Are right-wingers backing Bristol Palin's two left feet?

OPINION - Ask Brandy's supporters and the answer has to be "of course they are."...

Are right-wing voters supporting Bristol Palin’s two left feet? Ask Brandy’s supporters and the answer has to be “of course they are.” Last night, African-American tweeters, in particular, were fired up, upset over the elimination of the popular singer from Dancing with the Stars, despite receiving perfect scores from the judges for she and partner Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy’s superb Argentine tango. Palin, on the other hand, had consistently received low marks from the judge yet has somehow managed to remain in the running week after week.

The mainstream press has been questioning Palin’s success on the show for some time now. Even during the midterm elections, they began asking just how a contestant who performed as poorly as Palin managed to stay on a dancing show. Of course fan support is also critical and, like American Idol, the television audience can vote and, apparently, Tea Party supporters, as they did with the election, took that right to heart and organized.

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Dancing with the Stars executive producer Conrad Green told “Bloomberg” in a November 4 interview that “there’s a strong popular movement behind Sarah Palin at the moment and she’s receiving a lot of support from the Tea Party.” Green also admitted that it was “entirely possible some of those people are behind Bristol for political reasons.”

Writing in The Hollywood Reporter on November 11, Marisa Guthrie didn’t mince words as she addressed Palin’s longevity on the show. “Contestants advance to the next round based on the judges’ scores as well as viewer votes. And Palin’s supporters have used social media to get out the vote,” wrote Guthrie. In that article, Guthrie revealed how conservative radio host Tammy Bruce had organized a Twitter campaign “to get fans to vote for “Team Ballin” as Palin and her partner Mark Ballas are known.”

On Monday, November 8, Guthrie pointed out that Bruce, who has over 14,000 followers, tweeted: “Operation Bristol waltzes in tonight! As #DWTS starts vote at Tweeps pls tweet phone info, will RT.” In her article, “How Palin Conservatives Are Cheating the DWTS Voting System,” Tracie Egan Morrissey not only calls out the voting procedures by Tea Party supporters but points to actual web site comments where Tea Party supporters admit to such behavior.
“Keep calling 1-800-868-3407 between 8-10:30 EST until they tell you to stop. And you can vote on every line you have, cell, fax and land line,” reads one comment from Free Republic, which bills itself as a pro-life, pro-family, pro-liberty constitutional conservative activist web site. Morrissey also alleges creating bogus email addresses to vote as another impropriety.

Josh Barro from National Review online counters Morrissey with his article “No, Sarah Palin Is Not Stealing the Dancing with the Stars Election.” Barro notes that “ does not require that you verify the email address you use to vote, so you can just make one (or many) up—and apparently, some Palin fans are doing so.” And Barro is indeed correct that there is nothing on the site forbidding anyone from voting multiple times. In fact, it is conceivable for one person to vote via email, telephone and text. Therefore, according to the voting parameters established by Dancing with the Stars, if groups of viewers voted hundreds of times for Palin, they were justified. Thus, facilitating or encouraging voting for “Bristol the Pistol” through fan sites like and, of course, Facebook is not out of order either.

Plus given that Dancing with the Stars is No. 9 on the top 10 list of television shows for Republicans, according to data Guthrie references from Experian Simmons in The Hollywood Reporter, and doesn’t even crack the top 15 for Democrats, it shouldn’t be surprising that Palin would enjoy tremendous support.

Even more seriously, Republicans and Tea Party supporters have once again demonstrated their ability to pounce upon even the smallest windows of opportunity.

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Barack Obama’s presidential campaign may have introduced the power of social media to American politics in a big way but, since then, the Democrats seem to have abandoned the movement. Meanwhile, conservatives like Sarah Palin have fully embraced Twitter and Facebook over traditional media outlets. Throughout the critical mid-term elections, Palin regularly frustrated traditional media by ignoring them completely. She endorsed candidates via Facebook and Twitter and offered no explanation. She has cut out the political middle man and gone straight to the American voter.

That’s why those political pundits who are really watching how the 2012 showdown is shaping up have not written off Bristol Palin’s success on “Dancing with the Stars.” They know that it’s not just a silly television show where celebrities, even questionable ones like the younger Palin, go to prove their dancing chops or shore up their fan base. Anything that seizes the hearts of Americans is ripe for politicization. The rules have changed. Winners have to go for broke. If the Democrats have a fighting chance, they can’t start boxing in October 2012. It’s “St. Petersburg Times” TV critic Eric Deggans’ job to ponder the viability of Dancing with the Stars as an enduring television show on the heels of the Bristol Palin debacle.It should be the Democrats’ job to engage American voters.