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Tea Party 1, OWS Zip, MSM Fail

The Tea Party is back in the news again after its favored candidate scored an upset victory in the Republican primary for a Senate seat in Texas. Barring some sort of major surprise, Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz looks likely to join the ranks of the Tea Party’s Senate best friends.

And he won’t be the only TP backed candidate to take an oath of office next year. The New York Times discusses how candidates backed by the Tea Party are making noise in Republican primaries across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas to Nebraska:

Among 17 contested Senate races and in Texas, more than half a dozen of the Republican candidates — or those currently running ahead in their primaries — are Tea Party-embraced. The infusion of new conservative blood could alter the complexion of the Senate, increasing the sorts of conflicts between moderates and far-right Republicans disinclined toward compromise that have characterized the House for two years.

From Indiana, where Richard E. Mourdock recently toppled the veteran Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar, to Wisconsin — where two Tea Party candidates are slowly unmooring the Republican front-runner, former Gov.Tommy Thompson — to Nebraska, where Deb Fischer surprisingly beat out a more established Republican candidate, Tea Party-backed contenders are surging. In Missouri, three Republicans are fighting to portray themselves as the candidate most strongly aligned with Tea Party values.

At least a few of these candidates will likely lose their primaries to more establishment Republicans, and some of those who win may go down to defeat in the general election. But no one can deny the political power of the Tea Party anymore; for a movement that is now over three years old, this is no small thing.

Contrast this to the fate of what was supposed to be the left’s answer to Tea Party populism: OWS.  It’s odd, but we don’t seem to hear much from them any more. This is especially surprising when you think about how the MSM treated that movement to begin with. It did everything in its power to ignore, disparage or kill the Tea Party, and everything it could think of to celebrate and hype OWS.

One movement remains a powerful force in American politics; the other is as dead as the dodo.

We aren’t foolish enough to make predictions about the far-flung future. OWS or some other form of left populism could easily reignite in this country. Let Romney get into the White House and then let the economy tank, and the tribes of the left will be back in the streets, banging drums, smoking pot and generally raising a ruckus.

But perhaps the contrast of Tea Party staying power and the genuinely total and ignominious collapse of OWS can serve as a teachable moment for mainstream media editors and reporters who actually want to understand and fairly report the news, as opposed to manipulating it in the interest of a political agenda. (Readers take note: there are such.)

The lunge to dismiss the Tea Party as a racist and comical fringe while celebrating OWS as a genuine upwelling of American populism reflected serious errors about American history and culture. The simplistic conflation of populism with a left-progressive agenda is the kind of mistake college undergrads (and excitable professors) make when they’ve read too much Howard Zinn while imbibing too much caffeine. And the simplistic dismissal of right populism as racist and backward is equally flawed; Jacksonian America has its flaws but it is much more complex than its cultured despisers understand. These stereotyped views of American populism are caricatures and those who rely on them will repeatedly misunderstand the significance of events taking place before their eyes — just as they have done.

A few editors and reporters, and perhaps a higher proportion of their readers, will figure this out and start thinking more deeply about American history and politics.

But most probably won’t, and as a result the mainstream media will continue to lose market share and public confidence. More than the internet, what’s killing the MSM is bad ideas and superficial thinking. The group think mentality of the media herd rests on weak intellectual and historical foundations so that over and over the media take on a given event turns out to be fatally flawed. The public grows tired of this, and either tunes the news out altogether or turns to alternative media with alternative views.

To survive and thrive, the MSM needs to tweak its business models, but even more importantly it needs to reset its intellectual models. They don’t work. They are outdated.

This doesn’t mean the MSM needs to flip and embrace the Tea Party or appoint Glenn Beck to head NBC news. This is about sophistication much more than it is about partisanship. But make no mistake: without a richer, deeper, more layered view of how the world works, the MSM will continue to wither away.

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  • Tom Gates

    Amen, especially the comments on the MSM whose sterotypes and generalizations are wearing very thin.

  • dave schutz

    Hey! Elizabeth Warren is the intellectual mother of OWS! She says so, it must be true! and she may win in Mass.

  • vanderleun

    “Let Romney get into the White House and then let the economy tank, and the tribes of the left will be back in the streets, banging drums, smoking pot and generally raising a ruckus.”

