Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adventures in identification (the I don't think that word means what you think it does edition)

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." -Inigo Montoya

There are two truisms you must keep in mind when speaking about Texas' Lock Step Political Media (TLSPM).

1. They've never met a government program they didn't like.
2. Any new Democratic Party advocacy group will be met with open arms and no questions.

This is why an overwhelming majority of the TLSPM news coverage coming out of the current Lege session is in favor of spending all available money, draining the rainy day fund and increasing Texas taxes to spend more.  It's also why the new Democratic "Turn Texas Blue" group Battleground Texas is being described as "grass-roots" by former Austin bureau chief (and current lefty political columnist) Richard Dunham of the Hearst Austin Bureau.  Even the National media is buying the line, choosing to ignore (along with Dunham) the organizational structure and funding behind Battleground Texas.

At heart, these are members of Obama's (successful) campaign team that are being dispatched to Texas by the DNC to make another attempt to wrest it from GOP control.  That's all well and good, but calling the group "grass-roots" gives it an authenticity that it doesn't deserve.

Another argument, and one I'm in agreement with, is that the term grassroots doesn't have any real meaning in politics any longer.  So calling a group such as Battleground Texas a grass-roots organization is meaningless.  However, that's from a political perspective.  With the low-information voter the term 'grass-roots' still has real meaning.  Why else do you think the Democrats worked so hard to get the various Tea Party organizations classified as "Astroturf" and were dead-set against letting the grass-roots moniker stick. Why else do you choose a vulgarity used by homophobes as a means of derision?

Here's where everybody is getting it wrong.

At the beginning, the Tea Party was a grass-roots movement that got co-opted by moneyed interests and players within the GOP.  In it's current iteration it's nothing more than a GOP advocacy group that veered from it's low-spending, waste-cutting message toward a no taxes at no time no matter what the cost, eat-your own pressure group designed to 'keep the Republicans in line" by advancing the interests of some small-government conservatives.  Again, this is OK, but calling the current Tea Party grass-roots isn't really right, neither is it correct to deride them as Astroturf.  What they have grown into is the fiscal equivalent of the Religious Right.  With the same ability to make or break a primary candidate.  They are a force within the GOP which has had moderate success placing candidates in several levels of government.

Which brings us back to Battleground Texas.

I don't believe, for a second, Rick Perry's assertion that Texas will "always" remain a red state.  Nor did I believe Karl Rove's declaration of a "permanent majority".  I view politics as a large pendulum that swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans and anyone predicting the "end" of either party is either raising money through scare tactics or is revealing a political agenda.  In short: I think there's a chance Battleground Texas is going to be successful, but it's ultimately going to boil down to how successful they are identifying the right candidates, moderating their rhetoric toward the average Texas voter and bringing in cash sufficient enough to challenge Republican candidates on TV.  In order to do this, they're going to have to NOT be "grass-roots" but are going to need professional organization and financing.  Given the early evidence and the media coverage, they appear to have both already. 

I'm not sure what you call it, but it's certainly NOT "grass-roots".  It would be nice if TLSPM could get that kind of thing correct from time to time.  It's easy to understand while your gut feeling might be the old "media bias" saw, and that might play a role. But I get the impression that most of TLSPM just doesn't care about word choice or accuracy much any more.  Just get it out there seems to be the thinking, without much actual thought placed into the opinion. It's the same thing that's going on with a lot of political blogging these days.  Regurgitate, regurgitate, regurgitate.  Pimp the party line and don't worry about the details.  And, for whatever little it's worth, I'm not just singling out one party here, especially in Texas where the state of political discourse is dire.

On a related note, you have to give Battleground Texas credit, they succeeded in generating a lot of media coverage for their gambit, which will have to help for fund-raising and legitimacy.

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