A Year Later, Politico Says Tea Party Importance Exaggerated
From the beginning, the so-called Tea Party movement has merely been a continuation of the failed 2008 Republican presidential campaign by other means. In April 2009, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show highlighted that truth when he told furious Tea Baggers, "I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing." Now, a year later, Politico, the ESPN of politics, has belatedly reached the same conclusion in a piece titled, "the Tea Party's exaggerated importance."
Near the beginning of that four page tome, Politico's Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith summarize what was immediately clear to most sentient observers months ago:
"In fact, there is a word for what poll after poll depicts as a group of largely white, middle-class, middle-aged voters who are aggrieved: Republicans."
To be sure, Tea Baggers are an even whiter shade of pale. But this earth-unshattering revelation hardly does justice to the fact that Tea Partiers are just Republicans, only moreso.
For starters, just watch the video footage of McCain-Palin rallies in the fall of 2008 and just about any Tea Party gathering since. The same fury, baseless charges and sinister racial subtext are on display.
And just in case there's any question, the polling confirms what almost everyone knew or suspected. Tea Partiers are ideological conservatives who vote Republican. Roughly three-quarters voted for John McCain and 87% said they will vote for Republican Congressional candidates if no Tea Party favorite steps forward. They are united only by their hatred of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
Another sure indicator that Tea Party = GOP comes from leading Republicans themselves. Despite conservative myth-making that Tea Party activists are independents, GOP leaders including Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, John Cornyn and Jim Demint have made clear that "We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican Party."
Which brings us to a final sign that Tea Partiers are indistinguishable from Republicans: they believe the same lies. Virtually every Tea Party myth proclaimed as fact is broadly shared by a broad swath of the Republican Party. That combustible mix of Birchers, Birthers, Deathers and Deniers calls the GOP home.
For example, a DailyKos/Research 2000 poll found that a stunning 58% of Republicans did not believe (28%) or were unsure (30%) that President Barack Obama was in fact born in the United States. 17% of Republicans and 19% of white evangelicals (74% of whom voted for John McCain) insist President Obama is a Muslim, despite his repeated pronouncements and decades of church attendance to the contrary. After furious Tea Baggers interrupted town hall meetings with shouts of "keep your government hands off my Medicare," it turned out that 59% of self-identified conservatives and 62% of McCain voters hold that oxymoronic view of the federal-funded health care program for 46 million American seniors. And detailed in February ("The Tea Party's Taxing Logic"), while President Obama cut taxes for over 95% of working households, the Tea Party instead believes the sun orbits the earth:
Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.
Never in modern American history has a political movement been so demonstrably wrong on so many matters of fact. Nevertheless, Martin and Smith acknowledge their profession put the Tea Party on stage precisely because its frothing-at-the-mouth followers produce such great theater:
Part of the reason is the timeless truth in media that nothing succeeds like excess. But part of the reason is a convergence of incentives for journalists and activists on left and right alike to exaggerate both the influence and exotic traits of the tea-party movement.
The media's belief in the entertainment value (if not civic worth) of the Tea Parties has been quantified:
Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks media reports, found that the tea parties consumed a steady measure of news for most of this year before exploding during tax week to compete with the Icelandic volcano for attention and outstripping health care with 6% of all media reports that week.
Ultimately, Politico's Martin and Smith declared the self-evident truth that "last week's Tax Day crowds were not representative of a force that is purportedly shaping the country's politics."
So why are the in-your-face Tea Baggers perpetually on Americans' television screens? Another Comedy Central comedian, Demetri Martin, provides a clue:
"Raising your voice - the next best thing to being right."