Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stirring the Pot at the Tea Party

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the first Tea Party protests. What an interesting year it has been. For those of us political wonks out here, this has been a stellar study in the American political system as it relates to the political discourse now in place.

What began as a rant on a financial news show on a cable news network suffering from low viewership soon morphed into a wildly popular Internet video. Millions of Americans who previously yawned and whose eyes glazed over at the mention of the word 'politics' became inspired. What had been a slowly simmering feeling of frustration and betrayal by ordinary citizens at the hands of their government was nicely packaged in that video. The cable news financial reporter guy was a hero.

With a newly elected, immensely popular president - certainly with the national media - the reporting of the new movement was slow, if not ignored. Only after a summer of boisterous town hall meetings did the story become so obvious did it become too much to ignore. So, what was the media response? The response was to begin the slandering of the movement. Just as those McCain voters were ridiculed by then candidate Obama as those who cling to their weapons and religion - which meant they were racist and ignorant, scared people - the Tea Party participants were described as right wing fringe, far right wing Nazi loving, racist, homophobic morons. In other words, small government conservatives.

From The Washington Times, an article on the media coverage of the movement over the span of the last year pulls together some conclusions.

With attendance increasing, not declining, and the numbers swelling to tens of thousands in some locations, the Tea Party is openly courted by the GOP and demanding respect from the Democrats. All but the far left side of the Democratic party now acknowledge the movement as a game changer in today's American politics. This fact was most recently brought home to waning skeptics as the senate seat held by Ted Kennedy for decades fell to a Republican.

The times, they are a-changin'.

While the national media has been only too happy to oblige Democrats and the members of this administration with reports of incidents with the fringe of the movement - a fringe that exists within both parties - and painting a picture of the movement as nothing more than angry white people. The favorite meme is that the Tea Party members are simply Obama haters. How simplistic and predictable.

It now becomes known that the Tea Party participants are found to be mostly Republican - 57% but 28% are self proclaimed Independents and 13% Democrats. Surprise! The latest Rasmussen and The Winston Group polls point to the obvious - at least to anyone who has looked at pictures or videos of Tea Party gatherings. There are those from all walks of life, all demographics, and it is multi-cultural. Despite what the hateful liberal blogs and the mainstream press would have you believe, this is America.

Now comes the influence of the venomous political atmosphere fed by left-leaning blogs. There is a web site devoted to encouraging people to disrupt Tea Party events with deliberate displays of the media meme. The plan is infiltration of events by non-supporters equipped with misspelled and hateful signage. Classy. is the web site. Why has this surfaced, at this time? After a year of enthusiastic Americans congregating together to protest the big government power grabs of this administration, the number of Americans identifying as supporters of the Tea Party is growing. From the most recent polls, just short of a full quarter of those polled - 24% - identify as members of the movement. That is up from the last major polling, which showed 16% as such. The Gallup poll states: Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. This particular poll found 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the movement.

Some professional white men allow themselves to be swept away with the hate. An upscale hotel manager from Manhattan used his personal twitter account to tweet his intention to go to the site of the Boston Tea Party rally today to disrupt the "retards", his word, in attendance. Not only is he hateful, he's a coward. Once the word got out on the Internet, he took his tweet down, then closed the account.

After the tactic of ignore them and they'll go away didn't work for Democrats in Congress, yesterday an account of an interview with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer verified the obvious - members of Congress are retiring in a larger number than expected. They see the writing on the wall. This is a very bad year to be running as an incumbent in either party. Business as usual is over. The people have had enough. "Do I think the negative atmosphere that has been created by the Tea Party and by others certainly goes into the thinking of members? I think it does. I think you have to honestly point out that it does," he told reporters Tuesday. That from yesterday. Hoyer also admitted that the recent retirement announcement from Rep Bart Stupak was fueled by negative numbers from those disappointed in him within the movement and also from liberal groups. Stupak sold his soul for nothing and his voters were not going to stand for it.

Interesting times for political junkies.

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