During the current election cycle, cultural anger and frustration over the flaccid economy has produced anti-incumbent fervor among conservatives, libertarians, evangelicals and independent voters. This anti-tax and spending discontent has been directed primarily against the party in power, incumbent Democrats. The upcoming mid-term elections will be either a shower or thunderstorm of defeat for the Dems. Projections give Republicans control of the House while domination of the Senate remains uncertain. Social issues like abortion and homosexuality that once motivated conservative voters to ally themselves with Ronald Reagan and the Bush dynasty have largely been subsumed by bread and butter issues that affect daily life One thing is certain, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not resonate as an issue among most voters.
The Wars That America Forgot About
By TOM BROKAW
Published: October 17, 2010
IN what promises to be the most contentious midterm election since 1994, there is no shortage of passion about big issues facing the country: the place and nature of the federal government in America’s future; public debt; jobs; health care; the influence of special interests; and the role of populist movements like the Tea Party.
In nearly every Congressional and Senate race, these are the issues that explode into attack ads, score points in debates and light up cable talk shows. In poll after poll, these are the issues that voters say are most important to them this year.
Notice anything missing on the campaign landscape?
How about war? The United States is now in its ninth year of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest wars in American history. Almost 5,000 men and women have been killed. More than 30,000 have been wounded, some so gravely they’re returning home to become, effectively, wards of their families and communities.
Former Bill Clinton guru Dick Morris characterizes the populist Tea Party movement as free-market fiscal conservatives who oppose taxes. In fact this movement narrowly defines itself: Taxed Enough Already. It is certain that some Tea Party candidates, in particular Christine O’Donnell, are intellectually flawed, though this is not necessarily a disqualifier because a legislator’s staff does the thinking and work. Ironically, many of the Tea Party favorites such as Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman of California are plutocrats who are lights years apart from their populist base in terms of income and are not truly affected by paying taxes.
Last year Matthews, Olberman and Maddow, MOM, (not to be confused with Mom/Futurama) painted the Tea Party with the broad brush of racism because that was the brightest color in their palette. This charge has been refuted and now the prog-berals (dOughnuts) are left with the prospect of seeing their Messiah who could once walk on water suffer an historic defeat in the mid-term elections because he is treading water.
The following articles would seem to be fair characterizations of the Tea Party.
Clarence Page: Tea Party myths and mistaken views
03:47 PM CDT on Monday, April 19, 2010
Spontaneous political movements have been springing up, making noise for a few years, then fading away since before the founding of the Republic. This one just happens to be fired up during the first term of the nation’s first black president.
That makes it easy to suspect the Tea Party movement is racist, especially if you have an elastic definition of racism. But polls and conversations with Tea Partiers tend to confirm my sense that race brings no more than a teeny cup to this party.
Looming larger in their lives are issues like money, culture and a leave-us-alone view of government – until, of course, they bump up against an issue on which they can use government’s help.
A new CBS/ New York Timespoll released just before Tax Day found that, contrary to their image as bunch of poor, ignorant whites, the 18 percent of the public who identified themselves as tea party supporters tend to be above-average in income and education.
They are still more male, white and conservative than the nation’s political center, the poll shows. But they’re not too far out of the mainstream to be a force, however unpredictable, in the upcoming midterm elections.
Yet, despite their rightward leanings, the Times/CBS poll found Tea Party supporters were not totally hostile to government. More than 60 percent said they think Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers, most send their children to public schools and most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.”
You wouldn’t guess that from what rally speakers were saying on Tax Day. Maybe that’s because 64 percent of Tea Partiers in the poll said the Obama administration had raised taxes or kept them the same. That’s about twice the percentage of Americans overall. Either way, it’s wrong.
In fact, economic stimulus legislation, much maligned on the right, resulted in a tax cut on 2009 tax returns. That helped bring taxes to their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the . Brookings Institution
Few signs at tea party rally expressed racially charged anti-Obama themes
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 6:00 AM
A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.
Emily Ekins, a graduate student at UCLA, conducted the survey at the 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington last month by scouring the crowd, row by row and hour by hour, and taking a picture of every sign she passed.
Ekins photographed about 250 signs, and more than half of those she saw reflected a “limited government ethos,” she found – touching on such topics as the role of government, liberty, taxes, spending, deficit and concern about socialism. Examples ranged from the simple message “$top the $pending” scrawled in black-marker block letters to more elaborate drawings of bar charts, stop signs and one poster with the slogan “Socialism is Legal Theft” and a stick-figure socialist pointing a gun at the head of a taxpayer.
There were uglier messages, too – including “Obama Bin Lyin’ – Impeach Now” and “Somewhere in Kenya a Village is Missing its Idiot.” But Ekins’s analysis showed that only about a quarter of all signs reflected direct anger with Obama. Only 5 percent of the total mentioned the president’s race or religion, and slightly more than 1 percent questioned his American citizenship.
