Saturday, January 19, 2013
Perusing the San Francisco Chronicle over breakfast this morning, I lit upon an article on the insistence of Tea Partiers that they had no intention of going away, reports of their death supposedly greatly exaggerated. It was amusing to see that astroturf specialist Sal Russo was quoted: “Of course, the brand has been hammered, but the ideas haven't been hammered—and that's why they will always come back.”
The unrepentant Russo is described by the Chronicle reporter as “the Sacramento GOP political consultant who founded Tea Party Express, a network that since it began in early 2009 has connected millions of conservative activists, raised millions of dollars, and used its clout to back once-unknown political figures such as Sarah Palin.” That's half right. Russo is indeed one of the political promoters who reaped a rich reward by running out in front of a horde of disgruntled anti-Obama right-wingers and became a “grassroots leader” willing to collect names and spam those people with incessant appeals for money to fight against the Kenyan-Marxist-Socialist threat in the White House. Whether you account him successful or not depends on your choice of metric. Fleecing the flock? Brilliant success! Defeating Obama? Miserable failure!
But I come neither to bury Russo nor to praise him. He is what he is and his political operation will undoubtedly continue to seek willing victims to feed its appetites. My theme is taken from journalist Alan Barth, who in a 1943 book review penned the phrase, “News is only the rough first draft of history.” (The catchy line was later taken up by Philip L. Graham and others.) If the San Francisco Chronicle's news article on the so-called Tea Party is a “rough first draft” of history, I think the emphasis must be on “rough.” Did you spot the same anachronism that I did?
Rick Santelli blew his stack and called on live television in February 2009 for a “Chicago Tea Party” from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Right-wing interests were quick to exploit the opportunity to create various Tea Party organizations (like Russo's Tea Party Express), aided and abetted by constant promotional exposure on Fox News.
Today the Tea Party ranks are full of broken-hearted activists who grudgingly backed Mitt Romney as the only viable vehicle to oppose Antichrist Obama. Many of them pine for Sarah Palin to return from her frozen exile to lead them on a crusade (where “crusade” is indeed le mot juste) to save the nation from various ill-defined fates worse than death. But the Tea Party, as such, postdates Palin's over-extended fifteen minutes of fame. It had nothing to do with turning her from a “once-unknown political figure” into the wet dream of deranged right-wingers.