woody_zimmerman_118_2007Around Washington, DC, where I live, both sides of the political aisle are upset with the Tea Party. Democrats are mad because Tea Partiers kept them from getting a “clean” increase in the debt ceiling – i.e., the Tea Partiers refused to raise the ceiling without getting an agreement on cuts in spending. The TP hung tough on new taxes, too, refusing to approve any bill increasing them. This directly contravened President Obama’s demand, as late as July 28th, that new “revenues” must accompany any spending cuts. Mr. Obama was made to back down, very publicly, on this requirement. Neither he nor his party leaders took that very kindly. Undoubtedly, we have not heard the last of it.

Republicans, on the other hand, were much aided by the strong support of the new Tea Party Caucus. In both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Tea Party members almost certainly kept GOP leaders from making the kind of “deal” they normally would have made – e.g., a cave-in on taxes and a mere gesture (or perhaps none) on spending cuts. Both Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell appeared ready to do essentially that at one point, but in the end they did not – a development that must certainly be marked down as a “W” on the Tea Party’s score-sheet. Yet there is muttering from some Republicans on how this all played out, leading one to conclude that not all are entirely happy with the emergence of this new power-bloc in the Congress. Some noses are obviously out of joint.

But the Republican Old Guard’s disgruntlement about the Tea Party’s intrusion onto their turf is nothing next to the other side’s fury. Democrats and their media fellow-travelers are beside themselves. Following the signing of the debt-ceiling deal by President Obama, Vice President Biden met with Democrat congressional leaders to discuss how the entire process went down. During that discussion, Mr. Biden allegedly said that Tea Partiers in the Congress had “acted like terrorists” during the debt-ceiling negotiations. (The vice president now denies that he said what others in the room heard him say.)

This was, of course, only the continuation of Democrats’ two-year narrative claiming that Tea Party opposition to Mr. Obama springs entirely from racism, and that the Tea Party movement is a latently violent branch of the Klan. Media’s frequent intimations that Tea Partiers are dangerous white racists and ignorant yahoos, however, have never been supported by any hard evidence. Indeed, the charge becomes laughable, once one sees footage of the crowds of white-haired grandmas, well-dressed housewives and businessmen, and bevies of bright young people. Yet the tale spins on.

Today I heard an audio clip from a major news network which featured an “expert” on addiction who likened Tea Partiers to “addicts.” They were, he said, fixated on an unattainable delusion – much like drug-addicts’ pursuit of the delusion that they can achieve nirvana through drugs. Addicts will do anything – including violence – to obtain their drugs. Just so, said the expert, Tea Party people might become violent when their delusion is threatened or denied. Translation: Tea Partiers are not only potentially violent, but potentially violent addicts – sort of “political crack-heads,” one might say.

When I heard this statement, I thought it must be a comedy spoof. But evidently it was not. It was simply a new liberal offensive in the continuing campaign to discredit politicians who were legitimately elected by voters to bring riotous federal spending under control. Their delusion (according to Democrats): that government should stop spending money it doesn’t have. (What a crazy idea!)

More than once I have observed in this column-space that we live in alarming – even dangerous – times. I say this not because factions in our nation hold differing views on political issues – as they ever have done – nor even because those factions call each other wrong or foolish, but because for the first time in living memory some factions are smearing those with whom they disagree as wicked or mentally deranged. This is different from correctly labeling practices and movements which are clearly evil. (Terrorist organizations that strap bombs to children and murder innocent people come to mind.) It is right to call them what they are, and it would be wrong to mislabel them as “heroes of the people,” etc.

In the Old Testament book of Isaiah (chapter 5, verses 20 and 21), we read words written to the Israel of 2500 years ago. They speak to our time, too, and we need to heed them:

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight!”

There was a terrible time in America when the great wrong of slavery sparked a civil war that rent the nation. Although that war cost a vast fortune of treasure and shed rivers of blood, the wisest among us did not label those who started and continued the war as wicked or insane. Indeed, some of the Confederacy’s strongest and ablest defenders were ultimately seen by all Americans as champions of the nation’s noblest impulses. In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln said of the warring factions:

“Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully…”

Nowhere in his masterful speech did President Lincoln call the people of the South “wicked” or “insane,” or impugn their character in any way. Plainly, he thought they were wrong in the course they had chosen, and he acted to oppose them. But he insisted that both sides had acted honorably upon their beliefs.

Today, I and millions of my fellow Americans believe the policies of this current administration are misguided. We think our political leaders are mistaken in their actions. We oppose those policies and actions; we seek to reverse them; and we intend to do all we can to replace that leadership. But most of us do not think those leaders are wicked or insane. Perhaps some leaders have impure or unworthy motives, but we cannot know that. We look on the outside; only God knows the heart.

Just so, those who oppose our views have no license to impugn our character or sanity. I wish to hear no more of such talk – certainly not from the vice president of the country, nor from any public spokesman of either our government or the public media. This is poisonous discourse. It is a wicked thing to do in a free land where genuine heroes once contended honorably on fields of combat for differing principles.

We’re better than this. Enough is enough.