Tea Party study: What’s really behind the movement

The central complaint that motivates the Tea Party movement is government raising taxes on hard-working Americans to provide benefits to freeloaders, says Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol, who has written a book about Tea Partyism.

Put that way, the Tea Party movement seems at once familiar and not all that unreasonable.

Skocpol, an unabashed lefty and a very big name in scholarly circles, talked about the soon-to-be-published book Thursday at the U of M’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

Theda Skocpol
Harvard University
Theda Skocpol

The research for the book included the use of poly sci reviews of polling data and other statistical approach, but Skocpol and her coauthor also attended many Tea Party meetings around the country and conducted long interviews with Tea Party members. They heard Tea Partiers assert many crazy and erroneous “facts” and opinions about how government works, what President Obama is up to, what’s in the big health care bill.

Still, Skocpol expresses an unexpected respect for a network that has managed to motivate hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans to become political activists.

In her presentation Thursday, she also knocked down emphatically a few of the left’s favorite excuses for dismissing the Tea Party organizations. For example:

  • For the most part, Tea Party people are not racists. (The exception, she said, is their attitude of utter intolerance toward Muslims.) Tea Partiers are very motivated by hostility to illegal immigrants (and their usual suspicion of big government goes away when it comes to wanting government to get more active against illegal immigration). But Skocpol concludes that this view is motivated not by racism, but by the concern for migrants getting benefits to which they are not entitled.
  • Skocpol dismissed as “poppycock” the idea that the Tea Party is a phony “Astroturf” movement of token marionettes manipulated from above by rich and powerful conservative puppet-masters.
  • Tea Party activists do not hate everything government does and do not completely share the privatize-everything mentality of the Koch brothers or some of the national righty think tanks. When she asked them about Social Security and Medicare, for example, they had an attitude that is widely shared among older Americans: I worked for it, I paid for it, I’m entitled to it.
  • Although there is a complicated interrelationship between the Tea Party and the Republican Party, typical Tea Party members distrust the Republican Party, which they seem to view as part of a corrupt political establishment.
  • Tea Party groups work “through” the Republican Party. They work hard, study the rules, coordinate strategy, show up at party events and use their influence to dump the old party war horses off the ticket and replace them with Tea Party types.
  • The Tea Party members she got to know were not George W. Bush admirers.
  • On the other hand, Tea Partiers overwhelmingly vote for Republican candidates, even if only as a vehicle for defeating Democrats. Democrats seem to epitomize the take-from-the-hard-working-to-give-to-the-undeserving approach to politics and governance that the Tea Party organizations exist to oppose.
  • More than once, Skocpol used the word “hate” to describe Tea Party attitudes toward  Obama. She directly dismissed the hope among Dems that if the Repubs nominate Mitt Romney, who is among the Tea Party’s least favorite Republicans, the Tea Party might grow ambivalent about the 2012 election. Skocpol confirmed that most Tea Partiers dislike and distrust Romney, who they view as “inauthentic” (because he is, she said). But they will without hesitation vote for Romney if that is the only vehicle available for getting rid of Barack Obama.

A bit of data
According to Skocpol’s research:

  • The Tea Party consists of 850-1,000 groups around the country that meet regularly to talk politics and plan strategies for maximizing their influence.
  • About 200,000 people attend meetings. The willingness of members to stay active, stay organized and continue turning out for meetings is an important ingredient of Tea Party success.
  • The 200,000 are slightly older than average Americans (many in their 60s), slightly more educated, and slightly more prosperous than average Americans, although that is substantially because they are older and older Americans are wealthier than average Americans. They are mostly white. More than half of Tea Party activists are religious, but the movement includes plenty of secular Americans.
  • About half of self-identified Republicans are Tea Partiers or express supportive feelings about the Tea Party movement.

Tom Emmer shows up
At Thursday’s event at the U of M’s Humphrey Center former state Rep. (and former Repub candidate for guv and current radio talk host) Tom Emmer joined Skocpol on the panel.

