Rich Gardner | 04.16.2010
Tea Party protesters seem to have hit a ceiling in terms of their popular appeal. They may yet turn towards sedition, but hopefully, the traditional media will now drop the silly pretense that they represent a growing grassroots movement.
Well, the numbers are in. The polls have been done and the people who support the Tea Parties are essentially the ol' "Bush dead-enders," the people who continued to stand by G.W. Bush after the Terri Schiavo mess (Terri was brain-dead, but the anti-abortionists refused to take her husband's solemn word on that and insisted that Terri be kept on a feeding tube) and the flooding of New Orleans that resulted from Hurricane Katrina and Bush's apparent indifference to the city's agony. Keep in mind that Bush rushed back to Washington DC in order to sign a bill demanding that Schiavo be kept on her feeding tube, but that he didn't meaningfully react to the declaration of a state of emergency in New Orleans by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (August 26th) until September 2nd, when he took an aerial tour of the city and serious federal help didn't arrive until two days after that.
The Tea Party folks are the same quarter of the country that continued to support Bush even after these two incidents. The hardest of the hard-core Tea Partiers, people who watch Glenn Beck's show on the Fox News channel, have hit their numerical peak and his audience has begun to decline. A few albums after Michael Jackson released Thriller, someone commented "His big earning years are behind him." Jackson remained culturally relevant for many more years, but he had already seen what Bruce Springsteen would have referred to as his "Glory Days." So too, will Beck continue to be culturally relevant, but it's apparently safe to say he's seen his "big earning years" come and go.
Are the Tea Party folks historically unprecedented? Are they a unique thing to have burst upon the national scene? No. The US saw just such an angry, bitter movement in reaction to the election of a Democratic President in 1961, 1977 and 1993. There's nothing new or unusual about the Tea Party movement save for the fact that the Tea Partiers are supported by corporate PR firms practicing what's referred to as "astroturf" (As opposed to "grassroots") politics. See especially action item 2 on this press release ("Final showdown against Obamacare 2.0 this weekend!")
2) Protest outside the local, district office of your Congressman at 12pm on Saturday. You can find his or her office location by clicking here. Bring your friends and some signs, and alert the local media.
It's not that astroturf efforts are illegitimate, but such efforts have less credibility than true grassroots efforts that take place because citizens are spontaneously reacting to an issue and forming up without a whole lot of leadership from "above." A look at how the Tea Parties are actually run:
I noted a few months back TPM Media's report that the PAC that organized the Tea Party Express, a series of right-wing nationwide bus tours and rallies, had sent nearly two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period right back to the GOP consulting firm that spawned it. Today, Politico's Ken Vogel provides more details of the Tea Party Express' operations, including the original memo from a consultant with the firm, Russo Marsh + Rogers, proposing its creation.
The same piece goes on to note how Fox News' management reacted when one of its TV hosts tried to cash in for himself as opposed to pitching in to help out his corporate supervisors.
What's next for the Bush dead-enders? Well, it looks like they're planning a Second Amendment March in Washington DC. Unfortunately, these folks now seem to be actively promoting sedition, a term last heard before and during the Civil War. When protesters begin actively brandishing weapons, the movement has gone beyond mere peaceful, civil protest and starts to become truly dangerous.