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Morning Feature: TGOP Backlash, Part I – Left Behind

September 30, 2010

Morning Feature

Morning Feature: TGOP Backlash, Part I – Left Behind

“He did not win the popular vote,” she says, an air of defiance in her voice. “He won the electoral vote. If you took into account the popular vote, he lost by a landslide.”

Were she describing President Bush in 2000, it would have been true. But she was describing President Obama in 2008. (More)

TGOP Backlash, Part I – Left Behind

This week Morning Feature explores Will Bunch’s new book, The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama. Today we wade into the grass roots of today’s Tea Party Republicans. Tomorrow we examine the astroturf: their corporate funding and media messiah. Saturday we conclude by asking if this political force of 2010 will still have legs in 2012 and beyond.

Journalist and blogger Will Bunch spent over a year traveling and talking face-to-face with tea party activists. Progressive Democrats should read the book, if only to better understand how some of our preconceptions of the tea party are accurate, and others are as simplistic as the tea partiers ideas about us. As we’ll see tomorrow, there is an astroturf element to the backlash: corporate-funded PACs staffed by veteran political operators, and the very loud megaphone of talk radio and Faux Noise. But there is also a grassroots element, and they don’t entirely match our expectations.

The 25% ‘majority.’

If the cross-section Bunch presents is representative – and it fits most national polls pretty well – the average tea party activist is white, conservative, Christian, and fifty-something or older. Most hail from rural or exurban areas, having grown up there or having left cities in childhood or early adulthood. They live in Sarah Palin’s “small town America,” and that helps explain why a trio of early activists in southern Delaware told Will Bunch how President Obama really lost in 2008.

California has twenty-seven electoral votes … where Delaware has only three…. Statewise, how they went … McCain actually won more states, more ground, more people than Obama did. He [Obama] just had more electoral votes.

In fact, California has 55 electoral votes and President Obama won both more states (28 to 22) and the popular vote by 9.5 million. But Senator McCain did win more land: lots of sparsely-inhabited areas like these activists’ hometown in southern Delaware. President Obama won Delaware, by a huge margin of 100,000 from about 400,000 votes cast. Except really he didn’t, they explain.

“What it is,” said Alex Garcia, “… is Wilmington.” [...]

“They’re in the big cities,” says [his wife] Theresa. “That’s what the problem is.”

“They represent the welfare America, the handout America — what do they call it, the nanny state, everybody is taken care of,” explains Alex. “When you get into the big areas like that, everybody is expecting their free handout … You have a lot more of the … how would I put it … a lot more of the welfare recipients, stuff like that.”

For many tea party activists, President Obama’s voters were wealthy elitists or people on welfare, most of the latter probably fraudulent registrations by ACORN. Over 80% of tea party activists believe they are a majority, largely because everyone they know – and every information source they see, hear, or read – agrees with them. They can’t imagine that President Obama legitimately won the 2008 election … because no one they know voted for him.

Sorting the Apocalypse.

Much of that owes to what Bill Bishop called The Big Sort, a population shift into like-minded communities that began in the 1970s. For example, in 1976 only a quarter of Americans lived in communities where elections were decided by a landslide (over 20 points). By 2004, nearly half of us lived in “landslide” communities. The trend was furthered by the growth of private schools, talk radio, cable news, and the internet … all of which combined to allow Americans to live on informational islands with only the news and views that reinforce one’s opinions.

In an ideologically segregated society, it’s not shocking that 25% can believe they are the majority, nor that the same 25% can believe President Obama is a Kenyan-born Muschurian Candidate with secret plans to seize everyone’s guns, imprison dissidents in FEMA detention camps, and install a Fascist-Socialist-Islamist dictatorship that both ignores Americans and submits to the New World Order. On that informational island – supplemented by countless cable doomcumentaries on threats ranging from killer asteroids to the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse to Armageddon – the notion that President Obama is the Antichrist bringing on The End Of Life As We Know It … seems plausible.

On the information island many tea party activists inhabit, Timothy LaHaye’s Left Behind novels are not merely badly-written fictional accounts based on a fringe reading of Revelation. They are metaphors for a coming America where whites are no longer the majority, LGBTs marry and live openly, and sustainable cooperation replaces expansionist capitalism as the dominant economic-political narrative …

… unless tea party activists stock up on survival seeds, gold, guns, and moleskin-bound journals to document their heroic roles in staving off the death of freedom. It’s a battle some say they’ll fight “with the soap box, the ballot box and, if necessary, the cartridge box” … lest they be Left Behind.

If only more Democrats thought the 2010 election was that important.

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5 Responses to “Morning Feature: TGOP Backlash, Part I – Left Behind”

  1. JanF Says:

    “McCain won more land!!”

    That hardly seems like enough to weigh a claim of a landslide in McCain’s favor but given the other statistics in this diary, it makes sense that that would be their rationale. When the facts become pesky annoyances just find one to hang your hat on!

    This is really an important lesson for us as well:

    Over 80% of tea party activists believe they are a majority, largely because everyone they know – and every information source they see, hear, or read – agrees with them. They can’t imagine that President Obama legitimately won the 2008 election … because no one they know voted for him.

    If we start getting our news from only one place or over only one ideological wavelength we could easily teabag ourselves.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      That’s one reason I’m so glad you aggregate Noontime News from a variety of sources, not all of them progressive. If we never read anything that makes us question what we think we know … it’s a pretty good sign we don’t read widely enough.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  2. winterbanyan Says:

    Nixon utilized this through his continuing references to “The Great Silent Majority.” And everyone was inclined to believe they were part of this majority with absolutely no proof except they agreed with the point Nixon was making that day. The nice thing about silent majorities is you never hear from them so you don’t know how real they are.

    Which I guess means the other 75% of America starts needed to make some real noise.

    • JanF Says:

      Excellent point:

      The nice thing about silent majorities is you never hear from them so you don’t know how real they are

      Plus it taps into the feeling of being oppressed by the minorities. Which is eerily similar to what we hear from the Tea Party.

    • NCrissieB Says:

      Phrases like “great silent majority” are very convenient, for the reason you mention: like conspiracy theories, they cannot be disproved. After all, the “great silent majority” is silent, so of course it doesn’t show up on polls….

      Let’s hope the other 75% of America makes some noise come November.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::