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The tea party's exaggerated importance

Politico - 2009 was the year when many journalists concluded they were slow to recognize the anti-government, anti-Obama rage that gave birth to the tea party movement.

2010 is the year when news organizations have decided to prove they get it.

And get it. And get it some more.

Part of the reason is the timeless truth in media that nothing succeeds like excess. But part of the reason is a convergence of incentives for journalists and activists on left and right alike to exaggerate both the influence and exotic traits of the tea-party movement. In fact, there is a word for what poll after poll depicts as a group of largely white, middle-class, middle-aged voters who are aggrieved: Republicans.

But just read the succession of New York Times stories, profiling newly energized activists who are “bracing for tyranny.” Or follow the dispatches of the CNN crews who went along with two national Tea Party Express bus tours. Or delve into the crosstabs of polls conducted in the past few weeks by the Times, CNN, and, POLITICO about the opinions and demographic characteristics of tea partiers. Or check out the blogger the Washington Post hired to chronicle their movement.

The findings have been unveiled with the earnest detachment of Margaret Mead reporting her findings among teenage girls in Samoa.

Indifference has given way to curiosity, and —in recent weeks especially— to a nearly manic obsession that sometimes seems to place the tea partiers somewhere near the suffragettes and the America-Firsters in the historical ranking of mass political movements. Read more.

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