Back in March, NewsBusters complained that the New York Times gave favorable coverage to an activist bus tour of AIG executives' swank Connecticut estates but ignored the populist groundswell that is the anti-tax, anti-spending tea party movement. Apparently, the Times heard the complaint, and on April 6 covered a 300-person tea party protest in New York. Covered it in ridicule, that is.
The Times op-ed got to the root of the matter: "[T]he green lawn was rumbling with grass-roots anger. Actually, its grass-rootiness was highly debatable. What were the citizens angry about? The stimulus? Not really, said one organizer. He had problems with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Laws impeding capital formation. 'Indict Charlie Rangel,' said a sign. 'Lowlife Obama!' roared a man in the crowd, causing giggles."
If the news stories popping up every ten minutes from local outlets across the country are any indication -- stories about tea parties planned in places like Palm Beach and Allentown and Reno and Missoula -- there are going to be a hell of a lot of tea parties on tax day, with tens of thousands of people participating. But just as Rick Santelli seemed not to have thought out his impassioned rant against government bailouts -- the rant that got the whole movement started -- there seems to be a bit of a struggle within the tea party movement to control its message.
Anti-immigration activists have reportedly been rebuffed by one of the groups helping coordinate tea parties nationwide. The tea party in Burleson, Texas might wind up sodden with Texas secessionists. Newt Gingrich has thrown his support behind the tea party movement, saying in a press release that the "American people are fed up with Washington's irresponsible spending spree." Nevermind that Gingrich supported the financial industry bailout.
Organizers of the event in Washington, D.C. told the Huffington Post that several Republican officeholders had asked to speak at the event, only to be turned down in favor of Alan Keyes. The Washington Independent reports that the choice of Keyes, a plaintiff in the insane Obama birth certificate lawsuit, was announced in a meeting room to "a chorus of groans."
The effort to prevent current GOP leaders from hijacking the grassroots message is seen elsewhere. In a brutally embarrassing smackdown for Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, tea party coordinator Eric Odom publicly denied the party leader the privilege of stage time.
They're not giving speaking slots to elected politicians, Odom wrote. Instead, Steele should attend the event as a non-speaker, because it will "present a fantastic time for Chairman Steele to LISTEN to what we have to say and perhaps gather some thoughts on what the RNC needs to be doing moving forward."
Republican politicians will not be discouraged, however. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, for one, wants legislation to make tax day National Tea Party Day.
One element has had success commandeering the tea party movement: Fox News. The network is aggressively promoting the protests and plans to cover them live from multiple cities in an all-day televised teafest. Fox is firing up its conservative audience by reporting that nefarious liberals from ACORN and the Huffington Post plan to sabotage tax day events. Michelle Malkin is fired up indeed.
The Huffington Post has been asking readers to provide us with a ground-level perspective of tax day events, not to "infiltrate" them. Click here to sign up!
UPDATE: The Chicago Young Republicans have invited Michael Steele to their tea party on tax day.