I spent much of Thursday’s show asking Tea Party participants to call and describe their backgrounds and why they had joined up. The only condition was that they had never called the program before. The lines were jammed with first-time callers wanting to tell their stories.
I will continue the experiment over the next few days to present a much more comprehensive sampling of the make-up of the movement than MSM has been providing. A large swath of the movement consists of long-time Republican voters and activists who have simply “stepped up” their commitment. This is why the commentary about a GOP “civil war” is so inane. These folks are just responding to what they perceive as an urgent crisis in American politics with much higher levels of participation, both in terms of physical presence at events, and on the internet and via donations.
Of course some pockets of the Tea Party want a purge in the GOP. And various vocal groups are represented within the large ranks of the army of volunteers. Some are Ron Paul supporters who want the U.S. out of Afghanistan. Some are secular absolutists who want evangelicals run out (even thought evangelicals outnumber the secularists by an enormous amount and even though the two most prominent political figures admired by most Tea Party leaders —Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint— are strong evangelicals.)
But overwhelmingly I heard in my callers’ stories today and from average Tea Party participants over many months a consistent story of alarm at the Obama/Pelosi/Reid radicalism across the board and especially at the explosion in the size and cost of government. The intramural squabbles among conservatives have been many this year, and the Tea Party-backed candidates have won some (Alaska, Colorado, Delaware) and lost some (Arizona, Maryland, Washington State). Most of those candidates who have lost haven’t taken their ball and gone home, and neither will most of the so-called “establishment” GOP after their knock-downs. There is some sulking on both sides, and some intemperate comments, but the overwhelming commitment across the spectrum of the GOP is to reverse the disastrous course set upon by the Democrats.
A much more comprehensive survey of the roots of many Tea party leaders has just appeared in book form, with the Kindle edition already available and the print edition following soon.
Tea Party: The Awakening, edited by Brent Morehouse, is a Studs Terkel-style anthology of first person narratives of people from the front lines of the Tea party movement. It is probably too much to ask Beltway MSMers to consult a book by and about the Tea Party people to actually get smart on who they are and why they are throwing themselves into politics at this juncture, but any genuine journalist will get the book and start to read.
Morehouse will spend the first half-hour with me on tomorrow’s program. The movement was first derided as insignificant, then dismissed with vulgarity, then mischaracterized by agenda journalists of the MSM, and is now portrayed as a threat to the party it is helping renew and triumph.
The most reliable thing you can conclude about the Tea Party movement is that the MSM hasn’t got a clue about what it is and what it means.