Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” launched what the network called a documentary Wednesday night on the Tea Party, militia groups and the other various and sundry extremes purporting to be the base of the Republican Party.
Except for one segment on a housewife explaining how she stumbled into forming a Tea Party in her neighborhood, the one-hour show was dominated by videos of the crackpot element of America’s right seen through the lens of a moderate to liberal Democrat, Mr. Matthews.
Intended or not, the thrust of the show warns Americans this new group borrowing slogans from old zealots cloaked under the U.S. flag and the pre-Revolutionary War flag “Don’t Tread On Me,” have the state and federal government in their cross-hairs.
The one and perhaps only valid point Matthews makes is that this group unlike those of past years has new technology on its side — the Internet and its social networking, conservative talk radio and Fox News.
That maximizes its chances for persuasion, hopefully by peaceful democratic means and not by the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms and, by Matthews’ fear, aimed against our law enforcement and elected officials.
I confess being a fan of Matthews for most of the years he has hosted his show. He has a phobia about common folks carrying guns around political rallies and his fears are well grounded of memories of attempted and successful assassinations of President Kennedy, President Ford, President Reagan, Bobby Kennedy and yes, even George Wallace, to name a few.
What Matthews is so worked up about is that the anger we see that is trumpeted into their ears about overthrowing the government is that some nut in the crowd will take a shot at our president or like Timothy McVeigh blow up a federal building killing 168 people.
The documentary failed miserably in accurately depicting the Tea Party other than its extreme elements such as the woman we all saw in the promo hype who said President Obama is a liar.
A more honest assessment of the Tea Party is that as a national power force it is at the present time too decentralized, too localized and too fragmented. They do share a common bond that the federal government is too large. It is believed the large organizing efforts are handled by outsiders, including former Texas Rep. Dick Armey.
Where Matthews does score correctly is that the anger we observe from the right is based on economic fears and the erroneous perception the president is “not one of them.”
It is not coincidental that the “new” right gained traction when the housing market collapsed, the financial institutions melted and the government responded with bailouts, stimulus packages and what many of them believe a “take over” of our health system that mandates everyone purchase medical insurance.
And, as Matthews argues, what they thought in their minds were hammered and confirmed with the rants of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and to a lesser extent by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.
But peeling that onion skin deeper was the resentment their president was not legitimate because the echo chamber they listened to said he was born perhaps in Kenya, Glenn Beck said he “hated white people” and Rush Limbaugh assured them the president was part and parcel of a tyrannical regime.
Matthews who is a good student of history should no from history that the political pendulum forever swings both ways over time. The American people correct their mistakes by either throwing the rascals out or during that 13-year period beginning in the 1920s approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale of liquor and then repealing it.
The same holds true for the “new” right. They may gain seats in Congress but can the true believers such as libertarian Rand Paul, if elected, sway his fellow senators to his way of thinking.
I think the “new” right is more militant in words than in actual practice and have been prey to Republican operatives for the expediency of winning elections than getting the chance of actual governing.
I grew up in Orange County, Calif., a Republican bastion, and people like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, the Republican Tea Party Senate nominee in Nevada, don’t scare me. They have a political philosophy I don’t adopt. but they are not threats to democracy as my liberal friends would like you to believe.
Sorry, Chris, your documentary failed to send shivers up my leg.
Cross posted on
Posted comments are welcome and automatically go to my email address at [email protected] Remmers’ varied career spans 26 years in the newspaper business. Read a more thorough resume on The Remmers Report.
UPDATE: The Matthews documentary has sparked great controversy — and Tea Party movement umbrella groups are calling for a boycott of MSNBC sponsors. Details HERE.