On Dec. 22, when Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama announced he would be switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, it was to be expected MSNBC, the so-called "Place for Politics" would spin it in anyway imaginable. But Rachel Maddow decided to use the left's favorite boogeyman, the tea party movement, to denigrate conservatives and distract from what could be real problems for House Democrats.
During the Dec. 22 broadcast of "The Rachel Maddow Show," Maddow interpreted a joint conference call with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele and FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey to mean that the grassroots activism known as the tea party movement and the Republican Party had made peace. So, in the spirit of name-calling and low-brow humor, which the Maddow program has shown is one of its assets, Maddow contrived new titles for this movement (emphasis added).
"So much for the tea party contingent running insufficiently, right-wing Republicans out of the party, right?" Maddow said. "Well, now, at least according to Dick Armey and Michael Steele, the Republican Party are the tea partiers and the tea partiers are the Republican Party, they are GOP-baggers, the tea-publicans. They are one. At least they were on Monday."
But that was a lead-in to Maddow's larger point - that Griffith's switch was suddenly irrelevant because he did march in lockstep with the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"It turns out that happy political marriage lasted one day," Maddow said. "It already appears to be over. Today, a very, very conservative Democratic Congressman from Northern Alabama, Parker Griffith, a man with no known first name, switched from being a very conservative Democrat to being a very conservative Republican. Parker Griffith, Democrat, in his first year in office, voted against the president's budget. He voted against the stimulus. He voted against the cap-and-trade global warming bill. He voted against health reform. He voted against even Wall Street reform, the new financial regulations. He even voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which is the bill that said women should get paid the same as men. He voted no on that. And remember, he's a Democrat."
Maddow's claim that Griffith is "very conservative" doesn't really pass the smell test. Jeff Lewis and Keith Poole of UC-San Diego compiled a ranking of members of Congress using computer algorithm to determine where each member ranks on the ideological spectrum. Griffith is conservative among Democrats, but could hardly be deemed as "very conservative" based on this compilation and analysis.
But Maddow offered more anecdotal evidence to suggest Griffith was hardly a loss to Democrats - based on comments he made showing his loss of confidence in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's leadership.
"But that's not all," Maddow continued. "In August, at a town hall meeting, Parker Griffith was quoted by the Huntsville Times as telling his constituents that even though he was Democrat, he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House. Democrats, sort of, vote unanimously for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House. But Griffith said he would not. And then he said, ‘If she doesn't like it, I've got a gift certificate to the mental health center.' Classy, right?"
Maddow and her research team also really went grasping at straws to downplay the notion this was a net-positive for the other side with the usual jab at Sarah Palin and a few cherry-picked comments from conservatives, including a Twitter post from RedState.com editor Erick Erickson.
"And GOP el jefe in exile, Sarah Palin, welcoming Mr. Griffith with a tweet, which used her trademark, no spacing and punctuation," Maddow said. "Here's the really interesting part of this, though: even as the Republican establishment welcomes Parker Griffith, hardcore conservatives at Red State and Club for Growth say they will teabag him, they will Dede Scozzafava him. They say he is not right-wing enough for them. At Red State today, quote, ‘We should now hope him to be an extremely endangered Republican in a primary. We can pick this guy off and get a real Republican in that seat.'"
Maddow's brilliant conclusion: Griffith's move is just more evidence of a split between the tea party movement and the Republican Party and has no bearing on the political health of House Democrats.
"The main Republican candidate who had been planning to run against Griffith when Griffith was a Democrat took one look at that fight between the Republican Party embracing Mr. Griffith, and the teabaggers attacking him, and decided to side with the tea baggers, saying that he will stay in the race to beat Mr. Griffith even if Mr. Griffith is a Republican now," Maddow said. "And so, another split between the GOP and the conservative activists. The marriage of the Republican Party and the tea party conservatives who give them meaning comes to an end, with just one day after it was consummated on a joint Michael Steele-Dick Armey conference call."