Are The Tea Partiers Racists?

A few weeks back I posted a brief summary of a Gallup Poll survey that compared the views and backgrounds of those in the Tea Party movement with a random sample of American adults. As the first survey of the Tea Party movement, the findings were of particular interest to me since – without The Cable – I hadn’t paid much attention to the movement.  I noted two important results from the Gallup survey: that demographically, Tea Party supporters did not differ dramatically from a random cross section of Americans, but that ideologically it was a distinctly conservative movement, with half of its support coming from the Republican Party.  I concluded by noting that in its broad outlines, the Tea Party phenomenon echoed previous social movements in American history, almost all of which arose during time of economic uncertainty.

The reaction to my post, particularly among my more progressive readers, was fascinating. Many emailed me directly to point out other survey data – most published after the Gallup results – that suggested the Tea Party movement was NOT a representative cross-section of Americans more generally.  In fact, Tea Party supporters are far more likely to be white.  Subsequent survey suggests that this is, indeed, the case, although the extent of the movement’s “whiteness” varies depending on how one defines and samples the Tea Party membership. (In defense of Gallup, their initial survey also suggested that Tea Partiers were slightly more likely to be white as well.)

I have now collected a half-dozen surveys on the Tea Party movement and hope to do a more extended analysis in a future blog. Of more immediate interest to me, however, is the subtext to this point regarding how “white” is the Tea Party movement.  As several readers suggested to me, the point is important because it indicates that the Tea Party supporters are also more likely to be racist!  I should be clear that it wasn’t only people writing me who made this claim – it was a point that was made by liberal pundits more generally in the aftermath of the Gallup poll in many columns (see, for example, here and here and here.)

The general sentiment on the Left expressed in these and other columns is well captured by E.J. Dionne, who writes:  “The tea party is nothing new. It represents a relatively small minority of Americans on the right end of politics, and it will not determine the outcome of the 2010 elections. …In fact, both parties stand to lose if they accept the laughable notion that this media-created protest movement is the voice of true populism.”  Moreover, Dionne goes on to suggest: “Part of the anger at President Obama among Tea Partiers does appear to be driven by racial concerns.”

The pushback by progressives against any notion that the Tea Partiers might be a broad-based social movement that share characteristics with previous political movements in American history is fascinating.  Why does the Tea Party movement inspire such vehemence, founded on charges of racism, from the Left?  Note that the fact that it is disproportionately white does not seem, by itself, to be a convincing explanation.  Recall that the 1992 Perot movement, to which I compared the Tea Party movement,  was even whiter, with one estimate putting the proportion of Perot supporters at 92% white.  In fact, as this columnist acknowledges, in terms of race, gender and education, Tea Party members are almost indistinguishable from Perot’s followers.

And both movements share a common policy platform consisting of fiscally conservative principles of small government, lower taxes and less spending.  Any yet there was much less, if any, intimation from the Left that the Perot movement was fueled by racism.  What explains the difference in perspective toward the two movements?

One answer, of course, is that there is convincing evidence that Tea Partiers are racist. That theme gained support on the Left after a New York Times/CBS poll showed that 25% of Tea Party supporters thought Obama’s policies favored blacks, compared to 11% of adults more generally who shared this view.  Moreover, 52% of Tea Partiers, but only 28% of all respondents, believe “In recent years, too much been made of the problems facing black people.”

For those on the Left, this is proof that the Tea Party movement is at least in part racially motivated. For Tea Partiers, however, the questions are not tapping into racial views – they are inciting policy views.  They note, for example, that fully 73% of Tea Parties believe blacks and whites have an equal chance of getting ahead in society.  Moreover, they point out that the Times poll also found that 65% of Tea Partiers believe Obama has treated blacks and white equally – not exactly evidence that the movement is dominated by racists.  It is far more likely, Tea Party supporters suggest, that these questions are tapping views regarding affirmative action in schools, diversity in hiring, and other race-related public policies.

Uncovering racial motives from survey questions is tricky business. (Next time you are at a cocktail party, ask all the racists in the room to raise their hands. See what I mean?)   So, without accepting or dismissing either interpretation, let me suggest four additional reasons, listed here in no particular order, that might explain the willingness of those on the Left to ascribe racist views toward Tea Partiers, but not to Perot’s followers, despite the two movements’ almost indistinguishable racial composition and economic policy views.

