New Orleans The New York Times pumped a couple of rounds into the Tea Party in a front page story today. They missed the heart, but they were probably aiming more to cripple, than kill. Despite the palpable anger so clearly motivating a vast national, though embryonic, movement, David Barstow, the reporter on the story had no trouble painting most of them not simply as cute neophytes in politics, but as whacko-fringe rabbits running outside of the fence lines of American politics. This was a hatchet job with a blunt blade, but the Tea people have done it to themselves.
A conservative blogger asked me my opinion of why the Tea Party was getting traction, and the Minutemen were not? My answer was simple: guns. You cannot build a mass movement in America to create political power with guns. Period! End of sentence. The majority of Americans understand guns, and many of them own guns and are comfortable with them, especially in the West and South, as opposed to the East, but nobody, absolutely nobody in their right mind believes that guns should be anywhere around politics. This is a bright line dividing principle of contemporary American politics and separates the citizen activists from the right wing nut.
Despite the success in Massachusetts and lively pressure being applied by Tea people in a number of states with the Republicans trying to hijack the movement in every way possible, Barstow and the Times had no problem putting their story in the wild, wooly, West and bringing it to Idaho. Except the rich and Sun Valley, the rest of coastal America is scared of Idaho. This is big mountain, Mormon country in their view. It is also the home of one violent, fringe nutcase group after another (and the Unabomber?), and it was easy for the Times to bring them into the story as fellow travelers here.
But, as I say, they didn’t need to work hard. A Republican candidate for the Senate in Indiana (Bayh was too selfish to stand in front of these kinds of folks?) was quoted as saying he was getting his guns ready – just like his audience – if they didn’t like the results in upcoming elections. And, there were other stupid comments from Tea people putting guns in the mix.
Barstow could sneak around on this story because he could slip in a paragraph that reflected real understanding like: “They are frequently led by political neophytes who prize independence and tell strikingly familiar stories of having been awakened by the recession. Their families upended by lost jobs, foreclosed homes and depleted retirement funds, they said they wanted to know why it happened and whom to blame.” Those are fair questions begging for answers, but most buried in the blunt blows of this story.
ACORN gets its mention as a scourge of the right with the fabrication that it is “stealing elections” in the same slap as Obama “trying to control the Internet and restrict gun ownership.” (Does anyone but the Times capitalize “internet” anymore?) I hate to see it when we are on the brunt end of this slick sell, and it’s painful to read even if the Tea people deserve it and brought it on themselves.
The real questions will still remain about why people are being moved like this and where they are going and what can be done to meet their anger and needs. The Republicans trying to seize control and leadership will be brought down by the fringers – and the guns – if they are not very, very careful, and thus far they have been sloppy and stupid as well. Meanwhile the Democrats will tut-tut about it all and still not move forward in the way that makes sense, but instead too often desert the battlefield with the Bayh kinds of politicians.
What a mess and now there are guns firing in the background!