Greg Hengler catches this moment from yesterday’s This Week on ABC, where Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne casually calls town-hall and tax protesters “teabaggers,” without a hint that he understands the origins of the term. Neither, for that matter, does George Stephanopoulos. It’s left to Peggy Noonan to correct the record, at least somewhat. Greg Hengler captures the moment for Townhall:
DIONNE: The special election for the House, where the Republicans nominated a moderate Republican, Dede Scozzafava, and then the Conservative Party in New York state put up a right-wing candidate supported by the tea baggers. That right-wing candidate is cutting into the moderate’s votes, and the Democrat is ahead in a district that is very Republican. That’s a real challenge long term for the Republicans. Can they nominate moderates?
STEPHANOPOULOS: E.J., he brings up an important point. Now, Stan Greenberg and James Carville did a study this week of the Republican base of voters. And one of the things they found out, this hardcore part of the base is in a world unto its own right now, the tea bag movement. And, you know, they’re sort of driven by the idea that President Obama, the Democrats, have a secret plan to impose socialism on the country.
NOONAN: Well, I don’t know about that. You know, in the case of New York, the conservative, who is making real inroads and threatening the official Republican nominee, that conservative’s voting record has more in common with the fellow who just left that office than the Republicans’ does. I can’t help but think a lot of this stuff is — is exaggerated, in terms of calling it “tea baggers” and all that stuff.
Look, this country saw this summer an awakening, if you will, an August awakening, of people at town halls coming forward, Republicans and independents and some Democrats, saying, “Wait a second. We’re not liking the way they’re doing it right now in Washington.” That is creating, I think, something of a wave that perhaps, if Virginia and New Jersey seem to be going Republican, may lead to something serious in 2010.
I mean, E.J., there were 49 congressmen who are up for re-election in 2010 who are Democrats who came from districts that McCain won, so that shows you, in a way, how delicate things are for them.
The movement refers to itself as the Tea Party movement, not the Tea Bag or the teabagger movement — and for a good reason. The former has allusions to American history and the long tradition of grassroots action against an overreaching government. The latter is a sexual reference, a rather obscene and demeaning one, made popular by talk-show hosts on liberal networks attempting to insult people organizing for a legitimate and non-sexual cause. (For that matter, none of these seem aware that “tea bag” has also been used as a pejorative for Brits, but that’s another matter altogether.)
For people who style themselves as journalists, neither Stephanopoulos or Dionne seem particularly informed on the difference. Noonan stuck to the argument Dionne made that the GOP had to become more moderate in order to win elections, an argument that appears to be losing in Virginia and New Jersey, as fiscal conservatism has made a big comeback, thanks to the fiscal insanity of the Democrats in Congress, who have been anything but moderate since grabbing the majority. In doing so, she scolded Dionne for stating that these protests were the result of a fringe rather than a widespread revulsion at the massive expansion of government pushed by the Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, and the progressives who run the agenda on Capitol Hill.
But really, could we expect anything different from two commentators who can’t tell the difference between a tea bag and a Tea Party? It’s another measure of cluelessness in the national media, and its disregard for the voters whom they serve.