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Tea Partiers and 2012

By Jessica Chasmar (7/12/11)

“On behalf of my children and grandchildren, I will vote for whoever is running against the president.”

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as many other Tea Party supporters, hold this view that future generations are in danger of facing a socialist America. They see an exorbitant rise in the federal debt, expanding entitlement programs, under-regulated illegal immigration and government encroachment on individual liberty as a less-than-ideal environment for their families to endure.

We can speculate that Tea Partiers will vote for virtually any Republican presidential candidate, assuming that the motive of the movement is to deny President Barack Obama a second term. Tea Party supporters who are informed on the election process and two-party politics can understand that to vote for a third-party candidate or even a libertarian running as a Republican, like Ron Paul, would be a waste of a vote in the primaries. A libertarian winning the Republican nomination is very unlikely, but if it happened, it would be a guaranteed second-term for Obama. My interaction with Tea Partiers has led me to believe that the majority will not vote for a Ron Paul candidate because of this reality. This is why there was so much worry from the right over Donald Trump’s speculation about running as an Independent. Splitting the vote would be incredibly damaging for both the Tea Party and the GOP.

Tea Party Express Chair Amy Kremer told Uma Pemmaraju on Fox News’ America’s News HQ this June, “We want to defeat Barack Obama. We will not support a third-party candidate.”

A Rasmussen poll conducted this June on a national random sample of 1,000 likely voters found that in a three-way congressional contest with a Tea Party candidate on the ballot, the Democrat picks up 40 percent of the vote. The Republican earns 21 percent, the Tea Party candidate earns 18 percent and 21 percent remain undecided.

But Tea Partier Michael Bobbitt, of Gainesville, Fla., said a Tea Party member won’t run as a Tea Party candidate.

“If they run a candidate as a third-party,” he said, “it could have a crushing effect on the likelihood of electing a more conservative president.” The Tea Party will rather have a positive impact on the conservative vote in the 2012 election.

The existence of the Tea Party requires Republican candidates to be more conservative in order to get their votes, especially when in November, more conservative individuals mobilized for the primaries, cutting out the moderate candidates like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski. If this dynamic remains the case for the 2012 election, it is likely that a very conservative candidate will be on the Republican ticket. A 2010 Gallup poll conducted on more than 8,000 U.S. adults found that conservatives outnumber moderates and liberals in the American electorate. Whether a very conservative, particularly polarizing candidate can beat Obama, however, remains to be seen.

“In our local elections,” Merckel said, “I see most [GOP] candidates for office seek the support of the First Coast Tea Party. The GOP will work to entice the Tea Party into their fold. Likewise, the Tea Party will work to change the direction of the GOP to a more conservative path.”

So who is the frontrunner for the Tea Party vote?

“Looking at the current set of candidates, I would nominate Mitt Romney for president,” said Merckel. “He has the executive experience and has demonstrated his capability on difficult financial situations. However, he has the Health Plan issue and has flipped on a number of social issues.”

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has faced tough scrutiny from the right regarding his healthcare plan dubbed “Romneycare,” that was more or less used as a blueprint for the widely opposed “Obamacare.” He is also accused of flip-flopping on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Bobbitt doesn’t believe a winning candidate has yet emerged from the right.

“Mitt Romney is the presumptive front-runner, but the more the public is exposed to his record, the more they will see little differentiation between his positions and those of Obama,” he said. “I would vote for [GOP presidential candidate] Herman Cain. I don’t see any other candidates that seem committed to reducing the size and scope of government in any serious way. With Mr. Cain, at least the Fair Tax has a chance for more exposure.”

FoxNews contributor and comedian Steven Crowder said that if he had to vote for president today, he would vote for virtually any GOP candidate on the ticket.

“I’m not thrilled to say it, but Romney is likely,” he said. “Politically speaking, he has an earlier head-start. Romney just seems like too much of a politician to me. I can vote for him with a clear conscience, but not a happy one.”

We understand Tea Partiers want less government intrusion and to cut spending, but what should the federal government cut? What should it keep?

Bobbitt said the government should keep the programs that help the legitimately least fortunate among American citizens — “those who cannot fend for themselves, not those who simply choose not to.”

He also believes the government should keep programs that are “reinvestment vehicles for economic growth, such as Pell grants to colleges, Small Business Administration loans and FHA and VA loans for qualified homebuyers.”

Crowder believes the primary responsibility of the federal government should be defense and very little else.

“People act as though it’s a hard question, but when you understand the legitimate, original goal of government, it’s really not,” he said. “My analogy is that of a hockey referee. The role of the government is to keep the players (in this case its citizens) safe and make sure that people are playing by the rules.”

Tea and the Media who cried ‘race’

By Jessica Chasmar (6/16/11)

The public, as well as the news media, has become intrigued by the Tea Party Movement and its implications for party politics. According to an article by Amy Gardner of The Washington Post, media coverage of the Tea Party has greatly evolved since it began in 2009. At first, people in the media were dismissive of the Tea Party. There was the instance of CNN’s Susan Roesgen at one of the very first Tea Party rallies, who suggested that attendees were ”anti-government, “in debt” and inappropriate for “family viewing.”

