Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on the Tax Day Tea Parties

It is tax day which means that tea parties are happening all over the United States. Here is a collection of thoughts from around the web on the events:

Domenico Montanaro of MSNBC:

But let’s be clear about one thing: These tea parties are hardly non-partisan events. While there’s certainly a grassroots component here, these parties have been co-opted by a major America political party (the RNC's Web site allows for creating send-a-tea-bag post cards to Dem leaders) and an entire cable news channel (which has been promoting the events). The main Web site for the events today, Tax Day Tea Party, is funded by conservative groups, and a public records search shows it's registered to a conservative techie, Allen B. Fuller, who used to be a legislative correspondent for GOP Sen. Richard Shelby and who touts creating Web sites for Republican elected officials. Also reportedly involved in today’s protest events are FreedomWorks, a conservative group founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Americans for Prosperity.

Glenn Reynolds disagrees in the Wall Street Journal:

So who's behind the Tax Day tea parties? Ordinary folks who are using the power of the Internet to organize.


The movement grew so fast that some bloggers at the Playboy Web site -- apparently unaware that we've entered the 21st century -- suggested that some secret organization must be behind all of this. But, in fact, today's technology means you don't need an organization, secret or otherwise, to get organized. After considerable ridicule, the claim was withdrawn, but that hasn't stopped other media outlets from echoing it.

"Bloggers at the Playboy Web site" Reynolds says. As if the promotion by Fox News and the funding by corporate lobbyists are just a figment of the imagination of bloggers on Playboy's website. Nice try Glenn.

So we have those like Reynolds who still continue to claim that these protests are not being organized by organizations who are funded by corporate lobbyists, while at the same time these very same organizations are admitting that they are helping to organize these events. From the Freedom Works website:

Thank you for joining the massive movement of citizens that are opposed to the trillions of dollars in federal spending and the bailouts of Wall Street and failed businesses. With your help, we have been able to organize hundreds of Taxpayer Tea Parties across the country, from Santa Barbara, California to Amarillo, Texas, and all the way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Together, as one united force for liberty, we can take our country back!

Adam Brandon of Freedom Works says that they are helping coordinate these events much like helps to coordinate similar events:

"If you look at MoveOn's model...if you consider that AstroTurfing, I'd probably have to say that we're AstroTurfing," Brandon told me. But if critics assume the organization is top-down, he said, "they're gonna underestimate us."

but as Digby has pointed out, there is quite the difference between the two organizations. Here is how MoveOn does business:

MoveOn uses e-mail as its main conduit for communicating with members, sending action alerts at least once a week.

The web site also uses multi-media, including videos, audio downloads, and images. In addition to communicating via the Internet, MoveOn advertises using traditional print and broadcast media, as well as billboards, bus signs, and bumper stickers, digital versions of which are downloadable from its web site. It also contains an area called the "Action Forum", which functions much like a traditional electronic discussion group. The Action Forums act as a grassroots organization allowing members to propose priorities and strategies.

Through this grassroots methodology, MoveOn collaborates with groups like in organizing street demonstrations, bake sales, house parties, and other opportunities for people to meet personally and act collectively in their own communities.

Some of its core principles are that it is not dependent on foundation money and that it has the ability to use 'hard money' – as opposed to grants and tax-deductible contributions – which enables them to be partisan, contribute to political campaigns, and exercise clout in the political process.

and here is how Freedom Works does business:

FreedomWorks claims a membership of over 360,000 and a multi-tentacled legal structure that includes a 501 c(3), a 501 c(4), a 527, a federal PAC, and various state PACs. John Stauber, co-author of Banana Republicans: How The Right Wing is Turning America into a One-Party State, recently pointed out that that according to internal documents leaked to the Washington Post in January 2000, the bulk of Citizens for a Sound Economy's revenues ($15.5 million in 1998) came not from its members, but from contributions of $250,000 and up from large corporations, including Allied Signal, Archer Daniels Midland, DaimlerChrysler, Emerson Electric Company, Enron, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Philip Morris and U.S. West (now Qwest).

While the differences in these organizations are clear, Andrew Sullivan continues to maintain that the goals of these tea party protests are anything but clear:

But it seems odd to describe this as anything but a first stab at creating opposition to the Obama administration's spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush's. The tea-parties are as post-partisan as Reynolds, one of the most relentlessly partisan bloggers on the web. When you see them holding up effigies of Bush, who was, unlike Obama, supposed to be the fiscal conservative, let me know.

But the substantive critique must remain the primary one. Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you'd cut.

If you favor no bailouts, then say so. If you want to see the banking system collapse, then say so. If you think the recession demands no fiscal stimulus, then say so. If you favor big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, social security and defense, then say so. I keep waiting for Reynolds to tell us what these protests are for; and he can only spin what they they are against.

All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.

I think Sullivan's points are quite valid and deserve mentioning when we are engaged in discussion surrounding these protests.

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