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The Tea Party: Populism of the Privileged by E.J. Dionne

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by E.J. Dionne

EJ DionneWashington Post~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 major parties stand to lose if they accept the laughable notion that this media-created protest movement is the voice of true populism. Democrats will spend their time chasing votes they will never win. Republicans will turn their party into an angry and narrow redoubt with no hope of building a durable majority.

The news media’s incessant focus on the Tea Party is creating a badly distorted picture of what most Americans think and is warping our policy debates. The New York Times and CBS News thus performed a public service last week with a careful study of just who is in the Tea Party movement.

Their findings suggest that the Tea Party is essentially the reappearance of an old anti-government far right that has always been with us and accounts for about one-fifth of the country. The Times reported that Tea Party supporters “tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.” They are also more affluent and better educated than Americans as a whole. This is the populism of the privileged.

And the poll suggested something that white Americans are reluctant to discuss: Part of the anger at President Obama among Tea Partiers does appear to be driven by racial concerns.

Saying this invites immediate denunciations from defenders of those who bring guns to rallies, threaten violence to “take our country back,” and mouth old slogans about states’ rights and the Confederacy. So let’s be clear: Opposition to the president is driven by many factors that have nothing to do with race. But race is definitely part of what’s going on.

The poll asked: “In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?” Twenty-eight percent of all Americans — and just 19 percent of those who are not Tea Party loyalists — answered “too much.” But among Tea Party supporters, the figure is 52 percent, almost three times the proportion of the rest of the country. A quarter of Tea Partiers say that the Obama administration’s policies favor blacks over whites, compared with only 11 percent in the country as a whole.

So race is part of this picture, as is a tendency of Tea Party enthusiasts to side with the better-off against the poor. This puts them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor,” 73 percent of Tea Party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that “the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit.” Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters took this view.

Asked about raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so vs. only 17 percent of Tea Party backers.

This must be the first “populist” movement driven by a television network: Sixty-three percent of the Tea Party folks say they most watch Fox News “for information about politics and current events,” compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

The right-wing fifth of America deserves news coverage like everyone else, and Fox is perfectly free to pander to its viewers. What makes no sense is allowing a sliver of opinion to dominate the media and distort our political discourse.

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A correspondent for New Left Media ventured out among the tea partiers during their tax day protests in Washington D.C. last week to interview them about what it is that’s fueling their fierce opposition to to the government in general and President Obama in particular.

Suffice to say, the answers involve lots of wild-eyed claims about tyranny and socialism. Highlights include a woman gravely warning “Obama is considering banning fishing in America,” as well as another dressed in a ball and chain outfit to illustrate how our liberties are being constrained.

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University of Washington Survey Finds That Racial Attitudes Influence the Tea Party Movement

Posted by: BuellBoy



The tea party movement has gotten much attention in recent months, but aside from decrying big government and excessive spending, who are the supporters and what else do they appear to believe?

Many believed that the election of Barack Obama brought to a close the long, painful, and ugly history of race and racism in the United States. But as the incident with Henry Louis Gates last summer, and the more recent shenanigans with Tea Party activists suggest, racial divisions remain. Which is closer to the truth?

A recent survey directed by University of Washington political scientist, Christopher Parker, finds that America is definitely not beyond race. For instance, the Tea Party, the incipient movement that claims to be committed to reigning in what they perceive as big government, appears to be motivated by more than partisanship and ideology.

Approximately 45 % whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 50% of white tea party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 39% think them intelligent, and at 37%, fewer tea party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy.

The survey shows among whites, southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the tea party than whites in other parts of the U.S., and that conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the group.

The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.

It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.

Indeed, strong support for the tea party movement results in a 45 percent decline in support for health care reform compared with those who oppose the tea party. “While it’s clear that the tea party in one sense is about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,”Parker said.

