The Revolution Is Being Televised

Sunday, 21 February 2010 07:57 By William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed | name.

The Revolution Is Being Televised
(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: √Ę‚

I wrote this past weekend about the very real danger facing the Republican Party in 2012 thanks to the "Tea Party" uprising within the GOP base. I noted that it was preposterous to be talking about the inside baseball of the '12 election three years out, and it turns out that assessment was exactly correct. The GOP's Tea Party problem is blowing up right now, and threatens to wreak extreme havoc for them not only in the upcoming midterms, but in the next several elections to come.

At least, that's how it's playing on television. The Wednesday afternoon CNN broadcast was a feast for those with a taste for irony. To wit, a couple of talking heads spent a full segment describing how the sudden ascendancy of the Tea Party was largely a product of the saturation coverage they've been getting from the cable news networks. Ergo, the easy assumption they were proffering was that if the Republican Party simply told their members to turn off their televisions, well, the whole Tea Party noise will fizzle out from lack of attention.

I'm not so sure about that. CNN had other numbers that paint a fairly grim picture for the GOP, especially if this insurrection within their base continues to fester and grow. According to CNN, only 44 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party movement identify themselves as Republicans, while 52 percent identify themselves as Independents. Worse, when those questioned were asked whom they would support if a Tea Party candidate entered a primary race against a Republican, half of them would break away from the GOP and vote third party.

Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, "The Revolution Is Being Televised":

Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, "The Revolution Is Being Televised":

These Tea Party people are really starting to get organized; the best evidence of that is the media savvy they've displayed thus far by garnering so much television attention, which has translated into blog and print news coverage. The fact that they've managed to do this by organizing rallies filled with people holding signs that say things like "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare" is more than just grist for the irony mill.

They know that TV news people are happiest when given the chance to broadcast spectacles, and so they gave them one, and got what they came for. Inside the Washington bubble, where television is king, the echo of the Tea Party shouters has begun to ring in a lot of Republican ears, especially those who are vulnerable to a challenge from the right flank in a 2010 primary.

Now that these Tea Party folks have people's attention, they are moving into the next phase of getting organized: preparing a manifesto. According to a recent ABC News report, the process of preparing this document, as well as the final product, will not leave the Republican National Committee suffering from a case of the warm and snugglies:

Republicans on Capitol Hill are developing an election-year alternative to the Obama administration's agenda. But a Tea Party activist in Texas says the politicians in Washington - including the out-of-power Republicans - don't have the "credibility" to offer a contract.

His solution? Use the Internet, develop a "Contract from America," and make the politicians come to him. "You are going to be held accountable by us," said conservative activist Ryan Hecker, offering a preview of what Tea Party activists are going to tell Congressional candidates later this year. "We have a plan - a proactive reform plan - for you to follow and not the other way around."

Technically, Hecker doesn't have a reform plan yet. He does, however, have one in the works. He says he came up with the contract idea shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008. Hecker, a 29-year old lawyer from Houston, spent the 2008 GOP primaries working as an opposition researcher for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.

To get his idea off the ground, he launched a Web site, "ContractFromAmerica.com," which encourages activists to offer possible planks for the contract. From the original 1,000 ideas that were submitted, Hecker whittled it down to about 50 based on popularity. He is currently narrowing it to 20 ideas. He is being aided in this process by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey, whose conservative group, FreedomWorks, has established close ties with many Tea Party activists around the country.

When the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), convenes later this month in Washington, DC, Hecker says he will launch an online voting phase that will take his document from 20 ideas to the final 10 to 12 most popular. The completed "Contract from America" will then be presented to the public on Tax Day, April 15, 2010. Hecker wants to give all Congressional candidates - Republicans, Democrats and Independents - an opportunity to sign on to his "contract."

Beyond the distinctive hilarity of the title - "Contract from," you say? Doesn't that sound a lot like "Back Away from America" to you? - is the sign-on offer made to candidates. Sign on, you say? Well, as of last week, the top 20 ideas proffered by Tea Party activists on Mr. Hecker's "Contract from America" Web site include:

  • No Lifetime Salary or Benefits for Congress.
  • An Official Language of the United States.
  • Repeal the 16th Amendment.
  • Birth-Right Citizenship.
  • Defund Activist Groups (eg: ACORN).

Never mind the fact that not a whole lot of congressmen are going to sign on to a platform that cuts their pay. The GOP has been actively courting Latino voters for years, so that "Official Language" plank would be a suicide pact for any politician who wants to win an election in the West going forward. The same goes for the "Birth-Right Citizenship" thing, but really, that's just a sop to Tea Partiers who still have Mr. Obama's birth certificate stuck in their teeth. Defund activist groups? All of them, or just the ones they don't like? "Repeal the 16th Amendment" is code for "Abolish the income tax," which is certainly sound fiscal policy in the middle of a crushing recession.

Yeah, there's going to be a stampede of politicians rushing to sign on to this thing. Any second now.

The Republican Party's electoral strategy for more than 15 years now has been to empower and energize their base, get them to turn out for every election en masse, and put divisive vote-splitting "values" issues front and center in the national debate via the media. Get the base fired up about abortion, immigration, taxes and, during the Bush "War on Terra" era, wrap the whole thing in the flag. For a while, it worked for them, but the boomerang they threw into the wind is coming back at them now. Ask any television - they got these Tea Party people going, and now they get to reap the proceeds.

Ah, irony.

Last modified on Monday, 22 February 2010 12:13