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All populist anger must be right wing

Digby picks up on my post below noting that for all the media chatter about the Tea Partyers, there could very well be some major upheaval on the left next Tuesday.

She adds another layer to the argument, noting that some commentators reflexively interpret all populist anger as right wing:

The tea partiers have all the good costumes and are willing to make public asses of themselves, so they get all the press. But the fact is that the left has been quietly going about its business during this period to unseat Blue Dogs and pull the Democratic party away from its center of gravity in the lap of corporations and right wing ideology. Just because the Village media reflexively interprets anger at Washington as anger at liberal policies, it doesn't make it so.

Nobody knows what will happen, but the fact is that this is not a right wing backlash, it's an anti-incumbent backlash.

It's an old story, but for various reasons media figures lavish disproportionate attention on right-wing "populism." This is partly to overcompensate for being constantly tarred as liberal and partly because both left and right have an interest in exaggerating the relevance of the Tea Party movement. There's also the crude calculus that tales of Tea Party excess drive traffic and get people clicking.

Relatedly, some of you Post readers who are new to the site may not have a firm grasp of the meaning of the term "Village." It's an epithet widely employed in the liberal blogosphere to define the Beltway political and media elite. Check out this etymology of the term.

By Greg Sargent  |  May 13, 2010; 2:37 PM ET
Categories:  Political media , Tea Party  
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Comments

News flash: your part of the village now.

Posted by: obrier2 | May 13, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

obrier2: In it but not of it.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 13, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

OT but my Congressman Moran wrote to our AG Cooch to lay off the witch hunt.

http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/604/moran-to-cooch-stop-intimidating-and-harassing-scientists

Dear Mr. Cuccinelli:

I am troubled by your order to the University of Virginia to provide you with documents related to Professor Michael Mann, an Earth scientist involved in climate change research. Based on the editorial in the Washington Post on May 7, 2010, I am not alone in my concerns over your inappropriate use of government resources to intimidate and harass scientists whose findings conflict with your view of the world.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | May 13, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Greg and the Village: in it to win it.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

the ever appropriate 'what Digby says" still holds.
Digby has that rare gift of true insight and the ability to put it in words.
And it is true.
the village tends to portray the mildest of center left as far leftism.
Tends to portray us as all far from mainstream while the fringe right is always being sold as 'just like you and me'
and they cover, take polls with Tea party as a real party and treat them as sages, it gives the average person the impression this is how all of america is and what they think.
We will never be able to come to a solution or repair our problems as long as the village indulges the fringe right and ignores the thoughts, concerns and thinking of the middle and left.

Posted by: vwcat | May 13, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

T what Greg and Digby say above, I'd add that since the 2008 election cycle, there has been more activism and scrutiny of politicians in both parties.

Among factors driving this are internet blog sites (and social networking) that increase the velocity of opinion and information (some of it low grade), as well as an exciting, cross-generational Presidential election. And now with Obama in the WH, the federal government is taking on tasks that have been put off for too long. Actually governing is going to stir things up because it's difficult. Bush and Co were like a substitute teacher who was just waiting for the qualified, interesting folks to get back.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"partly to overcompensate for being constantly tarred as liberal"

Which is why the Left MUST continue to whip the MSM, just to get it back to neutral.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Populism can sit on the right or on the left. And I agree that this is an anti-incumbent wave. Vote the Ins Out, I say.

But it is difficult to call liberal anger populist anger when it does not represent a majority view. Would you say that those who oppose the new AZ immigration law are displaying populist anger from the left? I think that would be incorrect because polls are showing that a majority of "normal" people actually support the requirements of the law.

If the lefties, for example, are throwing out conservadems because they did not support Obamacare, how can you call that "populist" anger? Most polling shows that a majority of people (the populace or "normal" people) do not "like" the HCR bill. Lincoln represented the average constituent when she took her HC stance.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Greg, You are overly fond of the verb "to tar." You used it about Kagan earlier (and called attention to it!) and here you are using it again: "This is partly to overcompensate for being constantly tarred as liberal." The word comes from the tar-and-feather days of mob punishment. Those days led to the era of lynching in which tarring someone meant making them black. You gotta break this habit, dude.

Posted by: mercerreader | May 13, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't the feathers make them white again?

Posted by: mattslavick | May 13, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

mercerreader, it's fine to suggest that Greg not get stuck using the same verb over and over, but your reasoning is silly. Come on.