Ekins’s conclusion is not that the racially charged messages are unimportant but that media coverage of tea party rallies over the past year have focused so heavily on the more controversial signs that it has contributed to the perception that such content dominates the tea party movement more than it actually does.
“Really this is an issue of salience,” Ekins said. “Just because a couple of percentage points of signs have those messages doesn’t mean the other people don’t share those views, but it doesn’t mean they do, either. But when 25 percent of the coverage is devoted to those signs, it suggests that this is the issue that 25 percent of people think is so important that they’re going to put it on a sign, when it’s actually only a couple of people.”
Elkins spent the summer researching the tea party movement and also as an intern at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington. The survey was for her UCLA graduate studies.
The march attracted thousands of protesters to the Mall on Sept. 12, a repeat of an event one year earlier that became an emblem of the growing anger among conservative voters with the Obama Administration and such big-ticket initiatives as the stimulus package and the push to overhaul the health-care system. This year’s event did not attract nearly as large a crowd as 2009, in part because it came just two weeks after Glenn Beck’s successful “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, which attracted some participants with similar concerns.
But the 9/12 event, which was produced by national tea party organizer FreedomWorks, was a more overtly political event than Beck’s. Organizers encouraged marchers to bring signs and express their dismay with government spending – and their intent to vote accordingly on Nov. 2.
Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, said his organization did not instruct protesters to limit their messages to fiscal slogans, but he did patrol the crowd and threw out a few protesters carrying signs depicting Obama as Adolf Hitler.
NAACP backs report that ties racist groups to tea party
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a conference call Wednesday morning that, in backing the report: “We’re not attacking the tea party. We’re not calling the tea party racist. We are asking them to repudiate the racists in their midst. We have challenged Democratic Party in the same way. We challenged Republicans when they embraced the old Dixiecrats.”
November elections will be big test of tea party’s staying power
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 2010; 4:04 AM
There may be no better illustration of the collective if disjointed strength of the tea party movement than Bucks County, Pa., a suburban sprawl outside Philadelphia.
Still in its infancy, the tea party is often described as a coming together of like-minded Americans working in close coordination. In reality, it is more like a collision, a mash-up of disparate groups with differing priorities – some large, some small, most anger-fed and all with an ambition to overthrow the establishment to one degree or another. Some tea party groups are defiantly independent and take aim at Republicans as well as Democrats. Others seem more like offshoots of the Republican Party. The movement’s competing missions overlap and some of its leaders – such as there are any – clash and distrust one another.
This tenuous assemblage of similar yet competing interests is one of the tea party’s strengths. It has allowed the movement to rally millions of people by tapping into many strains of unhappiness.
Taken together, the many arms of the tea party movement have, in an impressively short time, grown into a potent and disruptive political force. It proved, in a series of stunning victories in Republican primaries across the nation, that it can mobilize volunteers, raise money (at least $60 million this year), end political careers and begin new ones. All without any formal structure or central leadership.
Now, with the next test of a general election approaching, the tea party has the nation’s attention.
The question is whether it is a momentary expression of discontent in an angry election year or the chaotic first efforts of a durable political movement.
Started with a rant
From its beginnings on the afternoon of Feb. 19, 2009, the tea party has been difficult for many Americans to understand. That day, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, standing on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, unleashed a ferocious, hair-on-fire rant against President Obama’ economic policies. He said he was going to hold a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest Obama’s efforts to rescue defaulting homeowners.
As video of Santelli’s sermon went viral on the Internet, Americans still in the thrall of the new administration dismissed him as an intolerant right-winger. But many others identified with his anger. They saw a government – and a president – who wanted to use their tax dollars to prop up the millionaire executives who sat atop bloated, badly run corporations and corrupt banks, and to bail out irresponsible citizens who had bought houses they couldn’t afford.
Connected via Twitter, Facebook and plain-old e-mail, a vast network of conservative activists nationwide seized on the idea of a “tea party” and began planning them across the country.
Anastasia Przybylski, 38, a nurse and stay-at-home mother of three in Doylestown, Pa., was one of them. She had never been politically active in her life. On April 18 last year, Przybylski organized a teaparty at Washington Crossing, the famous spot in Bucks County where George Washington led the Continental Army across the Delaware River toward the Battle of Trenton in 1776. A local reporter dubbed her group the Kitchen Table Patriots.
The cleverest national groups – including FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity – forged alliances with local tea party groups, subtly influencing their work by providing resources and advice, but otherwise stayed out of the picture to maintain the movement’s appearance and self-image as a purely spontaneous, ground-up phenomenon.
