Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the April 22, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A10.

The Republicans were thrilled over the “tea-bag” parties last weekend. It looks like they didn’t bother to check what “tea-bagging” means.

The Urban Dictionary defines tea–bagging as “Dipping your testicles into the open mouth of another person. Kind of like dipping a tea bag in and out of a cup of water.”

When and how did that once respectable political party degenerate into a mob of ignorant wingnuts and religious fanatics who would remake the Boston Tea Party into a “tea-bag” protest?

The decline started in 1968.  Richard Nixon won the presidency by appealing to the lowest common denominator of American politics – fear and stupidity.  But Nixon was smart enough to recognize a campaign tactic for what it was; he did not allow himself to be held captive by it.

His successors, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes (George H.W. and George W.), were not as smart. And so what was originally just a campaign tactic to break the Democratic Party’s 40-year dominance over the legislature turned into an ideology that would divide Americans into camps for or against such idiotic slogans like the “Evil Empire,” “Willie Horton,” and “The Axis of Evil.”

The entire American experiment seemed doomed to bumper stickerisms until Americans regained their senses and elected Barack Obama.

Witness the nuance and intelligence of Obama’s responses at a press conference after the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas. It’s a refreshing departure from the arrogance and vacuity of his predecessor.

Reporter Chuck Todd asked Obama about the pillars of the “Obama Doctrine.”

THE PRESIDENT: “…there are a couple of principles that I’ve tried to apply across the board:

“Number one, that the United States remains the most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth, but we’re only one nation, and that the problems that we confront can’t be solved just by one country…And I think if you start with that approach, then you are inclined to listen and not just talk.

“…we recognize that other countries have good ideas, too, and we want to hear them. And the fact that a good idea comes from a small country like a Costa Rica should not somehow diminish the fact that it’s a good idea.

“Number two…I feel very strongly that when we are at our best, the United States represents a set of universal values and ideals …But what I also believe is that other countries have different cultures, different perspectives, and are coming out of different histories, and that we do our best to promote our ideals and our values by our example.

“And so if we are practicing what we preach and if we occasionally confess to having strayed from our values and our ideals, that strengthens our hand; that allows us to speak with greater moral force and clarity around these issues.

“And again, I think people around the world appreciate that we’re not suggesting we are holding ourselves to one set of standards and we’re going to hold you to another set of standards; that we’re not simply going to lecture you, but we’re rather going to show through how we operate the benefits of these values and ideals.

And as a consequence of listening, believing that there aren’t junior partners and senior partners in the international stage, I don’t think that we suddenly transform every foreign policy item that’s on the agenda…

“…Countries are going to have interests, and changes in foreign policy approaches by my administration aren’t suddenly going to make all those interests that may diverge from ours disappear. What it does mean, though, is, at the margins, more likely to want to cooperate than not cooperate. It means that where there is resistance to a particular set of policies that we’re pursuing, that resistance may turn out just to be based on old preconceptions or ideological dogmas that, when they’re cleared away, it turns out that we can actually solve a problem.”
As to the knee-jerk idiocy that followed his less than unfriendly interaction with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Obama said:

THE PRESIDENT: “…we had this debate throughout the campaign, and the whole notion was, is that somehow if we showed courtesy or opened up dialogue with governments that had previously been hostile to us, that that somehow would be a sign of weakness. The American people didn’t buy it. And there’s a good reason the American people didn’t buy it — because it doesn’t make sense.

“…Venezuela is a country whose defense budget is probably 1/600th of the United States’… It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States. I don’t think anybody can find any evidence that that would do so. Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela.”

The Republicans tea-bagged themselves when they turned campaign rhetoric based on fear and stupidity into dogma. Instead of tea-bagging, they should smell the coffee.