First, the Perot movement, like the Tea Party movement, directed its rage at incumbents.  In 1992, however, the President was Republican, but Congress was controlled by Democrats.  So the anti-incumbent fervor did not seem directed at any single party.  In the same vein, Perot’s followers were not drawn primarily from one party, while the Tea Party is at least half Republican and its members share a distinctly conservative perspective.  Perot, in contrast, drew heavily from moderates and liberals as well as conservatives.  It is easier for the Left to brand a predominantly white movement as racially-motivated when most of its members don’t share the Left’s ideological views.

Second, the fracturing of media discourse into many more ideologically-oriented sources on both cable and the internet, has contributed to an echo-chamber effect where those on the Left are exposed to an increasingly smaller, and more critical, view of the Tea Party movement than was the case in 1992 with Perot’s followers. These often consist of the more “newsworthy” pictures from protest rallies showing the crazier element in the Tea Party movement.  These images are cross-linked with like-minded sites, adding to the prevailing view that the Tea Partiers carry guns and crosses and spit on members of Congress.

Third, the Perot movement had a figurehead – Ross Perot – on which the media could focus its narrative.  Indeed, one of the media frames in 1992 centered on whether Perot was crazy, rather than his followers!  In contrast, it’s much harder for the media to develop a coherent and concise frame on a movement that seems so amorphous and unorganized and whose newsworthy events seem to be raucous rallies rather than statements of principle from the movement’s leader.  This allows progressives like Dionne and others to step into the media vacuum and define the Tea Party movement themselves.

Finally, one should not underestimate the importance of having an African-American president.  Simply put, many progressives sincerely believe that much of the criticism against Obama from the Right is rooted in racism, just as many on the Right sincerely believe that progressives are using charges of racism as a convenient excuse to deflect the Tea Party’s genuine substantive concerns.  Tea party supporters argue that it is simply easier for those on the Left to dismiss the Tea Party as a fringe movement rather than accept that it in fact derives its support mostly from those who are disenchanted with Obama’s and the Democratically-controlled Congress’ policies.

Unlike critics on the Left (and their critics on the Right) I don’t pretend to know the motivations of the Tea Party movement. And, lacking access to the sampling procedures underlying many of these polls, I am more hesitant than others to make blanket generalizations regarding the Tea Party based on a single set of poll questions. I’ll leave it to others to cherry pick those results that fit their ideological predispositions.

Instead, I want to suggest that trying to uncover the Tea Party’s motivations is not a very useful exercise. What we really want to know is whether Dionne and other progressives are right in asserting that the group will not have an impact in 2010. After looking at the polling data as a whole, I don’t believe he is – the Tea Party is a broad movement rivaling the Perot movement in strength and which is motivated by a very strong anti-incumbent fervor rooted in concerns about government spending and the deficit – the same issues on which Perot campaigned and won roughly one in five votes cast in the 1992 presidential election.  Efforts to paint Tea Partiers as a marginal group composed of bible-thumpers, racists and denture-wearing geriatrics hoping to turn back the clock to the “good old days” are not very helpful to Democrats if it leads them to dismiss voters’ substantive concerns. Racist or not, the Tea Party movement is composed disproportionately of affluent, well educated white males – precisely the attributes of individuals who are most likely to vote in any election.  In the absence of economic improvement, this bloc of strongly motivated voters, ranging in size from 15% to 25% of likely voters, may contribute to an electoral tidal wave in November’s midterms that could wash away the Democratic majority. An astounding 94% of the Tea Partiers surveyed in the NY Times poll believed it is time for new people in government (compared to 78% of all adults who believe this.)  Twenty-eight percent believe Congress is primarily to blame for the current state of the economy, and 34% believe it is responsible for the budget deficit, making Congress, even more than Obama or Bush, the primary source of the Tea Partiers’ ire. At a minimum, this suggests the movement has the potential to swing a significant number of seats away from the Democrat Party, potentially making the difference between a Republican or Democrat-controlled House and/or Senate come November.

It is still too early to make accurate predictions regarding the 2010 midterms, of course.  But I think progressives do themselves a disservice if they dismiss the potential impact of the Tea Party movement.

12 comments

  1. “Why does the Tea Party movement inspire such vehemence, founded on charges of racism, from the Left?”

    I’ll pose as what marketing people call a “representative sample of one” and give the reason for my own (occasional) vehemence towards the TP (heh): timing.

    Why now? Is it purely a coincidence that the movement has risen to prominence during the campaigning, election, and presidency of Barack Obama? One would have surely been justified in feeling angry about massive government spending at any point during the last decade. Wars, expanding bureaucracy (damn you and your shoe-policy, TSA!), federal subsidy programs, etc. Didn’t GWB spend more and faster than the five or six presidents before him?

    That’s why all the talk about three-cornered hats and fiscal conservatism has a hollow ring coming from the mouths of affluent white males. Why now? So, the gut judgment of a progressive is: they’re uncomfortable because their kids are learning Spanish in the first grade and the president is black, and whatever else they say is rubbish. It’s a straightforward and easy explanation. I’m not saying it’s right – in fact, I hope to god it isn’t – but I’d wager that gut judgments play a large role in politics.

  2. Personally, I see no reason to stand up for Dionne or other moralizers on this one. Yes, there are more racists out there on the right than the left. Yet *intolerance* is a psychological disposition that can have any number of particular manifestations. Take for example anticommunism, anti-socialism, anti-leftism, anti-rightism, religious fundamentalism, political atheism, racism, antisemitism, etc. etc. etc. Racism is just another social construct to begin with, so nothing stops even intolerant people from gradually shedding racist discourse in the face of generational changes in social attitudes. (Studs Terkel is a great raconteur of how these shifts occur.) There is no logical reason to believe or argue for the thesis that every voter who falls in with the Tea Party crowd is a dyed-in-the-wool crypto-racist.

    In flagging the Tea Party for racism, what Dionne and others may be looking to spell out is the prominence instead of *punitive* attitudes among far right-wingers. It is punitiveness that is the heart of intolerance, whatever the target.

    Consider the clear symbolic importance to the Tea Party of armed self-defense, of punishing “illegals,” and of “fighting” the government at any cost rather than working through conciliation and substantive dialogue. The most common TP mottos indicate you won’t get “problem-solving on the merits” out of people who fly this flag. “Sic semper tyrannis!” “Don’t Tread on Me!” “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

    This trend is more than just a recidivistic white-trash machismo. For one, there are lots of cranky white women in the TP slurry. Second, they’ve read their history — in the same way the Sons and Daughters of the the Confederacy have read their history. We have the complication that the American frontiersman myths are far more romantic and Libertarian than, say, in Canada, where the strong Mountie presence became the symbol of Westward expansion. Still, it’s in some way obvious that the TP “wants” to be as all-American as the Constitution. Gun-rights Libertarian symbolism is mostly an “elective affinity” — a convenient cultural discourse for the “roving searchlight” of intolerant dispositions.

    It seems an appropriate time again to recall Karen Stenner’s recent research on “authoritarian dynamics.” The research points in this direction: Intolerance is malleable. In peaceful circumstances, when the social order seems intact, its manifestation ebbs. What allows intolerant people to be led around by their noses is not real dangers, but rhetoric that alters their mere perceptions of “normative threat.” (This goes equally for wing-nuts on the left and the right.) A sense of moral calamity can be tapped at any time, in a myriad of ways. What Karl Rove, Lee Attwater, and other pollster-strategists have been exceptionally canny about doing is not just “mobilizing the base,” but choosing keywords to aid in incitement of intolerance — a mish-mash of patriotic discourse and familiar bugaboos with no logical policy core. (See Gilens’ “Why Americans Hate Welfare” or Tali Mendelberg’s “The Race Card.”) What Karen Stenner’s experiments clearly identify for the first time is that the direct effect of this incitement based on rhetoric of a “normative threat” is … an overbearing, distinctly punitive reaction from people who have a latent, intolerant personality.

    If you’re curious whether there are any parallels to the family roots of violence in America, the answer is apparently yes. There are now a good number of personality studies that demonstrate direct tie-ins between corpral punishment during childrearing and later political intolerance as adults. I’m not making any of this up. It’s not immediately apparent that this is how political manipulation and mobilization works, but it’s the finest cut at the question we have to date.

