In Colorado this year, a lot of politicians have made news catering to local Tea Party groups in particular and embracing the Tea Party anti-government spirit more generally. Although the Tea Parties began the year touting independence, as the months have worn on and as the polling data has piled up, it has become clear the Tea Party movement is made up of mostly far-right Republicans. In Colorado, as elsewhere, the Tea Parties support no Democratic candidates and have overwhelmingly embraced mainstream Republican candidates. They attack Democrats as a whole. Democratic politicians here have returned the favor by mostly avoiding discussing the movement in any direct way.
At a gay-rights event in Denver, Bennet said the views espoused by members of the Tea Parties denied the history of government that helped create the vast infrastructure that supports American life as they know it. He called the views nihilistic and irresponsible.
“Who do you think built the road that you traveled here on? Who do you think built the bridges and the sewers and the waste-water systems and invested in the higher education system that we now have. They built that stuff from scratch!… Our parents and our grandparents. And we can’t even maintain it?
“…But everyone here, we’re the ones who need to continue this advocacy and make sure we don’t give over our town halls and our living rooms to people who are basically trafficking in a nihilistic vision of the United States that says that somehow we don’t have a responsibility to the next generation. I mean to me that’s a much more appalling view than We don’t have a responsibility to each other, which I believe we do, but the idea that we would enjoy the benefits conferred on us and not provide that to the people coming after us, that’s just not who we are. I don’t think that’s who we are.”
Earlier at a gathering of Democratic Party activists also in Denver, Romanoff shared a story about attending a meeting in Grand Junction, where he was greeted by roadside Tea Party activists. Romanoff used the story as a launching point to convey a combative disgust at the way the Tea Party movement has fed on a “deliberate campaign of of deception and disinformation.” He said the ugliness of the shouted name-calling and the talk of fascism and the physical threats that have marked some Tea Party rallies crosses a line.
“We were greeted [in Grand Junction] by a crowd of Tea Party activists carrying signs and placards with epithets that would not be fit for this company… offering us Heil Hitler salutes and comparing the President of the United States to a fascist or a Nazi. There’s a line, or there used to be a line, in American politics that reasonable men and women would not cross. That has been erased by this crowd…
I believe in the right to dissent. That’s the most democratic thing in the world. But when you make death threats against the President of the United States or anyone, it’s time to draw a line and say enough is enough….
If you tell the American people that the President isn’t American, that he’s illegitimate, that he seeks to create death panels to kill your grandparents, you shouldn’t be surprised when some of them believe you, or worse, when they act on the threats that you have encouraged, when they throw rocks and bricks at the offices of members of congress or hurl racial epithets on civil rights heroes such as John Lewis… we should not be surprised by the danger and violence that emerges from the atmosphere these demogogues have created… We should not be surprised and we should not be afraid to call their bluff and stand up for the princoiples that we hold dear. That’s important for us to do at this time…
The challenge for all of us is to make it clear what we’re fighting for and what we believe and to broaden our tent to make it big enough to accommodate folks who might not otherwise be engaged… Don’t be mistaken: It’s not just a accident not just misinformation, it’s a deliberate campaign of deception and disinformation that we’re fighting against, distortions and inaccuracies and dangerous lies and we ought to call them for what they are, whether it comes from Sarah Palin or from Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or the Tea Party placard waving activist down the street, we ought to stand up for what we believe. If we don’t do that, nobody will.”
Bennet and Romanoff are squaring off for their second debate tonight at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.