Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mischaracterizing The Tea Party

For those who don’t know, the Politico is an interesting site that gets a lot of good political stories. It also leans left, often very much so. In fact, a couple of their writers are little more than Democratic spokesmen (at least one has Soros ties). Now they’ve written a very deceptive article about the Tea Party. Basically, they’ve mischaracterized it as a gathering of Palin-lovers or Ron Pauliacs, even though the poll they are relying says the opposite.

Here’s what the article says. Let’s start with the headline: “Tea partiers in two camps: Sarah Palin vs. Ron Paul.”

Based on this, you would assume two things about the Tea Party. First, that it is split. Secondly, that its supporters by and large follow one of these two figures, both of whom happen to be the most controversial figures in the Republican Party. This, to the left, is like saying: “Tea Partiers split between Hitler and Satan.”

The article then says the following, which confirms the assumptions we just made:

“The results, however, suggest a distinct fault line that runs through the tea party activist base. . .”
Note that a fault line, like a rift, is a split and implies a great deal of anger when used in describing human relationships. Do you see the Tea Party splitting in two? The quote continues:
“. . . characterized by two wings led by the politicians who ranked highest when respondents were asked who ‘best exemplifies the goals of the tea party movement’ -- former Alaska Gov. Sarah Plain and Rep. Ron Paul.”
There it is, the Tea Party is split into two diametrically opposed wings, one that follows the teachings of Sarah Palin and one that follows svengali Ron Paul. Note the particular use of the words "led by." What does that tell you about the relationship between Paul/Palin and the Tea Party? Clearly, the Tea Party is nothing more than a vehicle for Paul/Palin supporters.

To back up this claim of leadership, the article points to a poll. Read this closely:
“Palin, who topped the list with 15 percent, speaks for the 43 percent of those polled expressing the distinctly conservative view that government does too much, while also saying that it needs to promote traditional values.

Paul’s thinking is reflected by an almost identical 42 percent who said government does too much but should not try to promote any particular set of values.”
There you go, proof that they are indeed the leaders of the movement because Palin gets 43% support and Paul gets 42% support, right?

Actually no, not even close. This misleading quote is the writer trying to create facts that don’t exist. He gives you the truth, but he hides it under the spin. Palin’s support is 15%, not 43%. Paul’s support is 14%, not 42%. That’s 29% support for both combined, not the 85% that is implied by the quote. How can 29% support fairly be turned into the quotes above which suggest that the Tea Party is hopelessly split 43/42 between these two? The answer is that it can’t, but it’s what the left wants to hear.

The idea of painting the Tea Party as beholden to either Palin or Paul or both is ridiculous. In fact, when asked if they would support Palin if she ran for President, a full 53% of Tea Party people said they wouldn’t even consider voting for her. Paul does even worse, with 59% saying they wouldn’t even consider voting for him. That means that 15% support Palin, 53% don’t, and 32% would consider it. That’s hardly the makings of a Tea Party leader. Ditto for Paul.

So why describe the Tea Party as split between these two? Because it makes the party sound like two fringe groups battling for the soul of the right. Moreover, it makes them sound like they are worshipping the cult of personality, rather than presenting rational ideas. But nothing is further from the truth.

Consider that split on values. Seventy three percent of Tea Partiers are “angry” that the government intrudes too much into personal lives. That doesn’t sound like much of a split. In fact, anything above 60% is phenomenally uniform in a poll.

So where does this crap about a split come from? It comes from this. When asked whether the government should promote a particular set of values, 51% said no and 46% said the government should promote traditional family values. Oh my! Clearly, them’s fighting words. . . except that the writer doesn’t factor in one big detail. The biggest issues people identified (those about which they were “most angry”) were: the national debt, bailouts, earmarks and frivolous lawsuits. The least important were the social issues.