(Emmer, by the way, has lost a bunch of weight, looked much healthier, happier and less angry than when I last saw him in the late stages of the 2010 campaign.)

After declaring that he is not a Tea Partier, he is a Republican, Emmer tried to place Skocpol’s research into a longer context of Repub history.

Ever since the New Deal expanded the federal government into more of a welfare state (expanding federal powers beyond those authorized by the Constitution, Emmer said), Republicans have been divided between hard-line conservatives who wanted to get rid of the welfare state and moderates who believed that the programs were here to stay but could be managed more efficiently by Republicans.

In the 1940s and 50s, it was Sen. Robert Taft, the conservative, vs. Thomas Dewey and later Dwight Eisenhower, the moderates. In 1964, it was Goldwater Republicanism vs. Rockefeller Republicanism. The Tea Party, he said, must be seen as a revival of the older, purer form of conservatism and, as in the previous eras, it contributes to a powerful tug of war for control of the party.

Emmer, by the way, did not like Skocpol’s use of the word “hate” to describe Tea Party feelings about Obama, although he conceded that many Tea Partiers hate what Obama stands for.

Comments (29)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/11/2011 - 10:53 am.

    Holy crap, I agree with everything above, including the “hate” part. We don’t “hate” anyone. We despise what people advocate if it’s antithetical to a free society, but we don’t hate them.

    I’m frankly shocked that Theda was so even-handed in her book.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/11/2011 - 11:07 am.

    The great myth in Washington is that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes, cutting entitlement benefits, reducing the military’s power, or cutting useful spending programs. Voters have been led down this path by decades of demagogic politicians promising to go to “clean up Washington” and eliminate waste, fraud and inefficiency.

    Watching the parties perform rhetorical acrobatics, such as Obama’s promise that only the top 2% of America need to bear a tax increase, or the Tea Party’s demands to balance spending without touching the military or entitlement benefits, is amusing, but ultimately America’s fiscal problems won’t be resolved by pointing out someone else’s hypocrisy, especially when there is so much to go around.

  3. Submitted by Jeff Pricco on 11/11/2011 - 11:25 am.

    Good article, and in fact Emmer is likely right that the Tea Party represents the Taft/Borah/Goldwater wing of the GOP. However i think the the correlation missing is the Tea Party’s strong link to earlier nativist movements in American history from the 19th century thru to today, in this case they represent a very oft recurring theme in our history, and certainly one that tends to go hand in hand with depressed economic times. I also would like to know if the study addressed some of the unfactual based Tea Party views of government and the economy and even the governments work on immigration.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/11/2011 - 12:03 pm.

    A very good article to stir the pot for the weekend, Eric. I’m sure Prof. Skocpol’s research and findings are well documented and supported. But what I get from the article is that she has drawn very narrow and conservative findings and conclusions from the data.

    For example, she dismisses as “poppycock” that the Tea Party is an astroturf movement, but she also states that she (and her researchers) “heard Tea Partiers assert many crazy and erroneous “facts” and opinions about how government works, what President Obama is up to, what’s in the big health care bill.”

    Why is that I wonder? It seems to me that one finding or conclusion a reasonable person could draw is that the reason Tea Partiers hold crazy and erroneous ideas about how the government works, etc. is that they are being manipulated from above by rich and powerful conservative puppet-masters. It’s at least not “poppycock” to infer that when people behave like robots programmed to spew nonsense in response to a dog whistle that they have been manipulated.

    The Tea Party is part of a tradition in American history which Richard Hofstadter politely called the “paranoid style in American politics.” I’d reframe Tom Emmers take on the context and say that the Tea Party is return of such “style” to the mainstream. Hatred, racism and divisiveness have always been mainstream in US politics and the present climate is evidence of it.

  5. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 11/11/2011 - 12:23 pm.

