Joe Scarborough Shovels Dirt on Tea-Party Movement for Newsweek

Weeks after Newsweek recruited Joe Scarborough to interview Bill Maher and dismiss both parties as destructive and discuss a less-than-appealing Scarborough-Maher presidential "unity ticket," Scarborough is back doing Newsweek’s bidding again – to throw cold water on the tea party movement.

The article is headlined "Is the Tea Party Over? The anti-Obama anger that helped fuel the ‘Massachusetts Miracle’ is now threatening to tear the movement apart." Scratch and smell the wishful thinking.

Scarborough weirdly asserted that Tea Party activists were Perot voters who wanted government health care for life and yet were also puppets for "apocalyptic" Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck who will believe any radio slander against Obama:

Among the protesters were veterans, deeply suspicious of the young liberal president and embittered, ironically, by Congress's failure to keep its promise to give them government-run health care for life. Also in attendance were gun-rights activists, who believed that their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was being put at risk by Barack Obama. And in those throngs I also saw the faces of talk-show fans, pushed into action by the apocalyptic warnings of personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Those two right-wing talkers had spent the past year telling listeners that the Democratic president was a racist who somehow managed to find the time also to be a Nazi and a communist.

Scarborough radio-show listeners apparently don’t turn up at protests because they’re so confused by Joe’s constantly shifting attempts to please media liberals that they end up dizzy.

He then asserted liberals misunderstood who these tea-party protesters were – just after thoroughly proving his misunderstandings. Tea-party folks should be celebrating, he wrote, but they’re not:

Instead, at the very moment the tea party has proved it is an undeniable political force that must be taken seriously, it is at risk of tearing itself apart.

Attempts to organize an upcoming National Tea Party Convention—with Sarah Palin as keynote speaker—have led to threats of lawsuits and counterconventions across the country. Erick Erickson, one of the conservative movement's most prominent bloggers, dismissed the event as a money-making scam. Even the stunning election of a Republican to Teddy Kennedy's seat only seemed to create deeper divisions in an already fractious movement. The man who serves both as the tea party's spiritual leader and carnival barker, Glenn Beck, spent the morning after Scott Brown's victory sounding very much like a man who would just as soon undermine the party as he would share the spotlight with Washington's newest star.

Scarborough recounted Beck’s bizarre denunciation of Brown as a guy whose "career could end up with a dead intern." He claimed the obvious – tea-party anger will be injurious to Democratic majorities in 2010 – and then projected that they are likely to "fail in their infancy," unlike make-believe "news" magazines:

What is going on here? Why are the tea partyers turning on their own? Like any nascent populist movement, the tea party was born of deep skepticism and dissatisfaction with the status quo. As it turns out, many of its most passionate and vocal members seem just as mistrusting of each other as they are of the federal government. This is one reason we have been stuck with two dominant political parties for so long: creating durable political institutions is hard. Most—like Perot's populist wave in the 1990s—fail in their infancy. Riven with internal conflicts and lacking a coherent structure, the tea party's biggest challenge may be trying to deal with its own success. Victories are sure to lie ahead for the group in this fall's midterm elections. After all, without Obama on the ticket, those who vote will be older, whiter, and fewer in number than they were in 2008. And that will likely be bad news for Democratic candidates who were swept into Republican-leaning seats during George W. Bush's disastrous second term.

The more important question for the populist movement may be whether this loosely organized political phenomenon can remain intact long enough to challenge a two-party system that has dominated American politics since George Washington rode off to Mount Vernon to live out his final years. If history is any guide, the prospects of long-term success are as unlikely as a Republican winning a Senate seat in Massachusetts.

For those keeping track at home, Scarborough was also featured by Newsweek last June on his ideas for restoring conservatism and a positive review of Morning Joe in Newsweek last April.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis