Politics and Public Opinion

Behold the Power of AstroTurf

Remember when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other liberals dismissed the Tea Party as nothing more than “AstroTurf”? Back in April 2009, Pelosi was asked in an interview with San Francisco’s KTUV News:

This being Tax Day and all there is a group of thousands of Americans across the country that are having a tax and Tea Party today saying that we are taxing and spending our way into oblivion.

Pelosi replied:

Well I totally disagree.  What we are doing is investing in the future….  This [tea party] initiative is funded by the high end—we call call it AstroTurf.  It’s not really a grassroots movement.  It’s AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America.

Watch it here:

Pelosi was not alone. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman joined the chorus in an April 2009 column:

[I]t turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects…. AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000—actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists—that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.  So what’s the implication of the fact that Republicans are refusing to grow up, the fact that they are still behaving the same way they did when history seemed to be on their side? I’d say that it’s good for Democrats, at least in the short run…

And over at Think Progress, Lee Fang (the same guy who came up with ingenious “foreign money is stealing our democracy” theme that worked out so well for the Democrats last night), mocked Tea Party activists who claimed that

these protests are displays of “regular American[s] in protest of government spending and extreme taxation” … Despite these attempts to make the “movement” appear organic, the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works…. This type of corporate ‘astroturfing‘ is nothing new to either organization.

Well, the “movement” looked pretty organic last night. Turns out that a “spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment” at the polls yesterday turned Speaker Pelosi into former Speaker Pelosi, and delivered major defeats to Democrats in the Senate. Pretty impressive for a “fake grassroots” movement.

Behold the power of “AstroTurf.”

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