Tea culture

The Tea Party, Now and Forever

Flickr/Rob Chandanais
P eople (including me , I'll admit) have been predicting the demise of the Tea Party for a long time, yet it has managed to stick around, the tail wagging the Republican dog even unto the point of shutting down the government and bringing the country within hours of default. Yet at the same time, if you paid attention to this crisis, you would have seen the words "Tea Party" escaping only the lips of Democrats (and a few reporters). None of the Republicans holding out to destroy the Affordable Care Act started their sentences with "We in the Tea Party…" It has become a name—or an epithet—more than a movement, even as its perspective and its style have woven themselves deeply within the GOP. Not that there aren't still Tea Party organizations in existence, but how many Republican politicians in the coming months are going to be eager to show up at a rally where everyone's wearing tricorner hats? What this moment may mark is the not so much the death of the Tea Party as the final stages...

Three New Facts about the Tea Party

Flickr/FutureAtlas.com
For a movement that’s helped to reshape the Republican Party—and by extension, reshape American politics—we know shockingly little about the people who make up the Tea Party. While some in the GOP once hoped to co-opt the movement, it’s increasingly unclear which group—the Tea Party or establishment Republicans—is running the show. Politicians have largely relied on conjecture and assumption to determine the positions and priorities of Tea Party activists. Until now. The results of the first political science survey of Tea Party activists show that the constituency isn’t going away any time soon—and Republicans hoping the activists will begin to moderate their stances should prepare for disappointment. Based out of the College of William and Mary, the report surveyed more than 11,000 members of FreedomWorks, one of the largest and most influential Tea Party groups. The political scientists also relied on a separate survey of registered voters through the YouGov firm to compare those...

Tea Party Racism: Some Experimental Evidence

Lavine and his colleagues designed an online survey and got responses from a sample of about 800 citizens, including many who expressed sympathy for the Tea Party and many who did not. The survey asked about programs designed to help people who can’t keep up with their mortgage payments stay in their homes… But the online survey contained two curveballs. At the beginning of the section on the mortgage assistance, a picture was included of a man, presumably a struggling homeowner, and a house with a foreclosure sign in the yard. Half of the sample saw a white man in the yard; half saw a black man. That’s curve No. 1. The second curve was the way the survey suggested those men came to be standing in their yards next to a foreclosure sign. Half the sample was told: “As we now know, many people took out large loans and mortgages during the housing bubble that they couldn’t afford and they are likely to lose their homes unless the government intercedes.” This is from research by political...

What Happened to the Tea Party?

When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled it to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, the Tea Party was the focus of all the GOP's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier. Once the Tea Party's champion was selected, we would discover just how much strength the party establishment still held in our decentralized political age. Yet with the Iowa caucus just six weeks away, it appears that there will be no grand battle between the establishment and the insurgents, the old guard and the new. There...

I'm Mad As Hell, And...Friday? Sorry, That's Not Too Good For Me. Maybe Some Other Time.

South Carolina's The State newspaper (h/t/ Ben Smith ) reports on a Tea Party rally at the statehouse featuring the governor herself that didn't really turn out as planned. They expected 2,000 people, but when Donald Trump canceled on them, Nikki Haley spoke to a crowd of only 30. Here's the sad, sad photo: Hey, it happens. I once made a bookstore appearance where the audience consisted of my wife, my co-author's husband, a reporter from the student newspaper, and a homeless guy getting out of the rain. In this case, it could easily have been a matter of poor organization. But anemic turnout at Tea Party events is becoming more common. The problem with building a movement on anger is that it can be hard to keep people angry. Anger is tiring. And as the economy slowly improves, it becomes harder to get fence-sitters mad. Even your core supporters may be reluctant to come out and yell about socialism for the tenth time, when the ninth time wasn't as much fun as the first and second...

Is the Tea Party On the Wane?

