A recent article in the New York Times reveals survey information about the Tea Party that I found interesting.

Common wisdom is that the Tea Party spontaneously sprung whole from the minds of those across the country that were unhappy with what they saw as irresponsible spending by the Obama administration.  These were characterized as everyday apolitical folks who were finally so fed up with the federal government that they took to the streets.  The board of trade rant is a prime example.

The truth revealed in the survey is that Tea Party supporters are conservative Christian Republicans.  They are not political neophytes, but much more likely to have contacted their elected officials than the normal voter.  In fact, according to the survey, strong affiliation with the Republican Party was the single most accurate predictor of Tea Party membership.

These folks also did not suffer from the Great Recession in ways that were significantly different than anyone else.  So it wasn’t undo economic distress that drove them to activism.  Also concern over the size of government was not the primary motivation of most Tea Party members.

So what does distinguish Tea Party members from the run of the mill Republican or Democrat?

Tea Party members are overwhelmingly white, even whiter than Republicans.  They have an even lower regard for immigrants and blacks than regular white Republicans.  So having an African American in the White House is a problem for them.  Finally, next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter is a desire to see religion play a prominent role in politics.  So having an African American in the White House with a Muslim-sounding name was more than many of them could take.

In contrast, according to the survey, the appeal to Tea Party supporters of Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry has much more to do with their overt use of religious language and imagery than it does their position on the budget or taxes.

What is interesting is that as the rest of the country becomes more aware of what the real Tea Party agenda is, they are rejecting it.  What is fascinating about this shift of opinion is that it comes at a time when the American electorate IS moving strongly in the direction of the Tea Party on economic issues.  What the American electorate opposes is the injection of religion into politics.  As a result, the Tea Party has lost most of the support that it had at its inception and now ranks right alongside the Christian Right in popularity at about 20% of the population.  That level of support is now lowest among all political groups.  A curious irony is that even Muslims and atheists, two groups most hated by the Tea Party, are now held in higher regard by the rest of the country than the Tea Party.

The bottom line is that on everything except the size of government, Tea Party supporters are out of step with most Americans including mainline Republicans.  The Tea Party movement is now looking more and more like the anti-war movement of the 70’s.  That group brought a lot of energy to the Democratic Party and got George McGovern nominated.  They also alienated moderate voters, weakened the Democratic coalition that had successfully dominated American politics for forty years, and laid the groundwork for the Reagan revolution.  If the Republicans continue to embrace the Tea Party, they run the risk of repeating this history.

6 Responses to “Godverment”

  1. keith says:

    ………………and they’re, the tea party, racist… laughable Jeff,
    Blacks voted 90-95% obama, write about that.
    And I’m not racist.

    I’d be very interested in a poll of the 50% or so who
    pay NO fed income taxes and which way they vote…..

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” This quote is attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler. In 1814, John Adams said “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

    Also, whats the effect on the CLinton tax cuts on the deficits and whats the effect of the obama tax cuts on the deficits?

  2. keith says:

    …………….if only our country had elected Bush, twice, then it would be perfect.

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:


    Seems like your day to not only blame the poor for their circumstance, but also accuse them of being irresponsible and unprincipled voters bent on bringing down our democracy. First of all, EVERYONE who has a job pays taxes. Even those who don’t have a job pay consumer taxes like sales tax, gas tax, tolls, etc. Every wage earner pays FICA, state, and local taxes. For the 50% you are referring to, all those other taxes added up to an estimated 16% of their income in 2010. One of the wealthiest people in the country, Warren Buffet, by comparison paid only 17% of his income in taxes. The 50% you are complaining about pay no net FEDERAL INCOME TAX because they have no assets and barely make a living wage. This number is up from 30% of income tax filers before the recession. This is just more evidence that the recession depressed the wages of the working poor while increasing the wages of the wealthy, yet somehow this is the fault of the poor? The folks who had some control over the financial collapse were those who made the most money off of it, not those who were injured by it.

    Though I can’t speak for them, I think it fairly obvious that working poor would all LOVE to pay more Federal Income Tax because that would mean their incomes have risen to the point where they can feed their families AND afford to pay more taxes.

    Beyond that, it’s just good public policy. The Earned Income Tax Credit provides incentive for people to get off welfare and get a job. Unlike welfare, it encourages families to stay together. It also supports retraining of workers need new skills to transition to new high growth industries.

    Here’s a link to an article by a conservative economist praising the virtues of the Earned Income Tax Credit.


    BTW according to 2009 Federal Income Tax records, almost 1,500 people with net incomes of $1M or greater also paid no income tax. Why aren’t the Republicans talking about those folks?

    What Clinton and Obama tax cuts are you referring to?

  4. keith says:

    Clinton lower cap gains to 20% and Obama lower taxes for all to the same degree as Goerge Bush. I believe you call these the Bush tax cut when they are clearly Obamas

    Buffet pays mostly cap gain taxes….should this be treated as ordinary income? This is the difference between he and his sec. Shouldn’t you also be adding in all those other taxes to Buffets total?

    On the front page of yesterdays Washington Post was an artcule that discussed itemized deductions…This is the first year that the gov’t returned more to the tax payers in deductions then it collected. Going after the deductions and corparate deductions as the pres wants, gets you 8% of those back. Most of the revenue thats reduced due to the deductions goes to middle class and upper middle class workers. So if you want to clean up the tax code thats where the revenue will be genarated.

  5. keith says:

    I was reffering to FED Taxes….

  6. Jeff Beamsley says:


    Let’s just cut to the chase here regarding Capital Gains Tax Cuts. They are a net looser as far as the government is concerned. Here’s an article with the details.


    As far as how the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 which were extended to the 2012 under Obama have affected the deficit, I’ve already posted a graph in previous post.


    Clearly these tax cuts add more to the deficit than any other single item.

    I’ll read the Wash Post article.

Leave a Reply