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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns
COLUMN

Give tea party credit for learning how to make a difference

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I seriously admire one thing in particular about most tea party members.

If you ever wonder how a relatively small group of people have so much impact on state, local and national policy, the answer is simple: They show up. They outwork most other groups. They go to meetings, study the issues and rally the faithful to the cause. They make sure their voices are heard (and man, are they heard).

It’s also easy to say they make the most noise, but that’s because they’re often the only outside voice in the room when issues are being decided.

In short, they care about issues more passionately than most people.

They also know where they can have the most influence.

The decisions that often have the most impact on a community are made by the school board, city council and county commission. Yet statistics show that generally only the most dedicated voter turns out for those elections. In Hillsborough County’s 2012 primary, just 15.86 percent of more than 700,000 registered voters bothered to cast a ballot.

I mention this because early-voting sites are opening up across the area in advance of the Aug. 26 primary. And yes, you can vote even if (like me and about 210,000 others in the county) you declare no party affiliation. There are school board and judicial races to decide.

You can vote early. You can vote by mail.

You can vote on Election Day.

Or, you could sit on the couch and eat Cheetos while other people make the decision for you.

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The truth is, true citizenship requires some work. There are all kinds of voter guides and position papers available in all the races, and that’s a lot better way to make a choice than the nightly bombardment of television ads or fliers in your mailbox.

Especially disgusting is the mailer about District 6 school board candidate Dipa Shah, an Indian-American.

Some mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers felt compelled in the flier to remind voters that “Latinos, Indians, African American, Muslims ... Hindus and Gay & Lesbian ... is in full support of Dipa.” And in case the bigotry wasn’t obvious, the mailer pounded home the point that we should keep her “Special Interests from hijacking our School Board to indoctrinate our children with their liberal agenda.”

The mailer was sent by something called the Conservative Values Coalition of Florida. Its headquarters is a post office box in Apopka. These people are not conservative; they are Neanderthals. They have no values; they have only ignorance and hate.

A couple of points: First, hate-spewer, learn some basic grammar and capitalization skills before your next mass mailing — especially about a school board candidate.

Second: A liberal agenda is a thousand times better than the garbage these people spew.

By the way, Dipa Shah is a conservative Republican.

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In an election that likely will have a small turnout, idiocy like that mailer can have a devastating effect if many potential voters don’t get past the scare headline.

I don’t mean that you, the person reading this column now, would be like that. I mean them, those guys who leave the decisions for other people to make, and then complain about the results.

Comedian Dennis Miller once said go ahead, get out of jury duty, but you forfeit the right to complain about the O.J. Simpson verdict.

The same principle applies in voting.

It always amazes me when someone says they don’t vote. Of course, if they don’t do at least a little homework then I’d just as soon they didn’t vote.

That brings us back to the tea party. I disagree with its followers on lots of things (and they with me), but you’ll never catch me questioning their dedication to their cause.

They have learned how to make a difference. They just show up. That’s aces in my book.

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