    Skocpol’s list jibes with what I’ve seen too. Of course I learned things on my part by paying attention to what Tea Partiers say and not try to question their motives. If any libs want to retract past blanket statements, especially the vile racism charge, feel free to do so.
    I’d also like to agree with Emmer that ‘hate’ is too strong of a word. Polls have shown that Tea Partiers, like the population at large, like Obama as a person more than they like his policies. He gets less personal animosity than either W Bush or Clinton got IMHO.
    And one more thing, assertions of ‘crazy and erroneous facts and opinions’ is sadly widespread. For everyone on the right that thinks that foreign aid is a huge problem you’ll find someone on the left who thinks that defense spending is eating the budget. We could use a long and sustained public campaign to educate where public dollars really go to. But I’m not holding my breath on that…

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/11/2011 - 12:51 pm.

    A couple of reactions:

    First, how current can a book about something like the TP be? The data would have to be six months to a year old.
    OK — the book won’t actually be published until next month, so it’s as current as a book can be.
    And it’s co-authored with one of her graduate students.

    Second, it sounds like a lot of her conclusions were based on interviews. If she is correct that there are about a thousand TP groups, she obviously used a very limited sample. How was it selected? Was there a self selection factor? If she chose those groups willing to talk to her this would not be a representative sample.

    Finally, while 200,000 TPers sounds like a lot of people, it’s less than 0.1% of the population of the U.S., which makes it a fringe group, however radical it is (or isn’t).

  7. Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 11/11/2011 - 01:04 pm.

    Recommended reading for these TP “Christians” :

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt%2020:1–16;&version=NIV;

    (Mt 20:1-16)

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/11/2011 - 01:12 pm.

    “Tea Party people are not racists. (The exception, she said, is their attitude of utter intolerance toward Muslims.)”

    Is ‘Muslim’ a race in the scary smart, reality based community?

    “When she asked them about Social Security and Medicare, for example, they had an attitude that is widely shared among older Americans: I worked for it, I paid for it, I’m entitled to it.”

    That’s right; but it doesn’t mean we support continuing them.

    When I was 30 years old, my opinion was that I’d let the gov keep what they’d taken from me up to that point, if they ‘let me go’.

    That didn’t happen, of course, and I’m running out of the time it would take to make up the ‘gift’ I offered. But I don’t want my kids saddled with the same ponzi schemes if I can help it.

  9. Submitted by Arvonne Fraser on 11/11/2011 - 01:15 pm.

    Excellent reporting, as usual, Eric. Thanks to you and MinnPost. I’m sending this to friends around the country, and a German friend who wrote me this morning because he can’t understand American politics and has to give a speech on global conservatism early next year.

    These Tea Party people have seen their nice little white world of the 1950’s fall apart and they are angry. They do have their counterparts in Europe.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/11/2011 - 01:42 pm.

    “The 200,000 are slightly older than average Americans (many in their 60s), slightly more educated, and slightly more prosperous than average Americans, although that is substantially because they are older and older Americans are wealthier than average Americans. They are mostly white. More than half of Tea Party activists are religious, but the movement includes plenty of secular Americans.”

    Most are also married, military veterans, and gainfully employed. In other words, virtually the exact opposite of the Occupiers.

    Their extensive life experiences have provided them with a wisdom and understanding of this nation’s founding principles that finally drove them to the streets after all these years when they saw what the Obama agenda included. Government-run health care, banning good choices, mandating bad ones, excessive taxation, regulation and litigation, and government control over more and more aspects of our lives.

    All we want is for you to be free – whether you’re willing to accept it or not.

  11. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 11/11/2011 - 03:02 pm.

    In a system that is taken over by a concentration of power, the Tea Party seeks to comfort the comfortable and afflict the already afflicted.

    The fact that they are unwitting dupes matters not. At the end of the day, the three issues they will fight the loudest for are:

    De-regulation of the powerful.
    Tax cuts for the powerful.
    More corporate influence of our democracy, but stricter roadblocks for citizen involvement in our democracy.