Parker directed the 2010 Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics, a broad look at race relations and politics in contemporary America. The survey reached 1,015 residents of Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and California. All were battleground states in the 2008 presidential election with the exception of California, which was included in the survey to represent the West Coast.

The survey found that 30 percent of respondents had never heard of the tea party, but among those who had, 32 percent strongly approved of it. In that group, 56 percent of Republicans strongly approved, 31 percent of independents strongly approved and 5 percent of Democrats strongly approved.

Preliminary analysis also reveals race affects the ways in which blacks and whites perceive the president, his policies, and how he’s handling his job. To illustrate, 75% of blacks have confidence in the president; 58% of whites share this appraisal. Likewise, where 90% of blacks think the president is doing a good job on the economy, 55% of whites agree with this appraisal. And the most recent hot-button issue, health care reform, received support from 86% of blacks versus only 36% among whites.

Are we in a post-racial society? Our survey indicates a resounding no,”Parker said.

Conducted by telephone from Feb. 8 to March 15, the survey reached 494 whites, 380 blacks, 77 Latinos and 64 members of other races. The sampling error margin is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality and the UW Department of Political Science paid for the survey. It was conducted by the UW’s Center for Survey Research.

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Jon Stewart Returns And Rips Conservatives For Violent Health Care Fallout (VIDEO)

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Obama Today Show Interview: Tea Party Built Around ‘Core Group’ Who Question His Citizenship, Believe He’s Socialist

Posted by: Audiegrl

AP~President Barack Obama says he believes the Tea Party is built around a “core group” of people who question whether he is a U.S. citizen and believe he is a socialist.

But beyond that, Obama tells NBC he recognizes the movement involves “folks who have legitimate concerns” about the national debt and whether the government is taking on too many difficult issues simultaneously.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show, Obama said he feels “there’s still going to be a group at their core that question my legitimacy.” But he said he didn’t want to paint Tea Party activists “in broad brushes” and he hopes to win over members who have “mainstream, legitimate concerns.”

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The Rage Is Not About Health Care by Frank Rich

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by Frank Rich

Columnist Frank Rich

THERE were times when last Sunday’s great G.O.P. health care implosion threatened to bring the thrill back to reality television. On ABC’s “This Week,” a frothing and filibustering Karl Rove all but lost it in a debate with the Obama strategist David Plouffe. A few hours later, the perennially copper-faced Republican leader John Boehner revved up his “Hell no, you can’t!” incantation in the House chamber — instant fodder for a new viral video remixing his rap with will.i.am’s “Yes, we can!” classic from the campaign. Boehner, having previously likened the health care bill to Armageddon, was now so apoplectic you had to wonder if he had just discovered one of its more obscure revenue-generating provisions, a tax on indoor tanning salons.

But the laughs evaporated soon enough. There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

No less curious is how disproportionate this red-hot anger is to its proximate cause. The historic Obama-Pelosi health care victory is a big deal, all right, so much so it doesn’t need Joe Biden’s adjective to hype it. But the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers. As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.

Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.

Snip…

Barry Blitt

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

If Congressional Republicans want to maintain a politburo-like homogeneity in opposition to the Democrats, that’s their right. If they want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995 by boycotting hearings and, as John McCain has vowed, refusing to cooperate on any legislation, that’s their right too (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t emulate the 1995 G.O.P. by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story. And they can’t pretend that we’re talking about “isolated incidents” or a “fringe” utterly divorced from the G.O.P. A Quinnipiac poll last week found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while only 16 percent are aligned with Democrats.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.

Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too.

More @ New York Times

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Whose Country Is It? by Charles M. Blow

Posted by: Betsm

Op-ed by Charles M. Blow

Columnist Charles M. Blow (Photo: Earl Wilson/The New York Times)

Columnist Charles M. Blow (Photo: Earl Wilson/The New York Times)

The far-right extremists have gone into conniptions.

The bullying, threats, and acts of violence following the passage of health care reform have been shocking, but they’re only the most recent manifestations of an increasing sense of desperation.

