Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Me And Some Little Old Ladies In Tennis Shoes, We're Havin' A (Tea) Party

The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan reveals who the Tea Party activists really are:  they aren't Independent at all, they are actually conservative Republicans.  To quote Sullivan, "Duh!"  But just to avoid stereotyping, seriously, who are they really?  Sullivan bases his "duh" on this survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute which is currently making the rounds.  Survey data says that those who identify with the Tea Party movement are "more likely to be non-Hispanic white, are more supportive of small government, are overwhelmingly supportive of Sarah Palin, and report that Fox News is their most trusted source of news about politics and current events."  OK, we knew that too, but it gets better.  81% identify as Christian and 57% identify as Christian conservative; they make up 11% of the adult population nationally, and identify -- either loosely or strongly -- with the Republican party.

Still haven't told you anything you don't know? You are asking why this survey is news and why Brokeback Journalist thought it was worthy of extended comment? Well here's something you don't know then.  Peter Galuszka, who blogs at Bacon's Rebellion, but is today blogging for WaPo, claims that the Virginia Tea Party is the best organized and fastest growing in the country at 30 chapters and 8,000 members.  But this is good news, because the movement would have to grow a lot faster in four weeks to throw an election that Obama and the Dems are not poised to lose already for having governed as the centrists in liberal clothing they have been since the Carter administration.  According to the State of Virginia's official county-by-county figures, there are 5,020,225 voters registered in that state, making Tea Party voters, even if they all turn out and vote twice, less of a factor than your average haul of spoiled ballots.

Of course, nationwide it is estimated that 3 million registered voters are actually dead, which is kind of interesting if you think about it too.  Blog that one, suckah!

So why do we talk about the Tea Party all the time if they represent such a small fraction of our political public?  Could it be because the major Tea Party funding organizations are actually run by professional politicians like former California State Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian and former Majority Leader Dick Armey of FreedomWorks, experienced operators who are playing insider style dirty-tricks politics and masquerading as outsiders? Could it be the corporate funding (the Sarah Scaife Foundation, a branch of the Mellon fortune, is in for more than $2.5 million to date)? Could it be that both the Republican and the Democratic parties have a vested interest in voters not scrutinizing too closely the economy they have collaborated in wrecking with war and deregulation?  Can it be that the Tea Party is pretty insignificant, that the media has forgotten how to do real political reporting, and that some of the newer electronic media outlets never learned to report a political story in the first place?

We can haz spellcheck? Hat Tip.
The paucity of real political news seems like a point of entry for any analysis:  look at what gets printed, and you've got to wonder why.  Under the headline "Pallone  Trying to Hold Off Anna Little," we discover that Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has a 12 point lead in New Jersey's 6th, and that Little, a Sarah Palin wannabe, actually has "very little chance" of winning the election. In other words, it isn't the desperate struggle the headline implies.  Similarly, according to the Anchorage Daily News, a California Tea Party group claims to have raised $35,000 in a two hour telethon for Joe Miller, running for a Senate seat in Alaska, but that is a far cry from the $550,000 that Tea Party Express spent on the primary, so someone's got to ask the question:  "Who cares?"  A group of nuns running a radiothon could raise $35,000 for Haiti in two hours too, while Public Television raises $12,000 in a ten-minute break from the Lehrer News Hour.  Miller, you may recall, upset Republican "normal" Lisa Murkowski in the primary.  Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate (hey, it worked for Republican -- er, I mean, Democrat Joe Lieberman in the Big Nutmeg.)

But you gotta love Christine O'Donnell's new ad, "I'm not a witch -- I'm you,"which unfortunately refuses to embed properly here (perhaps an oblique message that she is not "embed" with the old-style Washington politicians.)    This strategy opens the door to all kinds of inventive political ads:  for Charles Rangle, "I'm not a tax cheat -- I'm you;" for Jim DeMint, "I'm not a homophobe -- I'm you;" and while we're at it, let's run Robert Byrd in West Virginia:  "I'm not dead -- I'm you!"  I bet the Dems would take that seat!

