The Obama 2012 campaign is in full gear and playing from the Saul Alinsky playbook that has served it so well. You know the drill. Pick a target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.
Obama’s re-election team has set it sights on the Tea Party. Of course, it’s not the first time the Tea Party has been in Team Obama’s crosshairs. Just last month, while appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, David Axelrod told Candy Crowley that Republicans in Congress “were in the thralls of this reign of terror from the far right that has dragged the party to the right.” So if one of Obama’s top advisers is prepared to liken his political adversaries to terrorists then you know there’s no limit to what Obama and his acolytes are prepared to say about the Tea Party. In two of its campaign ads with its Maoist inspired theme “Forward,” the voiceover solemnly says, “Some said our best days were behind us,” accompanied by images with Tea Party protesters.
Tea Partiers, like a majority of Americans, believe the country is going in the wrong direction under President Obama’s policies. But that’s a far cry from believing that America’s best days are behind us. As someone who addressed the Tea Party Tax Day Rally in Worcester, Massachusetts, last month, I can personally attest that Tea Party activists want to leave their children and grandchildren with a better America. Consider this portion from the Worcester Tea Party Mission Statement:
The Worcester Tea Party is a local, all volunteer, non-profit organization. Across the greater Worcester County area we are building the bottom-up organization to return our country back to the principles that made her great.
We need to connect with our neighbors to form strong local groups, ready to take on whatever challenges we face. Together, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.
Now that doesn’t sound like an organization that believes America’s best days are behind it. If the Worcester Tea Party or any other chapter of the Tea Party believed that it wasn’t possible for America to have a better future, then the Tea Party would not be much of a political force and would have ceased to exist long ago. It could be that President Obama knows about as much about the Tea Party as he does about the authority of the Supreme Court to overturn legislation, the difference between the Maldives and the Malvinas. or how many states there are in the Union. Or it could very well be that President Obama knows exactly what the Tea Party represents and simply isn’t telling the truth.
With regard to the Obama campaign’s targeting of the Tea Party, Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard writes that “one expects this line of attack many times over before November’s presidential election.” Halper is no doubt correct in his assessment. Obama’s targeting of the Tea Party has only just begun. Yet this shouldn’t be viewed as a negative development. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that obituaries were being written for the Tea Party. Back in January, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos wrote, “The Tea Party proved itself ineffective, irrelevant and co-opted this primary cycle.” A year after the mid-term elections, Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News & World Report sardonically wrote, “Remember the Tea Party? It was all the rage back in ’10, inspiring fear in establishment Republicans and loathing in Democrats.” Last September, Will Bunch of Media Matters argued that the Tea Party was basically a creation of “the right-wing media, and it echoes.” Bunch’s argument is basically a variation on the theme put out by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who once characterized the Tea Party as “Astroturf.”
But if the Tea Party is so ineffective, irrelevant, co-opted, artificial, and as out of style as a polyester suit, then why does the Obama 2012 campaign feel the need not only to conjure up images of the Tea Party but to misrepresent its positions? If anything, Obama’s attention towards the Tea Party demonstrates its strength and resonance with a significant portion of the electorate. So by all means I hope the Obama campaign continues to target the Tea Party. In his pursuit of re-election, President Obama might end up making the Tea Party stronger than ever.