The Populism of the Privileged

Published on TruthDig, by E.J. Dionne, April 19, 2010.

The tea party is nothing new, it represents a relatively small minority of Americans on the right end of politics, and it will not determine the outcome of the 2010 elections.

In fact, both parties stand to lose if they accept the laughable notion that this media-created protest movement is the voice of true populism. Democrats will spend their time chasing votes that they will never win. Republicans will turn their party into an angry and narrow redoubt with no hope of building a durable majority … //

… Tea party enthusiasts also consistently side with the better-off against the poor, putting them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor,” 73 percent of tea party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that “the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit.” Only 17 percent of tea party supporters took this view. 

As for raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so, as against only 17 percent of tea party backers.

And this must be the first “populist” movement ever driven by a television network: 63 percent of the tea party folks say they most watch Fox News “for information about politics and current events,” compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

The right-wing fifth of the American population deserves news coverage like everyone else, and Fox is perfectly free to pander to its own viewers. What makes no sense is allowing a sliver of opinion out of touch with, yes, the “real” America to dominate the media and distort our political discourse.

Democrats face problems not from right-wingers who have never voted for them, but from a lack of energy among their own supporters and from dispirited independents and moderates who look to government for competence in solving problems and have little confidence in its ability to deliver.

A just-released Pew Research Center study found widespread mistrust of government, but also of banks, financial institutions and large corporations. Yes, there is authentic populist anger out there. But you won’t find much of it at the tea parties. (full text).

Link: Tea Party Financiers Owe Their Fortune to Josef Stalin.

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