The Tea Party movement and its ability to turn out voters has shaken both the political and the media establishment to its very foundation. The reaction of the Main Stream Media (MSM) has been to throw a temper tantrum. There is no longer even a patina of fairness or objectivity in many media circles. To understand the media’s angst at the Tea Party’s rise it’s instructive to look at what the Obama Presidency represented to them.
The left leaning media’s story line for the election of 2008 as a fundamental shift to the left in America. Most of the MSM considered the election a watershed moment, much like Reagan’s 1980 election, but in the opposite direction. News week declared that “We Are All Socialist Now” even as the nascent tea party began to rise. The mainstream media tried to ignore and marginalize the growing movement. Even after the massive 9/12/2009 protest, left leaning bloggers were still telling each other that the United States of American was a center left nation. Any analysis that declared the US a center left country in 2009 is totally divorced from reality.
The elections of 2009, with wins by Republicans in Massachusets, New Jersey and Virginia signaled the coming Tea Party storm. Media outlets tried to sell those victories as a “vote the bums out” movement that said little about President Obama, or democratic policies like health care. After listening to the analysis on the usual Sunday talk shows it was hard to discern if the opinion provided was just over the top political spin, or if the talking heads actually believed what they were saying. The analysis didn’t jibe with the available polling data. It was if the MSM was attempting to comfort themselves after a severe shock by repeating a false narrative to ease their pain.
The 2010 primaries have smashed any delusions the MSM held regarding both the direction of the electorate, or the impetus for the Tea Party’s existence. The result is a progressive media that is depressed and lashing out. The accusations of racism continue despite little evidence and the media parrots Democratic talking points without hesitation. Instead of reporting why the Tea Party exists, or what the goals of the grassroots movement are, the response of the press has been to attempt to classify the movement as racist and extreme.
The MSM has little credibility after the way they attacked Sarah Palin in 2008 and how they report the news now. The problem is that the MSM still has millions of eyeballs that peruse their pages, or watch their programming. Even a distrustful viewership can be influenced. As every propagandists knows, a repeated lie can eventually work it’s way into the psyche. ( Lenin famously quipped “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” ) That makes retorting the continued hysterical accusations leveled against the tea party an important goal if the movement is to survive in the long term.
The Tea Party is a true bottom up, spontaneous, decentralized, grassroots movement that nearly 1 in 5 Americans self identify with. Therein lies the problem with trying to formalize a response to the false accusation. There is no leadership disseminating carefully crafted talking points, there are no media blitzes to counter the false narratives and answer outrageous MSM accusations. That is the cost of a bottom up movement, however, there exists one over riding item that helps the Tea Party a great deal – the facts.
The only way to handle the cries of extremist is to be informed and know why some Tea Party members are taking the positions that they are. The Tea Party movement is about more than just taxes, it’s about the role of the federal government. When pundits say things like the tea party supports repealing the 17th amendment, and that is an extremist position, what they are doing is attempting stop any debate over the role of the federal government cold. The MSM doesn’t want to have that discussion, but we will.
A senate whose members were chosen by their respective states was envisioned as a constraint on federal power. Currently the states have no formal representation in the federal government. Prior to the 17th amendment, most state houses sent up a representative to ensure that the individual state’s interest were being represented. Programs like Medicaide, SCHIP, and unemployment insurance are federally mandated programs that are run by the states. There is no law that forces the feds to fully fund these mandates. Programs like the Clean Air Act are not funded at all. The simplest analogy is that the states are taxed without representation.
Is believing in “no taxation without representation” really an extremist position? Of course not. The MSM wants a more expansive and powerful central government, and the idea of any constraint on that power will be labeled “extremist”. The MSM doesn’t want to have this debate because Americans, by a far margin, prefer a smaller government and local solutions as opposed to a centralized top down dictates from Washington.
There is more than one way to achieve the goal of providing a check and balance to federal over reach. The Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial by Randy Barnett and WIlliam Howell that the states adopt a ‘Repeal Amendment’ to the constitution. It’s goal is much the same as people that want to repeal the 17th amendment and it is argued in one of the nation’s leading publications. Hardly extremist, but the fact that the ideals of a limited government are picking up steam threatens both establishment politicians, and establishment media.
Another media story line is that Tea Party attitudes towards the department of education are extremist and toxic. Does anyone really believe that it is efficient to have the federal government impose a tax, collect that tax, then funnel those money through a bureaucracy, before redistributing it back to a state bureaucracy before it reaches it’s final intended audience? That is what happens with funds earmarked for the department of education. The convoluted process has forced schools to create new positions to guarantee their place at the funding table. Positions like grant writer and compliance officer didn’t exist for most school districts 40 years ago, today they are becoming de-rigeur.
The complexity and inefficiency of the grant process coupled with Washinton DC’s interference in local education are the reasons why some Tea Party members have advocated abolishing the department of education. The idea is hardly new, and it was part of the official Republican platform in 1980. The text of the platform is pretty simple;
Considering the headache that “No Child Has Left Behind” legislation has created, is this an unreasonable position? Does having Washington, which already runs some of the worst performing schools in the nation, in charge of all schools via legislative fiat make any sense? These are questions that the left and the media don’t want the Tea Party movement bringing to the public’s attention. Labeling the idea of eliminating the Department of Education as extremist is a way of trying to close down debate.
The rhetoric coming from the media suggests that the MSM fundamentally opposes 3 of the core values that resonate with Americans that consider themselves part of the Tea Party.
- A belief that there should be limits on federal power.
- A belief in local solutions and lower taxation.
- A belief in our Constitution.
Today’s mainstream media is so far left, that my belief in those same exact basic ideals makes me an extremist in their eyes. The Tea Party movement is an enigma to the media leftists, and so are a majority of Americans. In lieu of trying to understand the movement, the media prefers to demonize, ridicule, condescend, and tries to marginalize. The left, and the media forgets (or never knew) that this country was founded by extremists that believed in those very same principals of limited government, low taxes, and natural rights.
I believe in a limited federal government with effective checks and balances. I believe in local solutions and low taxation. I believe that fundamental rights are God given, and not merely the product of a tolerant government. I believe in the ideals of our founding fathers. I believe in the individual. Apparently that makes me an extremists, and looking at my fellow Americans, it would appear that I’m in very good company.