Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea Party, Act One...

Are you tired of the Tea Party “movement” yet?  I have been for quite a while but it seems we can’t get away from it.  We certainly can’t get away from the media talking about “them” and what the punditry claims “they” believe in.  So it was with great interest that I read the results of a month-long search and analysis that the Washington Post published last Sunday. [Here and Here]
It appears that the Tea Partyers are made up of disparate groups throughout the country.  As WaPo put it:
...a new Washington Post canvass of hundreds of local tea party groups reveals a different sort of organization, one that is not so much a movement as a disparate band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage in the political process. 
The paper tried to contact every group in the country which turned out to be a Herculean task.  Seventy percent of the groups contacted have not had any direct political involvement this year.  According to The Post: [Here]
As a whole, they have no official candidate slates, have not rallied behind any particular national leader, have little money on hand, and remain ambivalent about their goals and the political process in general.
So how many people are involved?  The Tea Party Patriots, an Atlanta-based parent group claims 2300 local groups, but WaPo could verify only 1400 and then could make contact with a mere 647.  All of this suggests how loosely connected these groups are.

Furthermore, there was no agreement among the tea party groups about which issues were major.  The most commonly shared concerns were about the size of government and the state of the economy.  They don’t like Obama and they share a distrust of the Democratic Party, but they don’t hold the Republican Party in high regard, either.  The piece points out that much of their sound and fury would probably fade away if the economy improved.
What is important to note is that the tea party’s successes have come when one of the “super-funded” national organizations have (as WaPo wrote) “swooped in to mobilize local support.” [Here]
In upset victories in Alaska and Delaware, for instance, the Sacramento-based Tea Party Express spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising for Republican Senate candidates Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell, respectively.
What opened the doors wide for the creation of these “super-funded” 501(c)4  national organizations was, of course, Citizens United v. FEC .  Five black-robed judges unlocked the doors and smugly invited the Koch brothers and their friends to flood the airwaves with ads and spectacles like the Glenn Beck ego spectacle at the Washington Mall.
In that same Sunday Washington Post tea party analysis, there was an essay by a West Coast reporter, Bill Donahue, who rode with an Ohio group from the suburbs of Dayton to Washington to hear Beck. [Here]  The group had been bundled together by a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel who had spent his military career in the “service” division so his planning for this trip of 51 middle-aged folks was right up his alley.   As the ride continued, it became clear that the folks were devout Christians.  In fact, the bus picked them up in the parking lot of a local Baptist church.
The nine-hour trip to D.C. ended in the morning and the group was herded onto the Metro with thousands of other sweltering, trip-tousled folks.  When Donahue’s fellow passengers were directed to their spot on the Mall, they were relegated to a distant spot under the trees where they couldn’t see the stage or any of the giant t.v. screens and the sound system sounded as if the speakers were under water.   
When it was over, the ex-Colonel directed them to a motel where they spent the night before heading back to Ohio.  And there it was.  No deeply-held political convictions were evident or expressed on the bus.  It sounded more like a long summer outing with a bus ride to a Rotarian convention.
We have to go up the income ladder--way up-- to the big money boys to find out what’s really going on.  And rest assured, they are there, ready to pounce. 
More in our next.... 

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