Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street share a problem

Recently two phenomena have arisen in national politics, one the Tea Party and the other the Occupy Wall Street movement. In many ways, both represent shortcomings of too many American citizens. These shortcomings may be the reason that our national government does not seem to be working like it should. They also may be the reason too many Americans don’t like the politicians who currently represent us.

The Tea Party is extremely active, having backed several candidates, even electing some to important positions. They seem to be extremely focused and have a long list of demands, most of which embody conservative causes, including reduction of taxes and shrinking government. Many of their public pronouncements seem very naive and in many cases, intolerant of compromise or opposing views. Their public pronouncements have been loud and in many cases confrontational. They appear to be largely frustrated with our current system of government.

The Occupy Wall Street movement seems to consist of many who are unhappy with the current state of affairs and choose to demonstrate their frustration by simply sitting in groups in public places. They have multiple complaints but refuse to list their objectives. They are reluctant to select a leader or do anything to affect government other than protest. They too are loud, disruptive and confrontational.

What these two groups have in common is their disaffection with our current government, economy, and the general state of affairs in this country. They both are frustrated and both demonstrate their frustration in non-traditional ways to alter the course of politics.

The reason the Tea Party seems like many of our fellow citizens is that too many average citizens have never taken the time to study in depth how our political system works and to participate in it. Too often when they do choose to participate, they do so in extreme ways that may not be productive nor bring about the changes they really want or which are politically practical.

At the other extreme, the Occupy Wall Street Movement represents an even larger segment of American citizens who, in my opinion, has caused many of our problems with government as well as politics in general. They are frustrated and unhappy but refuse to really participate in the political process. They choose to curse the darkness rather than light a candle.

One only has to look at the results of the last election and see how many of our fellow citizens chose not to make a selection when it comes to the officeholders that in many ways control our fate. I am constantly amazed at the phone calls I get, even though I no longer occupy a public office, complaining about problems that are government related. The most amazing part of those calling with complaints is that they have no idea of the name of their councilperson, county commissioners, state representative, state senator, and certainly not their congressman. Many such citizens are the ones who complain the loudest about government.

How much better America would be if citizens would inform themselves of the structure of their government, take time to learn how it works and participate? This is my advice to both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street participants. Learn, get off your duff, participate in an informed and proper way, then we might make real progress in changing the course of America in a positive way.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety.