Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tiny teapot with a big megaphone

Adding some much needed context to so-called sweeping insurgency of disgruntled white, socially conservative, mostly Southern Republicans that have so captivated the tradmed, EJ Dionne asks, "Is the Tea Party one of the most successful scams in American political history?" As he points out
Do the math. For weeks now, our national political conversation has been driven by 86,441 voters and a margin of 5,548 votes. A bit of perspective: When John McCain lost in the 2008 presidential race, he received 59.9 million votes. [...]

But something is haywire in our media and our politics. Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian whose new book is "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History," observed in an interview that there is a "hall of mirrors" effect created by the rise of "niche" opinion media. They magnify small movements into powerhouses, while old-fashioned journalism, which is supposed to put such movements in perspective, reacts to the same niche incentives.
As Dionne says, "the Tea Party constitutes a sliver of opinion on the extreme end of politics receiving attention out of all proportion with its numbers." And of course a big reason they get it is they're subsidized by big bucks Republicans behind the scenes who can hire high priced strategists to magnify their successes.

This underlies the frustration I expressed in my tired and cranky post yesterday. In retrospect, I was probably taking out my frustration with this unfairly skewed media blitz on progressives who are venting their own frustrations in whatever they feel will be most effective.

I'm still thinking about what's really bothering me about the tactics on the left these days. Maybe I'll write more about it later, but for the moment, Dionne echoes the main point I was trying to make in that post:
And where are the progressives? Sulking is not an alternative to organizing, and weary resignation is the first step toward capitulation. The Tea Party may be pulling a fast one on the country and the media. But if it has more audacity than everyone else, it will, I am sorry to say, deserve to get away with it.
Actually, I don't think he quite gets it. It's not that progs are sulking. They're fighting back. My worry is they're wasting ammo on the wrong targets and shooting wildly at that. So much of what I read coming from the left feels too destructive. I fear the GOPers benefit more from it than progressives do. But maybe I'm just spending too much time on twitter, the home of instant hysteria. Have to say this, via Atrios, strikes me as the sort of constructive criticism that helps. There's probably more of it out there than I'm seeing. At least I hope so.

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Anonymous Ruth said...

The right's intensive presentation of its own as majority views goes back to 'Silent Majority" days, and you do well not to ignore the effect of the stink tanks and schools they have built up, continually putting out press jobs to keep the news their way.

8:46:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Don't think it should be ignored Ruth, and the biggest frustration is that the media plays along, but it also worries me when I see the left adopting right wing frames in their criticism. I don't think that helps progressive causes.

What I liked about the Lux post was that it detailed a specific concern, offered a concrete suggestion to fix it without falling into the "just as bad as Bush" territory.

9:42:00 AM  

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