The first rhetorical shot that started the Tea Party is credited to CNBC analyst Rick Santelli on Feb. 19, 2009, when he accused the government of "promoting bad behavior" for "losers" who wouldn't pay their mortgages and raised the possibility of a "Chicago Tea Party." CNBC calls it "The Shout Heard 'Round the World," but at the time NBC and the other big three network shows completely ignored it.
The first New York Times story on the Tea Party on Tax Day 2009 came with a sneer: "All of these tax day parties seemed less about revolution and more about group therapy ... people attending the rallies were dressed patriotically and held signs expressing their anger, but offering no solutions."
But when the Times put "Occupy Wall Street" on the front page on Oct. 1, there were no people in need of therapy, and the marchers' lack of solutions was, well, charming. The reporters began like they were writing a movie script. "A man named Hero was here. So was Germ. There was the waitress from the dim sum restaurant in Evanston, Ill. And the liquor store worker," they wrote. "The Google consultant. The circus performer. The Brooklyn nanny." They represented a "noisy occupation" that "lured a sturdily faithful and fervent constituency willing to express discontentment with what they feel is an inequitable financial system until, well, whenever."
These protesters had the Times at "Hello." Journalists who desperately want Obama's re-election are grasping at the narrative of a growing liberal protest movement to mobilize the left into action against the Republicans. They're not just grasping that narrative, they're writing it.
They keep asking what former New York Times Editor Bill Keller is asking: "Is The Tea Party Over?" Keller keeps the party line that the "Tea Party gospel" includes "their sacred right to breathe carbon emissions, swim at polluted beaches and dump their health crises at the emergency room." To the Keller's of the world, the Tea Party is the vampire that won't sleep, and the Occupy protesters are the garlic, which of course is an inappropriate odor.