The Power and Danger of Talk Radio

Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman

What’s the real power in America? What has revolutionalized American politics, its direction, tone, even the way political parties interact and politicos talk on the stump, in Congress and in front of cameras?

The answer: talk radio, which some argue has become a partisan unifying political force in America. But it’s also a divisive force undermining America’s already-sagging political center.

Cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star (click to reprint)

Cartoon by David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star (click to reprint)

Some argue that talk radio now virtually sets Republican Party strategy.  But it has revolutionized American politics itself ““ creating a talk radio political culture that nurtures confrontation, demonization, promotion of left and right extremes, and dismissive attitudes toward centrists, consensus and compromise. This goes for most right and left talk radio and cable shows.

Starting with Rush Limbaugh, who went from funny ideological gadfly talk show host to  self-serious GOP partisan after the first President George Bush invited him to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom in 1992, talk radio has become American politics’ ““ and entertainment’s –  powerhouse. Talk radio is to 21st century American politics what professional wrestling is to sports.

It’s the quintessential town hall, rallying the faithful. Talk show hosts give their versions of the party line or an actual party line or a party line feeler based on party bigwigs’ feedback and communicate it to their “troops” who pick it up and run with it. Talk show hosts bring down their wrath on those (particularly moderates in both parties) who seem “squishy” and don’t follow the partisan line thus making them 21st century versions of old city political party bosses.

Party bigwigs may ultimately adopt talk show hosts’ strategical advice. These hosts have access to listeners easily won over to the views of a host who they’ve spent X hours a day listening to and watching and who they view as a trusted, credible friend.

Talk radio has shoved center-right, center-left personalities further right and left as they seek bigger audiences, better ratings and fatter paychecks. After decrying Limbaugh’s conservative talk show model how did liberals respond? By trying to clone conservative talk shows and be the anti-Rush Limbaugh.

Air America was attempted left wing Limbaugh ““ minus Limbaugh’s broadcasting talent.

All of this takes the U.S. on a shaky political path. A talk radio broadcaster’s goals aren’t the same as a political party’s. Political parties traditionally value national unity and seek broad coalitions. The only consensus a talk show host seeks is his audience demographics’ consensus which he himself shapes.

A talk show host’s goal is to saw off a portion of the populace, capture and define that key demographic, keep it coming back, get more of that demographic then deliver it to advertisers. All in today’s era of “narrowcasting” versus the 50s and early 60s era of “broadcasting” which sought to piece together entertainment coalitions of different ages and groups. Talk radio encourages both parties to cater to their bases.

The talk radio style resulted in Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express being booted from the Tea Party Federation after he wrote a blog post related to his dispute with the NAACP that even a cabbage in a supermarket would consider “racist.”  Williams, in his blog posts and TV appearances, communicated like a typical combative, polarizing talk show host. Only this time, the red meat was judged rancid.

Where will this trend take American politics, the quality of debate “” and the ability of political parties to govern once they win power after their side’s talk shows  totally trashed, demonized and infuriated their foes?

Will it forever be (totally) good us against (totally) bad them each time a party now gets in power?

Or will it swerve back to “all of us” again?

Not if talk show hosts have anything to say about it.

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Copyright 2010 Joe Gandelman

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at [email protected]

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How Would You Like Your Tea — Sweetened or Unsweetened?

Kentucky is not normally a state that is seen as a bellwether to the national political mood. Comfortably in the “Red,” the Bluegrass State often passes through the electoral season with very little national fanfare. Last night that changed.

tea party primary rand paul

Cartoon by RJ Matson - St. Louis Post-Dispatch (click to reprint)

For the first time since its rapid evolvement, the Tea Party movement helped a significant political candidate earn electoral victory — marking a notable increase in the movement’s importance to candidates across the country. No longer can anyone call this a fluke.

Now many will be quick to say that this is simply a result of the normal enthusiasm gap that comes into play when one party has been swept into power. And others will say that this new group symbolizes a modern shift into a third wing of American electoral politics. I disagree with both.

You see, what the Tea Party movement stands for is nothing new to those of us who remember the days of the Grand Old Party remaining true to its core principles — a Republican Party that believed that uttering anything related to “increased government spending” was akin to dropping a four-letter curse word.

What the Tea Party followers are demanding is simply a return to the days of old — the days where Republican leaders like my father stood for smaller government, less spending and the implementation of policies that allow the American economy to grow, rather than punishing families and small businesses for being productive.

Today, if you visit any state Republican convention or any other gathering of Republicans, you will see a wide array of conservative organizations using my father’s likeness to promote their cause. From the issue of life to immigration, they claim the Reagan mantra.

