Thursday, January 21, 2010

‘AstroTurf’ Tea Party Has Roots, After All

Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts represented the emergence of the tea party movement as a recognized political force. For the first time, reporters and pundits are taking note of the fact that this is a real grass-roots movement and not a phony AstroTurf one. Mainstream news outlets have credited the movement with Scott Brown’s victory, including the Christian Science Monitor, Financial Times and the Washington Post. As the Washington Post noted, it was populist anger that caused Democratic candidate Martha Coakley to lose in Massachusetts, though the newspaper waited until the 17th paragraph of today’s story to say where that populist anger comes from: White House officials believe the populist anger stems mostly from dissatisfaction with the economy, not Obama’s agenda or his health care plan. If the unemployment rate dips, they say, Obama’s approval rating will rise and so will prospects for Democrats in November. At the same time, Republicans may run the risk of overplaying the anger card. They still face internal fights over purity and ideology. The “tea party” movement remains an unpredictable force. To say it’s an “unpredictable force” is to at least acknowledge that it is a force. Earlier this year, the tea party movement was often ignored by media outlets. Most seemed willing to accept the argument by Democratic leaders and liberal pundits that the movement didn’t really exist. It was a Potemkin village: all smoke and more

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