Monday, April 19, 2010

Echo Chamber Populism

E.J. Dionne’s column in today’s WaPo is excellent. Dionne looks at the New York Times/CBS News survey of the Tea Party “movement”--I use quotation marks because is a gathering of angry people who aren’t sure what and why they’re mad or what to do about truly a “movement”?--and he makes some really strong points. For one thing, he points out that
This must be the first "populist" movement driven by a television network: Sixty-three percent of the Tea Party folks say they most watch Fox News "for information about politics and current events," compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

Yes, thanks for noticing. We liberals have been saying this all along.

Dionne also points out that Tea Partiers hold beliefs that are actually far outside the mainstream of America:

The poll asked: "In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?" Twenty-eight percent of all Americans -- and just 19 percent of those who are not Tea Party loyalists -- answered "too much." But among Tea Party supporters, the figure is 52 percent, almost three times the proportion of the rest of the country. A quarter of Tea Partiers say that the Obama administration's policies favor blacks over whites, compared with only 11 percent in the country as a whole.

So race is part of this picture, as is a tendency of Tea Party enthusiasts to side with the better-off against the poor. This puts them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that "providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor," 73 percent of Tea Party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that "the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit." Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters took this view.

Asked about raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so vs. only 17 percent of Tea Party backers.

Again, this reaffirms what we lefty types have been saying for the past year now: that the Tea Party is the same wackadoodle far right fringe we’ve always had whose ideas are far outside the mainstream. They are pissed because they lost an election and are out of power and that happened because, I repeat, they are a far right wackadoodle fringe outside the mainstream.

See folks, this is echo chamber populism: a group of people who talk only to each other, who get all of their information from like-minded sycophants, whose news and information and views are formed inside a bubble. It’s warm and cozy in the bubble but it’s also not reality. No wonder they believe they are some kind of majority and something went terribly, terribly wrong for them to not have their viewpoints codified in the halls of power.

Feeding this belief is a mainstream news media which covers every fart and belch at a rate of one reporter for every three Tea Party convention participants, and which repeats the spin that this is just a mainstream group of folks because to do otherwise is an admission they were foolish to jump aboard the bandwagon to begin with.

Sorta reminds me how the media was all like, "America fuck yeah!" during Shock & Awe and then when Iraq was revealed to be a huge lie they were all like, "What? Who? Us? Why we'd never be so irresponsible!" Except for a handful of Jake Tapper-types who said maybe they could have done a little better job of reporting in the run-up to the Iraq War. But, bygones!

But I digress. Anyway, Republicans will pander to this group because that’s how they roll, but Democrats need to run far and fast from the Tea Baggers.

Writes Dionne:

Democrats face problems not from right-wingers who have never voted for them but from a lack of energy among their own supporters and from dispirited independents and moderates who look to government to solve problems but have little confidence in its ability to deliver.

Ayyy-fucking-men to that. The biggest mistake Democrats at any level -- local, state, or nationally -- could make is to try to run to the right. Liberals needs to be energized and motivated, and independents and moderates need to see that there is, in fact, a reasonable alternative to the fringe wackadoodles that the Republican Party is busy sucking up to.