    Look at the issues theynyell loudest for. Are they fighting a corrupt system, or fighting for a corrupt system.

  12. Submitted by Joe Williams on 11/11/2011 - 03:07 pm.

    Aargh. Tester, you don’t hold the franchise on the veteran POV. Could it be that most of those people also benefitted greatly from gov’t programs that used other people’s hard earned money to help them get where they are?

    I served 8 years, and then used 3/4 of my GI bill to get the kind of life I had. That doesn’t mean that other people are unworthy of certain benefits of living in the richest country in the world.

  13. Submitted by r batnes on 11/11/2011 - 03:32 pm.

    “Most are also married, military veterans, and gainfully employed. In other words, virtually the exact opposite of the Occupiers.”………LOL…Dennis, you seem eager to cast aside stereotypes about your own little cabal, but you sure don’t seem to mind painting them onto others. Thanks for highlighting the blatant hypocrisy of your “grass-roots” movement for us.

  14. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/11/2011 - 03:42 pm.

    “Most are also married, military veterans, and gainfully employed.”

    Dennis, I don’t know where you get your figures, but you’re dead wrong about “most of [the tea partiers] are gainfully employed . . . virtually the exact opposite of the Occupiers.” According to a CBS News poll (the same one that gives us the other oft-quoted statistics, I believe), 56% of the members of tea party were employed. According to the Wall Street Journal, around 85% of the Occupiers were employed, which is close to the national employment rate (what did you expect from people protesting unemplpoyment?).

    I would be keen to hear how you arrived at your conclusion about marriage and veterans (“I just know” or “You can bet” don’t count).

  15. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/11/2011 - 03:51 pm.

    Dennis–
    I assume that you can cite evidence (not anecdotes) proving that ‘Occupiers’ are NOT “married, military veterans, and gainfully employed”.
    So far that’s just your (unsupported) opinion.
    If you want to do more than just ‘preach to the choir’ you must support your statements.

  16. Submitted by Dave Eischens on 11/11/2011 - 05:38 pm.

    Eric, nice piece of journalism.

    It’s always good to get different perspectives. I’ll admit that I haven’t actually talked to anyone at a tea party so most info comes through some form of media filter.

    Seems the same with OWS, too many people assuming they know the entirety of the who, the what and the why Occupiers are speaking up. Even on these pages.

    I think there’s a lot of common ground to be found if people listen and look for it.

  17. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/11/2011 - 06:08 pm.

    Nicely done, Eric, and I’m sure Jon Erik Kingstad is correct about “stirring the pot for the weekend.”

    I also like his take on the Hofstadter angle. I’ve not read “The Paranoid Style…” in a decade, at least, but I think Jon Erik is on-target there. If “hatred” is too strong a term, then one of the characteristics that comes through from Mr. Tester and Mr. Swift, as well as Tea Partiers I’ve read and heard interviewed, is what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call “revulsion.” Mr. Swift is a little better than Mr. Tester at providing the appearance, at least, of that revulsion being toward policy and attitude rather than individuals and ethnic groups, but when we start tossing around terms like “freedom,” as if the only alternative is “tyranny,” or our particular definition is the only reasonable or applicable one, the conversation is sliding into propaganda.

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that if – as Mr. Tester and Mr. Swift have either stated directly or implied over the months that I’ve been reading MinnPost – those on the left are being manipulated by interests in the society antithetical to the values Mr. Swift and Mr. Tester think they stand for, those on the right might also be the subjects of manipulation by similar sorts of interests in the society antithetical to the values that those on the left think they stand for. In that context, I especially appreciate Joe Williams’ “Aargh” comment.