"Tarred" is a metaphor whose origin may well lie in tar and feathering, but its use in no way implies that one is referring to that act specifically. If that was so, then every time someone said "uh-oh, she really let the cat out of the bag" you'd have to reproach them for being pro-whipping when they probably just mean they said something that was supposed to be kept under wraps.

As for the relationship between tar and feathering and lynching, well, you'd have to offer some evidence. They may be related, but one did not "lead" to the other.

Shorter me: Greg just means that "liberal" is used as an epithet instead of a description.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

@vwcat...your observation is very accurate...

"Tends to portray us as all far from mainstream while the fringe right is always being sold as 'just like you and me'"

This is due in no small fact to the enormous success of Faux News...a propaganda outlet passing themselves off as a news organization. They have violated the tenets of actual broadcast journalism so frequently and egregiously so many times that I could never list them all and still fit them into a post.

This has resulted in pushing the copycat MSM farther to the right than it's ever been in history. The MSM often carries Fox generated memes as if they are the view of a significant number of the public
people when they were originated at Fox.
John Stewart does an excellent lampoon of how this works...the memo goes out...the Fox "opinion" folks say something like...Obama has Nazi ties...then the Fox "newscasters" say...people are questioning whether Obama is a Nazi. Then the MSM picks up the story with...questions about Obama being a Nazi. That of course is a hyperbolic example but when you consider all the memes THEY HAVE CREATED..."death panels" "government takeover" when HCR was clearly nothing more than PRIVATE insurance company reform.

A great specific example...during the HCR debate I linked continuously to a collection of Polls that clearly showed the majority of Americans preferred a "medicare for all" or some form of P.O. as a solution to health care problems

http://www.wpasinglepayer.org/PollResults.html

Can anyone name a single MSM outlet that showed this information. Two months from the end of that debate when things began to focus...EVERY..I MEAN EVERY...even Rasmussen and biased polls showed that a plurality favored a robust public option.

Yet time and time again a P.O. was presented as something that Obama's "base" "those on the left" were agitating to bring to fruition when the REALITY was that IT was the main stream position and Obama was to the RIGHT of center.

As long as the MSM treats Faux News as a legitimate news organization and Faux has a hand in setting the agenda...progressive viewpoints will be viewed as radical and wingnuts will be presented as "everyday" folks.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 13, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"Lincoln represented the average constituent when she took her HC stance."

No she didn't. The general public was overwhelmingly in favor of the public option, which Lincoln helped to kill. In any event, you seem to read far too much into polls. Public opinion tested in polls is usually fluid, highly dependent upon the exact questions, and susceptible to demagogic distortion and propaganda which, in the absence of any defensible policy positions, the GOP has made into an art form. In health care, for instance, the public overwhelmingly wanted some legislation but the Dems let the GOP get away wit the "death panels," "rationing," "granny killing" nonsense. As for the AZ immigration law, my guess -- all it is -- is that most people are frustrated and want SOMETHING done (just like health care, really) and vent in favor of the AZ law over nothing which is what Congress has given them. In all events, let's see how popular the AZ law is in November. That's the only poll that counts.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

@ruk: "Can anyone name a single MSM outlet that showed this information?"

Would CBS News, The NY Times, and FNC qualify as MSM?

"Poll: Most Back Public Health Care Option

"CBS News/New York Times Survey Shows Most Americans Approve Of Government Intervention In Health Care Coverage"

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/19/opinion/polls/main5098517.shtml

" The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll found solid support for a government-run insurance plan, or so-called public option, that would compete with private insurers. Other surveys have found similar results.

"But what the public seems to prefer and what Congress plans to give them may not be the same thing."

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9400E3DC163DF935A1575AC0A96F9C8B63

"Last night on Fox News, host Bill O’Reilly and analyst Brit Hume discussed the prospects for the Senate passing a health care reform bill. After struggling with the terminology for the “public option,” O’Reilly ultimately concluded that “all the polls say” that “the folks don’t want it.”

"Hume, a regular Fox News misinformer, surprisingly corrected O’Reilly, noting that Americans actually support the public option."

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/11/10/hume-public-option/

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

"I think that would be incorrect because polls are showing that a majority of "normal" people actually support the requirements of the law."

Unless you happen to be Hispanic then 70% of those (not normal?) voters do not support the AZ law. And populist does not necessarily mean majority, it means from the people. Otherwise, since only about 20-30% of voters identify with the Tea Party, we shouldn't be calling it a populist movement either.