  3. Polemarchus raises an excellent point: where was the outrage among the Tea Partiers when President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress turned the budget surplus inherited from the Clinton administration into a string of deficits? Certainly Bush and the Republicans, with No Child Left Behind, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the prescription drug add on to Medicare, an airline bailout bill and spending for two wars, can be accused of worsening the budget deficit and dramatically expanding the role of government (although in Republicans defense they when NCLB was drafted). Certainly there was some pushback among Republicans to Bush’s policies, but there was no Tea Party movement. So, why now?

    I can think of a couple of responses, but let’s wait to see if any Tea Party supporters want to weigh in on this.

  4. Marty – Fascinating analysis. Note that critics of the TP movement also cite Hofstader’s work regarding the “paranoid style” in Americans politics in trying to explain its popularity. Again, I want to hear from the TP supporters before weighing in, but I’ll wager that many will take issue with the suggestion that the movement has no “logical policy core.”

  5. Polemarchus and Matt, I’ll clarify something about my position before I get a royal roasting. Effectively, I’m still going overboard, but I’m not labelling all your TP readers as numbskulls.

    There are people into the TP who see it as the wave of the future primarily because it seems to them “the lesser evil.” They are up to speed on policy issues, and believe the leadership of the TP is the only way to topple a corrupt and complacent national leadership. Obviously they aren’t the ones giving people headaches these days. Your readers, and the “leaders” of the TP, are as “elite” in their level of political engagement as anyone else in the country. Dick Armey, for instance, is a shrewd strategist, and a rough-and-tumble political combatant, and obviously his arms-length relationship with the Republican machine is as much opportunism as conviction.

    Time to give up my biases: The TP “followers” are the ones to worry about. By followers, I mean the people (admittedly my personal impression) whose main interest in the TP is (as Hofstader put it) paranoid fantasy — shouting at town halls, confirming their conspiratorial convictions about our gummint (usually dwelling on gun ownership), fretting about losing their “freedom,” equating communists and nazis, and believing a fully-industrialized democracy can eliminate taxes and federal oversight. On the merits, even the TP elite know this is all unreflective, loudmouthed, confrontational B.S. Why it’s license to make mischief and headaches for the rest of us is beyond my comprehension.

    Polymarchus, I read your post after entering my own comment. It seems to me the “timing” question is a very important point. It is definitely explicable if you are looking at it from the standpoint of results captured by experimental psychologists that I’ve just outlined.

    It was, as everyone knows, the previous President who inflated the national debt and the government deficit. The TP “followers” have no trouble hating BOTH Bush and Obama. The premise that TP followers operate under is that the traditional American social order is in freefall. Every message they hear through the media or at rallies to reinforce that read of the situation has a genuine appeal. Intolerance means they are hyper-attuned to messages of moral calamity, and gravitate toward distinctly visceral reactions to them. Their leaders know this and bait them. The actual policy causes and solutions, unfortunately, are irrelevant to the more compelling narrative of that “normative threat.” They don’t need a reason to talk sense when they rail against our gummint. The silent compulsion is to overlook opportunity for dialogue and compromise, and to wipe out, or punish, whatever the source of the threat is. Punitiveness doesn’t mean open violence, but it does tend to skip over constructive dialogue in favor of over-simplified, authoritarian “solutions.”

  6. Yeah, the professor’s right – great post, Martin. Intolerance – basically what I called vehemence earlier – is blind and strikes all dispositions. And blanket generalizations about the other team serve little purpose. (I maintain, however, that guts are on the whole louder than heads.)

    (Incidentally, that’s why I like this blog: everyone’s thorough, nothing’s a sound-bite, and commenters do the heavy lifting of being civil and civic-minded.)

    Also: punitiveness! Once known as wrath! Have psychologists studied these types of feelings in political attitudes? Is there a wrath-meter somewhere? (Edit: the Stenner thing is exactly this. Sorry.)

    On the bit about groups having read their history: few habits in the political arena raise the alarm in my head more than the phrase “history show that x.” I just read an article about in the May 3rd issue of The New Yorker which explores how different groups in American History have re-read and appropriated the American Founding for a host of different political ends. (“Tea and Sympathy,” Jill Lepore; I’m completely aware of how snooty I sound to TP sympathizers at the moment.) She too brings up Hofstadter:

    “The American historical profession defines itself by its dedication to the proposition that looking to the past to explain the present falls outside the realm of serious historical study. [...] Hofstadter disagreed. He recognized the perils of presentism—seeing the past as nothing more than a prologue to the present introduces evidentiary and analytical distortions and risks reducing humanistic inquiry to shabby self-justification—but he believed that scholars with something to say about the relationship between the past and the present had an obligation to say it, as carefully as possible, by writing with method, perspective, and authority. [...]

