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Tea Party supporter at 2010 GOP debate

(Ft. Mitchell, KY January 24, 2013) - The Enquirer recently reported that the Northern Kentucky Tea Party and traditional Republican Party have united.  I’m skeptical.  If true, it would seem to reflect their recognition of their mutual long-term vulnerability following the last election.  But I’m still skeptical.

Let’s look to the recent past.  In 2010 local Republic favorite son Trey Grayson, after having won two statewide elections, was defeated in his bid for the U.S. Senate by Rand Paul, a downstate doctor who had never run for election.  The local Party establishment was not happy.  And from what I hear, many have neither forgotten nor forgiven since.

Meanwhile, over the past three year the Northern Kentucky Tea Party has opposed county library taxes, school taxes, the Area Planning Commission Tax, and somewhat unbelievably, a modest increase in water treatment rates to pay for removal of known carcinogens from our drinking water.  As I’ve observed to some, these folks seem to have a problem not only with government but with certain fundamental components of our evolving civilization.

Except, of course, that they drive on publicly financed roads, in cars that meet government standards, breathe clean air, drink the water, eat FDA approved meat, rely on anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws, participate in Medicare, enroll their children and grandchildren in public schools, obtain government-protected mortgages, invest in government-protected financial institutions and securities exchanges, expect massive government assistance to combat natural disasters, and rely on police and fire professionals, military defense forces, and our justice system to protect them from a myriad of natural and man-made adversities.

In other words:  they rely on multitudes of government services while maintaining a mental fantasy life in which they are ruggedly independent, reliant on no one, and have little obligation to pay for services they share along with their fellow citizens. 

Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes - hardly a liberal - said over a century and a half ago that “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

As local Republican leaders know, especially business and Chamber of Commerce leaders, we all prosper in an economy built on people pursuing their dreams within a framework of reasonable government regulation that protects vital public interests.  They know that governmental investments in education, transportation, infrastructure, and jobs and employment supports have been instrumental in supporting our economic development.  They know, from experience, that the Tea Party obsession with minimalist government is not the pathway to a higher standard of living and quality of life.

From all this I conclude that reports of unification, like reports of Mark Twain’s death, are highly exaggerated.  Political parties are primarily about winning elections - but they are also, like religious traditions, carriers of culture, in this case our political, social and economic culture.  If the Tea Party has captured the Republican Party, many traditional Republicans will not find a compatible home there.

So:  if you find yourself in that situation, come and talk with us in the Democratic Party.  You might be surprised at the comfort level you find.    

Col Owens is an attorney from Fort Mitchell and chairman of the Kenton County Democratic Party.


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