    Republicans “waved the bloody shirt” of the wounds of the Civil War for a generation after Appomattox in order to draw voters away from Democrats, and for several election cycles, it was a successful strategy.The current version, perhaps a little less bloody, is simply to wave the flag and assert that Republicans are “patriotic,” while all others are… um… not. It’s also easy to get the impression that all veterans speak with Mr. Tester’s voice, or are politically conservative, or that service in the military grants one some sort of special moral prerogative that ordinary civilians couldn’t possible understand, much less share. That latter one is horsepockey.

    Along those lines, I think Jeff Pricco’s comment is on-target. There’s a strong echo of mid-19th-century “Know Nothing” views in what I hear expressed by Tea Partiers. We can play semantic games and insist that it’s not racism and it’s not even prejudice, but the hostility to immigrants – from whom everyone reading this has sprung – and to Muslims, as expressed in numerous Tea Party statements (as well as by others, some of them even Democrats) suggests to me that Tea Partiers and their political allies doth protest too much. I’m the right age and demographic for Tea Party membership, but even those items on the list in the article with which I agree to some extent do not persuade me that it’s a movement I want to join.

    I’ll take mild issue with Peder DeFor’s last paragraph in this sense. It’s true that those on the right tend foam at the mouth over foreign aid, while those on the left do the same thing over military spending, but comparing them directly is awfully close to apples and oranges. Foreign aid comprised about 1% of the federal budget in 2011. Foreign aid, according to Politifact, was about $49 billion, while military spending was more than $700 billion. We spent more than 14 times as much on the military as we did on foreign aid. For me, though obviously not for others of different persuasion, that suggests that right-wing hysteria over foreign aid is just that – hysteria. Yes, the dollar figure is a lot more than I’ll ever earn, but it’s only 1% of the budget, and earns us considerable goodwill in many countries. Current military obligations consume about 1/3 of the federal budget, and if obligations to veterans are added, military spending creeps up beyond that. Comparing 1% to, let’s say, 35%, strikes me as more than a little one-sided.

    Two inconvenient truths seem relevant for Tea Partiers. First, if they’re enrolled and making use of Medicare, they’re involved in socialized medicine, whether they think so or not. Second, they may have worked for it, and may feel entitled to it, but they’ll have used up every dollar they contributed to Social Security, and every dollar their employer(s) contributed, in about 3 years. After that, those benefit checks are being funded by Mr. Swift and Mr. Tester. We can all enjoy the irony…

  18. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/11/2011 - 06:26 pm.

    @#10
    Lol. Feel free to show us whether this is a lie, a damned lie, or a statistic, please.

  19. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/11/2011 - 06:47 pm.

    Given the fact that -on the average- the Occupiers are a generation younger than the TPers, the former would be more likely to be employed.

  20. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 11/11/2011 - 08:03 pm.

    How do you know that “most are . . . ” anything. Veterans certainly make up a good share of the Occupy movement, as we’ve dramatically seen in the injuries sustained by two vets in Portland OR.
    Interesting actual facts from Holbrook. I was a little startled by them, but this sort of undocumented categorization and vilification of entire groups certainly only deepens the divide. Especially when no facts back up these assertions.

  21. Submitted by Tom Lynch on 11/11/2011 - 08:13 pm.

    It’s been my experience in talking with Republicans in general, mainly just over the last few years, that the author is exactly right about about what motivates them….they think their white, hard-earned money(taxes) are being taken from them and given to “Those People”. You know. Those lazy, dark-skinned parasites.

    That’s why “tax cuts” are code words to the Republican base. It means less money for “Those People” to live high-off-the-hog on while doing nothing.

  22. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/11/2011 - 10:19 pm.

    Far be it from me to challenge the work of a distinguished scholar like Professor Skocpol, but there’s something else about her study that just doesn’t seem correct.

    For one thing, I think there’s still a lot of disagreement about the issue of race and racism in our society. I question the methodology of a scholar who claims to eliminate this as an issue by asking individuals of some group, in this case predominately white, upper middle class individuals, if they consider themselves to be “racist.” Most people today don’t consider themselves to be bigots in the mold of Archie Bunker or Lester Maddox or Strom Thurmond. Most people today try to avoid being labeled as a “racist.”