    Today’s reactionary history of early America, reductive, unitary, and, finally, dangerously anti-pluralist, ignores slavery and compresses a quarter century of political contest into “the founding,” [...] “Who’s your favorite Founder?” Beck asked Palin in January. “Um, you know, well,” she said. “All of them.” ”

    Sorry for the long quotation, but I couldn’t resist including since I read it about two hours before I saw this post. Further, I recently started to read Neustadt & May’s “Thinking In Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers,” which seems to be a guide precisely on how to avoid these sorts of traps. I have no real point to make here: all this is likely what Martin meant by “in the same way the Sons and Daughters of the the Confederacy have read their history.” I am a giant footnote.

    I’m curious as to where all this is headed, and what might be done about it. Is there some antidote to the sort of baiting Martin mentions? If it’s true that TPers aren’t necessarily racists, but that their economic and political frustrations are often manipulated by those with less-than-noble intentions and are thus sometimes made to seem like racists, where does that leave the citizenry? If it’s easier to act on a tendency to wrath than debate policy causes and solutions, is it possible that all this snowballs into something no one foresees nor wants? Does the fact that kids don’t take civics anymore (and Bowling Alone and all that) have anything to do with these attitudes today?

    And how many questions can I fit at the end of a post?

  7. As is usually the case, I’m learning a lot from the comments submitted here – some really great reactions to my post on the Tea Party movement. I have some thoughts, but I’m still waiting for some Tea Party supporters (I know you are out there) to respond. Thoughts?

  8. Matthew,
    As someone who sympathizes with the Tea Party view, here goes.
    The question “Are The Tea Partiers Racists?” is irrelevant and a diversion. Do you remember a conversation when you were a teenager and your parents commented on everything but your argument? They criticized your posture, your grammar and everything else but never listened to what you were saying?
    The first problem with the progressive charge of racism is the proof of an absolute unwillingness to listen to any disagreement.
    I remember a time when the epithet “N-word lover “was capable of winning arguments. People hesitated when faced with that charge. It was often used by Democratic politicians as an argument stopper. Now, fortunately we laugh at that epithet. Today, Democratic politicians use the epithet “Racist” instead. Neither epithet is a valid argument. They are merely used in an effort to silence the opposition.
    By the way, I do admit to “hating” people based on color. Every week in the football season, I support the players (of all skin colors) who are wearing the jersey of my team (The Baltimore Ravens) and “hate” the players (of all skin colors) who are wearing the jersey of the opposing team.
    I wish the repeated use of the “racist” epithet mattered as little as which team I root for. Unfortunately, it can have serious consequences for our society.
    At the least, the “racist” epithet will lose its power. That would be unfortunate because actual racism is harmful to people and society.
    At worst, we could easily end up with a Balkanized country looking wistfully back at the ideal of “E pluribus unum.”
    Thomas Sowell a (black) economist and historian with the Hoover Institute at Stanford has studied and written on the clashes of cultures and ethnic groups. I would strongly recommend viewing his recent columns on Race and Politics (April 6-9, 2010). http://townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell
    He has studied and published extensively on how the “race card” can destroy a society. His columns are sobering.