Josh Green says yes : The Tea Party may continue to alter races across the country, and could also shape the Republican presidential field. But it appears to have reached the limit of its influence in Washington. Here, where it counts most, the Tea Party is looking like a spent force. There are a number of reasons for this. The outsized political personalities most closely associated with the movement have started to fade. Glenn Beck is waning. Sarah Palin 's presidential hopes are passing into rapid eclipse. Even Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota -- founder of the congressional Tea Party caucus, heir to Palin, reliably batty provocateur, and once-proud supporter of the Ryan budget plan -- has begun cautiously backing away. She is doing so for the same reason as everybody else. The Tea Party message, so seductive in the abstract, can be deadly in its particulars to any politician seeking a broader appeal. As that doctrine is put into practice, even prospectively, voters are...

The Tea Party Fades Away

About a year ago, I began predicting that this Tea Party thing was going to just peter out, particularly once the 2012 GOP nomination contest began. All those tricorner hat-sporting folks would divide up between the primary candidates and start worrying more about that than about their infantile understanding of the Constitution or their alleged hatred for government spending. Wishful thinking? Sure. But it seems to be coming true. Time 's Michael Scherer argues that "anyone and everyone is 'Tea Party.' The term is open-sourced. And though it will continue to be used over the coming months as a short-hand for the populist, unsettled upsurge in the Republican Party, it will mean less and less." Kevin Drum notes that he made the same argument months ago: "When everyone's a tea partier, then no one's a tea partier." And Daily Kos rounds up reports of Tea Party events, even some featuring celebrities like Michele Bachmann , struggling to draw a few dozen attendees. You can't pretend you'...

Tea Party Senators Propose Changes to Citizenship Rules

Gotta love the Tea Party and their standing for life, liberty, and the exclusion of people that they don't like or who don't look like them. ABCNews.com has a piece saying that Sens. David Vitter, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jerry Moran are sponsoring a bill to limit U.S. citizenship to only those children born in the United States who have one parent who is a legal resident, member of the military, or a U.S. citizen. The senators claim that the 14th Amendment, which grants U.S. citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, has led to millions of "anchor babies," the children of undocumented immigrants who are claiming U.S. residency and rights. They also claim that this will end "birth tourism." Folks having a baby on foreign soil is not like getting a nose job in a clinic in Thailand. It happens because the immigrants are already in the United States, most probably working on farms or supporting the American economy in another way. The ABC article notes: Of the 4.2 million live births in...

Stop Listening to the Tea Party

Nate Silver points to a new CNN poll that shows that unfavorable views of the Tea Party are at 47 percent. Moreover, they've been on a steady rise, though favorable ratings have been pretty flat, or possibly slightly increasing, as well. Still, favorables are only at 32 percent. Silver argues: I’ve long been of the view that the Tea Party, despite nominating poor candidates in a couple of key races, was a significant net positive for the G.O.P. in 2010, both because it contributed to the “enthusiasm gap” and because it helped an unpopular Republican Party to re-brand itself in never-out-of-style conservative draping. But if the Tea Party ain’t over yet, the point in time at which it was an electoral asset for Republicans soon may be. Yes. Eventually, this enthusiasm, based on not much substance, will end. So let's stop listening to them.

The Tea Party Is Still Religious and Conservative.

The Washington Post reports on an Iowa Tea Party group that is more religious than most: Every other week for the past two years, the Westside Conservative Club has met over breakfast at the Machine Shed restaurant to do what tea party groups do: share worries about President Obama, federal spending and government overreach. But unlike in many of those other groups, another kind of discussion regularly occurs here, too - the religious kind. Those who come for the conversation and the Shed's famous cinnamon buns are just as comfortable talking about their opposition to abortion as they are about federal bailouts and debt ceilings. At last week's get-together, for instance, businesswoman LaDonna Gratias pulled aside the guest speaker, former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), to praise him for likening abortion to slavery. "It's a good comparison," she told him I'm not sure why this is news. Despite the Tea Party's emphasis on fiscal and "constitutional" issues, there is plenty to show...

White Flight and the Tea Party.

