she may indeed have that wish fulfilled. No one who advocates taking away from the poorest people in a society and giving more to the wealthiest can truly worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That is not in accord with the example that Jesus set for us and is not in accord with what Jesus taught. If what they are doing to the least in our nation is what they are doing to Jesus, I would not care to be in their shoes on the Judgement Day. Bravo for Ms. Waters and a dobule hex on the tea party!

  • peteserb

    To bad all she has is a spine. If she had a brain to go along with it, it may help her.

  • Ted Bayer

    Congress hasn’t passed a balanced budget, literally in years. The government has for the third year in a row, spent over a trillion $$s more than it had been authorized to collect in the form of taxes. The politicians in both Parties have been recklessly spending to buy votes and campaign contributions. Now, more than half the people don’t pay income taxes. The super wealthy pay little in taxes and are massively subsidized with corporate welfare from the federal government. The middle class pays the for the government. And what is the answer from our current leaders to the overspending problem? Tax the small business owners that make $200,000+/year even more, while outright lying by calling it a tax on the wealthy?

    And let’s add insult to injury by caling them, the middle class of small entrepreneurs that work their butts off to create jobs for those collecting extended unemployment benifits, “those more fortunate”. The super rich bankers that have inherited their wealth and get bailed out with trillions of $$s and those truly fortunate enough to be cared for and not have to work can’t cut back a little?

    Meanwhile our leaders start another war to ovethrow Libya for “humanitarian” reasons, when the war is a clear power and profit grab for the super rich with lobbyists.

    Finally some people who have paid and paid all of their lives, and election after election see promises broken and are being ignored by their govenment, stand up and say “stop spending so much money” – “you can’t borrow any more money that will have to be paid back by our children”. You could suggest that the goverment end some wars to save some money, or they could simply cancel the paper debt to the Federal Reserve to buy some time to get a balanced budget together, but instead you call them a bully and endorse the very representatives that have ignored them and bullied them for years to “go to hell”?

    How long must the people be silent slaves to generational debt before they can speak up and say “no more” before they won’t be smacked down by the political class?

    It sounds to me like the real bully is trying to silent the real victims by shouting them down and calling them the bully.

  • DorisEdwards

    I am tired of people saying that a 3rd party is needed. When are we going to stop running into the same old wall over and over again? That wall is not going to give. A 3rd party is not the answer. A 3rd party, if it ever become strong enough, will fall into the same mess that we see in Washington today. In order to get anything pass they have to play the same old established game in Washington. We, Americans, need to just own up to the real problem, us. Regardless of what party you belong to, the problem is us, simply us. We all need to wake up and pay attention. We need to start with our representatives and hold their Axx to the fire. They were elected to represent us and if they fail to do the work that we hired them to do, In the words of Donald Trump “they are fired”. I suggest that we widen the responsibilities of our city counsels to become the voice for their constituent, to meet with their counsel members to consolidate the will of the people. Once consolidated, it should be brought to the representatives for their state. We need to forget about what is being reported in the news, they are only sound bites and are often telling half truths. The burden should be put square on the shoulders of the representatives. They should be sending out reports to us, to keep us informed as to what is really going on and what they are doing. After all, they are working for us. My boss expects me to keep him inform as to the progress of my department, our representatives need to do the same. We should require them to put out news letters to us to keep us abreast of their performance. If You were a manager, Director or CEO, you would require your direct reports to do the same. As it stands now, they never report back to us, we only think we know what he or she is doing. So lets stop beating around the bush here, and demand that they do their job. A 3rd party is not the answer, let’s either get our representative to do their job or get fired. When they see that we mean business, then and only then will you see action. The time for the party in control need to stop, let’s put the control back in the hands of the people.

  • spamonwry

    The repugs call for civility? I seem to recall a certain VP – you know, the war-criminal one – who, on the floor of the US Senate, told a Senator, F*** You! The Tea Partiers and their vitriol spewing leaders, who pillory President Obama daily in their ill-disguised racism, calling him every epithet they can think of, are hardly ones to demand civility. You wanna see incivility? Turn to the Faux News(?) channel for a few minutes to be exposed to levels of hatred spewing from the “personalities” there. The one exception appears to be Shepard Smith; the others are hatemongers and advocates of violence against anyone to the left of the John Birch Society. I guess rabble-rousing attracts viewers. Shame on our media!!