Bristol: Tea Party Test of Strength

Is the fix in for Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars?  Despite notching relatively weak scores from the judges, the viewers’ votes have kept Bristol on the dance floor–and the show–week after week.  She is now one of the final four.

The judges’ scores suggest that it’s not her dancing that’s keeping her in the competition.  The Washington Times reports:

“There’s a strong popular movement behind Sarah Palin at the moment and she’s receiving a lot of support from the Tea Party,” said Conrad Green, executive producer of the program. “It’s entirely possible some of those people are behind Bristol for political reasons.”

Voting for Dancing is a great place for the Tea Party, which had, uh, mixed success, in the last election, to show its strength.  The percentage of Americans who vote for the reality/competition show is far smaller even than the percentage of Americans who turn out to vote in midterm elections.  (Bristol, it turns out, was also a no show at the polls.  Registered to vote in Alaska, she might have made a difference in an election where her mom’s efforts seem not to have been enough to help Republican/Tea Party candidate Joe Miller beat an old line patronage Republican running as an independent-M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I).

But Dancing with the Stars isn’t a democracy, or even a republic.  The producers of the show have less interest in rewarding exemplary ballroom technique than in protecting a very profitable show.  Judges’ votes count–as do the phone-ins from the public.  And the transparency of the vote-counting isn’t likely to match what we expect from elections elsewhere.

For this reason, Bristol and the Tea Party are likely to do better than the experts would like, but not well enough to satisfy the truly committed.

About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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