It’s no secret that Americans are furious about an economy mired in unemployment, a federal deficit that will burden our children and grandchildren, big money lobbying run amok and political paralysis in Washington. This year’s Tea Party insurgency reflects those legitimate concerns.
But history teaches that such movements — leaderless, unstructured and built on a foundation of rage — can turn to scapegoating and vilification, with Jews being a traditional target.
So far, anti-Semitism has not emerged as a major thread in today’s Tea Party tapestry. Still, there are reasons for concern. Traditional extremist groups and anti-government “militias” have received a boost from the movement; scapegoating of minorities and racism have sometimes emerged at Tea Party events. The Anti-Defamation League has issued warnings about infiltration by white supremacists.
Reining in inefficient government programs and wasteful spending is a worthy goal. But our community also values a government social safety net that protects the nation’s most vulnerable citizens — a safety net that is now in jeopardy, thanks to reckless decisions by leaders in both parties.
Militant anti-government action and radical economic ideologies are not helpful as we seek practical answers to complex problems.
We are also concerned about the impact of the Tea Party surge on Israel. While some Tea Party leaders have been forthright in expressing their support for the Jewish state, this is a movement defined by domestic issues, and there are tinges of old-fashioned isolationism at its fringes. This is no time to abandon our foreign obligations. If the Tea Party veers more in that direction, it could represent a threat to our own security and the security of our allies.
America’s problems are complex, and finding solutions will require smart, well-informed leaders in Washington making sound decisions and seeking genuine compromise.
Clearly, today’s leadership has failed in many areas, with Democrats and Republicans sharing the blame. That alone is a good reason for anger. But rage rarely produces constructive solutions.
To the contrary: democracy depends on a rational, informed public making good choices. And this year more than ever, we need knowledgeable and sensible political leaders capable of rising above ideology and rank partisanship to help guide us through these dangerous times. We understand the anger of the Tea Partiers and share much of their frustration. But we hope their concerns can be channeled into more constructive political avenues.