The Rachel Maddow Show: Tea Baggers Taking Over The Republican Party

Rachel Maddow takes another shot at Dick Armey in response to his cheap shot at her during his tea bagger rally. Rachel explains why Dick Armey might
up

Rachel Maddow takes another shot at Dick Armey in response to his cheap shot at her during his tea bagger rally. Rachel explains why Dick Armey might have been aggravated enough to go after at her in the first place. As Adele Stan at AlterNet reported, apparently Armey's "die in" didn't go so well along with his appearance at the National Press Club. I'm sure he's still mad about losing that lobbying gig as well. Keep giving him hell Rachel.

MADDOW: That was Dick Armey getting big yucks from the crowd, giving my name the old Norm Crosby treatment. Today, we learned what might have put Mr. Armey in such a contentious mood as he took the stage mid- afternoon.

About an hour prior to that taping you just saw, Dick Armey had scheduled a 12:30 p.m. luncheon at the National Press Club, an event, a big press event, starring him, talking about his favorite issues and reportedly for him to launch his new political action committee.

As it turned out, there was no turnout. The Dick Armey luncheon was canceled. Canceled by whom? By Dick Armey? Not exactly. After Adele Stan at "AlterNet.org" reported that she had tried to attend the Dick Armey national press club event only to find it called off.

We reached out to communications and event manager at the National Press Club, Melinda Cooke, to find out why. She told us that the luncheon was canceled because, quote, "They didn`t have enough reservations."

Ooh, not enough people wanted to luncheon with Mr. Armey. We then asked the minimum number of interested reporters required to hold on to a reservation for such a luncheon. And Ms. Cooke quite diplomatically responded, quote, "Let`s just say there`s a minimum required and they didn`t meet it."

Mr. Armey`s noontime fizzle wasn`t the only torch-and-pitchfork grassroot-sy, tea baggish event that failed to launch yesterday. The Tea Party Patriot`s anti-health reform group planned a die-in in Senate offices yesterday. They were going to show up in droves at Senate offices and pretend to die because the health reform is a secret plot to - whatever.

Except the thousands of people who were supposed to meet and pretend to die didn`t show up in the thousands and the die-in sort of died. It didn`t really happen. Given some of the falling flat yesterday, there was a really notable entry in the new NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll which has just come out tonight.

With just about everything and everyone in politics really taking it on the chin, public opinion-wise, the tea party movement is being relatively well-received. Forty-one percent of those polled said they viewed the tea party movement as very positive or somewhat positive, which is not the sort of polling that all the fizzle would have suggested.

The NBC News political team broke the numbers down a bit, gave us the cross tabs, and that`s sort of where the revelation happens. It turns out that 76 percent of people who get their political and current event information from FOX News see the tea party movement positively.

Seventy-six percent. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say they viewed the tea party movement positively. And they are popular with 44 percent of white people as well. \ For people who get their news and information from news channels that don`t stage political events around the tea parties and therefore become participants in the process, just 24 percent of people viewed the tea- partiers positively. Fourteen percent of Democrats view the movement positively.

So the Dick Armey movement has seen an uptick in terms of how they are viewed. It`s based just about entirely in FOX News viewers and Republicans, meaning it`s kind of official. The fringe has purged. The Republican Party is now officially steeped in tea baggers. I`ll be here all week.

Joining us now is Dave Weigel, reporter from "The Washington Independent" who has been covering the tea-partiers. Dave, thanks very much for being here.

DAVE WEIGEL, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT": Thanks. And I would like to apologize for Dr. Armey for not reserving a spot to his luncheon. I`m sorry about that.

MADDOW: They wouldn`t tell us what the minimum number was. But, yes, yes. Also, there wasn`t anything else canceled on the calendar. I looked. That was the only one. Never mind.

Dave, you have covered the tea party rallies over the course of many months. You have been on this show a number of times talking about them. I know you were there yesterday in Washington.

How would you say the energy at these things is tracking over time? Stronger, weaker or staying the same?

WEIGEL: There`s a ton of energy, although I found yesterday more pessimism about their chances of stopping a health care bill, any health care bill through the Senate. The torture - you know, the agony of the teeth-gnashing that liberals are going through about what`s not in the bill, that doesn`t matter so much to tea party activists.

They think any bill starts the government takeover of health care. The road to serfdom - it`s not going to be 10 miles down the road. It will be seven miles - bad enough. And they`re actually not - they`re worried they`re going to lose this battle, but they`re really confident they`re going to win in 2010. And that is where the energy is coming right now.

MADDOW: OK.

WEIGEL: It`s a lot of electoral energy like you saw in upstate New York in this election.

MADDOW: Well, and that`s - I feel like that`s the most interesting dynamic here. It`s the relationship between tea party movement and Republicans.

WEIGEL: Right.

MADDOW: And at first, we saw a lot of excitement among elected Republicans that these sort of shock troops are holding town halls and expressing despite two operative opposition to Democrats and government. And then there were at least a few voices of caution or hesitance among Republicans and some of the rhetoric got really out of control.

Now, Sen. DeMint is really overtly readopting tea baggers. Michael Steele put out Republican Party-branded tea bags yesterday at an event. How much will the Republican Party, the people who run for office and serve, end up looking like the tea partiers?

WEIGEL: Entirely. I mean, it`s really like when the progressive party and William Jennings Bryan swallowed the Democratic Party in 1896, if I can try and one-up Chris Hayes on the nerd talk here. It`s a lot like that because the tea party movement, as you`ve said in this poll, as we`ve in the Rasmussen poll, is more popular than the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is still George Bush`s party, Ben Bernanke`s party. It`s not very popular, whereas this anti-debt, let`s save America, let`s bring prosperity back movement - the more broadly you can define it, it`s quite popular.

Michael Steele today, the National Republican Committee today launched this "listen to me" campaign in which average Americans, you know, demand that Congress listen to them. That was ripped precisely from the tea party movement and from the rally yesterday.

Jenny Beth Martin and the tea party patriots kept using that slogan. Talk radio uses that slogan. I mean, the tea party movement is populism. It`s anti-Wall Street. It`s anti-government.

The Republican Party is not really anti-Wall Street. They`re pro-tax cut. So this is - all the energy, I think, against Democrats right now is coming from that movement. Of course, it`s going to drive the Republican Party.

MADDOW: And I think it`s going to be an awkward marriage between the two when we get down to brass tacks with policy. But I guess as long as they can keep it not about policy, they can enjoy one another`s company.

WEIGEL: Enjoying it so far.

MADDOW: I guess so. Dave Weigel, reporter from "The Washington Independent" - really appreciate your time tonight, Dave. Thanks.

WEIGEL: Thank you so much for having me.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.