    Shakin’ in our boots out here in the streets, boss.

  • Felipe Pait

    By far the best use of modern graphing technology to convey information on the web is made by the NYTimes, which has become the 1st major newspaper to make more money directly from readers than from advertisement. Media doesn’t get more mainstream liberal than the NYTimes.

    I would calibrate the attack on the mainstream media’s business model and use of technology.

  • Jim.

    @Felipe Pait-

    Isn’t the NYT’s collection of more money from readers than from advertisers a function of how far its advertising revenues have fallen? I was under the impression that they’re still wondering how to fight off long-term insolvency, as well as irrelevance.

    Newsweek tried to change their model and failed spectacularly, because they decided that taking a Left turn was the way to go.

  • gracepmc

    Outlets for MSM are changing. For better or worse physical printed news sources are diminishing. Technology is developing alternatives to traditional television programming and viewing. But ultimately the politicization of the news and reporting is personal. At least as of this writing each newsperson has the choice to say or write what they will or what they are told. We can be bought cheap these days. To my view there are pitifully few with integrity or substance.

  • ThomasD

    The economy ‘tanking’ with Romney in the White House?

    The economy has already tanked under Obama. Romney most likely faces the strong possibility of one, or two dead cat bounces as the economy tries to rise out of the tank it was already down in.

  • Anthony

    “Political parties had been considered a detrimental force by the founding fathers, since they were seen as contributing to the rise of factions. Thus, no mention of such was made in the Constitution. But differences in philosophy very quickly began to drive the leaders of the government into opposing camps – the Federalist and the Republicans” (i.e. Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians, Tea partiers and OWS perhaps, Jacksonians/Libertarians and liberals/progressives, etc. etc.).

    Operative at some level has always been a media model failing some and manipulating others…

  • cacrucil

    “…the tribes of the left will be back in the streets, banging drums, smoking pot and generally raising a ruckus.” – WRM

    Well at least they won’t seriously consider refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which caused major AND TOTALLY UNNECESSARY market gyrations and caused some of the agencies to lower our credit rating. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would have made the collapse of Lehman look like child’s play. At the end of that pathetic and despicable episode, they were even told by GOP CEOs that the debt ceiling must be raised. Yet several tea party fanatics in the house explicitly said that they did not care about this. So which group really is worse? Hippies are annoying, but these tea party congressman, and their scorched earth tactics, have proven to be dangerous during the debt ceiling debacle. And keep in mind that I definitely don’t support OWS.

    Here is what Judge Richard Posner, a chicago school big wig and probably the greatest judge in the anglophone world, had to say about the sorry state of modern conservatism. Keep in mind that he was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan and admires Milton Friedman.

    This is what he has to say about the current Supreme Court and the right wing criticism of Justice Roberts. If you listen to the whole interview – only about a minute and a half – you will hear him say that he has become less conservative now that the GOP has become “goofy.”

    “Because if you put [yourself] in his position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

    In this clip, Posner says that Obama should have unilaterally raised the debt ceiling.

  • Lea Luke

    And to think it all began on the floor of a stock exchange!

    This movement was “captured” from the very first moment. It is a plaything in the hands of big money.

  • jaybird

    WRM scores again.
    I have seen very little cogent analysis of the Tea Party anywhere in the legacy media, and what little coverage there is laughably construes it as “out of the mainstream.”
    However, it’s good business for the NYT to be responsive to its own base.

  • thibaud

    What, exactly, would be a “sophisticated, layered” view of the movement whose intellectual leader calls Teddy Roosevelt a “socialist”?

    The one who said, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub”?

    The alternative to Norquist/TP extremism is not OWS. It’s a sane, constructive, economically-literate GOP.

    A good description of that alternative can be found right here at The American Interest, in Francis Fukuyama’s wise (albeit despairing) essay, “Conservatives and the State.”

  • ms

    There is no more economically literate person in the country than Paul Ryan. He’s not a Tea Partier per se, but sympathetic. I haven’t been to any Tea Party rallies, but I do feel proud that at a time when people in European countries are rioting against necessary austerity, the US has a rising political party calling for smaller government. Maybe a few go overboard in their calls, but basically they are right. Big Blue government costs a lot of money and does not encourage innovation and initiative from private citizens; quite the contrary. Government certainly has some jobs to do, but it is way out of control and the source of many of our problems.

