Doug Thompson


Palin and the Tea Party: Phony populists playing a con on the rubes

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Sarah Palin: A rich twit playing the masses for fools

When you get down to it, Sarah Palin is not only a sick joke but a poster bimbo for what’s wrong with this nation. Even in our celebrity-driven society she is a caricature so far removed from reality that it is hard to imagine how anyone with an IQ above that of the average turnip can take her seriously.

Yet some do.

But we should remember that this is a nation where more people watch American Idol than the nightly news, where more people can name those who have slept with Tiger Woods than identify members of the President’s cabinet.

Palin, however, is the perfect fake symbol for the phony grassroots movement called The Tea Party. Like the Tea Party, she is a creation by those with hidden agendas and a lust for power and money. These con artists prey on those with weak minds and anger towards government. They prove H.L. Mencken’s observation that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

That Palin become governor of Alaska is not surprising. Alaska has a long and shameful history of putting nutcases into office. Remember Wally Hickel?

The struggling John McCain Presidential campaign plucked Palin from obscurity in a “hail Mary” moment to try and save their run for President. It didn’t work and revelations by McCain staffers show the campaign regretted the decision from the moment that Palin arrived and ran amok.

Palin quickly became a national embarrassment for McCain’s campaign. Palin later quit her job as Alaska governor — amid mounting ethics investigations — and turned her 15 minutes of fame into a road show for money. According to reports, she has cashed in with about $12 million so far. Not bad for a political lightweight who claims she can see Russia from Alaska.

In many ways, Palin’s emergence as the face of the Tea Party “movement” is perfect: A phony organization like the Tea Party needs a phony as its superstar. The Tea Party is not the “grassroots” campaign that it claims but a front for right-wing millionaires who want to push their agenda. The Tea Party grew out of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a fake grassroots operation set up in 1984 by David and Charles Koch, right-wing petroleum and energy magnates. It began life in a consulting firm in Washington, not from “grassroots” activists.

As noted here before, I once worked for the Republican consulting firm in Washington there that fake grassroots operation — Citizens for a Sound Economy — was formed.

Early on, Republican consultants saw the Tea Party as a way to make money.

As Politico reports, the Tea Party is run not by activists but by a slick, California-based Republican consulting firm who admitted in a memo that the party was a way to get rich.

Just days after the first widespread tea party  demonstrators hit the streets a year ago Thursday, Joe Wierzbicki, a Republican political consultant with the Sacramento firm Russo Marsh + Rogers, made a proposal to his colleagues that he said could “give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus.”

The proposal, obtained by POLITICO, was for a nationwide tea party bus tour, to be called the Tea Party Express, which over the past seven months has become among the most identifiable brands of the tea party movement. Buses emblazoned with the Tea Party Express logo have brought speakers and entertainers to rallies in dozens of small towns and big cities, including one in Boston on Wednesday that will feature former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Aided by campaign-style advance work and event planning, slick ads cut by Russo Marsh, impressive crowds and a savvy media operation, the political action committee run by Wierzbicki, Russo Marsh founder Sal Russo and a handful of other Republican operatives has also emerged as among the prolific fundraising vehicles under the tea party banner. Known as Our Country Deserves Better when it was founded during the 2008 election as a vehicle to oppose Barack Obama’s campaign for president, the PAC saw its fundraising more than quadruple after it took the Tea Party Express public in July, raising nearly $2.7 million in roughly the following six months, compared with less than $600,000 in the preceding six months, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

This kind of action is “business as usual” for political consultants. I know. I used to be one of them. It’s not something I’m proud of.

In too many ways, Palin is the Professor Harold Hill of politics: A con artists playing the rubes for political gain. Unlike Hill, the central character of The Music Man musical, I doubt Palin will ever have a crisis of conscience  and see the light.

She’s too busy cashing in.

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18 Responses to Palin and the Tea Party: Phony populists playing a con on the rubes

  1. Lauren Yoder April 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I don’t know anything about who started the Tea Parties so I will defer to Doug on that but I do know they have had a impact on the voters. Rasmussen has a poll showing that 24% of the voters consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, of those only 55% are Republicans. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2010/tea_party_profile_many_ways_to_describe_a_movement

    • Jeff Blakley April 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      Lauren,

      You might want to read John Dean’s book, Conservatives Without Consciencehere is one man’s reaction to the themes in the book. I’d be willing to bet that the “24% of the voters who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement” would score high on Robert Altemeyer’s right-wing-authoritarian scale.

      • Lauren Yoder April 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm

        Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to find it.

  2. colleen April 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Well said, Doug. I’ll be passing a link to this on to others.

  3. Andrew D. Morris April 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I feel sorry for you socialists. I like the idea of making and keeping my money without some lazy person complaining that I’m making too much. On top of that I’m all for less government taking what little I make to waste on worthless things. Aren’t we smart enough to run our own live without big brother telling us what to do. This is just my opinion and i”ma proud member of the Tea Party. Thank you for your time.

