Strange New Respect

A drastic shift in the media stereotype of the tea-party movement.

James Taranto
The Wall Street Journal
4/5/2010

There was a time, oh, a week or two ago, when the mainstream media portrayed the tea-party movement as an assortment of crazed angry extremist redneck racist idiots. What changed?

The headline we’ve given this column is a phrase coined by the conservative writer Tom Bethell to refer to the media’s attitude toward conservatives who veer leftward. What we’re about to describe is a bit different: more an epiphany on the media’s part than a change in the object of coverage. It seems unlikely that the tea-partiers have suddenly become mainstream.

Yet that’s what you’d think from reading some of the recent coverage. The Christian Science Monitor, which a month ago baselessly labeled Pentagon shooter John Patrick Bedell a “right-wing extremist,” begins a Saturday story by rehearsing the stereotypes but then cautions that “political experts say that many such criticisms are near-sighted, if not outright inappropriate–and ultimately may miss the point”:

Indeed, polls suggest that tea party activists are not only more mainstream than many critics suggest, but that a majority of them are women (primarily mothers), not angry white men.

What’s more, the release this week of the top three planks of the “crowd-sourced” Contract From America project, to some activists, shows a maturation from sign-wielding protesters to a political reform movement grounded in ideas.

The top three vote-getters among 360,000 respondents on the Contract From America website: Calling for an enumerated powers act to force lawmakers to check the constitionality [sic] of new laws; requiring a two-thirds majority in Congress for any tax hike; and a legislative backstop to prevent the EPA from “backdoor regulating.”

…It all adds up to a remarkably broad-based and nonideological movement–one that has gained strength as the Democrats who currently run Washington have proved themselves to be narrow and ideological. Had President Obama governed from the center–above all, had he heeded public opinion and abandoned his grandiose plans to transform America, he might well have held the allegiance of many of the people who now sympathize with the tea party.

How is it that the media’s approach has changed so dramatically in just the past couple of weeks? Perhaps the Democrats simply went too far when they claimed that tea-party protesters had shouted racial slurs at black congressmen during the ObamaCare weekend. The media, of course, repeated these claims, but no evidence has surfaced to corroborate them, and Andrew Breitbart makes a very good case for skepticism…

The entire article is at WSJ.

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