What that tells us is that the Tea Party is a happy gathering of people with a common purpose -- to oppose the government's continued interference in economic and regulatory matters. To the extent they disagree on social issues, they have apparently decided to agree to disagree. And that’s no big deal. It’s the same thing when Catholics and Protestants and Jews come together on common issues. They have agreed to put aside their differences to work toward their common goals. To spin such a gathering as a deeply divided group ready to split apart as they each fight for their theology is dishonest, stupid and wishful thinking.

The reason the left can’t understand this is because the Tea Party people have done something the little tribes on the left never could: they’ve put aside their individual issues in favor of working on the things about which they agree. The left can’t see this because they can’t imagine putting aside their issues. When you are an environmentalist, all other issues come second. Ditto gays, abortion, unionization, blacks, women, etc. To the left, the other guys are there to help you, you aren’t part of a team. That's why they don't understand the Tea Party. The Tea Party people are different. They are working for a common goal.

That must be terrifying to the left.


Joel Farnham said...


I agree. I also think that Politico can't speak for the Tea Party too well and the Tea Partiers know it.

The Tea Party can't be compared to the Republican or the Democrat parties as well. And the Tea Partiers know it. It isn't organized that way. It doesn't have any official candidates.

This Politico article, I suspect, will lead the Democrat Party into a box canyon with no way out. It also lulls some of the Democrat Party into a false sense of security. At the same time, the Republican Party leaders can be lulled in the same way. It is a two-edged sword.

Let us hope that Michael Steele and the rest finally understand what the Tea Party is all about and act accordingly.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I think their intent in writing the article is to make the Tea Party sound like a collection of fringe Republicans, so that anyone who doesn't like Palin or Paul will dismiss the entire movement -- when it really has nothing to do with them.

As you say, the Tea Party is something different. It's not a traditional political party and it can't be judged the same. It's more like the anti-slavery movement, which was formed by many groups of people with many divergent views on different issues, but who all felt that ending slavery was the most important thing to be done.

I see the Tea Party as something similar, these people want fiscal sanity and small government and they are willing to work together to achieve that no matter what else they may believe.

That's something the modern left just doesn't understand.

Writer X said...

I read Politico occasionally and happened to read the article you've discussed, Andrew. Very good analysis. I thought the same thing. First, the deceptive headline drew me to read it but then once I started reading, I realized it was typical Politico spin. Like so many other publications, they make themselves irrelevant when they practice spin journalism. One thing is for sure: They're scared witless about the tea party movement.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Thanks!

I agree. I was drawn in by the headline too, and was amazed to find the blatant and obvious spin. They usually try harder to cover up their biases, but not this time. When journalists start spinning the truth, they lose the confidence of their readers. After all, how can you trust someone who isn't telling you the truth? And the Politico has been spinning a lot lately, especially when it comes to the Tea Party.

I also agree that they're scared of the Tea Party because it represents a major change of business in Washington that would make what they do much less important, i.e. the world won't revolve around Washington anymore.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: That's what we used to call "editorializing on the news pages." Use a slanted headline, then report only those facts that support your personal position. It's not exactly a lie, but you wouldn't want your mother to know you're doing it. The MSM has been doing it for years, even though they claim they subscribe to journalistic ethical standards (which they learned in the left-leaning journalism schools). The blogs don't claim to be bound by the same elusive standards, so most simply ignore them. It used to be "if it bleeds, it leads." Now it's "if it's crap, we'll yap."

There's nothing wrong with editorializing. We do it all the time, and it's the underlying mission of our blog. But we don't try to pass it off as "news" and if we cite facts, we do so in what is clearly political opinion. Politico doesn't claim to be a news agency, but they have always written their articles as if they were, thus falling prey to the blurring between "news" and "opinion."

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I always felt that one of the strengths of the Politico was that they did try to present a lot more facts than other "news" sources, and they generally present them fairly. Their conclusions are usually slanted, but at least the bodies of their stories "feel" fair.

