Tea Parties & The Inconvenience of Truth

Tea Parties & The Inconvenience of Truth

By Ross Mackenzie - April 19, 2010

Let's talk tea parties -- and the press.

The past week included Tax Day (April 15) and a lot of local tea party rallies drawing thousands of primarily middle-class citizens protesting the growing role of government in their lives.

These rallies heard much about federal abuses to capitalism, liberty, the Constitution, individual responsibility, and national sovereignty. Perhaps the earliest indication of public disaffection happened Feb. 27 of last year with small rallies in 50 cities at which taxpayers protested the $786 billion stimulus bill. Those rallies began the tea party movement.

Protest is the essence of America. It formed the nation. To say people attending these rallies are loons is to say the same of those who dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest British taxes.

Yet to read in much of what remains of the mainline press, many tea partiers at Tax Day rallies are nothing good -- racists, fascists, gun nuts, gay-bashers, militant separatists. They are described as generally hateful, ignorant, unhinged, and of course extreme.

Most are none of those things. Rather, they are largely independent voters angry at relentless Democratic leftism, frustrated by big-spending Republicanism (primarily under Bush II), and outraged by the hubris, pretension, shameless immoralism, and patronizing arrogance so widespread among the lofties in both political parties.

Are these people lopsidedly Christian? Yes indeed -- and so is the nation. Are they conservative? Yes again, and hence typical of how a large percentage of voters describe themselves (a percentage consistently larger than voters describing themselves as liberals).

Are they loons swimming out of the mainstream? Here's NPR and Fox analyst Juan Williams:

A Pew poll in early March found 78 percent of Americans "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today." . . . A Fox poll in February found that 59 percent say they don't trust the federal government. A CNN poll the same month reported results that suggest 56 percent are well beyond mere mistrust: They agree that the federal government is "so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens."

And are they defectors from the mainline press? You'd better believe it.

For years, generations, first the print press, then network radio, and then network television gave little comfort to conservatives -- and still don't. So conservatives and independents either turned off or turned away. They went first to talk radio, then to cable news (Fox), then to the Internet. Liberal talk radio (Air America) never took off; National Public Radio wouldn't exist were it not for various forms of federal favor. Viewership of liberal cable (MSNBC and CNN) is plunging, paralleling network viewership. And too many newspapers continue to struggle.

All object to any ideological characterization. Yet the truth is leftism long has dominated in newsrooms, and long has dominated among top television and newspaper editors (polls in 1972 indicated about 90 percent of them voted for George McGovern). At an April 1980 convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, just 1 percent of about 500 editors marking a preference ballot signified for Ronald Reagan.

Talk radio, cable, and the Internet liberated today's independents and tea partiers -- gave them niches where they could go for news and comfort. Long subdued (remember the Silent Majority?), they now find themselves emboldened and vocal. They are turning out to make their voices heard -- and their votes count.

In many cases, neither Republican nor Democrat can win without many votes from independents, whom many tea partiers typify. Your average tea partier will give his vote to whichever candidate, of whichever party, deserves it most.

That is why so many Democrats and Obamians (and so many mainline pressies who keep the Obamian tablets) so detest tea partiers -- disparage them, call them names. It is also why some who see the risks tea partiers pose are seeking (in the words of one wire account) "to infiltrate and dismantle" the group "to make its members appear to be racist, homophobic, and moronic." Still, from the president on down, leftists vilify and caricature tea partiers (a) at profound peril to the perpetuation of their ideology and (b) at political peril principally to themselves.

What moves the tea partiers? Perhaps these sentiments and beliefs . . .

They tend to wonder -- despite the fall of the Berlin Wall -- whether Obamacare, federal bailouts for everyone with a lobbyist, and government takeover of General Motors and the student loan industry suggest socialism has won. Whether the coming debt/inflation tsunami -- with Obama having obligated, pre-Obamacare, more federal debt in just one year than his 43 predecessors combined -- will make the Greek and European Community debt problems look like spring showers. Whether punishing those who tell the truth about Obamacare, as Rep. Henry Waxman proposes to do April 21, is a prudent course.

They tend to wonder why the mainstream media do not hold liberals and Democrats to the same standards of behavior they impose on conservatives and Republicans. Why it is fiscally responsible to add trillions in debt for Obamacare when Social Security, already with a negative cash flow, will have no cash at all in just eight years. Why it is OK for members of Congress to pass a health plan for the everyday rest of us, yet one exempting them.

And tea partiers tend to wonder why it makes any sense to cozy up to our declared foreign enemies and insult our foreign friends, to enhance the power of unions (most noticeably public-employee unions), to expand federal regulation and federal intrusion, and to permit Iran to move unfettered toward development of nuclear weapons.

. . .

With all that, would it be too much to suggest the tea partiers are riding to the nation's rescue on the political/ideological inconvenience of the truth?

Ross Mackenzie is the retired editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial pages. Contact him at

Copyright 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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