While on our trip to Turkey my father (State Representative Joe Deshotel) received an invitation to speak Monday, September 12th at a Tea Party rally billed as a “‘Return to Community-Making a Difference,’ a Southeast Texas TEA Party rally to remember 9-11 and refocus attention on the local community honoring 9/11”. The invitation was from former Jefferson County Republican Party Chair and current Tax-Assessor collector Shane Howard. I happen to have a personal relationship with Shane as I served myself as Executive Director of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and we debated weekly on Fox 4.
I encouraged my father to accept the invitation which he did. He was concerned about a possible backlash from Democratic and Progressive groups in his district but decided that the concept of unity was more important than partisan politics. Recently, Republican State Representative Allan Ritter switched parties after addressing the Tea Party so there is a fair amount of sensitivity lingering. That was more a case of “reading the writing on the wall” for Ritter. After redistricting, because Southeast Texas’ growth did not keep up with the rest of the state, the formerly majority Democratic 21st district became solidly Republican. My father insured the concerned he was not about to switch parties. This would be an opportunity to find common ground and work to put our region back on a path of economic success. Surely this requires that we diversify beyond our reliance of military exports and the petroleum industry. As technology levels the playing field around the world we do not have the luxury of ignoring the talents and interests of our neighbors. In fact, while in Turkey we had the honor of meeting with Fatma Şahin, Minister for Family and Social Policy. We asked how her department’s efforts have faired given current austerity measures, and her response was jarring. While cutting back on government services and military spending the budgets for education and support for childcare have actually increased. This is viewed as an essential investment to their economic future and not merely an expenditure. There was a time when that principle ran true for the richest nation in the world. However, in Texas alone the legislature approved cuts of over $4 billion in education funds in June. I’m sure we can overwhelmingly agree this is not the way to spark the type of innovation and skilled workforce that has made the U.S. a beacon of economic prosperity.
This event is being promoted as non-political which given the current political climate is hard to imagine. Despite rhetoric on both sides the idea of bringing the community together to support itself gives each a chance to distance themselves from the extremists among their ranks. As the dialogue becomes more corrosive to our Republic we hear pundits refer to compromise and moderation as a source of the problem and the antithesis of being principled. I disagree because our political spectrum is not linear. However as long as “thought leaders” on either side can wedge the majority of Americans into these categories we fail to see an opportunity to step sideways and engage in truly productive discourse.
I hope you will join us. Canned goods will be collected and given to Some Other Place. Unless a diverse representation of our community shows up it can not really represent unity. I applaud the local Tea Party for reaching out and realizing the true definition of patriotism is “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty” and it has to start at home.
|Monday, September 12, 2011 6pm|
|Pet Smart Parking Lot
6562 Eastex Fwy
Beaumont, TX 77708-4320