Anti-tax protests have been around as long as there have been taxes, but this last week was special. At a time when American taxpayers are actually quite content with the amount they are taxed; one cable news network hijacked, actively promoted, and then participated in what was supposed to be the Boston Tea Party, reborn. The Fox News production of “Tea Party 2009,” had no more impact than any of its predecessors. It sure was fun to watch, though.
Here are some of the highlights:
Countdown aired a great segment on the eve of the protests. Subbing for Kieth Olbermann, David Schuster gives his synopsis of the “teabagger” movement and the media’s coverage of it, followed by some scathing commentary from Lawrence O’Donnell:
Also on April 14, Rachel Maddow discussed the GOP’s hijacking of the anti-tax movement with Stephen Gordon, conservative blogger & member of the Ron Paul campaign:
I actually have to tip my hat to Fox News. They managed to make me feel sympathy for the Libertarians and Ron Paul supporters. Their respective political philosophies allow for a tax protest to sound legitimate. Indeed, their outrage over the TARP initiated under George W. Bush, followed by the stimulus package, signed into law by Obama, was to be expected. The AIG bonus situation, perhaps, made their angst reasonable; but, thanks to Fox, anything resembling a sound anti-tax argument last Tuesday was drowned out by an irrational, misguided Obama hate-fest.
The “tea parties” ended up drawing over 300,000 protesters. Such numbers might have even been impressive if they weren’t spread accross 2000 cities. The attendence figures will no doubt be disputed by supporters of the teabaggers, however, their credibility is suspect (see Neil Cavuto caught exaggerating attendence by DailyKosTV). Objective figures for the rallies may be found at Nate Silver’s 538.com.
Certainly, Fox‘s propaganda effort contributed to the size of the crowds. It remains questionable, though, whether their promotion accomplished anything for the credibility impaired news network. Much to the proper anti-taxers’ dismay, Fox News, Freedomworks, Progress for America, and other big money conservative groups destroyed all assertions that the tax day protests represented a “grassroots” uprising. Paul Krugman offered his assessment in his New York Times, April 12 post:
They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
Indeed, Astro Turf has worked for the Republican Party in the past, and Krugman is absolutely correct in warning Democrats and other progressives to resist the urge to ignore the GOP’s efforts to remain relevant.
What do you think? Does the Democratic Party need to worry about this nonsense? The GOP surely needs to be watched closely, however, crowds of people holding up signs declaring, “Obama is a Socialist,” won’t bring Republicans back into the majority any time soon. Additionally, angry protesters shouting, “Obama is a fascist,” is only going to isolate them further.
By the way, I have to ask any wing nuts who happen to be reading this: Socialist or Fascist, which is it? Honestly, I’m not sure they know, or care to know, the difference.
Unsurprisingly, Jon Stewart explored the tax day tea protests last night. He not only took on Fox News for sponsoring these events, but the people themselves for protesting wasteful spending by buying a million tea bags and wasting them. Stewart also looked at the amazing coincidence in timing that these people decided to go anti-government around two and a half months ago.
View the clip at either of the above links, and I think you’ll agree that the behavior on display at the anti-tax tea parties was nothing more than sour grapes left over from Obama’s victory last November.
Madison, WI Tea Party image from Flickr User: cometstarmoon - by way of CreativeCommons.org