    As for the MSM–I think there is a big opportunity right now for people who are honest and thorough in their analysis. I know that I eagerly read people who provide this kind of commentary, people like WRM, Bill Galston, Jake Tapper, Charles Krauthammer, Mickey Kaus, Victor Davis Hansen and sometimes Peggy Noonan. These people are from both sides of the political divide, but I go to them because I think they make an effort to speak the truth.

  • Glenn

    From NYT Sunday Mag:
    From the Magazine
    The Last Refuge of Radical America

    The Occupy movement is still wreaking havoc in Oakland, Calif., the world capital of anticapitalism.

  • QET

    The problem with Fukuyama’s essay is the same problem that has led directly to the vehemence of the Tea Party rhetoric. Fukuyama offers only the old bromides about how we need a “limited, but strong government,” then goes on to chastise Republican efforts to actually, you know, reduce the feeral government in pursuit of that first requirement. Apparently it is fine for an intelligent conservative to blather on about limited government, but beyond the pale if he urges any action that would, you know, actually limit the federal government. And the rhetoric about drowning is just that–rhetoric, no different from heated rhetoric from the left.

    The root of the matter lies in this quote from Fukkuyama’s piece: “They saw national power as a tool to achieve their ends, something to be nurtured and built rather than demonised as something to be drowned in a bathtub.” Conceiving a vast central government as something capable of being architected with machine tool precision is the conceit of all sorts of well-intentioned people from the right and the left. Once that idea takes root in the minds of the sophisticates, then we end up just where we are today, with an entirely UNlimited central government that is ineffective and too expensive precisely because so many want it to be their “tool” for achieving supposedly benevolent ends.

    The most visible Tea Party people are probably narcissists and attention [lewd language removed] just like the most visible leaders of any social or political movement, and thrill to the sound of their own voices. But the fact is that if we are ever going to move this nation back in the direction urged by Fukuyama to a “limited, yet strong” government, we need a strong gravitational force acting from the right to offset that acting from the left, even if, taken by itself, that right-pulling gravitational force is too much.

    Final thought–Fukuyama and others like him constantly cconfuse government with administration. It is the latter that needs severe paring back, by drastic measures it would seem.

  • Dutch 1960

    One of the oddest aspects of the OWS “movement” was the Smithsonian diligently collecting OWS artifacts for their collection, during those few days that the MSM tried to convince the wider world that OWS meant something. The Smithsonian can put that stuff with the pet rocks and the Bicentennial drinking glasses. Your tax dollars at work yet again.

  • Emerson

    Hippies, anarchists, and street punks will destroy what they can at the 2 conventions – which will persuade some voters not to vote for the left that supports chaos for its own sake.

  • Andrew Allison

    I’m surprised that neither Prof. Mead nor any of the commentators this have overlooked the MSM effort, led as always by the Grey Lady, to paint a desire to rein-in unsustainable government spending as far-right “extremism”.

  • SteveMG

    “…start thinking more deeply about American history and politics.”

    And it for this – connecting current events to the longer currents of American history -that I keep coming here and why I read WRM.

    Few people do it better. Of course, few even try but that’s another story.

  • Walter Sobchak

    “mainstream media editors and reporters who actually want to understand and fairly report the news, as opposed to manipulating it in the interest of a political agenda. (Readers take note: there are such.)”

    Yeah. Right. What ever you say.

    Kids there are fewer of those beasts than there are unicorns.

  • Corlyss

    “the tribes of the left will be back in the streets, banging drums, smoking pot and generally raising a ruckus.”

    You left out OD-ing, urinating, and defecating in public.

    “the genuinely total and ignominious collapse of OWS can serve as a teachable moment for mainstream media editors and reporters who actually want to understand and fairly report the news, as opposed to manipulating it in the interest of a political agenda.”

