The New York Dispatch covered Newt Gingrich's appearance today before the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania. While signing books Gingrich addressed his fans and had this to say about the Tea Party:
"[It's a] natural expression of frustration with Republicans and anger at Democrats [which is] more likely to end up as the militant wing of the Republican Party."
With the media embroiled in debate about the impact and influence of the Tea Party, this is a remark from an authoritative source on the subject. And it comports with much of what we already know about the Tea Baggers. These are the same people who show up at rallies carrying signs that say "We came unarmed - this time." In fact, even that soft-peddles the issue because in many instance they are already carrying arms.
Many Tea Baggers talk openly of sedition and firing on government officials, This talk is not just from wild-eyed nut cases, but includes Erick Erickson, CNN's new political commentator. Glenn Beck has "joked" about poisoning Nancy Pelosi and choking Michael Moore. He has described progressives as a cancer in America that cannot be tolerated but must be cut out. This is the same Glenn Beck who ridicules others who talk about the right's "eliminationist" tactics. What will Beck have to say about Gingrich's heresy?
Gingrich's comments come on the day that Politico publishes an article titled, "The tea party's exaggerated importance." This long overdue analysis from a right-leaning news source finally acknowledges what so many conscious observers have been saying for the past year: The Tea Party is a partisan, exclusionary assembly of white Republican conservatives angry at having lost the last election. The article goes on to recognize that the TeaPublicans have enjoyed press coverage that far exceeds what they deserve.
Of course, it was already well known by many that the Baggers were merely a niche group of fringe activists whose wealthy benefactors in the GOP and Fox News have inflated their public image beyond reality. Does anyone really believe that if the millionaires at FreedomWorks (who paid for the buses and the rallies) and Fox News (who handled the PR and advertising) had not promoted the Tea Party that anyone would be talking about them today? As it is, most polls show that anywhere from 40% to 69% of Americans have still never heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.
This puts Gingrich's comments in an odd perspective. It paints a picture of a small group of disgruntled outsiders who are being exploited by a political machine that regards them as their muscle. And since the Tea Baggers are known to have an affinity for firearms and a determination not to be tread upon, this could be like placing a gunpowder factory next to a fireworks testing ground.
We can only hope that Gingrich is wrong. The good news is that he wrong quite often. But that doesn't excuse his characterization of the Tea Party or the frightening consequences of his assertion.
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