CommunityFDL Action

CBS Poll: Fox News Succeeds In Hijacking Tea Parties From Ron Paul

CBS polls the tea parties and finds they’re old, white, pissed off, likely to vote and don’t think they pay too many taxes.

They like Fox News, and they don’t like Ron Paul:

Weirdly, Ron Paul does better at more traditional GOP outings.  He won the CPAC straw poll handily this year, and lost to Mitt Romney by only 1 vote (both garnered 24%) at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week.  It’s clear that the tea parties are now very much comprised of Fox News loyalists, who strongly favor its leading lights.

And they don’t seem to realize that the first tea party was in December of 2007 in support of Ron Paul’s presidential bid:

Ron Paul’s tea party for dollars

December 16, 2007 06:33 PMB

Ron Paul supporters marched today through the snow from the State House to Faneuil Hall, then smashed the one-day fund-raising record for a Republican presidential candidate.

As of 7 p.m., the supporters said they had raked in $4.3 million, surpassing the record $4.2 million total they raised on Nov. 5.

Most of the 33,000 donations were made over the Internet in what the supporters called a “money bomb” timed to coincide with the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The last fund-raising blitz, which took in 40,000 donations, was timed to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates a British mercenary who tried unsuccessfully to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605.
“This basically shows that Ron Paul is a viable candidate,” said Rachael McIntosh, a spokeswoman for what was dubbed Boston TeaParty07. “People are so engaged in this campaign because it’s coming from the grass-roots.”

The supporters of the Texas congressman pick anniversaries of such historical events to highlight what they call the “Ron Paul Revolution.”

After the fall of Bush II, Fox News and the GOP realized they had a branding problem.  The right wing infrastructure was mobilized, and money began flowing into organizations like David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, the Coors’ Independence Institute, Freedomworks and other outfits who had astroturfed the Drill, Drill Drill campaign.  I wrote a tea party timeline last year, but by the time Rick Santelli had his moment of outrage on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade “suggesting” that everyone get together and have a “Chicago Tea Party,” things were already well underway.

Fox News began covering the tea parties 24/7, and on April 15, they had their stars out at events around the country.cavuto-20090409-beck.jpg

Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto and other Fox hosts were irate at the suggestion that Fox was doing anything other than covering these events as journalists.  But as Gregg Levine said at the time, “”What Part of “FNC TAX DAY TEA PARTIES” Don’t You Understand?

It was all happening at the same time as the AIG bonus scandal erupted, however, and people were discovering that this insane bank bailout which BEGAN with George Bush was now being used to pay out enormous sums to the people who orchestrated the crisis.

And what was the Democratic messaging at the time?

Obama Dials Down Wall Street Criticism

MARCH 24, 2009

The Obama administration, after months of criticizing Wall Street, has been scrambling to woo top bankers and financiers to back its latest bailout plan.

In recent days, in spite of public furor over huge bonuses paid at American International Group Inc., the administration has concluded that it needs the private sector to play a central role in fixing the economy. So over the weekend, the White House worked to tone down its Wall Street bashing and to win support from top bankers for the bailout plan announced Monday, which will rely on public-private investments to soak up toxic assets.


When chief speechwriter Jon Favreau began working on the president’s late-February joint address to Congress, he included draft language criticizing Wall Street for helping trigger the economic downturn and stating that “Americans are justifiably angry” at the banks — sentiments the president had expressed many times before.

Yet when Messrs. Favreau and Axelrod presented the draft in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama surprised them by saying he wanted to interject some balance to help encourage the financial industry to lend again, one official said.


Mr. Obama dictated to his aides new language for the speech. He tried not just to respond to the public fury, but to tamp it down, an adviser said. “I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping the banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions….I get it,” he ultimately said in his speech. But he added: “In a time of crisis, we cannot govern out of anger.”

The bankers were quite brazen about letting everyone know they were holding the White House hostage by refusing to participate in their PPIP program:

When administration officials began calling them to talk about the next phase of the bailout, the bankers turned the tables. They used the calls to lobby against the antibonus legislation, Wall Street executives say. Several big firms called Treasury and White House officials to urge a more reasonable approach, both sides say. The banks’ message: If you want our help to get credit flowing again to consumers and businesses, stop the rush to penalize our bonuses.

Now the PPIP program was little more than another Wall Street giveaway, so its value was dubious.  But even if it had been vital, and the White House felt like they had to lay off Wall Sreet, it would’ve made sense to outsource the criticism to, say, the unions.  Or MoveOn.  Or other veal pen groups.

For years the unions had developed an extremely strong critique of Wall Street, private equity money and its predatory relationship to labor. Protesting outside of Henry Kravis’s mansion in Southhampton in 2007, a 25-city tour protesting the abuses of private equity firms in 2008, and a sophisticated campaign to use the clout of their pension funds to influence shareholders at various institutions.

To their credit, the unions were there tracking Wall Street salaries and they did demanded the removal of Ken Lewis from the top spot of Bank of America in March of 2009.  And in August, under pressure from shareholders, Lewis did step down.  But phone calls from the White House telling labor to dial it back were heeded, and so the field of anti-bank criticism was largely abandoned to the tea partiers and their incoherent message.

But while the tea parties were running around pretending that the GOP wasn’t the giant pack of corporatist whores that they are, the White House could have easily turned the veal pen loose on Jamie Dimon and Vikram Pandit and all the other Wall Street oligarchs who were making outrageous demands of the government.  It’s completely insane that a year later, 46% of Americans want George Bush back.  And that Fox News and the GOP were able to hijack the “small government, lower taxes” tea party messaging in broad daylight.  Or that Sarah “bomb Iran” Palin is the darling of a group whose origins were devoted to supporting Ron Paul, who opposes just about everything she stands for. But it didn’t happen in a vacuum.  With the Democrats cozying up to Wall Street and anxious to keep them writing checks and filling their campaign coffers, Fox and the GOP got to have it both ways.  John Boehner is having drinks with Jamie Dimon and promising to protect the banks if the GOP takes control of Congress in the fall, and the public thinks they’ll be the more “fiscally responsible” of the two parties.

The CBS poll indicates that Fox News was entirely successful at hijacking the tea parties from the Paulites.  Ron Paul wasn’t even allowed to speak at the 2008 Republican National Convention because he refused to endorse John McCain, so his supporters had their own convention in St. Paul.   But after George Bush and the GOP so dirtied the brand by busting out the treasury and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down, auctioning off public assets for pennies on the dollar and handing out bloated no-bid contracts to their friends while expanding government spending at an unprecedented level, Fox News successfully appropriated the Ron Paul brand for themselves and the GOP.  They did it by 24/7 broadcasting in coordination with on-the-ground organizing, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.  It was an incredibly successful rebranding effort.

The only real surprise is that there were enough people out there with total amnesia about the previous eight years who were thick enough to buy it. But in the absence of organizing and messaging on the left, it was the only game in town.   And the people who got sucked into it fit the profile of “likely voters” in a midterm election.  The failure to reach them with any coherent messaging on the left will herd them straight to the ballot box for the GOP in November.

Previous post

What's next? The big health care fights to come

Next post

DC Voting Rights Bill Coming Next Week, But Passage Unlikely

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
Subscribe in a reader