"The ascendency of the tea party can partially be explained through structural factors," he said in a speech Thursday at the liberal Center For American Progress. "The capacity of a select few to quickly spend millions of dollars on 501(c)(4)s, the ability of legislatures to gerrymander with reckless abandon, the power of a message machine led by Fox News, the Drudge Report and the Rush Limbaughs that can broadcast the same exaggerated and even false messages instantaneously are all means that the tea party has used to gain ascendency."
He added: "Over the years, [the tea party] built a powerful and successful message machine that amplified and sold this anti-government theory to their followers and to many other Americans. The Rush Limbaughs and the Fox Newses agree with the plutocrats and spread their propaganda to the masses."
The No. 3 Democratic senator, a party leader on messaging and policy, offered his prescription for how progressives can marginalize the tea party movement, which has achieved an iron grip on the Republican-led House and stymied many of President Barack Obama's initiatives.