However, when it comes to the Tea Party, these folks are actually out there demanding a return to the real Reagan principles. They are demanding that our government return more power to the people. I can assure you that my father would not only have approved of their efforts, he would be standing by them as they help return our nation to one by the people, for the people, of the people.

What’s more, the Tea Party has now proven that they can not only talk a good game, but they can actually put solid, principled Republicans in office. This should serve to send a strong message to Republican leadership that the Tea Party can be an ally in electing the best candidates, rather than a political rapid to be navigated. And as we look towards the coming general elections, Tea Party organizers must remember that the resources and support of the Republican Party can work on their behalf as well. We are strongest when we are working together.

Last night’s win was historic for the Tea Party movement. But we must not stop now. It’s time to hold candidates and office-holders accountable when it comes to spending, the deficit and the tax burden being placed on our families.

By pushing hard on this front, in a couple of years, we will be able to stand up and ask President Obama just how he takes his tea.

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Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesperson for The Reagan PAC (www.thereaganpac.com) and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org). Look for Mike’s books and other information at www.Reagan.com. E-mail comments to [email protected]

©2010 Mike Reagan. If you’re not a paying subscriber to our service, you must contact us to print or Web post this column. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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The Birthers Ruined Schwarzenegger’s White House Chance

Imagine you have an action hero head of state: his bronzed muscles rippling as he battles balancing budgets, bureaucracy and lobbyists. He’s a retina-searing international superstar who sets the political world ablaze. His occasional character “complexities” are always forgiven by perfectly timed press conferences. He’s a cigar smoker ““ a Humvee driver. And yes, the nudes of him from the “˜70s are tasteful – he’s a Republican. He believes in smaller government, lower taxes and gun ownership. This is the sexy image every leaner-to-the-right wants to think they’re just a little like: meet Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic - Cagle Cartoons (click to purchase)

Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic - Cagle Cartoons (click to purchase)

In 2003 what has been described as a “perfect storm” in California breached the levees of the governor’s mansion occupied by Governor Gray Davis. The dot-com bust, a recession, and an Enron-sponsored energy crisis coupled with rolling blackouts all battered the not-so-charismatic supporter of illegal immigrants getting drivers’ licenses. A massive and expensive special election was called.

Suddenly everyone from the neighborhood security guard (Gary Coleman) to the local bikini-clad porn star was on the ballot to compete for the prize of governor of the most populated and richest state in the Union. Then on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan the Barbarian announced he’d also be running for governor. After that there were lines around the block to cast a vote for The Kindergarten Cop. Reporters everywhere were giddy with the mountain of funny film monikers to bestow on the then-Governator hopeful.

Ahem.

When the votes were tallied, the electorate overwhelmingly said “yes” to the recall and “yes” to the star of Total Recall.

The “actor” mega-superstar Schwarzenegger was able to do what even Richard Nixon could never accomplish: be governor of California.

When gazing over the footage of not-too-easily-galvanized Californians lining up by the millions to vote for a Republican, the next thought was obvious: he’s going to be the president. His only measly little obstacle is to amend the Constitution, which is outdated on the subject after all. It states, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.” Who was a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, anyway? Not even Reagan. John McCain, if you’ll remember, was born in Panama.

The Austrian-born now politician who took the governorship in the least figurative way by storm seemed destined for the White House! The dude is married to a Kennedy for Pete’s sakes!

But hold on there, GOP Dreamboat (er turbo engine yacht), you’re about to be sunk by a group of paranoid nativists called The Birthers. The Birthers believe President Barack Obama wasn’t born in America and his birth certificate is a fake. It’s a conspiracy so elaborate, clever and void of any real evidence that they’re the only ones who believe it. You’d think a real Manchurian Candidate wouldn’t be black with a foreign sounding name so as not to arouse suspicion from these folks, but that’s just what the Commies would want you to think.

The Republicans siding with the Birthers, and generally ramping up of the anti-immigration sentiment, are shooting themselves in the foot. And not just with Latino voters. Schwarzenegger is by far the most popular and (gasp) competent of any other candidates vying for the nomination in 2012. An amendment requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. The Democrats, smartly, won’t bring it up and the Republicans shortsightedly won’t either. If the Democrats suggested an amendment ““ the Birthers would shriek that it’s proof of Obama’s foreign birth. If the Republicans suggested it ““ the Birthers would”¦well, pretty much do the same.

Last week, Schwarzenegger, again on the Tonight Show said, “without any doubt,” he wants to run for president. He described the quagmire as painful to him.

