Who is the Tea Party?

New Poll at the NYTimes finds that the Tea Party is white, wealthier than most, and reasonably educated, but also only 18 percent of the population as a whole, so we’re talking fringe here.

I’ll let you read the story (click!) yourself. I just have a comment on one paragraph from it:

“Their fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.”

My comment: I always thought that the idea was that the rich don’t need help because, well, they’re rich. The middle class are at least surviving OK, and it does anger me that so many things for them — Pell grants, tuition — are going the wrong way.

But it’s the poor who need help because, well, they’re poor. I believe there is Biblical support of this thesis. Something about “easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven,” or something like that?

But that’s my reading of the  Bible. Others may differ.

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24 Responses to Who is the Tea Party?

  1. L. Walters says:

    The Bible also tells us that a person who doesn’t work, shouldn’t eat. In today’s society (U.S.) there’s too many people procreating on the govt’s dime w/out any recourse or moral responsibility. IF there are too many opportunities to avoid responsible, moral lifestyles (i.e. free rides) then people will not drive themselves.

  2. rick stewart says:

    …. i’m somewhat baffled by their deep-rooted pessimism … obama brought us back from the brink of another great depression, the jobs market appears to be slowly turning back around and the dow is now above 11,000 and moving up … we’ve regulated away the most awful excesses of the health insurance industry (pre-existing conditions, etc.) and next up is tighter regulation of the financial industry, to prevent another meltdown like the one the bush adminsitration gave birth to … the only thing i’m pessimistic about is people who substitute emotional ranting (keep your government hands off my medicare!!) for rational discourse …

  3. Tony G says:

    The Tea Party may have some extremist and fools but I think many are concerned and and want to do something. The problem I have is the amount of misinformation out there. To come to simple conclusions like “socialism” because someone says that the health bill will “nationalize” another 16% or 18% of the economy. Kind of difficult when there is no government run option and insurance companies like Cigna, Blue Cross and United Health (private companies) decide who, what and when a cost is covered. It is a stretch because there are some ground rules they put in like “no pre-existing condition” and such. How about the “death panels”? There is nothing what so ever to support that but Palin and talk show/TV entertainers play it up (and they are making a ton of money). By the way – there should be some personal responsibility to determine fact versus fiction.

  4. an old, old man says:

    Have you all heard of the Thinking Person’s alternative to the Tea Party? It’s the Coffee Party.

    Join us at the SECOND Coffee Party gathering in the Ogden area. We will gather on Saturday 22 May from 10 am to noon at Grounds for Coffee (111 Historic 25th Street).

    Charlie, is there any chance the Standard could provide some coverage of this movement?

  5. Midwinter says:

    I’m really not understanding why the media is so fascinated by the 23% of the American population who would have supported Bush if he’d eaten a baby on live television. I’m not really understanding why the media is so fascinated by the 23% of the American population who take social security and medicare while going to Washington to protest big government. I’m not really understanding why the media is so fascinated by a movement that has no coherent message (other than “I’m mad as hell at something!”), no leader, and no coherent platform.

    Middle-aged, pissed off, baby boomers throwing a tantrum.

    At any rate, I do hope that they field a candidate in the presidential election. They’ll be too small to be a viable party but they’ll split the GOP vote by a significant enough margin that it’ll look like 1992 all over again.

  6. Abigail says:

    I’m middle class and I voted for Obama, but nothing has been made easier for myself or my family. Who is looking out for the people who work and pay their bills, but are being bled dry by taxes, the high cost of everything, etc.?

  7. Midwinter says:

    Abigail: if you are middle class and are employed, then you got a payroll tax cut.

  8. Charles Trentelman says:

    Not sure it is up to government to make life easy.

    Look at it this way, Abigail — if not for TARP (a Bush program, lest we forget) and the stimulus stuff that Obama put in, things would be a lot worse than they are. The vast majority of economists agree that the economy, world-wide, would have crashed a lot worse than it did.

    Who takes care of the middle class? I think the idea is we take care of ourselves. Government can only do so much. Our taxes really, honestly, haven’t gone up all that much, despite all the shouting. What have gone up is the costs of a lot of stuff we decide we need, but don’t really.

    If stuff costs too much, find ways to cut back.

  9. flatlander100 says:

    Just for the record, federal income taxes this year were lowered by the Obama administration. People are playing less this year than they did any year under Bush. Not that the tea party ranters will tell you that. SL Trib ran the story AP this morning. From the story:

    ” Washington » You wouldn’t know it by the Tax Day rhetoric, but Americans are paying lower taxes this year, even with increases passed by many states to balance their budgets.

