Archive for john avlon

Demonizing Republicans and Tea Partiers

Posted in Health Care, Media, Politics with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by Cannon

Most media outlets (and I use that term loosely) have been less than subtle in trashing the tea party movement ever since they identified it as a threat to their collective left-wing agenda.  Since the passing of ObamaCare, that effort has only intensified.  However, with Republicans working to integrate much of the tea party element into their own base of support, these outlets are also doing their best to make the GOP look like those “crazies” whom they associate with the tea partiers.  We’re talking about the minuscule outer fringe.  Timothy Egan of the New York Times (surprise, surprise) illustrates my point by engaging in this rather trite exercise:

From the leader of the opposition, at least, was expected a level of decorum. But instead, Rep. John Boehner, the Republican who wants to be the next speaker of the House, predicted “Armageddon,” and shouted “Hell, no!,” his perma-tan turning crimson in rage.

Most of these vignettes are isolated incidents — a few crazies going off in a vein-popping binge. But the Republican Party now has taken some of the worst elements of Tea Party anger and incorporated them into its own identity. They are ticked off, red-faced, frothing — and these are the men in suits.

Having welcomed Tea Party rage into their home, and vowing repeal, the Republicans have made a dangerous bargain. First, they are tying their fate to a fringe, one that includes a small faction of overt racists and unstable people. The Quinnipiac poll this week found only 13 percent of Americans say they are part of the Tea Party movement.

I suppose Egan should get some credit for acknowledging that the most distasteful of his examples are “isolated incidents.”  Like his characterization of John Boehner’s speech, the Times writer’s assessment of the GOP opposition is completely off the mark.  While Egan sees Republican opposition as a hurdle in front of the liberal quest for better health care through the strong arm of the federal government, much of the country sees that quest for what it is:  a fantasy.  More specifically, it will cost trillions of taxpayer dollars, further empower the federal government and likely damage the positive aspects of the current health care marketplace.

WSJ.com’s James Taranto takes on a supposed examination of the right-wing fringe contingent that’s taking over the Republican Party:

“Scary New GOP Poll,” reads the headline at The Daily Beast. In the article, “Wingnuts” author John Avlon declares that “Obama Derangement Syndrome–pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism–has infected the Republican Party.” The poll, he claims, “demonstrates the cost of the campaign of fear and hate that has been pumped up in the service of hyper-partisanship over the past 15 months. We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing the United States in the process.”

There’s another methodological problem, which points to the nexus between the science and the art of polling. The survey includes only people who actually answer the crazy questions asked. So if your reaction to the guy on the street at the top of this column was to step up your pace and get away from him (which corresponds to saying “this is nuts” and closing your browser window), your opinion would not affect the outcome–but if you happen to be a Republican, Harris’s methodology imputes to you a likelihood of holding crazy views.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the survey was designed to make Republicans, and only Republicans, look unhinged. The press release states: “The very large numbers of people who believe all these things of President Obama help to explain the size and strength of the Tea Party Movement.” This presupposes that the tea-party movement centers on crazy beliefs about Obama, a view that the poll provides no evidence to support.

For balance, such a poll might have included a series of crazy statements about polarizing Republican figures like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin. This would at least give some indication of whether Republicans have a greater propensity than Democrats to believe “scary” things.

For better or worse, there will always be people at each end of the political continuum with over-the-top views on certain matters.  What I see in the conflation of the right-wing fringe with the core of the GOP and, really, most who oppose ObamaCare, is an effort to discredit the legitimate arguments against a vast government intrusion by slandering those who are putting forth said arguments.  I mean, that’s a whole lot easier than actually debating the opposition directly, especially if one doesn’t have an answer for their opponents.  This entire left-wing slander initiative should be filed under “if you say it enough, most voters may believe it to be true.”