Tea partiers have reacted angrily whenever one group or another has tried to claim leadership over the movement.
Last year, Judson Phillips, a lawyer in Nashville, formed a group called Tea Party Nation and announced the first-ever tea party convention, in his hometown. The event drew heavy news media attention and elevated Sarah Palin, the keynote speaker, as a movement leader. But tea partiers around the country lashed out against the convention as being anti-”tea.” The entry fee was $549; Palin was to be paid $100,000 to show up. Phillips was accused of trying to make a buck off the movement.
Another large tea party organizer, Tea Party Express, is an arm of the Sacramento-based Republican consulting firm Russo Marsh & Rogers. It has also come under criticism for grabbing the spotlight by anointing its candidates as the tea party pick, even when local tea party groups were supporting other contenders.
“We’re still trying to figure out the ‘hosts’ and ‘house guests’ terms of the relationships,” said Joe Wierzbicki, who works for Russo Marsh & Rogers and directs the Tea Party Express PAC. “The local group gets a bunch of people signed up and they get the membership, and we can help people put on rallies and bus tours, get talk radio involved. We’re a consulting firm with media experts and the ability to put on events. We thought this was a very non-intrusive way to grow the network.”
Tea Party Express lost favor with many activists when its outspoken chairman, talk-radio host Mark Williams, wrote a “satirical” letter from the “colored people” of America to Abraham Lincoln, in which he extolled slavery. He also called Obama “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.”
Tea Party Express forced him out, but the episode only reinforced the belief among many tea party critics that the movement is fueled in part by racism against a black president. Tea partiers are especially sensitive to the charge. They say they should not be judged for what they describe as a small, unwelcome fringe element and they blame the news media for zeroing in on provocative, racially charged signs that can often be found at tea party rallies.
Attention to this sort of discord has faded in the wake of the tea party’s successes in this year’s primaries.
It isn’t at all certain that the movement will be able to deploy with the same effect for the November general elections, when many moderate voters will be turning out – including those turned off by the tea party. But in the weeks ahead, tea partiers will be out in force, operating phone banks, raising money,knocking on doors – and looking ahead, past 2010 to 2012, when they hope to be the loudest voice in deciding who will run against Obama.
“Right now, we all have a common goal, all the different groups, the large groups, the local groups – and that is to prevent our country from continuing down this path of big spending and large government,” said Przybylski, in Bucks County. “We’ve all had our rough moments, but we’re all working together, and I think it’s wonderful. We have proven as a movement that we can get people elected who stand with our principles. We’re not going to go asleep at the wheel again.”
Tales of the Tea Party
By Ross Douthat
Published: October 17, 2010
A month ago, a U.C.L.A. graduate student named Emily Elkins spent hours roaming a Tea Party rally on the Washington Mall, photographing every sign she saw.
Elkins, a former CATO Institute intern, was examining the liberal conceit that Tea Party marches are rife with racism and conspiracy theorizing. Last week, The Washington Post reported on her findings: just 5 percent of the 250 signs referenced Barack Obama’s race or religion, and 1 percent brought up his birth certificate. The majority focused on bailouts, deficits and spending — exactly the issues the Tea Partiers claim inspired their movement in the first place.
The easy thing would be to take them at their word. But for liberals, that would be too simple. The Democrats are weeks away from a midterm thumping that wasn’t supposed to happen, and the liberal mind is desperate for a narrative, a storyline, something to ease the pain of losing to a ragtag band of right-wing populists. Something that explains the Tea Parties — and then explains them away.
The “Tea Partiers are racists” theory is the most inflammatory storyline, but there are many more. Let’s consider them, in order of increasing plausibility:
THE TEA PARTIES ARE DRIVING REPUBLICANS OFF A POLITICAL CLIFF.
This has been a common assumption since the Tea Parties first sprang up, and in some cases — Christine O’Donnell; Carl Paladino; and Rich Iott, the Nazi re-enacting House candidate — it has been vindicated. But just as often, the Tea Parties have elevated smooth-talking, eminently electable candidates, from Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania to Marco Rubio in Florida and Ken Buck in Colorado.
Liberals insist that the cliff-plunge is still coming — it’s just been postponed until 2012. O’Donnell’s
primary victory, for instance, was hailed as proof that Republicans would inevitably nominate Sarah Palin for president, dooming their party to a devastating defeat. But the Tea Partiers may prove more pragmatic than their critics hope. In a recent Virginia Tea Party straw poll for 2012, the surprise winner wasn’t Palin: it was New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, nobody’s idea of an unelectable extremist.
THE TEA PARTIERS ARE PUPPETS OF THE SINISTER RICH.
