E.J. Dionne Jr.: The Historian's Take on the Tea Party and the Media





Is the Tea Party one of the most successful scams in American political history?...

The Tea Party is not the only small group in history to wield more power than you'd expect from its numbers. In 2008, Barack Obama did very well in party caucuses, which draw far fewer voters than primaries. And it was Lenin who offered the classic definition of a vanguard party as involving "people who make revolutionary activity their profession" in organizations that "must perforce not be very extensive."

But something is haywire in our media and our politics. Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian whose new book is "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History," observed in an interview that there is a "hall of mirrors" effect created by the rise of "niche" opinion media. They magnify small movements into powerhouses, while old-fashioned journalism, which is supposed to put such movements in perspective, reacts to the same niche incentives....


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