Vandehei speaks the beginning of the truth
The media loves Sarah Palin because she generates traffic. She is treated more "seriously" than she should be because the mere mention of her name generates revenue. She is the news equivalent of showing nudity during TV's sweeps week.
The extension Vandehei doesn't make is that this self profiting sensationalism by the media also serves to overrepresent the crazy political positions that Sara Palin and her supporters assert. Because of the traffic they generate, the "Tea Party convention," 600-1,000 people gathered in a ballroom, get days of front page coverage while much more impacting organizations, national union meetings or even the RNC meeting in Hawaii, get far less press.
This significantly impacts the political discussion. By overrepresenting what is, for the most part, a fringe position. It changes the political discourse, tilting the results of elections and changing the policies and laws of this country.
In their pursuit of "buzz," the media is collaborating to make this country far more "conservative" than it really is.
Afterthought. How differently would all of this be treated if the "tea party folks" weren't white and christian? Imagine if this were a black or Latino organization calling for "secession," or was carrying weapons or signs implying violent action against the government?
Think the media would cover nationwide gatherings of black men, some carrying guns, as the "heart of America?"