Looking to drive a wedge

LOOKING TO DRIVE A WEDGE…. It’s hard to keep track of exactly what it is the Tea Party crowd is so angry about — not a good sign for a political “movement” — but it appears to have something to do with debt, deficits, spending, taxes, the size of government, and a general sense that powerful interests are getting better protections than they are. It’s why the activists caught up in this intend to vote for Republicans in November.

The irony, of course, is that Republicans aren’t exactly offering this far-right crowd a compelling pitch. The GOP added $5 trillion to the debt in eight years, generated huge deficits, increased spending, increased the size of government, and went to great lengths to tend to the need of powerful special interests. Worse, it was Republicans who voted against middle-class tax cuts and continue to fight to protect Wall Street and insurance companies.

With that in mind, Americans United for Change, a leading progressive group, thinks it may be able to drive a wedge between Tea Partiers and the GOP.

Americans United for Change is going up with a new online web ad campaign specifically designed to target Tea Party activists. The group is placing spots on predominantly conservative websites, and using behavioral targeting to ensure that people associated with the ant-government, anti-Wall Street movement see the message. Among the target sites — on which AUC is hoping to get its ads placed — are Townhall.com, Biggovernment.com and Facebook pages swarmed by fans of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the Tea Party groups.

The AUC ads accuse Republicans of working hand-in-hand with Wall Street executives to effectively weaken legislation to reform financial regulations. “They’re In The Pocket Of Big Banks,” reads one online spot, with a picture of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)….

Another ad makes the appeal even more direct. “Tea parties or Wall Street banks?” it reads. “Who are the Republicans really listening to? Tell the Republicans to work for us, not wall street.”

The goal, organizers say, is to appeal to the populist movement that has blossomed, in part, over anger with Wall Street’s cozy relationship with Washington — a movement that has largely been co-opted by Republicans so far. A side benefit would be to spur Tea Party activists to turn their guns on GOP leadership for being “soft” on the banks.

That’s not a bad idea, at least in theory. The only reason I’m skeptical is that the effort is predicated on intellectual consistency and informed reason on the part of these activists — two traits the Tea Party crowd seem to be lacking.

Indeed, if the teabagging crowd is given a choice between the bailed-out financial institutions that nearly destroyed the global economy and new safeguards in the form of government regulation, a significant number will reject the latter course reflexively — because “government” and “regulation” are necessarily bad things to be avoided, even if it means going easy on the Wall Street crowd that caused Tea Partiers so much economic anxiety in the first place.

In other words, the wedge strategy makes sense, if you assume that the right-wing activists are open to reason and evidence. I’m not sure that they are, but the initiative is worth keeping an eye on.