Friday, October 22, 2010

Report on Tea Party released

With all of the discussion this election cycle about the Tea Party, some of you may be interested in reading the report that was released today -- it can be downloaded and read at

A selection of some of the information contained in the report from the section on "Tea Parties - Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Militia Impulse":
Tea Party leaders have bristled at any mention of the racism, Christian nationalism and white supremacy that is a part of their movement. In several notable instances, people of color have been prominently put forward as speakers or entertainers at Tea Party rallies, as if to say: look, this is a racially diverse movement that wants to add more color to its ranks. Prominent among these few individuals has been Lloyd Marcus, previously mentioned in this report as a paid consultant of Tea Party Express.

Nevertheless, Confederate battle flags, signs that read “America is a Christian nation,” and racist caricatures of President Obama have been an undeniable presence at Tea Party events in both local communities and in Washington, D.C. The venom (and spittle) directed at African-American Congressmen during the health care debate carried an unmistakably racist message. It is not the contention of this report that all Tea Partiers are consciously racist. The evidence presented, however, speaks for itself.

Health care reform legislation had been a flashpoint for Tea Party protests, beginning with a concerted effort to shout down Congressional Democrats at their “town hall” meetings during August 2009. The following November, at a Tea Party protest aimed at health care legislation, ten people were arrested for unlawful entry when they tried to force their way into the offices of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. As the bill moved closer to passage in March 2010, strident voices called for violence. One 1990s-era militiaman from Alabama, Mike Vanderboegh, urged whoever was reading his blog to break the windows of Democrats. “Break them NOW...Break them with rocks...”[233] In the aftermath of this call, the office windows of several members of the House of Representatives were shattered with bricks.

Both polling data and observable evidence point to the fact that Tea Party attendees and their supporters are mostly white. Significantly, these white Tea Partiers show noticeably different attitudes than those of white people generally, particularly in regards to racially charged issues. Tea Partiers are more likely than white people generally to believe that “too much” has been made of the problems facing black people: 52% to 39%.[244]

A striking difference over positive attitudes towards black people showed up in a multi-state poll, conducted in March 2010, by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality. Of those who strongly disapproved of the Tea Party, 55% agreed with the statement that black people were “VERY hard working.” Of those who strongly approved of the Tea Party, only 18% agreed with the statement that black people were “VERY hard working.” This 24-point difference pointed at Tea Party supporters as more likely to have negative feelings about the work ethic of black people. In fact, 68% of the Tea party “approvers” believed that if only they would try harder, then black people would be as well off as white people. That number fell by almost half, to 35%, when the “disapprovers” answered it.[245]

Further, almost three-quarters of Tea Party supporters (73%), told pollsters that government programs aimed at providing a social safety net for poor people actually encourages them to remain poor.[246] In fact, more than a bit of anecdotal evidence shows hostility and resentment towards the poor and the programs designed to help them. Hence, the signs such as one at an early St. Louis Tea Party that read: “Honk if I am paying your mortgage.” Not every Tea party supporter exhibited such feelings, certainly, but enough of it showed up in opinion polls to give credence to the description of Tea Parties as mean-spirited.

I recommend reading the entire report, "Who is an American? Tea Parties, Nativism, and the Birthers" is also an interesting chapter, one part:
The Revolutionary War-era costumes, the yellow “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags from the same era, the earnest recitals of the pledge of allegiance, the over-stated veneration of the Constitution, and the defense of “American exceptionalism” in a world turned towards transnational economies and global institutions: all are signs of the over-arching nationalism that helps define the Tea Party movement.

It is a form of American nationalism, however, that does not include all Americans, and separates itself from those it regards as insufficiently “real Americans.” Consider in this regard, a recent Tea Party Nation Newsletter article entitled, “Real Americans Did Not Sue Arizona.” Or the hand-drawn sign at a Tea Party rally that was obviously earnestly felt. “I am a arrogant American, unlike our President, I am proud of my country, our freedom, our generosity, no apology from me.”

Cross posted from Glass City Jungle

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