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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tea Party Takeover

by digby

What a morning. I had just finished reading Matt Taibbi's report on the Tea party before I read this:

As I've noted here, the impact of the Tea Party on the GOP and the broader political landscape is only beginning to be felt, and now the new NBC/WSJ poll finds that an astonishing 71 percent of Republicans describe themselves as Tea Party supporters.

Taibbi's take on the movement seems right to me except in two important respects. The first is that he completely leaves out the importance of Fox News in the building of this movement. It literally couldn't have happened without it, and the most powerful leaders of the group are creatures of the Murdoch media empire. He does discuss the corporate influence on the group through various other astroturf organizations, and a major thesis of the story is the fact that the Tea Partiers are deluded patsies for the corporate overlords, so that aspect of the story isn't missed. But the insidious Fox agenda is a story unto itself.

The other thing I think he missed was the merging of the Tea Party with the Religious Right. The Glenn Beck MLK day at the Lincoln Memorial was a sort of national invitation. It's necessary since the churches form the main grassroots organizing function for the GOP.

Jim DeMint signaled this a few months back:

David Brody: Are you concerned at all that some of the social conservative issues, abortion and same sex marriage, some of these other issues because they are taking somewhat of a back seat right now at least to the fiscal issues that there are some inherent problems for social conservatives in something like that?

Senator Jim DeMint: No actually just the opposite because I really think a lot of the motivation behind these Tea Party crowds is a spiritual component. I think it's very akin to the Great Awakening before the American Revolution. A lot of our founders believed the American Revolution was won before we ever got into a fight with the British. It was a spiritual renewal.

Senator Jim DeMint: I'm 'praying for you' comes up more than anything else in these crowds so I know there's a spiritual component out there.

Senator Jim DeMint: I think as this thing (the Tea Party movement) continues to roll you're going to see a parallel spiritual revival that goes along with it.

David Brody: Just so I understand, when you say spiritual revival how are you terming that? What do you mean specifically as in "spiritual revival?

Senator Jim DeMint: Well, I think people are seeing this massive government growing and they're realizing that it's the government that's hurting us and I think they're turning back to God in effect is our salvation and government is not our salvation and in fact more and more people see government as the problem and so I think some have been drawn in over the years to a dependency relationship with government and as the Bible says you can't have two masters and I think as people pull back from that they look more to God. It's no coincidence that socialist Europe is post-Christian because the bigger the government gets the smaller God gets and vice-versa. The bigger God gets the smaller people want their government because they're yearning for freedom.

So, within the Tea Party now you have the anti-government (for people they hate) obsessives, the Birchers, the gun fetishists, the neo-confederates and the social conservatives, with spillover between all of them. And the corporate leadership is bankrolling it, knowing that these folks are driven by tribal resentment (Taibbi's description of this is right-on) and are uninterested in their machinations. It's the GOP coalition. If I have any quibble with Taibbi it's the fact that he's so sanguine that these people can do no real mischief once in power. I think the corporate overlords have a tiger by the tail and will find it much harder to control it than they imagine. At the very least they are going to have to throw it a substantial amount of red meat to keep it placated. (I'm guessing it's going to have a lot of taco seasoning on it.)

The big question is, who are the 29% of Republicans who don't approve of the Tea Party? Mike Castle types who just haven't awakened to the radical takeover of their party? And will they keep voting Republican when Jim DeMint officially becomes the spiritual and intellectual leader of the GOP?

Update: Pat Boone's on board:

"I am an American," Pat Boon belted out the other day to an adoring crowd. "Born to be a rootin', tootin', flag-waving citizen."

Boone looked young and fit at 76, with his perpetual tan and stay-press hairdo. As I approached the stage, he was singing the song he'd written for the occasion — the first-ever "Beverly Hills Tea Party" rally.

"I love the Pledge of Allegiance, one nation under God," Boone sang. "If you can't say it with me, you're free to leave, by God. Cuz I am an American. My blood's red, white and blue."

And he was just one of the roughly 200 patriots on hand, including a Revolutionary-themed drum and bugle corps, and two guys who waved a "No More Socialism" banner.

Most of the people in the crowd were middle-aged or older, white and very angry in a Libertarian way about taxes and government spending. Several speakers and attendees said the movement isn't a Republican or Democratic thing; it's about the fact that political leaders are out of touch elitists, and the political process is broken and bankrupt.


Someone handed me a flier for Chelene Nightingale, a candidate for governor of California. Ever hear of her? I hadn't, but she's an immigration hard-liner, according to the literature, and lest you doubt it, there's a photo of her with a big smile and an even bigger gun.

Near the stage, I asked a man what drew him to the event. "I think there should be less government and more power to the people," said Robert Santner, who spoke for many.

Joe Clark complained about how the overtaxing, overreaching government is determined to decide what car we drive, what doctor we see and what foods we eat. He doesn't trust either party, he told me. But his sign left no doubts about his preference.

"Teach A Man to Fish, The Democrats Lose a Vote."