Press Takes a New Look at Tea Parties After Brown Win
It would have helped Dems if they'd done it sooner.
12:12 PM, Jan 20, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Now that voter discontent has appeared in the bluest of blue states, and it's focused on the president's handling of terror, taxes, and health care, it's become much harder to marginalize Tea Party activists and other critics of the administration as:
It was always wishful thinking to believe that town hall protesters were a tiny segment of the country— all sound and fury signifying nothing. Even when it was a smaller group, their concerns were legitimate. It was disrespectful and dumb of Democrats to smear people giving voice to their worries, evincing the exact arrogance that turned voters in Massachusetts away from Martha Coakley.
As Brown's win showed, it signified something, indeed. Perhaps Coakley's loss would not have snuck up on national Democrats and Coakley herself if they hadn't spent the last year minimizing and denigrating administration critics. It's easy to think you've got an election in the bag when you assume your only opposition is a tiny clan of noisy, redneck racists (and, how many of those could there by in Massachusetts, anyway?).
It's easy to do a mediocre job selling one's sweeping health-care overhaul when you assume anyone against it just lives to hate poor people and/or do violence to President Obama.
Democrats fooled themselves into believing the town-hall/Tea Party caricature and ignored the feelings of real Americans.
And, to their electoral detriment, the media (particularly the MSNBC crew) abetted them in this fantasy. As of last night, the media have finally started to change their tune on the Tea Party movement. I was shocked to hear Chris Matthews concede that Democrats had not learned to talk to those critical of the administration, to assuage their worries. Perhaps that was partly because their picture of those critics was painted by...Chris Matthews, who called 60-something veterans "terrorists," and compared peaceful protesters to aspiring Timothy McVeighs. Maybe that had something to do with the lack of engagement.
David Gregory took the same turn as Matthews this morning, saying of Scott Brown's message, on "Morning Joe:"
Oh, is that what's fueling the Tea Party movement? A benign and even noble critique of government as overreaching and irresponsible, and unresponsive to the real needs of citizens while it's indulging giant, ideological power grabs? I could have sworn it was racism.
Flashback to David Gregory's take on the health-care town halls of August. Here is his line of questioning on an August 16 "Meet the Press." It was ostensibly an entire episode dedicated to "making sense" of health-care reform, but it started with a discussion which portrayed the raucous but almost entirely non-violent health-care town halls as fringe, violent, racist expressions:
Coburn tries to answer but Gregory jumps in:
The movement was synonymous with violence against the government in August, according to David Gregory. Now, it's about whether government is working for the people.
The truth, of course, is it was always about whether government is working for the people, not racism or violence or fringe militia groups. And, if the media or Democrats had bothered to treat Tea Partiers' concerns with a modicum of respect in August, they might still have their Massachusetts Senate seat in January.
Of course, not everyone can see with new eyes.