Cable news is obsessed with the Tea Party. It's not unique to Fox News, either. Chris Matthews did an hour-long special on them. CNN hires them as commentators, despite their ugly daily behavior online. and now Greta Van Susteren has gotten in on the Tea Party gravy train with an hour-long love song to them last night.
There are some revealing moments mixed in with the usual nonsense from the likes of Dick Armey and Sarah Palin about how the tea parties are all organic and populist. Humbug and idiocy, that. But two segments in particular are worth watching, both from Utah Senators.
Orrin Hatch looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He's being squeezed hard by the Tea Party and moves farther right with each passing day, but this interview tells me he isn't very happy about it. It's interesting to hear him repeat several times in the beginning, middle and end of this segment how he believes most of them are good people who are 'just fed up'. Here's the revealer though:
They're good people. You always have the radicals in any organization, but the vast majority of them are honest, decent people who are sick and tired of what's happening in our country.
That disclaimer about radicals in any organization was an interesting one for him to make. I think Hatch knows he's a goner in 2012 but will hang on as long as possible in the hopes of moving the Republican party back toward reason because he knows the truth: the majority of them are radicals with a few honest and decent angry folks on the fringe edges.
Former Senator Robert Bennett is a very interesting man. There's no question that he was (and is) very frustrated with how the Tea Party swept through the 2010 primaries in Utah leaving him high and dry.
Bennett is clear about his opinion of the tea party and the 2010 midterm elections. He blames Utah's weird primary system -- a convention of Republicos -- for his loss last year. He also points out that the midterms resembled European-style elections where voters don't really care who the candidate is as much as who the party represents. He points out that it worked well for them in the House races, but says Republicans lost the Senate because of them.
One of the best moments is when he mentions Dino Rossi's loss to Patty Murray, noting that while Rossi wasn't a pure tea party candidate, he had "that odor around him."
I'm not sure I agree with Bennett entirely, but I do think his analysis holds up about the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House, he says, is more fluid (and I would add, more populist), with people not necessarily even knowing who their Representative is or what they've done. The Senate, on the other hand, with the longer terms and higher statewide profiles, tends to be less of a party choice and more of a people choice.
He likens the Tea Party to the difference between John Adams and Sam Adams. In response to where he thinks the Tea Party will be in two years:
Well, let's go back in history just a little and this may be too much of an analogy. But as I've tried to think about it, I think you know, this is kind of like Sam Adams and John Adams. Sam Adams -- I don't know that he was there at the first Tea Party but he certainly was their spiritual leader. He was THE patriot in Massachusetts that riled everybody up and let's just take on the British.
But when it came to putting the country together and making things work, that's when they needed John Adams, not Sam Adams. You needed somebody who knew something about government and he became a leader. Right now you've got a bunch of Sam Adams. The question is, in the current House and Senate, are we going to get out of this Tea Party movement some John Adams?
I'm betting not. How about you?
A couple of the commenters on my Fox News lament yesterday referred to it as pure invention, a 24/7 propaganda machine that invents, promotes, and flogs narratives until they're woven into the fabric of our politics. I consider the Tea Party to be one of those inventions. It was born from intentional strategies, caught fire because people's anger was stoked and stroked daily on demand, and continues because of PR specialists and news networks willing to treat this group of unruly characters like a legitimate populist grass-roots movement when there is nothing at all organic about it at all.
Finally, allow me one moment of snark: Dick Armey's tanning salon must make a fortune on him. Whatever he pays, it's too much.