The “Nationwide Chicago Tea Party” protest was coordinated across more than 40 different cities on Feb. 27, 2009, establishing the first national Tea Party protest. However, according to the following figure, provided by Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin of Harvard University, the event was hardly covered in broadcast news.

Cable news was slow to recognize the growth of the movement until the April 15th “Tax Day” protests. Hundreds of protests were held nationwide, with protestors at each event often numbering in the low thousands. Poll analyst for The New York Times Nate Silver estimated the total number of Tea Party participants at more than 300,000 people nationwide that day.

According to Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin, CNN’s coverage is largely reactive, but “Fox coverage anticipates Tea Party events in the early months of the Tea Party’s activity, and maintains coverage between peak events.” They posit that CNN’s level of coverage is partly caused by the anticipatory coverage on Fox News.

The Washington Post conducted a canvass among hundreds of local Tea Party groups last October and showed that 76 percent of local organizers said that media coverage of their groups has been either very fair or somewhat fair. Only 8 percent said coverage has been very unfair; 15 percent said somewhat unfair.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, even said in an interview with Amy Garner of The Washington Post that news coverage has improved dramatically: “The more time reporters have had to actually talk to activists and cover the events, the more the coverage has gotten far more fair and realistic about what’s actually going on.”

Some others might disagree with that statement.

Laurie Newsom, president of the Gainesville Tea Party, in Florida, said, “Since the beginning of this movement I have not yet read or heard a mainstream news article or analysis that accurately portrays the Tea Party or its members.”

FSU law student and Tea Party supporter Jaime Sherman said, “[The media] have not portrayed the Tea Party correctly because most news stations have an agenda. The more liberal stations try to paint the group as crazy, backwoods racists. The more conservative stations try to portray it as a movement by Republicans to restore ‘traditional Republican values.’ It’s neither. It’s a movement focused on getting the government out of human life – both economically and socially.”

On May 20 of last year, accusations by members of Congress that Tea Party protesters had hurled racial and sexual epithets at them outside the Capitol prompted a wave of media coverage over whether the Tea Party was based on anti-Obama racism. A string of stories focused on the racially charged statements of certain protesters.

Such coverage drew criticism from Sarah Palin and other conservative leaders. Andrew Breitbart has since offered $100,000 to the first person who can produce a video or audio recording of the incident. One year later and no recordings have come forward. A detailed timeline of the “incident” can be found at HotAir.

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., said he has attended many Tea Party events, ranging from 10 attendees to the hundreds of thousands.

“I have never seen any evidence of racism,” he said. “All participants acted in a civil manner toward one another.”

He does acknowledge, however, that not many blacks attend the rallies. “The Tea Party events are mostly attended by white persons,” he said. “The number of blacks participating is growing slowly. However, it appears to me that most of the black community is supportive of the present administration.”

There have been isolated public incidents of racism within the movement, but Tea Party activists normally root those offenders out. The Washington Independent reported that Texas activist Dale Robertson, who held a sign comparing taxpayers to a racial epithet and Congress to slave owners at a 2009 rally, was reportedly encouraged to leave and “pilloried by his peers.” David Weigel of The Washington Post reported that Mark Williams, formerly the spokesman for the Tea Party Express, was booted out of a Tea Party event after penning a parody that had the NAACP hoping for slavery.

Newsweek reported that a 2010 survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality “offers fresh insight into the racial attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers.” The report stated that Tea Partiers have a 25 percent higher probability of being “racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters.” The data suggested that the Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government, but also race.

The Newsweek article goes on: When read the statement that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites,” 73 percent of the movement’s supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up “without special favors,” as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents.  

The problem I have with this data is it fails to explain why Tea Partiers would agree with these statements. Tea Party supporters are hopeful that “The American Dream” still exists. The entire premise of the American Dream is that ANYONE — black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight — can achieve success if they just try hard enough. Just look at the many underprivileged people who came from literally nothing. People of minority races who have risen above societal pitfalls and made incredible successes of themselves: Amancio Ortega, Colin Powell, Antonio Villaraigosa, Oprah Winfrey, Marco Rubio, Michael Steele…

Most of these people grew up in a time where racism was still widespread and blatant, yet they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and took control of their lives and their futures. That’s beautiful. That’s what the Tea Party stands for, because that’s what The America Dream stands for.

To say Tea Partiers are more likely to be “resentful” toward other races doesn’t tell the full story. Tea Partiers believe all races in America can achieve the same successes whites can without federal assistance. True libertarians and conservatives believe the government needs to stay out of our business and leave the achievements to us. True liberty is allowing for equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. In fact, true libertarians and conservatives believe policies, like affirmative action and welfare, actually hurt minorities rather than help them.