"populism n. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite."

Posted by: lmsinca | May 13, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@woebegone: "Lincoln represented the average constituent when she took her HC stance."

"No she didn't. The general public was overwhelmingly in favor of the public option, which Lincoln helped to kill."

A nice bit of gaming as I did not mention the PO only the HCR bill in total. (There can be no doubt that teh HCR package taken as a whole is not popular.)

Anger that HCR did not include a PO in particular would indeed be populist anger.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

BGinCHI: I know Greg doesn't *mean* the term this way. (Why would I be here if I did?) But the term does associate blackness with disgust and defilement, and it has long been used to describe black-skinned people in a negative way (eg, tar-baby.) If I were a professional writer and using a word that people might find insulting, I'd want someone to point it out.

Posted by: mercerreader | May 13, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@lms: Exactly. That is why I wrote that populism can represent the left, the right, or the middle.

But to call lefty anger populist anger when the anger represents only a minority cannot be a populist position in my book. Otherwise we would have to say that support for the AZ law, and anger about the AZ law, are both populist. I choose to apply the populist tag in those circumstances to the majority.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

sbj, since you also seem to consider the majority is "normal" I think we disagree more than we agree. I would think a back lash against a "papers please" law, whether it's the majority of voters or not would more likely be considered a populist movement. I don't see any supporters of the law out on the streets protesting or calling for boycotts.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 13, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

@mercerreader. While I understand the sentiment, I can't agree that a word like that should be "off limits." That's not going to do anyone any good. You are right that blackness/darkness has gotten the short end of the binary stick for a very long time, that precedes categories of race. In the classical and medieval period, the devil was often described as black with no regard to human skin color. Eventually these did come together (as in a number of Renaissance dramas I could cite), but this is a social construction that can be undone by disassociation.

When I hear that verb, for example, I am readily able to think that being tarred would be nasty because tar is a caustic, sticky substance (see Gulf, spill, BP) that would be a torment to be covered in.

That tar is also black is an element of this, but NOT it's only defining negative.

If you've ever tarred a roof, you'd just hate tar, not the color.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I should have added, "but you'd also love tar, because it keeps the rain out."

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Polling is a dark art that can be easily manipulated through selective sampling and especially question design to show that the "people" believe what the polster's clients want "public opinion" to be.

HCR is the classic example. HCR polled badly, but when most of the individual parts of HCR are polled separately, they were wildly popular. So the combination of low information voters and unscrupulous polsters make lots of polling worthless. Certainly, polls can be made that accurately reflect public opinion (See Pew, NORC, etc.), but there is no shortage of truly crappy, misleading polling.

Posted by: srw3 | May 13, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I got off track. Villager wisdom is extremely common in the MSM, because MSM reporters are more and more celebrities in and of themselves who have mostly the same class (for lack of a better term) interests as other rich and powerful people, ie congresscritters and big business types. Hence, MSM reporting reflects their own, overwhelmingly well off, overwhelmingly white, (Juan Williams notwithstanding), overwhelmingly small c conservative biases..

Posted by: srw3 | May 13, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

All, check out this effort by Specter to explain away his terrible gaffes:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/05/nasty_and_desperate_in_pennsyl.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 13, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

@lmsinca...Thanks for your links about the war one the earlier thread. I've been reading more and more that the Pentagon is now ready to concede our counter insurgence strategy is a fail. While I'm disgusted with Obama on the war(s) issue, there is one bright prospect...S.O.D. Gates seems to be a pragmatic man who is doing the job the best he sees fit as opposed to being a simple R ideologue. Props to Gates! Boos to Obama.

O better be careful. There is that joke that makes the round that says Bill Clinton was the best Republican President we've had since Ike. I think Obama may be after Bill's mantle as an excellent R lite prez!

SBJ...thanks for making my point. While you did find some MSM who reported those polls...the fact is that people were for a "medicare type" "single payer" solution before O even took office. The R lying and deceit certainly made it difficult to cut through the BS but again are you saying you never heard the P.O. couched as being something from the left or the Dem "base" that Obama had to "deal" with rather than the reality that it was the popular position and Obama was significantly to the right in his ultimate HCR?