    But it was only 2006, just 5 year ago that we saw George Allen go down in flames over his “macaca” moment. And has everyone already forgotten Trent Lott, admirer of Storm Thurmond? Has Jesse Helms been gone so long that his supporters have wiped him from their memories? Has racism just disappeared because the nation elected an African-American man President?

    That’s what this research seems to suggest if I am getting an accurate picture of it from this article. I’ll reserve final judgment until I read Professor Skocpol’s work myself, but based on what I’m getting from this report, I’m inclined to give it very poor rating. Maybe it’s a matter of interpreting the data.

    The Tea Party emerged just a month after Obama had been sworn into office. It was instigated by the rant of this Rick Santelli character who was denouncing the bailout not of the rich and powerful like himself and those of his class who had caused the meltdown but of the poor and “undeserving” who had gotten to own homes now threatened with foreclosure.

    The meme since then, witnessed by the Tea Party and their surrogates in Congress by clowns like Michele Bachmann, and NYC Mayor Bloomberg, has been that it was “liberal” policies like the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that caused the 2008 financial meltdown. The Tea Party adheres to such despicable, obviously racist nonsense, despite all evidence to the contrary. And, like some commenters on MinnPost, they refuse to believe the evidence when it’s presented to them in their face. Better to believe in fairy tales like free market pixies and people who work hard always get ahead even when the evidence shows that what they know just ain’t so.

  23. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/11/2011 - 11:07 pm.

    Tea Partyers themselves may not feel as though they are “controlled by powerful forces from above,” but from what I’ve read previously (www.alecexposed.org), Koch brothers/ALEC money funded the propaganda blitz that deliberately fueled their anger and united them to fight “socialism” and a “big government” that steals their hard-earned money and gives it to the freeloaders who refuse to work.

    What they are actually fighting for, whether or not they realize it, is the corporate agenda: kill regulation of business practices that maximize profits at the expense of worker, consumer and environmental protections; get rid of those greedy unions and the commies in government that support them; ease or remove the burden of taxation that starves the job creators who seek only to provide opportunity to those willing to accept it; elect Real Americans/Real Christians to public office where they can write and support legislation that just happens to support corporate wants.

  24. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 11/11/2011 - 11:18 pm.

    “token marionettes manipulated from above”

    It’s been widely documented that the protests in 2009 which caused the movement to coalesce were heavily promoted by Fox News, which also provided direct funding, keynote speakers, and extensive coverage after the fact.

    Also, the ongoing influence of powerful talk radio personalities and Fox commentators on the movement cannot be overstated.

    That doesn’t necessarily make anyone a “marionette”, but it doesn’t take a media expert or scholar to detect where a lot of the “crazy and erroneous ‘facts’ and opinions about how government works [and] what President Obama is up to” come from (and why it is impossible to clear any of them up).

    They are spewed relentlessly, day after day, on AM radio frequencies and cable news channels to a very captive audience. It’s very hard to separate this from propagandistic manipulation.

    “Tea Partiers are very motivated by hostility to illegal immigrants…”

    “Tea Party people are not racists. (The exception…is their attitude of utter intolerance toward Muslims.)”

    I had to run these through the wait-did-I-really-read-that? part of my brain a couple of times. It’s a little like saying:

    “I’m very motivated by hostility toward the weeds in my yard, but I AM NOT a weed-hater. I just hate them, that’s all. And want to kill them. Damn weeds.”

    …or…

    “The grass in my yard is not weedy (well, except for the big patch over there that’s full of weeds, and all the rest of it too).”

    I’m a little dumbfounded that these statements might pass as “reasoned” in any fashion.

    “…many Tea Partiers hate what Obama stands for…”

    And just what is this that they hate? Is it something that the President has actually DONE, or actually TRIED to do, or just something SUSPECTED or FEARED about him that may or may not have any basis in reality. Is it the ACTUAL health care reform bill or the PHANTOM health care reform bill which bears almost no resemblance to the real thing?