He’s an unimaginable immigration success story foiled by an antiquated technicality clung to by his own party. My hope is the Governator becomes a champion for comprehensive reform. Currently, he’s a reasonable yet heavily accented voice in a wash of economically ignited xenophobia. He may not be able to run for president because of his country of birth, but he could do a monumental service to his country of choice.

“””“

Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer, editor and columnist for Cagle Cartoons. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

Want to run Tina’s column in your publication? Contact Cari Dawson Bartley. E-mail [email protected], (800) 696-7561.

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The Republican 20 Percenters

During the long cold winter of January 2009, Republicans were dreading the impending thaw of an Obama Administration. It was just after the massive “compassionate conservative” bank bailouts, the economy was hemorrhaging millions of jobs and yet a CBS/New York Times poll reported President George W. Bush still had a 22% approval rating.

Tea Party msnbc.com GOP

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle - msnbc.com (click to purchase)

It was the end of a disastrous second term, a bitter end to a bitter era. It was back when the best thing anyone could say about Bush was, “He showed some great reflexes when he dodged those shoes, huh?” So one could guess around 22% is pretty much the core of the Right. The die hards. The ones who will forgive anything (i.e. Katrina, no WMDs, children left behind etc.). Biker gangs have their “one percenters” ““ Republicans have their 20 percenters. They too should get a patch. Republicans like leather, right?

Speaking of respectable Republican cloth coat’s, even President Richard Nixon had a 27% approval rating months before he resigned, of course that was a more polite era ““ less slander more assassinations. The point is, the nucleus of Republicans is absolutely committed to their guys regardless. Twenty percent is the baseline number ““ the base.

Put a necktie on a German Shepherd who’s strong on defense and hates taxes and if he’s a Republican he will get at least a 20% approval rating nationally (as long as he’s not openly gay or Mormon). He doesn’t even have to be running for anything. Just wearing something that has a flag pin attached so people will know he loves freedom.

Last year an Associated Press-GfK poll found only 21% of adults now identify themselves as Republicans. This is much smaller than just a couple months prior at 28%. And since the now sainted and intellectually irreproachable President Ronald Reagan said the 11th Commandment is “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” the party now has tons more Americans they can speak ill of. They are less than a quarter of adults currently; leaner and meaner.

So it is not surprising to hear a Gallup Poll report that 28% of Americans support the Tea Party. One can assume that it’s mainly Republican support and so it’s not a coincidence the devout of the GOP hovers around that same number.

What is surprising is to hear is Republicans or Tea Partiers calling themselves the “silent majority,” a throwback to the some Republican Revolution rhetoric back when family values House Speaker Newt Gingrich was still on his second wife. Now “silent majority” is a double misnomer due to their decibels and their numbers. Even if no Tea Baggers were Republicans and vice versa, if you added the two groups together currently, according to the data, they would still not be a majority of Americans.

The majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama. They did. By an overwhelming margin. He was the better candidate. Our economy was in a freefall. They voted for a policy wonk. They voted for the candidate who won the debates. They voted for a dude whose middle name is the same as an evil dictator’s last name we took out because it wasn’t relevant. That’s the actual majority.

According to a Winston Group study that came out this month, 86% of the Tea Partiers are over 34 years old. Are they the “new” GOP? For the most part they put the “old” in the Grand Old Party. They’re older Americans who are upset their candidate wasn’t good enough. They’re angry. They’re afraid of “change” but like to threaten revolution and secession. They get so much press because of the novelty of America’s crotchety great-aunts and uncles shaking their Medicare covered fists at The Man. It’s like the soda ads where old people drink Pepsi and start acting like crazy teenagers. But it’s tea!

But no matter how much attention they receive, they are still the 20 Percenters.

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Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Follow Tina on Twitter @TinaDupuy.

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The Latest Republican Conspiracy Theory

It seems everybody gets their own pet conspiracy these days: Birthers, Birchers, Deathers, Truthers and whatever you call the people who won’t get their kids inoculated. According to the theories, nothing is as it seems and everyone is in on it. Following this reasonable assumption, I’ve come up with my own. Here it is: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin are all Democratic plants.

Michael Steele RNC bondage lesbians

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich - Atlanta Journal-Constitution (click to comment)

It’s true. I have proof. The signs are everywhere. It’s so painfully obvious:

Who has been a bigger boon to the Democratic Party than Sarah Palin? There’s no way that’s for real. Come on, no one had ever heard of her and then suddenly she’s tanking the GOP’s presidential bid? That’s not suspicious? The press called her behavior “going rogue,” I call it taking orders from the opposition. So you’re going to run for Vice President and you’re not going to read up on the issues? Putin rearing his head? Wear a quarter of a million dollar donated wardrobe while giving speeches about fiscal conservatism? Use the catch-phrase “palling around with terrorists” while you’re schtuping a secessionist? It’s plain to see: she was working with David Axelrod and David Plouffe to get Obama into the White House.

