Everyone seems to be treating the new faces of the conservative movement as wildly successful and influential. But the real story of the conservative movement in 2009 is that it has been a colossal failure where it counts: affecting policy.
Just this week, the Post's Dana Milbank based an entire column on the notion that Glenn Beck is more popular than the Pope -- both actually received a scant 2% in an open-ended Gallup poll asking what man you admire most, while the President led with 30%.
(I can play this game too: Barack Obama is 15 times more admired than the Pope!)
Milbank concludes, "by any measure, he's had a huge impact on the body politic." Any measure?
Were Beck and his minions able to stop the stimulus? Kill health care reform? Convince the leaders in Copenhagen that global warming really is hoax concocted by evil scientists? Accomplish any policy goal that he exhorted his followers to achieve?
What are Milbank's measures of success?
* Beck has "3 million a night" watching his show. Well, that's 1% of the country. Bravo.
* Beck's show helps drive book sales, hence he has "cultural impact." Actually, it takes a lot less than 3 million to make a best-seller list, so again, not exactly evidence that Beck "is America," as Milbank suggests.
* "He single-handedly brought down Obama adviser Van Jones over the official's far-left past." That's true. He forced out a member of Obama's administration to quit. But the green jobs agenda that Jones was working on remains on track. And Beck was unable to generate any momentum to force out other members of the Administration. So, so what?
* Finally, he credits Beck with being a "major promoter of the Tea Party movement." If attending large rallies amounts to "huge impact," I guess the folks from A.N.S.W.E.R are who really ruled the roost the last decade.
Today, the Times' David Brooks joins the hyping of the Tea Party movement, asserting: "The tea party movement is mostly famous for its flamboyant fringe. But it is now more popular than either major party. According to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 41 percent of Americans have a positive view of the tea party movement. Only 35 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Democrats and only 28 percent have a positive view of the Republican Party."
But that's a very flimsy comparison. There are plenty of people on the left mad at the Democratic Party for not being liberal enough, and people on the right mad at the Republicans for not being insane enough, driving down the parties' overall approval numbers, while the Teabaggers probably have consolidated a certain degree of support on the Right.
Furthermore, we don't even know how many people responding positively in the NBC/WSJ poll actually know what the "Tea Party" movement is really about. As Politifact noted, only 40% of Americans know who Glenn Beck is. The NBC/WSJ poll itself found 48% of people knew "very little" or "nothing at all" about the Tea Party movement, and poll's subsequent description of the movement was far milder than what you see at Tea Party events.
The Teabaggers make a lot of noise, sometimes with the inadvertent help of easily outraged liberals. But time and time again this year, they failed to actually alter the policies they were hysterical about. I'll detail further in a follow-up post later this week.
Originally posted at OurFuture.org