    Congress cut individuals’ federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion shortly after President Barack Obama took office, dwarfing the $28.6 billion in increases by states. ”

    Link to the full story here:


  10. stumblefall says:

    18% is hardly “fringe”. It’s more than double the number of people that are left-handed, for example. Nearly 1 in 5? Call it what you want, but it’s a tremendously powerful voting bloc.

    It is hardly surprising that those who tend to have more wealth–and therefore are much, much more likely to pay any sort of taxes–would be opposed to the continuation of Obama’s slide towards socialism that has been going on for so long, including, of course, for 8 years under Bush. The loss of our basic freedoms, those that our brave men and women have fought and died for over the centuries, is enough to make any patriotic American pessimistic. And yet you would call them “fringe”.

    Most of the rich got that way, and stay that way, because of hard work. They don’t want your help. They just want to keep what they earned. And yet you would call them “fringe”.

    It is true that the poor need help. It is also true that the vast majority of the middle class is unable to do anything about it because they are paying 30-50% of their hard-earned money toward a government that still seems to be unable to do anything significant about the poor. They have therefore been stripped of the means to provide private charity, and therefore have been robbed of the potential blessings for doing so. There is nothing at all rewarding about being forced to redistribute your wealth.

    It is typical to attack someone that you don’t understand and don’t want to understand. It’s far easier than opening the door to reasonable discussion, with the accompanying risk that you might end up agreeing with them. A careful study of what these 18% believe, and the sudden discovery that when published in a neutral light, their beliefs hit home with the large majority of Americans, would render the word “fringe” laughable.

  11. Michael Trujillo says:

    stumblefall -

    The only basic freedom I’ve lost in the past couple of years it the freedom to wear my shoes when I go through airport security and the freedom to pack my multi-purpose tool with the 3 inch blade in my carry-on bag. Other than that, I can still go just about anywhere I want to, buy just about anything I want to, see any movie I want to, and say anything I want to. What freedoms are you talking about losing? That’s another one of those rhetorical statements that people say all the time but can’t be specific. Are you upset because you need a permit to own an alligator? Upset that you can’t store dynamite in your basement? We’d all like to know.

  12. stumblefall says:

    Excellent question. Just for example, how about the right to not own health insurance? I’m confused how that ever became the business of the government. It would be unwise, of course, but the Constitution is famous for protecting our right to make fools of ourselves, particularly when it comes to the freedom of speech.

    The money I earn belongs to me, but much of it is seized by the federal government. Of course, I have the choice to choose not to pay, with predictably dire consequences. That’s not really a choice.

    Every government program that is unconstitutional is a violation of my freedoms. It is forcing me to pay money towards something I didn’t choose. It seems little different from my neighbor threatening me and my family if I do not give him money for his mortgage. Sure, it looks all neat and tidy, hiding behind federal laws and courts, but it’s still a violation of my God-given right to earn and keep the fruits of my labor.

    As for your time-frame on lost rights, I agree with you. The Patriot Act is one of the most insidious pieces of legislation ever foisted on a supposedly free people, and it was passed over 8 years ago. Admittedly, the tea parties are full of well-meaning people that don’t realize that they were needed years and years ago. It’s unfortunate that so many of them consider Obama’s overt attempts to push us towards socialism any worse than Bush’s covert attempts at the same–e.g., Medicare Part D. But it does little good to fault them for missing the bus all these years, because they are right, right now. It is disappointing, however, to realize that they will simply melt back into complacency when Obama is defeated by the next establishment Republican in 2012…if the Republic even lasts until then.

  13. Michael Trujillo says:

    This is also from the article:

    “They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.”


    Most describe the amount they paid in taxes this year as “fair.” Most send their children to public schools. A plurality do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and, despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers.

    Has Doug Gibson seen this poll?

  14. Al says:

    stumblefall said: “It is disappointing, however, to realize that they will simply melt back into complacency when Obama is defeated by the next establishment Republican in 2012…if the Republic even lasts until then.”

    I’ve noted this before around these threads, and I see it’s time to do so again. The nation has undergone over two hundred years of political process, accompanied along the way by periods of massive civil unrest, economic catastrophe, urban decay and revival, drought so fierce that the middle of the nation basically dried up and blew away for much of a decade, terrorism, the threat of global thermonuclear devastation, hurricanes destroying entire American cities, a government legalizing torture, murder committed in the name of preventing the expansion of voting rights, and an actual civil war.