Then with her help, Obama won (of course) by a huge margin. No one figured out that she was a double agent after losing the election? Then just to make the greenhorn Democrats seem more steady at the wheel she quit her job as a governor during one of the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Now she’s out to sabotage the Tea Parties by speaking on their behalf while taking six figure speaking fees from them. How was she not pretending she couldn’t remember a thing like “lift American’s spirits.” It’s insultingly clear! She even stumped for Senator John McCain last week in Tucson and said “some may claim that John was there at that first Tea Party.” Jokes about McCain being old? Really? Doesn’t that sound like something a Democrat would say about him? Yes. Yes it does.

And RNC Chairman Michael Steele, are we really supposed to believe in this phony “Bizarro Obama” act? POLITICO stated he’s spending twice as much as his predecessors on private planes, limos and flowers while trying to co-opt populist outrage. And now there are reports the FEC is investigating nearly two grand of RNC donor money being spent at a bondage theme club last February in West Hollywood. The same club Lindsay Lohan frequents just before she checks back into rehab. So far Steele is claiming it wasn’t him, although it still accomplishes his goal as a Trojan Horse. How much more does he need to spell it out for us: he’s in cahoots with the Democrats. He’s been working hard at it too, “honest Injun.” It’s not like he’s working on the shattered party ““ he’s writing books and taking speaking fees while chairman. Who is going to come out against empathy when the economy is in freefall besides someone trying to make the DNC look better? “Crazy nonsense empathetic. I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness,” said Steele during the Sonia Sotomayor hearings. I wonder which of Obama’s speechwriters gave him that gem.

Do I need to draw a map for you people? Where’s my chalkboard? I don’t want any of you to freak out since my conspiracy has nothing to do with Nazis or Chairman Mao. Of course, that’s what they’d want you to think.

I brought up Congressman Ryan because he outed himself as an Obama plant last week. After health care reform was signed into law, he penned (allegedly) an op/ed in the New York Times. The title of the piece was “Fix Health Reform, Then Repeal It.” Why would you need to fix something if you’re just going to repeal it? Wasn’t that the unbelievable plotline for the movie Wolverine?! It doesn’t make any sense unless you’re really in the tank for Obamacare. Clean up the house, demolish it, and then listen to us about government waste. He’s clearly trying to make a mockery of Republicans.

Oh yes, we’re through the looking glass here people.

“””“

Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Tina can be reached at [email protected], and follow her on twitter @TinaDupuy

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Watching Sausages

Raging Moderate, by Will Durst

Otto von Bismarck said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Sausages? We would have loved to have seen some sausages. We would have killed for sausages. As any Wisconsin boy can tell you, sausages cooked indirectly over mesquite coals until crispy blistered, then slathered with Stadium Sauce and nestled in butter- grilled buns under a layer of fried onions can taste pretty darn yummy.

tea party hate fear

Cartoon by Pat Bagley - Salt Lake Tribune (click to purchase)

What we got was cut-rate, irate hot dogs. The ugly spectacle of Congressional wieners pummeling each other over health care was as appetizing as mixing snail guts and lizard tripe and cephalopod eyeballs with sour cream and yellow food dye then serving it on a fungus-covered bark chip. And no, I’m not talking about the spinach dip at The Olive Garden.

This isn’t a “pox on both their houses” deal either. Like psychic vultures sensing imminent putrefaction, Republicans amplified their pontificating protestations to a high- pitched squeal; piercing enough to annoy canines all across this great Northern Hemisphere of ours. In the throes of a pseudo-religious ecstasy, one Texas Republican chummed the waters by calling a Michigan Democrat “Baby Killer” on the floor of the House, frenzying his posse of nitwit accomplices into hurling the N-word, the F-word, half a dozen bricks, a handful of death threats, several mouths full of red hot spittle, gum wrappers, a jewel encrusted black ceramic bird (the stuff that dreams are made of, two faxed nooses and possibly a bullet.

The conservative party-line claimed their Neanderthals were simply playing catch-up to the health care proponents’ lead-mitten handling of the issue, and they suggested Democrats kill the bill to quell the rising tempers. That’s right. Fan the flames of stupidity then blame the other side for the scorching climate (different from global warming). If Republican gall were congealable, we could dam the Caribbean.

