Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea For Two?

This article in last Sunday's Washington Post is well worth reading, because it deviates from the usual plot-driven discussion of politics and takes up the much more difficult task of actually acquiring information! I applaud the writer, Amy Gardner, and all those who worked on this. Information is what we need, not fictional story-lines about politics or the opera critic approach to political campaigns. Did that guy scream too loudly? Off with his head! How about that hairdo? Better vote for someone else.

Gardner writes about the Tea Party movement in a refreshing way, by trying to find out how many people belong to it and what they wish to achieve. A snippet or two:

The findings suggest that the breadth of the tea party may be inflated. The Atlanta-based Tea Party Patriots, for example, says it has a listing of more than 2,300 local groups, but The Post was unable to identify anywhere near that many, despite help from the organization and independent research.

In all, The Post identified more than 1,400 possible groups and was able to verify and reach 647 of them. Each answered a lengthy questionnaire about their beliefs, members and goals. The Post tried calling the others as many as six times. It is unclear whether they are just hard to reach or don't exist.


The tea party's biggest successes this year have come only after one of a handful of well-funded national groups swooped in to mobilize local support. In upset victories in Alaska and Delaware, for instance, the Sacramento-based Tea Party Express spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising for Republican Senate candidates Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell, respectively.

Other national groups, such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, have also built organizations and spent millions of dollars on advertising, high-profile bus tours or other direct campaign tactics.
Getting information is hard work, and these findings don't mean that the Tea Party movement wouldn't exist or have political power. But some of that power appears to be media-created.