22. January 2010 · Comments Off on The End of the Beginning · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Media Matters Not, Politics, Tea Time

Or maybe the beginning of the end – either way, the Massachusetts landslide on Tuesday has really given the political landscape a really good Richter-detectable shaking. And I have to say I have enjoyed the whole thing, immensely, and hope, oh-hope-oh-hope that it is a harbinger of good things to come, that it means an enormous mass of Americans realizing that – yes they are people who can make a substantial mark, that responsible citizens have an obligation to become interested, even focused with a laser-like intensity on matters that for too long, we left to the political wonks to take care of. The conduct of our civic affairs can no longer be left to the usual suspects. For our own good, we must, we must become involved. And now we are, and we – the cranky independents, the bloggers, the Tea Party political virgins, sadder and wiser young Libertarians who cut their political baby teeth on Ron Paul, single-issue gadflies pursuing every conceivable local issue to the point of acute tedium . . . we made a mark and shook the larger political world. I know beyond a doubt that a large portion of donations to Scott Brown’s political campaign came from Tea Party independents: I know that the San Antonio Tea Party put out the word that the Massachusetts special election this week was something that we ought to take an interest in. I also know that while he may not be a perfect small-government, fiscally-responsible-strict Constitutionalist, in the real world, the perfect is the enemy of the good enough, and he is good enough for government work. Good at campaigning, established record of accomplishment, quick with the repartee, a military reservist, and not-half-bad looking.

With luck – there are lots more candidates like him, coming up to the starting line, and a larger media that will – from this moment on, be inclined to pay attention. It’s been a gradual thing, this building up; I think practically no one but the moderate blogosphere paid much attention early on: and at that, no one more than Da Blogfaddah. I do recall very well, when I started being drawn into the Tea Party; through a blog-friend, Robin Juhl, who was a fan when this site was till SSDB, Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief, back in the Dark Ages of Blogs. This which would be, inter alia, about 2003, when Robin had a blog, called Rant’n’Raven. We kept in touch – and about March of last year, just when the concept of a Tea Party to protest the horrible, awful, astronomically-deficit producing stimulus package. Robin and some other people had used Facebook to put together a local Tea Party group – and, hey, I had experience writing, and with microphones and TV cameras and all that besides blogging – so did I want to come on board and write their press releases.

At the time, I assumed we would have a few hundred people meeting in a city park, I’d send out a release or two, snap some pictures myself for the website, we’d listen to some speeches, wave some signs and maybe get a trickle of interest from local media. But one thing and another – and our big Tax Day event ballooned into something much more than that. I did have to giggle at one of the local bloggers; two weeks before the event, he sneered that there wouldn’t be more than five or six stooopid red-neck H8ers in Alamo Plaza on April 15th. It turned out there were considerably more than that: the sheer numbers of people startled even us organizers. But I think the local media saw the event as a one-off, one-time-only, and that Glenn Beck was the big attraction, overall. One reporter even wistfully asked me, beforehand, was it just a Fox event, or could anyone play.

Things settled down after the Tax Day rally – there was interest from people, not much from the media, particularly. We did a protest here and there, rustled up some interest, and planned a 4th of July event, with a little bit more time to spare than we had for the Tax Day. There was local media interest in that event, mostly because the Governor of Texas made a pit-stop appearance. He was meant originally, I think, to zoom in, introduce our headline speaker, and zoom out again, but he stayed for hours, and that’s when we could begin to see concrete proof that the Tea Parties had something to offer, on the long-term scale of things. Whatever else you say about Governor Perry – he and a handful of other state and local office-holders were perceptive enough to see there was a good-sized crowd there, and there might be some political utility in getting out in front of it.

Still and all, after the 4th of July, it seemed that media interest settled down again – and of course, we in the Tea Party were still working out what to do next, what we would focus on. We had come to a conclusion that events – big events – although they brought us attention, they were very draining on time and energy. Even smaller coordinated protests were draining, although certainly enjoyable for the people participating in them. To really make a mark, we would have to make long-term plans, and concentrate on the 2010 mid-term elections. We would have to focus on candidates, and on education, and a lot of other rather un-splashy stuff; we’d also have to structure ourselves, coordinate more effectively, and raise funds for long-term projects. This isn’t much the stuff of news releases – but as part of this, another experienced media hand suggested that we do face to face outreach, with every local TV station, and the management echelon of the local paper. We’d set up an appointment, and talk to them about coverage, what we could do to make it easier for them, about our long-term plans and goals, offer them the expertise of various experts within the Tea Party. We thought we’d start with the easiest – the local Fox affiliate, and it went so well, we were emboldened to set up a meet with what we thought would be the toughest: the local daily newspaper.

Just by coincidence, that meeting was scheduled a within a few days after the 9-12 rally on the Mall in Washington, DC. I know there is still quite a considerable disputation about how many people were there; one million, two million – but for every person there on the Mall, we calculated fifteen or twenty more who wished they could have been there, but couldn’t afford it, or couldn’t get away from work. We met with not only the various editors, and two columnists, but also the publisher of the paper – and for a good two hours, in the morning of a working day for them. After that, the second most astonishing thing was their own relative astonishment; we were all so normal, rational, and articulate; not sign-waving crazies, screaming on the sidewalk. Everyone came away with their eyes opened, after that. We’ve had a great deal of cautious respect from our local media outlets ever since, although in a lot of venues – including some which you’d think would have known better – the Tea Partiers are still described as red-neck racists, uneducated, reactionary, fascists, racists, easily led by obvious propagandists – the whole vocabulary of ignorant abuse from people who I am sure preen themselves regularly over their own tolerance, and breadth of mind.

And so to the Massachusetts special election – which I see as a kind of nation-wide wake-up call: there in the heart of Kennedy country, the cranky independents all organized, raised funds, campaigned and won – cheered on by out of state cranky independents. This is a defeat so stinging, and so decisive, that I sense it has become a wake-up call for many of those bloggers and members of the commentariat who were formerly inclined to take the ignorant-racist-reactionary-sheeple line to heart. Reluctantly, it appears to me that the more sensible – or those whose social instincts are more finely honed are beginning to reassess not only Tea Partiers, the current administration, but their own opinions, in the light of Tuesday’s Massachusetts upset.

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