And it’s STILL not over. To say the GOP is not taking this defeat lying down is like saying freeze-dried mustard clumps make for substandard Q-Tips. Within 10 minutes of the president signing the bill, a deluge of 14 state legislatures began to challenge the bill’s constitutionality. And you wonder why getting anything done in this country is like trying to shovel sand with a pitchfork.

Republicans vowed to go down swinging, and they’re probably not talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail with each other’s wives. Let’s be frank: not a single member of the minority voted for the health care bill. Not one. That’s not a political party, that’s the Borg. “RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.” The reanimated Halloween pumpkin that is Sen. Mitch McConnell remains determined to continue the construction of his cement wall of obstructionism turning “The Party of No” into “The Party of Hell No,” veering dangerously close to “The Party of Screw You!”

People may mock Obama for his Messianic glaze, but you got to relish this resurrection of health care which makes Lazarus risen look like a third-grade magician’s trick. Focus a telescope and you can make out the scuff marks on the bill’s knees from where it climbed out of the morgue drawer. Maybe now we should try handing the president seven loaves and seven fishes and see what he does with that. Or better yet, seven loaves and seven sausages.

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Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who writes sometimes, this being an example. His new CD, “Raging Moderate,” released this week from Stand-Up Records, is available both on ITunes and Amazon. And don’t forget, he’s hosting Showtime’s “The Green Collar Comedy Show” on Thursday, April 22 at 9 p.m.

Copyright ©2010, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. Call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected]. Will Durst is a political comedian who has performed around the world. He is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at [email protected]. Check out willandwillie.com for the latest podcast. Will Durst’s book, “The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing,” is available from Amazon and better bookstores all over this great land of ours. Don’t forget to check out his rooftop comedy minutes at: http://www.rooftopcomedy.com/shows/BurstOfDurst.

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Tea Parties Mark a Milestone in Civil Rights

The most pivotal scene in our nation’s recent civil rights history was not as some would assume, electing the more qualified, younger and dynamic presidential candidate (of a different party than George W. Bush) who also happened to be half African, ““ but it was, in fact, the self-proclaimed Tea Party protesters hurling racial epithets at members of Congress.

tea party race bigotry teabagger nigger

Cartoon by Brian Duffy - PoliticalCartoons.com (click to purchase)

Let me explain: Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was a Freedom Rider in 1961. He was beaten bloody by police on several occasions. Those doing the beating likely used epithets to add some insult to injury. As a then speaker and representative of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he was just an uppity young black male and the cops were just the establishment shielded by 100 years of the rest of the county looking the other way. Civil Rights was not as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently described just a law that “shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years.” It was a bloody war with years of carnage to battle crippling institutionalized racism. A time when the law was segregation; blacks were “equal” just separate.

Plus, with all this talk of the biblical (meaning ancient) definitions of marriage, people of mixed races couldn’t legally get married in some states in this country until the aptly named Loving Decision was handed down by “activist judges” on the Supreme Court in 1967. They ruled unanimously in favor of a Virginia couple whose bedroom had been intruded in on by police who then arrested them for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. Their sentences were commuted on the condition they leave the state. As many have pointed out President Barack Obama was born in 1961 and if his parents happened to live in one of the several anti-miscegenation states they could not have been legally be married at the time.

And of course women were not allowed to vote nationally until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. And as much as homosexuals are discriminated against today, up until 2003 sodomy laws in some states criminalized homosexuality. “Created equal” didn’t just happen once the Declaration of Independence was approved.

So after a year of rigorous debate over health care reform, a year of sound bites and selling points and hysteria, at last the whip count was in and there was going to be a final vote in the House. A small group of irate protesters were at the Capital. En route to hear the President’s speech on Saturday at the Longworth House office building, the aforementioned civil rights champion now Congressman Lewis was called  “nigger,” as was Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an out gay man was called “faggot” by the crowd. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was degraded on signs (to less outrage mind you).

What it pointed out wasn’t that progress is stagnant, because those words exist and are still in use, what it pointed out was how far we’ve come: Those who used to be the victims of legalized racism, homophobia and sexism are now lawmakers. The words once used against the powerless by the authorities are now the desperate yaps of the outer perimeter.

The Tea Partiers’ smears are like a war wound that doesn’t cause disability just aches every so often to remember the fight. But most importantly, those middle-aged puffy white people screaming insults at members of Congress are a specter of the past. They’re the civil disobedience equivalent of a telegram. Their vocabulary is clearly analog.

The battle cry for the Tea Parties has been that members of Congress need to listen to the American people. But to an observer of the people walking past jeers, members of Congress are now more than ever, the American people.

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Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Tina can be reached at [email protected], and follow her on twitter @TinaDupuy

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