A Tea Party Convention was held this weekend in Nashville by some members of the national tea party movement. (The tea party movement, as we have observed at their previous events, is an allegedly non-partisan but in practice anti-Obama phenomenon, focusing on the Administration’s massive spending, which is portrayed as socialistic and wasteful of taxpayer dollars.) Though paid attendance at the convention was only around 600 (swelling to 1,100 for Sarah Palin’s Saturday night speech), it received about as much press as the Grammy Awards, partly because of Palin’s involvement. Ironically, this level of attention from the hated MSM gave rightbloggers the opportunity to treat the modest affair in a minor media market as if it presaged a second American Revolution — of the sort Palin told conventioneers America is “ready for.”
While the mainstream media gave the event their usual biased coverage (“Analysis: ‘Tea Party’ Is Democracy at Work” — Associated Press), rightbloggers gave it the friendly treatment they usually give conservative Republicans, and made great claims for its success and lasting impact on the American scene.
“The Tea Party is a unique populist movement and moment in American history,” said Larrey Anderson. They also claimed that “There is no charismatic leader of the party” and “the Tea Party does not need a charismatic leader,” though the ecstatic reaction to Palin’s speech — “Palin is America,” rhapsodized Atlas Shrugs — suggests otherwise.
Instapundit proprietor Glenn Reynolds opined in the Washington Examiner that the convention showed the tea party movement is “America’s Third Great Awakening,” on the order of the religious revivals of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Perhaps sensing that many readers would be uninterested in joining a giant prayer circle, Reynolds told them that tea parties are also fun: Participants were “finding that politics can be fun, and they’re encountering the joys of learning that they’re not alone… It’s fun to put on a protest rally for the first time and have it work out, but it’s even more fun to elect — or defeat — a candidate.”
But despite the tea party’s great historical significance and fun, Reynolds felt it necessary to burnish its image a little more for outsiders: He made a point of quoting one Antonio Hinton, and let his readers know that Hinton is black. David Weigel had reported that the crowd at the convention was “almost exclusively white,” and maybe Reynolds felt this wasn’t the way the Third Great Awakening should be pictured. Reynolds elsewhere showed pictures of Hinton surrounded by reporters, lest anyone get the idea that the event’s appeal was less than universal. Later Reynolds published a reader’s report that a caller at C-Span had said the white convention crowd “looked like a lynch mob,” which comment Reynolds attributed to “racism,” presumably against white people.
Founding Bloggers also found proof of the movement’s unexpectedly broad reach: A “Tea Party Democrat” who is running as an independent candidate for Congress from Maryland — on such traditional Democratic principles as advocacy of prayer in schools and opposition to spending on social programs, a CNN interview reveals.
Everyone was invested in making the movement look its best. Even intra-tea-party disagreements — Hinton’s attendance was itself part of a mild protest against the exclusivity of the event — were set aside as all hands went all in for the big win. RedState’s Erick Erickson, who had previously compared the big-ticket event to a Nigerian e-mail scam, turned up at the convention to praise it, albeit faintly, as “well-meaning.”
Classical Values defended the $549 convention entry fee on libertarian grounds: “OK I’m down with the idea that it was a fraud. But the Government is a bigger fraud. With the Tea Party Convention I had a choice. I didn’t have to support it if I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to pay a dime to watch Andrew Breitbart there. The Government is different. It makes me pay for things I don’t even want at the point of a gun. Which makes the Government not only a bigger fraud but also a Criminal Enterprise.”
In general, then, rightbloggers gave high-fives to their tea party favorites (“This is classic Breitbart and he knocks it right out of the park,” “Did [Palin] deliver to Tea Party Nation… You Betcha!”) and shook their fists at those who were not as enthusiastic about it as they (“AP Runs Palin Tea Party Hit Piece“). And they agreed that the convention showed Americans were getting angry at the government and its out-of-control spending.
Meanwhile back in Washington, Republican Senator Richard Shelby was having his own kind of party.
Shelby blocked dozens of Obama appointees, apparently using them as hostages to ensure his state receives billions of dollars in federal program money or, as it is known in different contexts, pork, which we are told is one of the menaces the tea party movement was founded to combat.
Legal Insurrection defended Shelby’s action on a serves-them-right basis, as Democrats had “connived and schemed to shut Republicans out of all major pieces of legislation, and are conniving right now to figure out a way around the Senate filibuster rule to pass the abominable health care plan… This is one big waaah from people who thought they were omnipotent, but have been brought back down to earth.”
“Turnabout’s fair play,” agreed Joshuapundit. “Senator Shelby is trying to create some jobs for his constituents. Compared to the blatant corruption we’ve seen practiced by the Obama Administration thus far, this is pretty tame… Another thing: who are some of these nominees? Most of the news reports don’t mention them, and I’m guessing there’s are some pretty good reasons why not.”
Commentary also alluded to the possibly treasonous nature of the nominees, complaining the Shelby incident “takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees” of the White House that Shelby, no doubt in the public interest, was choosing to block. They mentioned as examples of these “egregious nominees” Dawn Johnsen, currently disfavored by Republicans for “comparing ‘forced pregnancy’ with slavery,” per Fox News, and Harold Craig Becker, disapproved for “his pro-union stances,” per Workforce Management.
Commentary nonetheless told readers not to fret, as “it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting,” and then talked about the Black Panthers.
For the most part, rightbloggers quietly avoided the Shelby thing. This might seem strange to the uninitiated: Why wouldn’t they jump on this? Wouldn’t Shelby’s pork-grubbing offer a great object lesson in the spendthrift ways of Washington, right at the height of the tea party convention? As the tea parties are a transformative, non-partisan phenomenon, surely Shelby’s party affiliation wouldn’t make any difference in his treatment.
But we expect none of our readers is that uninitiated.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 8, 2010