Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: Year of the Pundit-Politician

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Lou Dobbs has floated a run for Senate (or President), Glenn Beck is touting a “100 year plan” for America, and Sarah Palin gave up running Alaska to go on a book tour. In the latest print TIME, my Tuned In column asks whether, in this midterm election year, a media platform may be a better route to political power than, like, actually being in office and running things.

Arguably, media figures like Dobbs, Palin and Beck are engaged in a kind of unofficial primary for the leadership of the populist, libertarian, anti-tax Tea Party movement. That’s an attractive position in 2010 since, as I note in the column, recent polls have found that if there were an actual “Tea Party” party, it would be more popular than the GOP.

Which raises another interesting media-and-politics question. It would be ironic, given how often Fox News is called an arm of the Republican party, if it turns out that by having so heavily promoted the tea parties it ended up contributing to a schism in the party in the 2010 primaries, or laid the groundwork for a third party in 2012 that could draw heavily from the GOP. In any case, it’s looking like an interesting midterm election year, on TV above all.