  4. Will Norton April 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    The Tea Party people and Palin have a symbiotic relationship. She brings crowds to their events and they give her the appearance of being a fiscal conservative which her record clearly indicates she is not. In Alaska (a state that gets approximately $14,000 in federal money per resident) spending increased by 16 percent between 2007 and 2009. She was a supporter of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) early on as well. I consider myself a fiscal conservative, but cannot take seriously an organization that rolls out Palin as their star and talks almost exclusively about tax cuts (and getting rid of Obama of course) as the solution to our countries fiscal problems. They do talk about reducing spending some: just don’t ask them what programs they would cut. The fact that the organization wasn’t around (and its “star” silent) during the free spending Bush years hurts their credibility as well.

  5. Anne Armistead April 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Doug,

    Your Blue Ridge Muse is one of the few high quality blogs in VA.

    You are an experienced journalist and you obviously don’t mince words.

    This is becoming a regular stopping point as I travel the web.

    Please keep up the great work!

    • Bill Mack April 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

      “High Quality,” “Experienced Journalist”? Really? Sarah Palin is not one of my favorite politicians, but I note this article is a bundle of mean-spirited insults, without one word of comment/discussion on any position that she champions. Seems like liberals typically just can’t debate the issues…but they’re very good at hurling cheap, unsubstantiated insults.

  6. Danny Adams April 18, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Will: When people ask me if I support the Tea Party, I simply tell them, “I’ve supported it since Bush was president”.

    The cynical side of me says that the way to disband the Tea Party is to elect a Republican for president–that no matter what s/he does that goes against the Tea Party’s principles, they won’t criticize a Republican (with the exception of Steele).

  7. Jesse Richardson April 19, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Rubes? Really? According to the NY Times and CBS, Tea Party members are significantly more educated than the general public, as well as having higher incomes. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html

    Of course, they spin that as a negative, saying that Tea Partiers are merely wealthy people who don’t want to pay taxes. I’m confused though. I thought conservatives were uneducated idiots. Wasn’t it stupid rural poor people that elected George W. Bush as president. Wait, I think I’ve figured it out, people that disagree with the liberal elite are idiots, even if highly educated.

    Note that I’m not a member of the tea party.

  8. Alex April 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I’ve got mixed thoughts on the Tea Party. On one hand, it’s made of citizens who are justifiably angry about the state of affairs in this country. The sentiments expressed are understandable. On the other hand, all it takes is one successful demagogue, and the Tea Party could end up akin to something like the Nazi party… Frustrated people have been duped before.

  9. Early Winn April 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Alex, the Tea Partiers might not end up akin to something like the nazi party, they already are the Nazi party….bunch of white folks who, bottom line, are pissed off that the president is black. Man, it wasn’t supposed to go like that. Who did they want, the old white guy and the high-heeled airhead? They’re a bunch of children masquerading as adults. They just don’t like the way the game is going and now they want to take their ball and go home. Maybe use it for target practice and shoot it with their 2nd amendment rights.

    • Bob April 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm

      One election (maybe two if you count the 2006 defeat of Macaca Allen) and they give up on the sacred ballot and pick up arms. Faithless quitters. Sore losers.

  10. Alex April 20, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I think it’s a stretch to say they are the Nazi party. But I think once enough people get disenfranchised with the Republicans and the Democrats, the Conservatives and the Liberals, or the Populares and the Optimates, this country will be eerily similar to the Weimar Republic. All it will take is one good fiery demagogue with some “fresh” ideas to harness that resentment and frustration and aim it in a very destructive direction. But I really don’t think people are really angry enough, it will take a deeper and more sustained loss in the standard of living to get all the Joe Six Packs up out of their recliners.

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  12. Becky April 22, 2010 at 2:01 am

    What’s really shameful is the way TV news has been hoodwinked by the slick PR of the Tea Party organizers. No Tea Party rally can claim more than 10,000 to 15,000 people, and yet the nightly news programs, and not just Fox, have characterized this as a massive movement. By doing so, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s the power of marketing!
    Also, when hearing their claims over and over on the news, viewers start to believe the Tea Party absurdities: that we should have let all the banks fail, that health care was just hunky dorey the way it was and that no tax dollar should be spent on the less fortunate.
    Sarah Palin’s speeches are meaningless sound bites, only meant to mock the hard, creative work of President Obama. Palin’s handlers are determined to bring the GOP back to power and she will please the crowd with whatever cutesy, empty phrase her organizers can come up with. Tea Party folks may think they are independents, but I agree with Doug…they ARE being controlled by the right wing of the Republican Party.
    And by the way.,.that poster…WHO wears nylon hose with shorts??? Sarah Palin can’t even be genuine when she “bares” her legs for a cheesecake pose!

  13. Alex April 23, 2010 at 10:45 am

    “Sarah Palin’s speeches are meaningless sound bites, only meant to mock the hard, creative work of President Obama.”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back that train up. Are we talking “hard, creative” work like extending the Patriot Act? Let’s look at his foreign policy, he’s continuing Bush’s failed wars, and now he seems to be adding Iran to the hit list. Sounds to me he’s just another faceless leader figure desperately toeing the establishment’s party line. As for tax dollars spent on the less fortunate, that would be fine, if our tax dollars weren’t also being burned on unjust wars, bank bailouts, and government waste.

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