This one, however, really rubbed me wrong. This one was propaganda from the headline to the end. Yes, the guy included all of the true facts, but he covered them all up with pure deceptive spin that was intended to convey an image of something that simply wasn't true. They should be ashamed of this one.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: I read Politico frequently myself. But it does present itself as if it's a news site, so they at least owe the obligation of acting like one (a proper one, not one like the New York Times). Just as happens in the MSM, it's difficult for the average guy who doesn't spend his time immersed in politics to separate those "generally fairly-presented articles" from those that are highly-slanted.

In the good old days (which were very brief and certainly not rigidly adhered to), the main sources, the newspapers and TV reports, had separate news and editorial departments. Today, they blur the two so completely that it's impossible to tell one from the other. And most blogs don't have departments at all. That's the danger of a blog that presents itself as a pseudo-news blog when it is really just a mouthpiece for one party or the other, or one political train of thought or the other. At least we let people know we're an opinion blog, and we're very opiniated. LOL

BevfromNYC said...

Writing articles about who and what the Tea Partiers are is becoming quite a cottage industry for the MSM. I wouldn't be surprised if colleges and universities opened a whole new field of study.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's true, they do present themselves as if they were a news site and not an opinion site. Sadly, that's kind of how modern "journalists" do it -- no integrity.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I think they're terrified that the Tea Party keeps growing and they are trying to damage its reputation with the public before it becomes too late.

If people begin to realize that the Tea Party is a gathering of average, patriotic Americans who are sick of Washington wasting their money, people might start flocking to it -- which would cause a massive backlash to the establishment.

So the MSM is trying hard to describe them as violent fringers. . . "please don't join."

Individualist said...

Well I attended my fist Tea Party event on Tax day and I met people that support both Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. Funny but my take on the values issue from talking with them is somewhat different than the Politico. I found that people who liked either and for that matter were concerned with a particular set of values.

Those values found in the Constitution. Funny how the one theme at the Tea Party that is stressed over and over is markedly absent from that analysis.

Notawonk said...

i have been meaning to remove politico from my badass list and this served as my reminder. while they do have some great political stories, they just aren't the badasses i thought them to be. perhaps i need a left-leaning column, but i hesitate to give them any space...

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, According to the poll, 15% support Palin and 14% support -- not the 83% the Politico is trying to pass off.

They also asked people to rank the issues they were most upset about. I didn't see the entire list, but the top ones were: the national debt, bailouts, earmarks and frivolous lawsuits. In that order.

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, They often put together good and interesting articles, but they also do this quite a bit. So I can recomment reading what they do, but you need to sift through it carefully.

Notawonk said...

andrew: i agree, yet still my badass requirement hasn't been met :)

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I fully understand!

Individualist said...


Sorry I am busy at work and have not time.

I read the Politico piece and quite frankly I think that doing a poll and asking question is fine. However, to do it right you might want to actually interview people who are there.

For instance would you not want to understand what is meant by people talking about "federalism" which if you listen to Mike Church seems to be important to Paul supporters.

If you wanted to talk about their most controversial stances why would you not mention the fact that they support having an Article 5 convention with the specific purpose of repealing the 17th ammendment and making Senators chosen by State Legislatures again.

I have no problem getting this from people I have talked to who are Paul supporters. Sometimes I think the are kooks but there are somethings they suppot that do seem to make sense so I am not decided on them as yet.

I think the real problem with the Politic piece starts before you get to the poll resuts and how they present them. They seem to be trying to define the Tea Party through the prism of MSM politics without even bothering to usderstand or worse refusing to explain their true positons. This is worse.

Why are w asking who "supports" Sarah Palin an given she is not announcing a bid for the Presidency why is there a distinction between a Paul supporter and a Palin supporter. I question that this distinction has any meaning whatsoever. Why are we discussing the issue of "family values" which is really code for liberals want abortios and to teach kids to have sex. It is not somehing I have seen conservatives argue among each other and I don't think anyone at the Tea Party is there because of these issues to begin with.

Even if the Politico honestly reported thenumbers of their poll, to my mind it is only put together to define the Tea Party in political terms liberals agree with and does not actually have any relevance to the positions of the Tea Party.

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