Tea and conversation

Chico Tea Party Patriots are conservative, all right, but not terribly angry

The word most commonly associated with the Tea Party movement is “angry.” Tea Partiers are often portrayed as riled up and confrontational and more likely to mock than listen to anyone who disagrees with their hardcore conservatism.

So, as a card-carrying liberal, I was a bit wary Nov. 23 when I walked into Scrambles, the north Chico restaurant where the Chico Tea Party Patriots hold their weekly meetings and had invited me to speak.

I needn’t have worried. I got a warm welcome from the two women at the door and was treated with disarming courtesy—introduced around, greeted with smiles and handshakes, and made to feel welcome among the 40 or so mostly older people present.

During the meeting, several members offered “watchdog” reports on political developments on the national, state and local level. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) took some lumps because on Nov. 18 he’d told a congressional subcommittee that he’d like the FCC to ban both FOX News and MSNBC. It was a foolish thing to say, not only because he was advocating censorship, but also because the FCC doesn’t regulate cable TV. The Tea Partiers squeezed as much outrage from it as they could. Not that they cared about MSNBC: “Its viewership is about as large as a C-Span hearing on soybean subsidies,” one man joked.

When it came time for me to speak, I told them I respected anyone, conservative or liberal, who became actively involved in the democratic process, as they have done. And I praised their charitable work—gathering toys for the Toys for Tots program, for example.

“Do you ever publish articles by conservative writers?” a man asked me. I replied that our Guest Comment and Letters sections were available to all readers, and that anyone was welcome to pitch story ideas. We’re always open to interesting, well-written stories, regardless of the author’s political beliefs, I said.

Another person wanted to know whether the Tea Party and I could find common ground. I said I thought so, adding for example that I agreed with them that Sen. Rockefeller’s comment about the FCC was stupid. I also said I agreed with the libertarians among them that the government shouldn’t be telling people what drugs they can and can’t put in their own bodies.

And so it went. We had a discussion. It was civil and interesting, very Chico-like. So much for stereotypes.

Good Causes Dept.: Supervisor Maureen Kirk reminds me that property-tax bills have gone out, which means it’s also time for people to check off a tax-deductible donation to the Frank Watters and Mary Anne Houx Children’s Fund. Since its inception in 1994, the fund has raised $535,680 to provide services to children and families in Butte County. It’s a worthy cause that honors two fine public servants, so please be generous. And join Supervisor Kirk and many others at the candlelight procession to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, in Children’s Park.