The news media are all aflutter about the “Tea Party,” with most describing it as a new force in American politics. A force, maybe, but “new” is certainly inaccurate. Simply put, the Republican Party has shrunk so much that these people, formerly a reliable core of republican voters, can compete with it. The so-called Tea Party is nothing more than the far right of the American polity. They have always been there, buried within the Republican Party which seemed like their only option for candidates to vote for. But the Republican party has so weakened itself, both in numbers and quality of politicians, that these “core conservatives” no longer feel like it provides their only options. They are going out and getting their own candidates.
And some of those candidates are winning. Stunning? Hardly.
There are so few Republicans left to vote that beating them is no great feat. Take Rand Paul’s “stunning” victory in the Republican Senate primary election in Kentucky. Even though he won in a near landslide, both of the Democratic candidates got more votes that did he. The numbers of Republicans are so small, that this large voting block is pushing the party even farther to the right. mainstream Republicans like John McCain are embarrassing themselves trying to reframe their records as hide bound conservatives, just to save their jobs. So, they are having an effect . . . on republican primaries; whether they will have an effect in general elections remains to be seen.
So, who are these “new” Tea Party folks? According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll, “The Tea Party Movement: Who are They” from April 5-12, 2010:
“89% are white; just 1% is African American. Tea Party supporters are older than the general public, including 29% who are seniors.
“In terms of politics, more than half (54%) identify themselves as Republicans, and four in 10 are independents. Only 5% of Tea Partiers are Democrats.
“Tea Partiers are more likely than Americans overall to attend religious services each week (38%) and to indentify themselves as evangelical (39%).”
They are also more well to do than the middle class with 20% reporting incomes over $100,000 per year and a greater proportion of these folks get Medicare and Social Security benefits than does the population as a whole.
Basically these are older conservative Americans who have fairly good lives and they don’t want to lose what they have. Just the election of a black president has raised fears that black people are going to extract revenge upon whites by benefiting “poor” people at their expense. This is where the phrase “I want my country back!” stems from.
Again, from the poll: “Negative perceptions of President Obama extend beyond his job performance. 84% of Tea Partiers have an unfavorable personal opinion of him, while Americans overall hold a more positive view (33% unfavorable).” (My italics.)
And “25% of Tea Party folks feel blacks are favored over whites by the Obama administration as compared to 7% by non-tea party white people.”
These people have been around forever and have become the unwitting dupes of the rich. Because they want to hold on to what little they have, they share a basic attitude with big business and rich people and therefore espouse many of the same attitudes. The Tea Partiers biggest issue is smaller government, which leads to less regulation and less taxes, which are right in the wheelhouse of the monied interests.
Their belief in their own vision of what is happening is so strong that 64% of Tea Party supporters think the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans, (while only 34% of the general public says that) and when, in fact, their taxes have actually gone down.
Just an aside, the Republicans argued that the Federal Economic Stimulus wouldn’t work (a big Tea Party belief); they argued only tax cuts would work, so the Obama administration included $200 billion of tax cuts in the $700+ billion bill even when the economic evidence shows that tax cuts do not stimulate the economy in hard times (people just save the money or use it to pay bills, they don’t spend on new things). Republican leaders have since claimed that “not one job was saved” while the Tea Partiers were claiming “our taxes have gone up.” Apparently a connection with reality is not needed.
The Tea partiers faith in their own vision may be related to the following poll finding: “63% of Tea Party identifiers say they get most of their political and current events news on television from Fox News Channel.” Fox “News” is really Fox Propaganda as it engages in lies and deceptions on a daily basis. These Tea Party folks apparently don’t care about veracity and continue to look to this network for their information.
So, is the “Tea Party” the new power in American Politics? Will there be an actual organized Tea Party? In a word: no.
These people didn’t come together by accident. They were gathered by “Astroturf” specialists as anti-Obama shock troops. (Astroturf organizers are people who organize “grass roots” events, events falsely appearing to have occurred spontaneously.) Whether the Tea Party will find its political footing and organize into something potent is really a moot point. Since these folks were subsumed by the Republican Party, pulling them out of there will reduce the Republican Party to a nonviable size or at least split it into two very small parts which, when they contest with one another over the conservative vote, will surely alienate some of their own voters which will actually reduce the influence of the right wing of the country.
But, but, . . . what about Rand Paul and Scott Brown, and. . . . Hey, Scott Brown never identified himself as a representative of any Tea Party. And, whatever happened to “all politics is local”? The Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy’s old seat ran an awful campaign and deserved to lose. The primary cause of the loss? Taking the attitude that the position was a safe, Democratic seat in Congress. No one likes being taken for granted, which is what the Republican Party is finding out about their extreme right wing core aka “the Tea Party.”