    So why, why, WHY is losing an election tantamount to the destruction of the very republic? For all their bluster about the precious constitution and the past two hundred years of history, an awful damn lot of people in this country seem not to actually believe in any of its founding documents or principles or living institutions. Is the Tea Parties’ belief in the institutions of government — state and federal — that have lasted for the past twenty decades so very tenuous and weak that a majority of elected national representatives passing laws they don’t like means that the very foundations of the nation itself teeter on the brink of destruction? For real?

    And conservatives call liberals self-centered? Sheesh.

  15. an old, old man says:

    Stumblefall, your argument about the “right” to not have health insurance doesn’t really hold water. A large part of the massive increases in the cost of health care is caused by people who don’t have insurance. Because they are not insured, it is left to the rest of us to cover their bills when they do become sick and then fail to be able to pay their own expenses.

    It’s the same kind of twisted logic that increases your auto insurance premiums when you are forced to pay extra to cover medical care for those who turned themselves into vegetables by exercising their “right” not to wear a helmet while zooming around on their motorcycle.

  16. Michael Trujillo says:

    stumblefall -

    If we go back a few years, we’ll recall that the big topic of discussion was the fact that so many people NOT having health insurance was costing the rest of us money when they used emergency facilities. Many people, then, lamented that there wasn’t a way to make everyone have health insurance.

    Are you saying that you were one of the few who WEREN’T pushing for mandatory health insurance? Or were you one of the ones joining in the chorus of “Make the freeloaders buy health insurance” but now you’ve changed your mind?

    Basically, what most of your last response is saying, is that it’s all about money. I’ve suspected, for quite some time, that most of the bellyaching by the “Conservatives” and the Teabaggers originated in their wallets and not from any civic desire to “protect the Constitution”.

    And I agree with Al. The Republic isn’t in danger of collapsing. It’s just that, for the first time in 2 or 3 decades, one group of citizens isn’t getting things their way, so they’re running around like Chicken Little crying, “The Republic is falling! The Republic is falling!”

  17. stumblefall says:

    One of the nice things about air quality is that there’s still somewhere you can go to experience good, clean air–the mountains. It’s depressing to come home after breathing in that wonderful stuff, but it’s still nice to know that it’s there if I can ever get away from the rat race for a couple of days.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for freedom. We’ve allowed the government to intrude so far into our lives in this one, last, still freest country, and now there’s nowhere on earth to go. Nowhere that you can get away from this monstrosity that we have created.

    Almost no one is hearkening back to the days of cholera and high infant mortality, of slavery and overt racism. But why can’t we have fixed those kinds of things without losing our freedoms? Why does not government need to be so far in debt? Why can’t I use my own money (all of it!) for retirement instead of hoping that a failed government system somehow finds enough money to pay for it? Why is it legal to kill a child just because it hasn’t been born yet? Why is it more of a crime to hate someone (other than white, Christian males) than to believe that property rights are no longer valid (think hate crime vs. robbery…guess which one is going to get you more jail time)?

    If you think that I’ve been “getting my way” for the past 3 decades, you really don’t understand me. I think the last good president was Madison. Maybe Jackson.

    And there’s probably a lot of truth that if you just cut their taxes, a lot of the members of the Tea Party (please don’t use such an obviously filthy term in an open forum, by the way) would just walk away happy. Yes, that disappoints me to realize, although there are far worse things than believing that what you earn should be yours to decide what to do with. But I think there are plenty of members who have finally woken up to the fact that government has completely gone off the rails, and it’s not going to get back on without a massive effort.

    I have never advocated that we force anyone to get health insurance. I think it’s illegal and immoral to force a doctor or hospital to admit anyone that has no way of paying for treatment. I also think that it is perfectly within the rights of a doctor or hospital to require someone to sign a document stating that they agree to forfeit future wages, in the form of garnishments, if they fail to pay their bill in a timely manner, punishable by imprisonment as an eventual outcome if necessary. And I hope that wealthy individuals would provide endowments to those kinds of hospitals and doctors to ameliorate the costs of treatment to those individuals that demonstrated a true need as opposed to an entitlement mentality. And what happens if I get in a car accident, and nobody can find any identification on me, so they decide to just let me die because there’s no proof of insurance? Well, there are worse things than death. Like living in a society that is no longer free. (Just ask Patrick Henry)

  18. Michael Trujillo says:

    Stumblefall -
    1. The “good, clean air” you enjoy is only good and clean because the Government forced pollution standards on car manufacturers, industries, and citizens. It’s well documented (and anyone over 60 can recall) that the air was much worse in our country up until the 50s or 60s. So you’re benefiting from Government intervention.

