The new Playboy magazine has an anonymous confessional from a K Street consultant who lifts the curtain on many of the politically crafty, somewhat seedy underpinnings of the Tea Party movement.
The article has not received much attention. But its contents, if true, are illustrative and fascinating. The consultant, who doesn't identify for whom he actually works, paints a picture of a movement that has strength in its legions of followers outside the Beltway but harnesses its power from the "black arts" of politicking.
Among the author's various claims are the following:
- Tea Party strategists have "quietly acquired Service Employees International Union shirts to wear at Tea Party rallies," which he or she describes as the equivalent of "handing out TSA uniforms in Kabul."
- Sarah Palin isn't the leader of the movement. Big Government's Andrew Breitbart is. "Breitbart is one of them, except smarter, better connected and angrier; compared with him, Palin is Las Vegas dinner theater. That's why he is loved by Tea Partyers in a way Palin can never hope to be loved."
- Actual elected officials are bowing down to the Tea Party throng in ever-growing numbers. Describing a meeting he held with his finance team at the Richard Nixon suite at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. the consultant writes that members of Congress came in and asked for a list of what to do. "The second meeting drew 10 congressmen," the consultant writes. "There we sat, inside the Capitol Hill Club (which shares the building that houses the Republican National Committee), sharing ideas on how we can work together. The third meeting drew 17 congressmen."
- Strategists deliberately try to stir up rage among average Americans, calculating that it's much easier to push a political movement if it's deeply frightened than if it's entirely hopeful. "We're playing to the reptilian brain rather than the logic centers, so we look for key words and images to leverage the intense rage and anxiety of white working-class conservatives," the consultant writes. "In other words, I talk to the same part of your brain that causes road rage."
- Along these lines, the strategists behind the Tea Party movement are using variable-print technology to send out thank-you notes "from an imaginary Wall Street executive to working-class taxpayers."
- The Tea Party is distrusting if not disdainful of the conspiracy theorists with which they are often associated. The consultant writes that during one candidate-interview process, two simple questions are asked. "(1) Are you a birther? (2) Are you a truther? If the answer is anything but "no" or "hell no," the conversation ends right there. If the candidate answers correctly, the conversation continues."
Because it's written without identification, the piece has to be read with a measure of skepticism. That said, much of what is written seems grounded in reality. The Tea Party movement described by the consultant doesn't come off as inherently outlandish. In fact, there is a sense of admiration in the prose. "This cause is worthier and more real than anything I've done in the past," the consultant writes. "I'm all in."
But the piece certainly dispels the myth -- if it still existed -- that the Tea Party is some sort of folksy grassroots movement merely trying to add a modicum of sense to today's corrupt political process. In fact, the movement gets giddy pleasure from sticking it to institutional powers but is quietly dependent on the type of politicking they deplore, as even the author admits.
"[T]he worst thing I can say about the Tea Party I work for is that it can make lots of noise but can't win without professional help. I love the irony of helping run this organization from the St. Regis Bar [one of D.C.'s fanciest hotels]."
(Hat Tip: Political Correction)
UPDATE: SEIU spokesperson Michelle Ringuette responds to news that Tea Party protesters are dressing up in union t-shirts:
Every day all around this country, women and men who work hard for a living are proud to put on purple to symbolize their strength when they stand united. It doesn't matter how many t-shirts the Tea Party puts on to cover themselves up -- the Tea Party leaders' ugly and anti-American rhetoric is out of sync with SEIU's 2.2 million nurses, janitors, child care providers and other members who through their union want to win justice for all working people.