During last night's election coverage, MSNBC's Chris Matthews characterized those who attend "tea party" rallies as extremists and "wing nuts." These types of characterizations have become common, but they are inaccurate.
The typical "tea party" goer tends conservative or libertarian, so it's easy to see why Matthews and his ilk would see them as out of the mainstream. To a liberal, in a liberal town, on a liberal network whose guests lean decidedly liberal, conservatives must indeed appear alien.
But "tea baggers," as CNN anchor Anderson Cooper crudely derides them, hold opinions and values that are shared by roughly half the country. They believe in limited government, fiscal responsibility, traditional values, and American exceptionalism. These are mainstream tenets, albeit admittedly conservative ones.
It's not surprising that those who disagree would want to denigrate, downplay, and marginalize the increasingly relevant "tea party" movement, but they do so at their own risk. When network commentators and newscasters regularly compromise their stature and integrity by taking cheap shots and playing petty partisan games, America takes note.
One wonders how much lower CNN and MSNBC's ratings will fall before they make a course correction and reel their talking heads back in.