The Tea Party is back in the news again after its favored candidate scored an upset victory in the Republican primary for a Senate seat in Texas. Barring some sort of major surprise, Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz looks likely to join the ranks of the Tea Party’s Senate best friends.
And he won’t be the only TP backed candidate to take an oath of office next year. The New York Times discusses how candidates backed by the Tea Party are making noise in Republican primaries across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas to Nebraska:
Among 17 contested Senate races and in Texas, more than half a dozen of the Republican candidates — or those currently running ahead in their primaries — are Tea Party-embraced. The infusion of new conservative blood could alter the complexion of the Senate, increasing the sorts of conflicts between moderates and far-right Republicans disinclined toward compromise that have characterized the House for two years.
From Indiana, where Richard E. Mourdock recently toppled the veteran Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar, to Wisconsin — where two Tea Party candidates are slowly unmooring the Republican front-runner, former Gov.Tommy Thompson — to Nebraska, where Deb Fischer surprisingly beat out a more established Republican candidate, Tea Party-backed contenders are surging. In Missouri, three Republicans are fighting to portray themselves as the candidate most strongly aligned with Tea Party values.
At least a few of these candidates will likely lose their primaries to more establishment Republicans, and some of those who win may go down to defeat in the general election. But no one can deny the political power of the Tea Party anymore; for a movement that is now over three years old, this is no small thing.
Contrast this to the fate of what was supposed to be the left’s answer to Tea Party populism: OWS. It’s odd, but we don’t seem to hear much from them any more. This is especially surprising when you think about how the MSM treated that movement to begin with. It did everything in its power to ignore, disparage or kill the Tea Party, and everything it could think of to celebrate and hype OWS.
One movement remains a powerful force in American politics; the other is as dead as the dodo.
We aren’t foolish enough to make predictions about the far-flung future. OWS or some other form of left populism could easily reignite in this country. Let Romney get into the White House and then let the economy tank, and the tribes of the left will be back in the streets, banging drums, smoking pot and generally raising a ruckus.
But perhaps the contrast of Tea Party staying power and the genuinely total and ignominious collapse of OWS can serve as a teachable moment for mainstream media editors and reporters who actually want to understand and fairly report the news, as opposed to manipulating it in the interest of a political agenda. (Readers take note: there are such.)
The lunge to dismiss the Tea Party as a racist and comical fringe while celebrating OWS as a genuine upwelling of American populism reflected serious errors about American history and culture. The simplistic conflation of populism with a left-progressive agenda is the kind of mistake college undergrads (and excitable professors) make when they’ve read too much Howard Zinn while imbibing too much caffeine. And the simplistic dismissal of right populism as racist and backward is equally flawed; Jacksonian America has its flaws but it is much more complex than its cultured despisers understand. These stereotyped views of American populism are caricatures and those who rely on them will repeatedly misunderstand the significance of events taking place before their eyes — just as they have done.
A few editors and reporters, and perhaps a higher proportion of their readers, will figure this out and start thinking more deeply about American history and politics.
But most probably won’t, and as a result the mainstream media will continue to lose market share and public confidence. More than the internet, what’s killing the MSM is bad ideas and superficial thinking. The group think mentality of the media herd rests on weak intellectual and historical foundations so that over and over the media take on a given event turns out to be fatally flawed. The public grows tired of this, and either tunes the news out altogether or turns to alternative media with alternative views.
To survive and thrive, the MSM needs to tweak its business models, but even more importantly it needs to reset its intellectual models. They don’t work. They are outdated.
This doesn’t mean the MSM needs to flip and embrace the Tea Party or appoint Glenn Beck to head NBC news. This is about sophistication much more than it is about partisanship. But make no mistake: without a richer, deeper, more layered view of how the world works, the MSM will continue to wither away.