Shelby Steele — a black-American author, columnist and documentary filmmaker, who has become a very prominent voice on this issue — asserts that affirmative action has reinforced a self-sabotaging sense of victimization among blacks by encouraging them to blame their failures on white racism instead of their own shortcomings.

“Blacks now stand to lose more from affirmative action than they gain,” he once told TIME Magazine. This is the view most Tea Partiers hold toward affirmative action, as well as other entitlement programs like welfare, and it’s the same reason they’re also seen as “racist.”

In a comment on the Newsweek article, Jaime Sherman said, “There are racist people within the movement just like there are racist Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and the like. The core principles have nothing to do with race, nor is race even a sweeping issue among self-proclaimed members. It has, and always will be, a red herring claim used to discredit those who want true freedom.”

The truth is simple: If Obama was a conservative or libertarian, who supported conservative and libertarian ideals, the Tea Party and the GOP would have supported him.

Who are These People?

By Jessica Chasmar (6/15/11)

The Tea Party Movement is a “grassroots reaction to an intrusive government taking the country towards socialism,” said Laurie Newsom, the president of the Gainesville Tea Party in Gainesville, Fla. ”All Tea Party groups adhere to the same three basic values: limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets.”

Newsom got active in the movement in response to the “failure of the Republican party to protect those three values and the rapidity by which [the United States] is disintegrating.”

In a National Review/McLaughlin Associates poll conducted last February, six percent of 1,000 likely voters said that they “had participated in a Tea Party or similar protest.” Fifty-three percent said they “had not participated in a Tea Party protest, but [they] generally agree with the reasons for those protests.”

But what kinds of people make up the Tea Party? The movement cannot accurately be described as “monochromatic” and “all white,” as Chris Matthews once described it, referring to a Tea Party rally held in D.C. Sept. 12, 2009. In fact, several black Tea Partiers have spoken out against accusations that the Tea Party is all white.

Bob Parks, a Project 21 member from Virginia, said in a press release, “Here’s a news flash for Chris Matthews. I was there. So was my son. Last time I checked, both of us are black — and we weren’t the only black people there. I know other black people who attended the September 12 rally in Washington, including some of the ones who spoke at the podium. I guess the MSNBC camera people missed them.” Project 21 is an initiative of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.

A Gallup poll conducted last April found the movement to be “representative of the public at large.” Tea Partiers diverge from the general public in that they are mostly Republican and conservative in their leanings. They also have higher incomes than average voters and are slightly more likely to be male, according to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted last April. However, according to Gallup, when it comes to age, educational background, employment status and race, Tea Party supporters are mostly similar to the public in general.

According to Kate Zernicke and Megan Thee-Brenan of The New York Times, Tea Partier’s responses are like the general public’s in many ways. Most describe the amount they paid in taxes last year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools, and most do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

Nearly 9 in 10 Tea Partiers disapprove of the job President Obama is doing overall, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues, such as health care, the economy and the deficit. According to the Times, when voters were asked if Barack Obama’s policies “are moving the country more toward socialism,” 92 percent of Tea Partiers said yes an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.

Yet while Tea Partiers are more conservative than Republicans on some social issues, about 8 in 10 say that they are more concerned with economic issues than social issues, as is the general public.

Jerry Merckel, a member of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, Fla., is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Associate Dean of the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction at the University of North Florida. He got involved in the movement because he was concerned about the future for his three children and his eight grandchildren.

“The economy is declining, tax revenues are decreasing, unemployment is now heading toward 10 percent, the deficit is increasing and the U.S. government is printing more money,” he said. “Continuing on this path leads to U.S. bankruptcy. All that you have worked for will be lost. The future for our children is in doubt.”

According to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted last year, while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.” When asked what they are angry about, they offered three main concerns: health care, government spending and a feeling that their voices are not being heard in Washington.

FSU law student and avid Tea Party supporter Jaime Sherman is a self-described voluntaryist. He defines voluntaryism (or anarchism) as seeking to maximize individual liberty through voluntary living. This means removing coercion from human interaction as much as possible.

“The Tea Party, as it was first started, was a frustrated group of Americans who were tired of government growth as pushed by both major parties,” Sherman said. “Neither Democrats nor Republicans were living up to their promises, and the size of government and national debt kept growing. In response, the Tea Party was formed out of anger toward our nation’s leaders and their disrespect of individual liberty and autonomy.”

In recent years, the Republican Party has seen its approval levels sink to new lows. In 2001, 32 percent of registered voters told Gallup they considered themselves Republican. By 2009, that number had dropped by 5 percentage points. The number of voters who identified themselves as Independent showed a corresponding rise.

What is interesting, however, is that over that same time frame, the number of voters self-identified as conservative stayed relatively constant. It’s still too simple to imply a one-for-one swap, but the trend seems clear: The Tea Party Movement arose in an environment in which a growing number of fiscally conservative Americans believed the GOP was not voicing their concerns.