But why should the little old ladies in tennis shoes  at the Scaife Foundation stop at the Senate?  Robert John Burck, otherwise known as Times Square's Naked Cowboy, is running for President in 2012 as -- you guessed it!  A Tea Party candidate.  At a press conference today with First Lady hopeful Cynthia Fox at his side, Burck avowed that the Tea Party was "the only legitimate grassroots movement in politics."  DNAinfo reports that at a press conference today a fully dressed Burck claimed he will throw himself into his campaign full bore, however despite his sincerity the "announcement was greeted with a range of indifference to outright hostility from those at the press conference, including one reporter who asked him if he was wearing a codpiece in his pants."

There's the liberal press for you:  always trying to divert us from the real issues.


Sisyphus said...

Of course, without ginning up a big scary Tea Party Bogeyman the Democrats and other left-wing groups would have a lot of trouble raising money and upping turnout. I have been inundated with Act Blue and Moveon emails and they sold my email to the DCCC (or someone did) since about midsummer, all warning of tea party takeovers.

I'd rather they used CEOs and wall st investment bankers and lobbyist-beholden Congresspeeps to rile up some progressive anger, but, hey, that's why I'm not in charge of things around here.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I blame this 99% on the mainstream media: soft coddled rich telegenic craven greedy heartless unintelligent fucken scum. Insane billionaire greedfuckes are supposed to try to destroy the country in an orgy of insane greed. But the motherfucken presse is supposed to try to fucken STOP them, not CHEER them on.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers like to print the dramatic and unexpected and they love underdogs (remember when Barack Obama was an underdog and the papers were full of him -- wonder what right-wing outfit was behind that coverage?) And if we're going to examine the roll of the Scaife foundation, shouldn't we also take a look at the role over the years of George Soros and the Hollywood crowd? Or is this only a problem when conservatives are involved?

And speaking of Christine O'Donnell, you night want to take a look at her second ad, which states in effect "I'm not a rich Yale elitist, I'm you!" Whether or not this helps O'Donnell, this is the message that motivates the Tea Party folks -- good ole' American populism. Looks like its working, too.

And when are feminists going to catch on that the Democrats have been ignoring women lately, taking them for granted (except for prominent Republican women, which they attack with the worst of the tired old stereotypes)? Little old ladies in tennis shoes, indeed!


Needlelover said...

they make up 11% of the adult population nationally

I get your point that maybe their funding outweighs their significance, but don't you find it a little alarming that almost 30m people could identify with this particular set of views? Predictable, sure, but nevertheless alarming, and that doesn't really come through in your post.

centrists in liberal clothing

I probably don't disagree with your positions, but is your vision of the democratic party electable? For years in the United Kingdom the Labour party (far to the left of the Democrats) was hopelessly unelectable. So unelectable in fact that after the Poll Tax fiasco we lost Thatcher but not the Conservative government. And when Labour finally became New Labour many of the major distinctions between the two biggest parties (in fact all three parties) was pretty much effaced. My surprise on coming to the US was not that the 'liberals' were so close to the centre but that their opponents were in some ways so off the scale. And yet in many other ways what they have in common is a centrism that makes them electable (e.g., concessions to corporate influence). If the Democrats ever actualised some of their liberal talk would they be in power again before 2030?

Anonymous said...

Jack, I think you can see that many feminists understand Democrats are taking women for granted, but it would be a mistake to think Republicans do better, or that female Tea Party candidates represent American women. This piece, which I posted in the comments on Historiann's blog as well, explains the situation better than I could:
The upshot is, female Tea Party candidates are more popular among men than among women, while women still generally lean towards Dems.

It certainly would be nice, though, if the Dems would use the Tea Party's 'feminist' posturing as an opportunity to enthusiastically promote women's rights, highlighting the difference between Dem and Repub positions in a positive way, instead of seizing on conservatives to try to convince women to vote for the lesser of two evils.