    You overestimate the Boomer-edited MSM’s capacity for learning. For 40 years now we’ve seen pretty much the same low quality of reportage coming from MSM. The leftist editors in the 60s “made” the Boomer takeover of politics while the latter were still too juvenile to participate in the Big Kids’ games, feeding their massive egos and tiny destructive brains with delusions of self-importance. Like so many, Boomers believed their own press. Nothing good comes of such a combination. They worked to shape the world in their own image and made a complete mess of most things. For starters, just look at what they’ve done to one of the longest-lived and most storied political parties in the country.

  • Richard

    Being that I am a Boomer by year of birth but not by state of mind, all of this will soon pass (although I may pass along with it.) The most important song of the 1960’s alongside The Who’s “My Generation” was in retrospect “The In Crowd” lyrics written that same year by Bryan Ferris. The lyrics of that song exposes the faux nonconformity of a most conformist generation of Americans.

    For many of these elite liberal baby boomers, the cultural and intellectual clock stopped long ago in 1968. The reason they hate the Tea Party, hate bloggers, and the internet is because they have now become the old fogies. They sit in their faculty lounges and in their studio offices and yell “Get off my lawn!” There is no hope for them, they must go the way of all flesh.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The TEA Party was never about the Rallies, once TEA Party supporters saw just how many of their fellow citizens believed just as they did, a consensus formed. The consensus was that creating a new party would split the right (a la Perot), and risked failure. So the plan all along has been to take control of the Republican party starting at the local level, and by gaining power push the Big Government Fiscally irresponsible Republicans out of office. This strategy continues to bear fruit, and the Republican Party is being fundamentally changed.

    In the not too distant future the Republican Party will be indistinguishable from the TEA Party, promoting a Constitutionally Limited Federal Government. From a TEA Party perspective, the Federal Government has grabbed power unconstitutionally in violation of Article 1 Sec 8 which enumerates the powers of the Federal Government, and the 9th and 10th Amendments.

    Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution.
    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People.
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Nowhere in the Constitution is Healthcare, Education, or a slew of other things enumerated, and so power over these things rightly belongs to the People or the States.

  • Felipe Pait

    Jim #5, I don’t think so. The business model of journalism is changing but journalism seems to be doing fine, and some papers are doing better than others.

  • dr kill

    I agree with your analysis of the MFM. But people willfully refuse to understand TEA Party and Republican Party have yet little in common. The SoCon Proggs have the Repubs by the balls, and will ride them into the swamps of history over the next ten years. TEA people are libertarians who are attempting to over throw the GOP instead of starting a new party.

  • thibaud

    Given that nearly all of his posts are riffs on research and reporting done by journalists at the New York Times, FT, WSJ etc, what will our host write about when “the MSM [has] wither[ed] away”?

  • thibaud

    #9 cacrucil – thanks much for the interview with Judge Richard Posner.

    Add yet another brilliant thinker to the list of heavyweight Republicans who are disgusted by the stupidity, extremism and outright nastiness of the Norquist/TP crowd.

    Some more choice quotes from the Richard Posner interview in which he describes the far right wing that’s hijacked the GOP as “lunatics”:

    “… I mean, I’m less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming GOOFY! [chuckles]…

    “Reagan did a lot of good things… [Reagan’s] privatization, deregulation may have gone too far, but these were important correctives. But in the last 10 years, there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking…. “

  • MichaelM

    And keep in mind that none of this has anything at all to do with the Tea Party organizations being much better funded right from the start than the OWS lack-of-organizations.

    Tories, the lot of you. I may not like everything that goes down with the OWS crowd, and I certainly don’t agree with their politics, but come on. This kind of triumphalism is the problem, not the solution. When Americans get tired of hearing what they want to hear and ignoring everything they don’t is when problems start to get solved, not a moment before.

  • Boritz

    One spelling correcction: When discussing OWS ‘do do’ is two words.

  • Sam L.

    They need to do something besides refusing to see and lying about what’s happening. They will need a severe emotional experience (or a 2×4 upside the head) to get their eyes and brains oriented to seeing and telling truths.

    Holding my breath, I am not. Giving my custom to those fools, I am not.

  • Tom D.

    I like WRM but this seems like an incredibly naive post. Could the staying power of the Tea Party in the news and at the ballot box have ANYTHING at all to do with the level and sources of funding?

    What do you wanna bet that available funds for Tea Party activities are are $100 to $1 for OWS?? Der.

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