Distrust fuels populist movement

Salena Zito
| Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

The Washington political classes do not understand you.

If you are a Democrat, they assume you're a pure progressive. They take for granted that you consider climate change a religion, think immigration should be a free pass for everyone, support entry-level people jumping past entry-level pay, think fairness is an entitlement provided by government through executive order, and believe socialized health care is the greatest achievement this country has accomplished.

If you are a Republican, they assume that you carry a gun every time you walk out the door, that you hate women, gays, blacks and Hispanics, and that you regularly attend tea party meetings to plot how to overthrow the government.

If you are a libertarian, they think you smoke pot — and that is about all they've got on you.

If you're an independent, you basically are a pain in their egos because you mess up their “conventional wisdom” or “smart takes” and make it harder and harder to accurately predict elections from their environmentally friendly “green” offices and coffeehouses in the District of Columbia and New York City.

In short, they believe too much of their own writing and social-media quips; they are so disconnected from normal Americans' lives that they fail to understand who we are, so they go with self-created stereotypes instead.

Here's the thing: No one is as black-and-white in their views as divisional politics have tried to pigeonhole us as being. In fact, Americans are pretty solidly center-right on fiscal and military issues and pretty moderate on social issues.

Blacks and whites are tired of Washington media pushing stories that white people are inherently racist (as if they're children and can't help themselves) along with the equally false narrative that all blacks are angry at all white people.

Across the political divide, people are tired of how they are portrayed in the media.

All Main Street Democrats are not Occupy Wall Street hippies, after all.

And, once and for all, the authentic tea party movement — before that movement was co-opted by political circus barkers trying to make a buck off folks' fears by running unprepared, unqualified wealthy candidates, or by politicians looking to make themselves more visible on cable TV — ended in November 2010. There is no king or queen of the tea party movement; you cannot crown a leader of something that does not exist anymore.

But a movement is out there. Populism is alive and humming across America.

This movement flexed its political muscle either by showing up to vote out the Democrats in November or by staying home and not voting at all — each of those being a component of American populism.

This movement has no name, nor does it want one — because people know how the political classes manipulate and demonize them for personal glory or to exploit fear.

Seven years ago, President Obama and his Democrat majority were hailed as All Things Wonderful by the national media. If you didn't buy into that narrative, you were considered a racist.

Well, first, that is just not who we are; we're a nation that thrives on political disagreement. And, second, you do not become president or the party in power without overwhelming support from white voters — lots of white voters.

Yet much of the media has never dropped that smug opinion from every tweet or story it delivers.

Washington's Democrat elites have hemorrhaged “flyover country” Democrats from state legislatures, congressional districts and governor's offices, thanks to the rhetoric they have whispered into the D.C. media's ears or posted on social media.

Just last week, for example, everyone in Washington suddenly appeared to be writing the same story about how “powerful,” “liberated” and “unbridled” Obama has become since the midterm election. That wasn't investigative journalism at work, folks; that was off-the-record conversations with the man in the White House.

The populist movement of the moment crosses party lines; soon it will begin to split apart, as the 2016 presidential candidacies and primaries unfold.

Based on the distrust that movement's followers have for Washington and its media, it is incredibly unclear how this will all play out. And anyone who tells you differently is lying.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (szito@tribweb.com).

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