It’s Not Just the Tea Party That Is Mad as Hell Here

Posted November 5, 2010 at 6:42pm

To all the people agonizing over lost jobs, houses or the comfortable lifestyles they once lived: Direct your anger toward the elites, especially highly educated individuals, the media and left-leaning political leaders.

It’s their fault that you’re suffering — or at least that’s what pollsters and political commentators Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen suggest in their new book “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System.”

The new book may sell because of its popular topic, but it’s unlikely that many will find much in the way of analytic content. The authors intended the book to be an in-depth analysis of the conservative populist movement and the causes behind tea party rage. But readers may find themselves questioning the authors’ biases and wondering whether they have sympathies toward the tea party.

The book is saturated with an anti-establishment, anti-elite voice.

“The culture and interests of what we call the political elite have overrun Washington,” Rasmussen and Schoen write. “A self-selecting group of influencers from business, government, academia, and the media now occupy the most prestigious institutional positions in American society.”

According to the authors, members of “the elite” include not only politicians but also the “educated class,” people with Ph.D.s or master’s degrees and successful businessmen who are “often very motivated.”

“There is nothing wrong with being successful. … However, the political elite is shockingly out of touch with mainstream America.”

The elite, they write, believe climate change exists when the public is increasingly skeptical. “They” want to participate in international issues, while “mainstream” America wants to isolate itself from foreign countries. The “political class” supports amnesty for illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years, while “mainstream” America wants them expelled.

These authors are a little angry.

One section reads: “The system is rigged against [mainstream Americans]. The truth of the matter is, not only have the political elite benefited from the forces that have destroyed the lives of so many Americans. In many ways, they are responsible for the creation of this crisis in the first place.”

In another chapter: “Our government has failed the average American. It’s that simple. Our duly elected representatives are supposed to protect the interests of their constituents, not just their campaign contributors. They didn’t. … We have a broken government.”

This kind of theme is repeated extensively.

Rasmussen and Schoen seem to also have a bone to pick with reporters. People who cringe at the phrase “the liberal media” may find themselves scratching their heads in annoyance. The authors don’t pinpoint a select few broadcasting corporations or papers, but “the media” in general — as if all reporters cover the tea party the same way.

“The reason why the public doesn’t know how broad-based the Tea Party movement actually is has to do with the media’s inherent partisanship, class and regional prejudice,” the authors write. “The mainstream media’s bias toward the Tea Party movement has been undeniable.”

But who is the mainstream media? And how can hundreds of thousands of newspapers, blogs and broadcasters, with easily as many conservative-leaning as liberal-leaning pundits, be placed into one category?

When tea-party-backed candidates uprooted GOP incumbents in primaries this fall, all sorts of media reported the upset. When Glenn Beck hosted the “Restoring Honor” rally in August, many outlets reported the mind-boggling number of people who attended from across America. And a Washington Post survey of local tea party organizers released in late October found that 76 percent of the conservative organizers said media coverage of the movement was either “fair” or “somewhat fair.”

Still, the authors seem to have a quarrel: “The mainstream media, in short, has a built-in bias to the political class that renders it unable to report accurately on the most important political stories of our time.” They quote an activist calling the media, with the exception of Fox News, the “lapdog” of the Obama administration.

The authors did include some fascinating background on the tea party, presenting an overview of the movement from town hall meetings and the “You lie!” outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to the 9/12 Project, the “collapse of [political] centrism” and organizations affiliated with the tea party, such as

The book provides insight on the makeup of the tea party, including the breakdown of supporters’ ideologies, party affiliations, gender and political participation histories.

But the merits of the book may be overshadowed by the authors’ obvious anger, which seeps through the writing. “Mad as Hell” is not just a description of tea party activists.