Friday, December 18, 2009

Tea Party More Popular than Dems, Repubs... and Other Utterly Meaningless News

Tea Party More Popular than Dems, Repubs... and Other Utterly Meaningless News

Tea Party More Popular than Dems, Repubs... and Other Utterly Meaningless News

This is silly stuff. more »

Posted by Joshua Holland, AlterNet at 3:00 PM on December 17, 2009.

This is silly stuff.

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All indications suggest we've become a nation of hyper-polarized bickering lunatics, screaming at each other over issue after issue.

But many political reporters maintain the fantasy that there exists some vast, thoughtful ideological middle that punishes the two major parties whenever they veer too far from the center (as defined, of course, by the jackals of the WaPo editorial board).

And while it appears that most Americans would happily see a favored politician brutally disembowel an opponent on the floor of the Congress, that vast middle -- being above all reasonable and non-ideological -- is supposedly bothered first and foremost by "gridlock" in Washington. When Congress doesn't act quickly enough, they lash out at both the Dems and Repubs, and the emergence of a viable third party is always a possibility looming just over the horizon.

This poll everyone's talking about fits neatly into that narrative:

The loosely organized group made of up mostly conservative activists and independent voters that's come to be known as the Tea Party movement currently boasts higher favorability ratings than either the Democratic or Republican Parties, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll coming out later today.

More than four in 10, 41%, of respondents said they had a very or somewhat favorable view of the Tea Party movement, while 24% said they had a somewhat or very negative view of the group. The Tea Party movement gained notoriety over the summer following a series of protests in Washington, D.C. and other cities over government spending and other U.S. economic policies.

I just want to add my own to the chorus of voices calling bullshit on anyone drawing any serious conclusions from this stuff.

Steve Benen notes the obvious flaw -- few are familiar with what the tea parties are really all about:

Looking at the internals (pdf), the poll also asked respondents, "How much do you know about the Tea Party movement: do you know a great deal about this, a fair amount, just some, very little, or nothing at all?" About half the country has no idea what the "Tea Party movement" is. Only 7% said they know a great deal about the effort.

For those of us who follow politics at the granular level, keeping up closely with day-to-day details, the right-wing Teabagging rallies were hard to miss. For the typical Americans, who don't follow political developments closely, "Tea Party" is far more reminiscent of Boston Harbor in 1773 than a bunch of Fox News viewers carrying signs of the president with a Hitler mustache.

It goes further than that. It's become self-evident that both major parties have a healthy quotient of suck. That predates the advent of the tea-parties, as does the clear trend of fewer Americans identifying with the donkey-elephant complex. After decades of economic stagnation for most of us, people are just furious at all institutions of the political and media establishments. The tea-baggers are obviously an expression of that discontent, but only the latest of many. The blogosphere, the Ron Paul sensation -- you can go back 17 years to Ross Perot taking 19 percent of the popular vote on a platform that amounted to little more than cranky right-populism wrapped in homey aphorisms. All of these movements have tapped into the same well of discontent.

Things do in fact blow chunks right now on any number of fronts, and it's really no news at all that a movement whose message is a Howard Beale-esque, 'I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!' is going to be popular.

And here's the essential flaw in asking this question: the tea parties are the Ross Perot movement without Ross Perot. The Dems and the Republicans are both real political parties that really have to govern this ungovernable mess we call the U.S. They have to adopt real positions, run real election campaigns, pass real laws.

The tea party, free of that burden, has the luxury of not having to offer any ideas that go much further than the ever-popular thesis that 'politicians suck.'

As Eric Boehlert put it:

I'm not surprised because the Tea Party is a faceless movement that has doesn't actually stand for anything specific, so people can pretend it's whatever they want it to be. It's an utterly pointless polling exercise because people have an ingrained idea of who the Democrats are and what they stand for politically. Same with Republicans. But the non-existent Tea Party, for now, can be whatever voters want it to be.
But put a specific face on it (i.e. Sarah Palin or Dick Armey) and start pressing poll respondents to choose, and the results will change. Start spelling out what the supposed Tea Party is for and against, and the results with change. Because isn't it a fact of polling that when you give people the choice between an undefined blank slate (i.e. a Tea Party that doesn't actually exist) and ask them to pick between that and well-known entities with lots of political baggage, that people are likely to pick the blank slate?

Boehlert says the appeal of the story for political reporters is their never-ending fascination with Americans' "(theoretical) interest in a third party movement." Another reason this question is of dubious utility: Who cares if Americans want to see a viable 3rd party if the fix is in? Show me some support for a political party that can't get on ballots, won't get big campaign bucks, won't be invited to participate in televised debates, will be mocked by the corporate media and basically has zero chance of winning anything and I'll be impressed.

Until then, here's Daisy:



Tagged as: tea parties

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