It’s an extension of a now-familiar theme: some version of “take our country back.” The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn’t existed for some time, and its ability to deny that fact grows more dim every day. President Obama and what he represents has jolted extremists into the present and forced them to confront the future. And it scares them.

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

Hence their anger and frustration, which is playing out in ways large and small. There is the current spattering of threats and violence, but there also is the run on guns and the explosive growth of nefarious antigovernment and anti-immigrant groups. In fact, according to a report entitledRage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism” recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “nativist extremist” groups that confront and harass suspected immigrants have increased nearly 80 percent since President Obama took office, and antigovernment “patriot” groups more than tripled over that period.

Politically, this frustration is epitomized by the Tea Party movement. It may have some legitimate concerns (taxation, the role of government, etc.), but its message is lost in the madness. And now the anemic Republican establishment, covetous of the Tea Party’s passion, is moving to absorb it, not admonish it. Instead of jettisoning the radical language, rabid bigotry and rising violence, the Republicans justify it. (They don’t want to refute it as much as funnel it.)

There may be a short-term benefit in this strategy, but it’s a long-term loser.

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The Extreme, Violent Rhetoric Of GOP Lawmakers Fanning the Flames of Hate

ThinkProgress/Lee Fang~Yesterday, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) falsely charged that his office was “directly threatened” in a gun attack. Cantor used the incident to provide partisan cover to his unruly GOP colleagues, who have been pandering to tea party activists with increasingly unhinged and extreme rhetoric.

Last weekend, as the House vote on health reform legislation neared, Republican lawmakers whipped tea party crowds into an angry mob. For instance, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) spoke to the crowd with a megaphone, conjuring up debunked conspiracy theories about government spying into medical records and decrying what he called “tyranny.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) held up a picture of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the crowd, mocking it and “slapping” it. Throughout the day, the tea party protesters accosted Democratic members of Congress with racial and homophobic slurs, and one protester even spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

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Obama/Biden Bumper Sticker Fuels Violent Political Road Rage in Tennessee

Harry WeisigerThinkProgress/Faiz Shakir~After picking up his 10-year old daughter from school yesterday afternoon, Nashville resident Mark Duren was driving home when he was suddenly and intentionally rammed from behind by Harry Weisiger. Enraged at the sight of Duren’s Obama bumper sticker, Weisiger gave Duren “the bird” and then hit him from behind, leading to a violent series of events.

Nashville’s WKRN reports:

“He pointed at the back of my car,” Duren said, “the bumper, flipped me off, one finger salute.”

But it didn’t end there.

Duren told News 2 that Weisiger honked his horn at him for awhile, as Duren stopped at a stop sign.

Once he started driving again, down Blair Boulevard, towards his home, he said, “I looked in the rear view mirror again, and this same SUV was speeding, flying up behind me, bumped me.”

Duren said he applied his brake and the SUV smashed into the back of his car.

He then put his car in park to take care of the accident, but Weisiger started pushing the car using his SUV.

Duren said, “He pushed my car up towards the sidewalk, almost onto the sidewalk.”

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According to WKRN, the man accused in an incident of road rage over an Obama bumper sticker Thursday afternoon says he was only trying to get around another car that had stopped in front of him.

Harry Weisiger, age 70 told News 2, “He slammed on his brakes, and I hit him in the bumper when I tried to go around him.”

Weisiger did not mention the Obama bumper sticker when News 2 spoke with him on the phone Friday, but did admit fault for leaving the scene of the accident. According to the police report, officers found Weisiger in the parking lot of Harris Teeter, where he said he had stopped to buy dinner.

David Todd, who witnessed the accident, said the SUV hit the car more than once.

He bumped him once,” Todd said, “and I stood up, and when I stood up, that’s when he just plowed into him and pushed him out of the way and kept on going.”

Weisiger is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, refusing to take a breath test, and leaving the scene of an accident.

More and video from Nashville’s WKRN

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