20 May 2010

Tea Partiers, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Media

The Atlantic: Rand Paul and Civil Rights: The End of the Tea Party?

Here's one thing that can, plainly, be said about the controversy over Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act: this is exactly what Democrats hoped would happen.

The Democratic campaign and message apparatus has been banking, for months, on the rightward tilt of the Tea Party to damage the Republican Party in November's midterm elections. They put out a strategy memo to this effect in January. The idea is, basically: Tea Partiers are crazy, right-wing extremists. If the Republican Party elects them to run in November, the Republican Party will lose. Democrats have been saying this for months.

Paul's statements about the Civil Rights Act, brought up last night by Rachel Maddow and discussed at length, in an interview, have dominated the news cycle today. It has not looked good for Paul, or for the Tea Party.

One thing's for certain, in all this: other Tea Party-backed candidates will be asked, by Democratic campaigns and by debate moderators, what they think of desegregating private businesses. Part of the Democratic plan has been to ask Tea Party-backed candidates about controversial views and get them on the record. Paul's stance has become a big enough story, however, that the media will probably do this on its own.

Depending on what Tea Partiers say about Paul's statements, and how the public debate over Paul plays out, this moment has a chance to further alienate the movement as a whole from the mainstream.

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