Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The Daily Beast's Benjamin Sarlin sets out on an intrepid quest to find the explanation for a puzzling development:

Why the Tea Party Isn't Touching Financial Reform

...Tax Day rallies last week in Washington, D.C., were devoid of signs, slogans, and speeches on the finance bill, and influential right-leaning websites like Red State and Hot Air have all but ignored the issue this week, despite major movement on the Democrats' legislation.... by and large there’s been no high-profile campaign to defeat the bill, and a number of conservative activists concede that the grassroots are inactive.

Gosh, why would that be? Why would the greatest speakers of truth to power of our generation, the teabaggers, not want to weigh in on the most powerful malfeasors of our era? Why, given their profound interest in economic hardship, would they not want these economic predators to face some reckoning?

...Um, would you believe it's because they (or at least one uber-leader) apparently didn't notice that anything unusual has happened on Wall Street in the past few years? Or perhaps they have some vague awareness of it, but -- not being particularly opinionated and stuff -- they really don't have any thoughts on the subject?

Dick Armey, president of Tea Party organizer FreedomWorks, acknowledged in an interview that his group has yet to make its mark on the debate.

"We haven't had a chance to study it," Armey said....

... Or, wait, maybe that's not it -- maybe it's that they're preoccupied with something else! Yeah, that's the ticket!

Karen Hoffman, founder of the conservative group DC Works for US, attributed the lack of interest primarily to the Tea Partiers' continued involvement in health care. For Congress, the debate over the Affordable Care Act ended with its passage, but the Tea Party movement is still organizing long-shot campaigns to repeal the law, challenge it in court, and undermine its provisions on a state level.

"It's almost like the whole grassroots movement can't get loose of it," Hoffman said. "Because of the repeal issue, the battle isn't over. The Tea Party movement is not moving on."

Funny thing, though -- somehow this all-consuming preoccupation with health care hasn't prevented the teabaggers from organizing dozens of rallies on the subject of immigration (or, for that matter, obsessing over issues such as Obama's birth certificate).

Sarlin turns to Heather Booth, the executive director of the progressive group Americans for Financial Reform, and she gets a little closer:

Booth suggested that Republican leaders may be hesitant to engage the grassroots on the issue out of fear that they might become suspicious of Wall Street's shared opposition to the bill -- banks spent more than $500 million in campaign contributions and lobbying efforts in 2009 alone.

Apparently, according to this theory, the teabaggers don't have TVs, computers, or access to newsstands, so they're utterly unaware of all the objections Republicans have made to financial reform legislation so far (like threatening to filibuster it and block debate on it) -- apparently teabaggers will only notice this if the GOP "engages" them directly. Which is a good thing for the GOP, right? Because if those teabaggers had noticed that Republicans are pro-Wall Street, they really would have unleashed their fury on the Republicans on Tax Day, being so nonpartisan and all.

More from Booth:

Booth's biggest fear, she said, was that like the phony "death panels" meme during the health-care debate, an organized effort to portray reform, falsely, as a "bailout bill" could spread to the Tea Party movement and incite protests.

OK, Heather (and Benjamin), now you're almost there.

Of course the teabaggers would pick up on that meme, if the marching orders and talking points came down. Frankly, most of them would pick up on any anti-Obama, anti-Democrat meme they were fed, even if it was pro-Wall Street. After all, the whole mess is the fault of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Community Reinvestment Act and ACORN, isn't it? Bankers are businesspeople, and businesspeople are persecuted!

What's really happening is that the GOP/teabag complex is having a little trouble getting the messaging on this one right. The big kahuna leaders can read a poll, and they know that, even as skepticism about affirmative government increases, Wall Street reform remains popular with the public at large. So they're a tad reluctant to send a big ol' tea party bus out there with anti-reform slogans -- that might hurt the movement's indie cred. They're reluctant to urge the rank-and-file teabaggers' Pied Pipers on Fox News to go full bore into transmitting anti-reform talking points -- at least not until really solid talking points can be developed.

Now, why the fiercely independent, not at all Astroturfish, utterly non-partisan teabaggers can't generate anger of any kind about this issue on their own, without the permission of Glenn Beck or Dick Armey, is, well, an ongoing mystery.

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