They’re an “Astroturf” movement [MOM], this theory goes, rather than a real grass-roots uprising — a narrative that got a boost this summer when The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer published a much-discussed takedown of the Koch brothers, billionaire libertarians who have financed groups that organize and strategize for the Tea Parties.
But the Kochs have been seeding libertarian causes since Barack Obama was a community organizer, without ever conjuring up anything remotely like the Tea Party. Attributing the anti-Democratic backlash to their machinations is a bit like blaming George Soros for Bush-era opposition to the Iraq war: in both cases, it’s more likely that the money is following the public mood than the other way around.
THE TEA PARTIES ARE JUST THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY ALL OVER AGAIN.
In a recent issue of Mother Jones magazine, Kevin Drum argued that the Tea Parties are nothing new: whether the president is F.D.R., L.B.J. or Bill Clinton, a batty conservative populism flourishes “whenever a Democrat takes over the White House.” Writing in The New Yorker, the historian Sean Wilentz made a similar point, linking Glenn Beck’s daffier ideas (and the Tea Partiers who love them) to the cold war-era paranoias of the John Birch Society.
These parallels are real. But there’s a crucial difference. The Birchers only had a crackpot message; they never found a mainstream one. The Tea Party marries fringe concerns (repeal the 17th Amendment!) to a timely, responsible-seeming message about spending and deficits. Which is why, for now at least, it’s winning over independents in a way that movements like the Birchers rarely did.
THE TEA PARTIERS ARE HYPOCRITES.
That is, they say they’re for small government, but they don’t want anyone to touch their Social Security and Medicare. This is by far the most persuasive liberal storyline. Poll after poll suggests that Tea Partiers are ambivalent about trimming entitlements, even though that’s the spending that will ultimately send either deficits or taxes through the roof.
On the other hand, some Tea Party-backed candidates have been refreshingly courageous on this front — whether it’s Rand Paul telling Fox News that he’d support higher deductibles for seniors, or Buck apologizing to Michael Bennet, his Senate opponent in Colorado, for Republican demagoguery on Medicare.
So the jury is still out. If Tea Party standard-bearers end up being as hypocritical on entitlements as most American politicians, then this liberal narrative, at least, will have been vindicated.
But for the sake of the country’s finances, liberals should hope that the Tea Party proves their most convincing story wrong
The Rage Won’t End on Election Day
By FRANK RICH
Published: October 16, 2010
Don’t expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day — no matter what the results. If Tea Party candidates triumph, they’ll be emboldened. If they lose, the angerand bitterness will grow. The only development that can change this equation is a decisive rescue from our prolonged economic crisis. Not for the first time in history — and not just American history — fear itself is at the root of a rabid outbreak of populist rage against government, minorities and conspiratorial “elites.”
If GOP wins, expect more obstruction
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
If the GOP takes control of one or both houses of Congress, voters will expect action to cut the federal beast down to size. All right, the 2010 budget was about $3.5 trillion. Where should the dragon-slayers begin to make meaningful cuts?
If you add up all the items generally thought of as mandatory — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, interest on the national debt — you’ve already spent about two-thirds of the total. Add in the close to $700 billion spent for defense, which Republicans hold as sacrosanct, and you’ve spent four-fifths of the budget. This leaves just one-fifth for “discretionary” programs, many of which aren’t discretionary at all. I doubt many Americans would want to risk going without food inspection, say, or air traffic control, or the FBI.
From The Columbus Dispatch:
Tea party policies would extend ills
Sunday, October 3, 2010 03:00 AM
I have listened to comments from tea party candidates and supporters. Chief among them is that they want to “take back” our country. I now understand a bit better what they mean.
They want to take us back to the days of crony capitalism and robber barons, when there was no middle class. A time when there were a few extremely wealthy Americans, a small merchant class and the rest of the country was dirt-poor. Tea party supporters might not realize it, but that is exactly where their policies would take us.
My guess is that many people support tea party candidates because of our current economic conditions. They are so blinded by fear and anger that they’ve forgotten how we’ve gotten to the place we are today. The worst of the recession didn’t hit until after the 2008 elections. The Republicans controlled Congress from 1994 through 2006 and the presidency from 2000 through ’08. Our country is suffering the consequences of conservative policies. It’s madness to blame Democrats or the current Congress for this mess. And, it’s the height of foolishness to expect a reversal of our misfortune in less than two years.
We are recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but things are improving. I’m sick to death of hearing all the screaming from conservatives about budget deficits and government spending. When President Ronald Reagan left office, he had more than quadrupled the federal deficit.
When President George W. Bush took us to war in two countries, he simultaneously cut taxes, accumulating another $3 trillion in debt to finance these wars.
Voting for the people who advocate the same policies that drove our economy off of a cliff is truly insane. I hope Americans wake up before that happens.
Tea Party Hearty