This entire political year, I feel like I’ve been living a
lie. I feel like I haven’t leveled with you, my readers. I feel like I’ve been
in the closet, unable to express a love that dare not speak its name.

Now I’ve mustered up the courage to admit it:

Yes, I love the tea party.

It’s not a blind love. They do have a tendency to invent
their own facts. They tell a story of American history that is not supported by
any reasonable scholarship. They do seem to have bought into bogus stories
about President Obama. There are more than a few racists among their number.

But still, I can’t help loving them, for all their flaws.

Part of my love is selfish. I’m a journalist, and these are
bad times for our profession. And the Tea Partiers and their candidates are
great copy. Witches. Masturbation opponents. Nazi re-enactors. Alaska lawyers
who have private security guards put handcuffs on reporters. Everything Sarah
Palin says.

Those are fun topics that build website audiences and sell
newspapers. And they’re a hell of a lot easier to explain to readers than the
pros and cons of the federal health legislation.

But part of my love is real and profound. The Tea Party
people, for all of their faults, are asking big, uncomfortable questions about
the structure of America’s constitutional system. And they seek big,
fundamental changes.

In this desire for big change, they are right. This is
especially true here in California. Establishment Republicans, Democrats and
independents are all worshipping at the altar of incrementalism, even in the
face of evidence that incremental changes won’t fix a broken system. Our
banking system, our tax system, our entire economic system, our election system
– none of it seems to work. And incremental improvements don’t seem to work.

Now of course, the specific answers that the Tea Partiers
offer to these big questions are, well, out there. Possibly destructive to the
economy, the government and the country. And crazy.

But it’s not so bad being crazy in times like these.
Everyone, even the hard-headed realists, seem crazy too. Would-be reformers of
the left, center and establishment right should stop shunning the Tea Partiers
– and start engaging them.