James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘tea party’

Wall Street protests: It’s about time

Posted by James McPherson on October 12, 2011

OK, so Fox News, which likes Tea Party Protests as citizen activism so much that it falls all over itself to promote those protests, isn’t nearly as fond of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Considering Fox’s pro-big business, pro-Republican slant, that’s no surprise. (And naturally, being Fox, the story was placed next to one titled, “Feds Arrest Lone Wolf in ScarJo Nude Photo Probe.”) Besides, the protests aren’t getting as much attention as they should from other media, either.

Frankly, though I’ve made fun of Tea Party folks a time or two or three, I’ve also supported their efforts — while pointing out that the “party” is as unfocused as supposedly are the Wall Street protesters. But probably no meaningful protest starts with talking points. In fact, not only liberal media but even a Forbes writer, who might be expected to be pro-Wall Street and anti-protests, has pointed out that the protesters’ ideas are more cohesive than the intellectually lazy (or dishonest) folks at Fox and on conservative blogs would have you believe.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think public activism is generally a good thing even if it’s sometimes a bit messy. And the fact is, the Tea Party protests and the Wall Street protests are coming from the same place–frustration and anger among a populace that has been too often ignored by the powerful. I would point out that the “powerful” in this case include the media and corporatist Democrats.

No one can predict what, if anything, will happen as a result of the anger. But even if those in politics and the national media have failed to adequately notice, it’s been a long time coming. And as noted by the Los Angeles Times: “The only thing really surprising about the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it didn’t happen sooner. The United States has a long history of friction over policies that enable an elite to thrive at the expense of ordinary people.”

Next-day addition: Despite what the two groups have in common, it seems that Tea Partiers are less popular than the newcomers (though that may change–as one GOP candidate after another keeps proving, to know someone doesn’t necessarily mean to like them more). And the decreasingly relevant Tea Partiers. who should be seeking allies, seem to be saying “get off of my lawn.”

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Back to the future: From Goldwater to Tea

Posted by James McPherson on September 14, 2011

Looking through drafts of blog posts that I never finished, I see that nearly two years ago, on Feb. 18, 2010, I started a post with the tentative title of, “Paleocons may hurt GOP in the short run, save it in the long run.”

My thought at the time was that Republicans were generating some nutty ideas–and some loony candidates such as Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell–but that the “grown-ups” would eventually regain control of the party and sanity would be restored.

Events since then have demonstrated otherwise, of course, with the recent debt ceiling debacle being merely the latest example. And whatever you may think of Barack Obama’s jobs bill, the fact is that if it was made up entirely of ideas created by Republicans, those Republicans would then feel obligated to spin on their round heels to then oppose what they had proposed.

In fact, the current situation may be a return to something much earlier in American political history–the rise of Barry Goldwater, about whom I wrote at some length in a book. I credit the failed Goldwater campaign with providing much of the impetus for a new conservatism. Goldwater’s campaign was doomed, but the energy of that campaign helped bring us Ronald Reagan and eventually the 1994 Republican Congress.

Likewise, Republicans may be working toward producing another sacrificial candidate in Rick Perry, shifting a party that would now too inflexible for Goldwater or Reagan even further to the right. Barack Obama may be the luckiest presidential candidate ever, getting to run twice against Republicans who can’t win despite Obama’s serious flaws.

It’s still early, and we’ll find out much more about Perry as his GOP competitors continue to bash him. But if Perry is the nominee and then loses to Obama, does anyone think those who have drunk the Perry tea are going anywhere, or that Obama will be any more successful in dealing with the next Congress than he has been in dealing with this one?

One key difference exists between the 1950s-60s rise of neoconservative and that of today. That earlier version was a party of ideas, highlighted by the genius of William F. Buckley and a host of thoughtful conservative publications. Unfortunately those publications have generally become as shallow and shrill as most of the rest of what now passes for rhetoric in America. And big ideas of the sort tossed around gleefully by Buckley can’t be examined via the likes of Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Is the Tea Party racist?