    The Republicans learned a lot from the vilification and demonization of George W. Bush by Democrats. They were reminded that reality is what you make it.

    In other words, the hated-and-feared-socialist-Obama is entirely manufactured as a device for maintaining the level of vitriol needed to fuel the Tea Party movement.

    Given their scant size, without the shouting and endless supply of outrage, stubbornness and vitriol, they would just be a bunch of overlooked Ron Paul groupies.

    Frankly, any movement founded on and fueled by hatred of any sort is doomed to the ash bin of history. Though it may be a long and painful road, a convincing case can be made that that’s where the Tea Party is headed.

  25. Submitted by Diane Clare on 11/11/2011 - 11:43 pm.

    I support much the Tea Party has to say does, but I also support the occupiers, yeah even though they haven’t really made a point worth reporting yet.
    Economy is in the pits, unemployment is high, many see no hope or change from this Congress anymore than from the last. If they can’t ram it through because of majority, they are no, no, no, both parties.
    But finally, even if we might not agree with their message, the young have started to take an interest. They are the ones who will pay for, and have to live with any changes or the status quo, whichever prevails.
    I also think these young, should listen and learn what they can from the Tea Party. They have been schooled and molded by many who graduated from the protests of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and may benefit from the knowledge you can only gain on mainstreet USA to have a well-rounded base of knowledge.

  26. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 11/13/2011 - 10:49 am.

    At the risk of defending the tea-partiers and agreeing with our resident sympathizers, I really wish we could all understand that “Muslim” is not a “race”, and criticizing Islam is not “racist”.

  27. Submitted by William Pappas on 11/13/2011 - 05:37 pm.

    I’m with you Bernice. The end result of Tea Party politics will be a shift in the income tax system to one much more regressive. The entire agenda of the Tea Party is like a corporate wish list. Wether they know it or not Tea Partiers are advocating for a major quality of life decline for the middle class. More expensive education, escalating health insurance premiums, diminished or abolished social security and medicare, falling wages and the real deterioration of the environment in which they live through the ending of all forms of environmental regulation. They don’t have to be “against medicare and social security” to unwittingly support tax policy that will ultimately destroy them. What the author failed to identify in her curious approach to her research is that there is a real disconnect in the politics of the Tea Party with the consequences those policies will eventually cause.

  28. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/15/2011 - 01:47 pm.

    With my battle scars from having dealt with right-wingers on the Strib’s comments boards, I feel pretty sure that there’s an undercurrent of racism behind the Tea Party. The commentators of that stripe are too savvy to come out and say, “I don’t like African-Americans.” They say things like, “I hate it when my hard-earned tax dollars go to support gangbangers and welfare mothers from Chicago on welfare for their whole lives.” They don’t “feel comfortable” going downtown because of the “gangbangers and welfare mothers.” They commented on the failure of Brookdale by saying, “I sure wouldn’t want to go shopping with all the diversity.”

    Those are their codewords: “gangbangers and illegal immigrants” for African-Americans and “illegal immigrants” for Latinos, although how they can tell someone’s immigration status just by looking is a mystery.

    Informing the commentators that it is no longer possible to spend one’s whole life on welfare doesn’t phase them at all. Informing them that most African-Americans have jobs is doesn’t phase them at all.

    Facts are not the issue. The Tea Party has tapped into feelings of future shock (the Twin Cities are no longer almost all white) and free-floating anger (people who did exactly what they were told to do to get ahead find themselves lagging behind) to gain support for an agenda that would make their financial situation even worse.

  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/17/2011 - 10:42 am.

    I’ve always thought that ignorance is the primary characteristic of Tea Party adherents. I’ve seen nothing to dis-confirm that. It goes without saying that they are of a conservative mentality of sorts, but very poor conservatives.

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