As for Brit Hume correcting Bill O the clown even the blind acorn gets a squirrel once in awhile. Hume is an ideologue I"m surprised he'd be the one, however in fairness I have heard Shep Smith (who attempts to keep some semblance of being a journalist) call out folks on the obvious lies...as he did dramatically once to Joe the Plumber.

Still there is no denying that Fox has moved the entire media structure to the right with their lies, deceit and false reporting and unctuous pundits.

For example SBJ are you going to argue that there was ever REALLY a "death panel" in the HCR bill. No RATIONAL person believes this. Do you think Obama was born in Hawaii or are you like bilgescum who calls him the "alleged" Hawaiian. Remember Faux ran with the birther story along with Lou Dobbs at CNN for as long as they possibly could until it ran out of legs. Do you really believe the HCR bill is a form of socialized medicine comparable to England...are you smart enough to know the difference between the English socialism model and Canada's single payer system...our system...except for the VA is NOTHING LIKE ENGLAND...our system except for Medicare IS NOTHING LIKE CANADA...O's HCR reforms dealt with PRIVATE INSURANCE company reforms, not P.O's despite public preference. Obama was CLEARLY TO THE RIGHT OF THE POPULACE yet Faux and the right wing noise machine continually portrayed Obamacare as a government takeover. They are all dishonest traitors for aborting what should have been a SERIOUS THOUGHTFUL debate.

Posted by: rukidding7 | May 13, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

BGinCHI: I respect your concerns and the learning (from roofing to drama) that backs them up. But I am not saying these words are off-limits as much as I am making people aware of its connotation. And there's a long history of the word being used in the US as a racial epithet.

Posted by: mercerreader | May 13, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

"(There can be no doubt that teh HCR package taken as a whole is not popular.)"

Wrongo. There is PLENTY of doubt whether HCR is unpopular or not. My guess is the that HCR will soon be popular or neutral, at worst. In fact, I suspect, Americans will shortly be clamoring for MORE reform as we fitfully find our way to a single payer system.

It's curious. You discount the distorting effect of demagoguery on public opinion leaving you with ... Surprise! ... a poll that says the demagogued position is popular. You are equating successful propaganda with populism. Kind of tautological if you ask me.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

mercereader, understand completely.

Consciousness raising is the thing here, right? Best case we take back all the words the racists have ruined and put them to good use.

Or, as Aaron asks in Titus Andronicus, "Is black so base a hue?"

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"Or, as Aaron asks in Titus Andronicus, "Is black so base a hue?""

He asked that just before he tarred him, I suppose.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

@wb: "My guess is the that HCR will soon be popular or neutral, at worst. In fact, I suspect, Americans will shortly be clamoring for MORE reform...You discount the distorting effect of demagoguery on public opinion leaving you with ... Surprise! ... a poll that says the demagogued position is popular."

How convenient for you! Your position allows you to believe whatever you want to believe of the public, regardless of the best facts we have at hand. A right neat trick, that.

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Aaron's black, and the consummate villain, so my example is fraught with all the contradictions you'd expect in a play from the 1590s.

But see also Act 1 of Othello, where all the attempts to tar the Moor with racial epithets (black ram, thick-lips, etc.) make no impact either on their target or the powers-that-be in Venice.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

BGinCHI: Which one are you avoiding? Grading or writing a dissertation? (I suspect we are in the same field!) MR

Posted by: mercerreader | May 13, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

"Your position allows you to believe whatever you want to believe of the public, regardless of the best facts we have at hand."

That is true as to some policy position polls in an era of rampant and, until very recently, unchecked propaganda by one of the two parties because said party is a spent ideological force resurrected by its inmates and directed by corrupt hacks.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

BGinCHI. Thanks, Bro. I like a little Shakespeare in the afternoon.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 13, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Nathan Explosion reads Hamlet:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=be5_1264296618&c=1

Posted by: sbj3 | May 13, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

mercereader, grades in a few days ago, and I already have a PhD. Avoiding, mildly, some admin work, but also really do enjoy bringing Shakespeare love to the Plum Line.

You?

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 13, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

BGinCHI: grades in last week, graduation tomorrow, Plum Line is one of the many distractions keeping me from finishing up an article. Enjoy the summer.

Posted by: mercerreader | May 13, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Under Health Care Reform, If you do not have medical insurance you can be penalized, but you can easily find medical insurance under $40 http://ow.ly/1Jkvo

Posted by: zariyaagil14 | May 14, 2010 4:36 AM | Report abuse

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