  9. Matthew,
    Now I would like to turn to the substance of the disagreement between the Tea Partiers and President Obama and the Democratic Congress. First, let me note that President Bush’s “approval rating” in the low 20’s showed many of his former supporters were unhappy with him when he left office. Also, I remember a good deal of anger on talk radio about the planned “amnesty” for illegal aliens.
    Let me turn to the anger of the older Tea Partiers. The three major concerns for this group are health card, inflation and security or safety.
    We have paid Social Security and Medicare taxes our entire working lives. When the Health Care proposal was passed, it seems to us that we are being cheated. The “half-a-trillion” dollars in Medicare “savings” to be used to fund the new system is either a fraud or will come at the expense of our medical treatment. For a stronger discussion of this matter see my blog entry.
    http://dalesideas.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/your-money-and-your-life/
    The effectiveness of Sarah Palin’s “death squad” charge is based on the fact that denial of treatment is the main method of cost control in the system. Some tort reform with a system of co-pays designed to reduce wasteful visits would have been a better approach. Those of us who read the British newspaper websites are all too familiar with the practices of the British NICE and how it does cost control.
    Increases in the cost of living have a serious impact on people with fixed or relatively limited incomes. Any defined benefit plans will lose value quickly in a time of inflation. Apparently, the horrible idea of the government taking over private IRA’s and converting them to government annuities is still not dead. If you think people are hot about health care, wait until the annuities monstrosity comes up.
    The entire cap and trade system is a form of tax increases that will raise the cost of everything. I know there is talk of offsetting this with refunds but I’ll believe that when I see it.
    In terms of security, the shooting of farmers in Arizona and the attempted, if botched, car bombing in Manhattan remind us of the problems with our government when it comes to securing the borders and protecting us. When I was a student, the prevailing theory was that Churchill was wise and Chamberlain had been foolish. We learned that when Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that he wanted to kill a lot of people, he meant it. It looks from here as if President Obama is more a Chamberlain than a Churchill and, frankly, it worries us.
    I have tried to write this column in a way which shows my disagreement with the President without ad hominem attacks or venom. Hopefully the conversation can continue in that way.

  10. As another Tea Party supporter, I’m inclined to agree with Dale’s analysis to a degree. I think two things are certain when we look at the Tea Party: 1) Just like all movements and political groups (the Democratic and Republican Parties included) extremists exist. Are some of the extremists in the Tea Party movement most likely conservative and racist? I don’t think an assertion of that nature would be too far off base. I see no plethora of “tree-huggers” at Tea Party rallies around the country. However, I think it is equally clear that 2) Dale’s point is well-founded. Many liberals simply disregard the Tea Party movement and attempt to discredit it by simply labeling its members as racist. This label is simple to use and very effective; as Prof. Dickinson noted in the post above, if you ask all the racists at a cocktail party to raise their hands, you’ll get no response. Labeling a group as “racist” not only discredits it but immediately diminishes the possibility that more people will continue to join said group.

    This brings me to my next point: I believe many liberals are quick to discredit the Tea Party with the racist claim because they are scared. They see a movement, a mostly conservative movement (which is a crucial characteristic) that has the potential to become a force in the American political landscape. Say what you will about the timing of the movement and the composition of Tea Party movement, its message is simple and true. Many Americans are fed up with how both Democrats AND Republicans are conducting the fiscal endeavors of this country. I dare someone to find polling data that says that a significant percentage of the American people are happy with the budget deficit and how those in Washington have conducted the fiscal side of things in Washington. If I were a liberal and a supporter of the Democratic Party, I would be scared too. The market for supporters of the Tea Party is enormous. What could prevent individuals in this market from joining a movement championing one of their major concerns? I’m sure being perceived as a racist isn’t something that will have them running to the next Tea Party rally.

  11. Dale and Josh (and Matt and Polemarchus),

    Would you mind if I posed a question or two, in the spirit of dialogue? As you can already infer, I’m a habitual observer of Washington and a progressive — but I’m not a partisan flack. Let me also preface the questions by saying that I am certainly as turned off as you are by the childish, demeaning, obfuscatory rhetoric that we hear in politics. I know my patience wears just as thin as yours as I peer through all the televised posturing to keep tabs on how government operates.

    1) How strong is your faith that the personalities at the head of the Tea Party movement, once elected to Congress, will make more effective lawmakers than the Republican Party establishment? After all, the only evidence we have so far is that these rallies are allowing everybody to vent their legitimate frustration. They’re not particularly testament to the “personal integrity” or leadership potential of people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann or Dick Armey.

    2) Can you pick out a couple of tough decisions made since President Obama and his cabinet came to office? — Decisions when you thought to yourself, “This is just a complicated problem for anyone in a cabinet, and I give him or her credit for handling this about as well as anyone could.”

    It’s my sense that it is on matters like these — How close is our government to concrete solutions? — that progressives part ways with the Tea Party leadership. We’d like better government too, but the rhetoric of the TP (replete with non sequiturs like gun rights activism at health care rallies) has been as fast and loose as it was during the most boorish partisan squabbles of the Bush Administration.

  12. Lots of great comments here, presenting a nice array of perspectives. Rather than try to respond to each directly, I’m going to post a separate analysis of why I think the TP movement arose when it did. I hope this generates additional discussion of this issue. Keep those comments coming!

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