Matthew Yglesias flags this bit from Stephanie Mencimer 's article on the Tea Party's weird opposition to sustainable-use policies: In the tea partiers’ dystopian vision, the increased density favored by planners to allow for better mass transit become compulsory “human habitation zones.” They warn of Americans being forcibly moved from their suburban dream homes into urban “hobbit homes” and required to give up their cars and instead—gasp!—take the bus to work. The enemies in this fight are hidden behind bland trade-association names like the American Planning Association or ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). Not that Yglesias tries too, but I don't think that you can separate this from the racial politics of the Tea Party. Among people who identify with the Tea Party, according to the most recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, 61 percent agree that the government "has paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities" over the...

The Tea Party Should Be Crazy for the Tea Party to Work.

Brendan Nyhan did a little research, and argues that Tea Party candidates aren't that crazy -- in fact, they're often conventional candidates. Various respondents suggests that this means the Tea Partiers are pragmatic . But I beg to differ -- The Tea Party isn't pragamatic. It's just a bunch of Republicans. As Nyhan writes, "Despite the influence of the Tea Party movement, the GOP actually has more House candidates who have previously held elected office running for open seats than the Democrats do. ... The Tea Party movement has affiliated itself with a surprising number of non-amateur politicians in competitive and open-seat races." Talk about that anti-establishment fervor! There are two stories that people tell about the Tea Party. One is that they're breaking with with both parties over fiscal irresponsibility to get back to the basics. The other is that they're a convenient way for Republicans to leverage populist anger and get back into power without really changing their...

The Same Base You've Always Known.

Ben Smith sees a Tea Party that isn’t too interested in fighting the culture war: The rise of a new conservative grass roots fueled by a secular revulsion at government spending is stirring fears among leaders of the old conservative grass roots, the evangelical Christian right. A reeling economy and the massive bank bailout and stimulus plan were the triggers for a resurgence in support for the Republican Party and the rise of the tea party movement. But they’ve also banished the social issues that are the focus of many evangelical Christians to the background. Given the enthusiastic response Tea Partiers received at the Values Voter Conference last month, and judging from the attending Tea Partiers’ open identification with values voters, I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment. While it’s possible that Tea Party leaders are averse to the religious right’s social conservatism, it’s clearly true that social conservatism resonates with many rank-and-file members of the Tea...

Roots of the Tea Party's Rage.

The Tea Party is frequently described as a new phenomena in American politics, but as Kevin Drum notes in a piece for Mother Jones , the opposite is true; like the John Birch Society or Arkansas Project before it, the Tea Party is the latest instance of a right-wing reaction that happens whenever we have a Democratic president: The growth of the tea party movement isn't really due to the recession (in fact, polling evidence shows that tea partiers are generally better off and less affected by the recession than the population at large). It's not because Obama is black (white Democratic presidents got largely the same treatment). And it's not because Obama bailed out General Motors (so did George W. Bush ). It's simpler. Ever since the 1930s, something very much like the tea party movement has fluoresced every time a Democrat wins the presidency, and the nature of the fluorescence always follows many of the same broad contours: a reverence for the Constitution, a supposedly spontaneous...

What's the True Face of the Tea Party?

Dave Weigel makes a good point about congressional candidate and now-famous nutball Rick Barber , whose loss in a runoff for a seat from Alabama Jamelle wrote about this morning: But the tea party's success in boosting some serious candidates, like Scott Brown , has got the nonpartisan and liberal media chasing after any candidate who ostentatiously proclaims himself a tea partier. The "wackier" his appeal, the better. The easier it is to "nail" him on his views in an interview, the better. It's a bit like when a new craze hits (let's say alt rock) and all of a sudden every going-nowhere band can get a record deal (let's say The Verve Pipe, Days of the New, Marcy Playground) simply for acting up. Fair enough -- Weigel is right that at places like TAP , we take an interest in the wackier corners of the Tea Party movement, both because we want to highlight the evidence that the movement is indeed dominated by extremists, and because people like Rick Barber are highly amusing. To take...

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