    2. What freedoms did we lose in order to “fix” cholera, high infant mortality, slavery, and overt racism?

    3. The type of lifestyle that you seem to yearn for has never existed in this country. Not even when Madison was President. No doubt a stumblefall in 1803 complained about President Jefferson using tax money to purchase the Louisiana Territory.

    I’ve no doubt about the sincerity of your convictions. I just think you’re misguided. Study history rather than listening to others’ rhetoric.

  19. stumblefall says:

    It sounds like you are agreeing with me, so maybe I’m not saying it clearly.

    “The type of lifestyle that you seem to year for has never existed in this country.” That was my point exactly. I believe that all of the progress we have made in eliminating slavery and greatly increasing racial tolerance, with our advances in science and medicine, would have actually happened sooner and better without government intervention. I want to know what we couldn’t have advanced as a civilization and, at the same time, kept all of the great freedoms we had when the Constitution was first written. The progressives think that we have “saved” everyone from societal ills, when in fact all we have done is to take away their dignity and disincentivized them from lifting themselves out of poverty, etc. I don’t call that progress.

  20. Al says:

    Stumblefall wrote: “I believe that all of the progress we have made in eliminating slavery and greatly increasing racial tolerance, with our advances in science and medicine, would have actually happened sooner and better without government intervention. ”

    And that’s why we abolished slavery in 1825, established full civil rights for blacks the year after, and never had to worry about unsafe snake oil medicines! Yay for the absence of government intervention.

    The problem with saying stuff like that is that it’s not only falsifiable, it’s also false.

  21. stumblefall says:

    By “unsafe snake oil medicines” I can only assume you mean prescription drugs, which kill far more people each year than nutritional supplements, despite the fact that the FDA supposedly regulates the drug industry. Fat lot of good it does all those families. [http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/167/16/1752 vs http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n13.shtml

    The problem with using big words like “falsifiable” without clear documentary evidence–none of which exists for either of our claims, yours that slavery and civil rights would have happened later, mine that it would have happened sooner–is that it makes you look like you’re trying to win an argument by shouting louder, rather than talking more clearly. I am comfortable, of course, agreeing to disagree here, since there is no way to prove my case either way.

  22. ctrentelman says:

    actually, stumble, the contention that slavery — just to pick one — would not have been elminiated without government intervention is provable — it clearly was not done away with before government stepped in..

    Slavery was a thriving, going institution until the Civil War. Non-governmental efforts to abolish it were ongoing, but unsuccessful and — Dred Scott Decision — even opposed by the government. The Underground Railroad had to take smuggled slaves all the way to Canada because, in the US, the government would send them back.

    The “snake oil” reference was to the Food and Drug Act, which was put into place after manufactureres got so blatant about selling the public anything at all and calling it “food” or “medicine” that government had to step in.

    Read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” which is a novel based on his factual reporting of the meat packing industry of the time.

    I am very glad you are still able to find some clean air in the mountains. If the federal government had not stepped in and prevented the railroads and logging interests from clear-cutting all the forests that clean air would not be there.

    Just one example: Snowbasin, under private ownership and control, was clear cut, badly eroded and littered with dead cows in the early 1930s when Ogden government, fearful of contamination for its watershed and drinking water, bought it and turned it over to the federal government’s Forest Service for management.

    That’s why you can take a drink of water without getting typhoid. Show some gratitude, OK?

  23. Al says:

    Charles: Yes, exactly.

    Stumblefall: I’m honestly puzzled at your response. You say I am trying to simply shout louder, but my claims are, as Charles notes, based in history. The things you say would have happened without government intervention, didn’t happen. Your argument isn’t unprovable; in other words, your claim is falsifiable, and this is actually a good thing, because we can apply evidence to it. I’m not trying to shout or confuse with big words; I’m just pointing out that history contradicts what you’re trying to claim.

  24. Michael Trujillo says:

    “I want to know what we couldn’t have advanced as a civilization and, at the same time, kept all of the great freedoms we had when the Constitution was first written. ”

    Huh? What are you talking about? We haven’t lost any freedoms.

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