Posted by James McPherson on July 23, 2010

“There is no racism in the Tea Party,” Rush Limbaugh says. “They don’t have racist signs.”

Just the fact that Rush says something would make most thinking people assume the opposite, and of course in this case he’s wrong again. I’ll paste a few of the obnoxious examples below.

But in one respect, it is wrong to say the Tea Party is racist, simply because there is no specific Tea Party (even if some of them now have their own lunatic queen in Congress). There are lots of different Tea Party groups, some loonier than others, who seem to be more offended by the actions of a black president than they were by the all-too-similar actions of the white president who proceeded him.

And there obviously are racists in the Tea Party movement, perhaps in bigger numbers than elsewhere in society. But racism won’t be the factor that makes the movement largely meaningless in the long run, other than affecting a few primaries (and thereby no doubt benefiting as man liberals as conservatives); their demise will result from a lack of cohesion or any significant goals beyond “waaah!” Take this example, from a USA Today story:

“I don’t really understand it, but I like what they stand for,” says Terry Rushing, 63, of Greensburg, La., who was among those surveyed. “They just support everything I’m looking for — lower taxes, less government. … All the good things, you know.”

No, we don’t know, any more than you do, Terry. But it probably doesn’t matter. Like the one-time media darlings of the pro-Hillary PUMAs, the tea partiers will fade away. Fox News will no doubt miss them, though five years from now probably most of us won’t remember them.

In the meantime, perhaps a few of them will go back to school and improve their spelling:


Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

A question for Tea Partiers who want to ‘take back America’

Posted by James McPherson on April 16, 2010

I’m not trying to be facetious; I really want to know. I keep hearing you talking about “taking back America.” Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann say it. You have a Web site that says it. You’ll sell me a bumper sticker that says it. Clinton-era whoremonger Dick Morris wrote a book that says it (though why conservatives listen to him, especially, escapes me). There was a whole conference about it. And there’s even a a weird song and video (below) that have Uncle Sam saying it. And still I don’t get it.

My question: Exactly whom or what are you taking America back from? Those of us who voted in the majority in the last election?

Same-day addition: Martin Lobel at Nieman Watchdog points out something else that seems to confuse the Tea Party crowd and reporters: If you reduce taxes, you increase the deficit. Except in that wonderland that provides a magical escape for many of today’s protesters and a few Republican members of Congress (some of the same folks who pretend they can repeal the just-passed health care bill, though they’re basically after your money).

Posted in Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

More Bush-league antics: Did administration knowingly lock up innocents to play politics?

Posted by James McPherson on April 9, 2010

New revelations about the ongoing international embarrassment that is Guantanamo:  The Times of London today reports, “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror.”

The claim is made by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and because Wilkerson has been a regular critic of the Bush administration his account will (and should) be questioned. Still, according to the newspaper, Wilkerson maintains that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld “knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was ‘politically impossible to release them.'”

Once again we’re left to wonder if the most dangerous post-9/11 war criminals were those who had offices in the White House.

Sadly, if Bush administration abuses are ever considered by the same Supreme Court that put Bush in office in the first place, the sole remaining real liberal on the court–Justice John Paul Stevens–will be gone.

It is a sad reflection of how far federal politics has shifted to the right, despite the fantasies of Glenn Beck and assorted Tea Party Mad Hatters, that the most liberal member of the court is someone who was appointed by Republican Gerald Ford. Sadder still is that a president whom loonies now claim to be a “socialist,” despite the fact that Barack Obama is more probably conservative than Richard Nixon, is the “liberal” who will get to try to replace Stevens.

At least the conservatives who will reflexively fight the nomination (and if Obama were to nominate Rush Limbaugh, those conservatives would suddenly be screaming that Limbaugh was “too liberal”) cannot hope to credibly claim that they don’t want “activist judges,” if they’ve paid any attention to Supreme Court decisions of the past few years.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »