The Faux Tea Party

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An extremely important two paragraphs in Frank Rich’s NY Times column today, toward the end:

However much these corporate contributors may share the Tea Party minions’ antipathy toward President Obama, their economic interests hardly overlap. The rank and file Tea Partiers say they oppose government spending and deficits. The billionaires have no problem with federal spending as long as the pork is corporate pork. They, like most Republican leaders in 2008, supported the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout. They also don’t mind deficits as long as they get their outsize cut of the red ink — $3.8 trillion worth if all the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

But while these billionaires’ selfish interests are in conflict with the Tea Party’s agenda, they are in complete sync with the G.O.P.’s Washington leadership. The Republicans’ new “Pledge to America” promises the $3.8 trillion addition to the deficit and says nothing about serious budget cuts or governmental reforms that might remotely offset it. Surfing the Beltway talk shows last Sunday, you couldn’t find one without a G.O.P. politician adamantly refusing to specify a single program he might cut at, say, the Department of Education (Pell grants?) or the National Institutes of Health (cancer research?). And that’s just the small change. Everyone knows that tax cuts for the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons must come out of Social Security and Medicare payments for everybody else.

The wealthy behind this effort are stirring the pot, using the Tea Partiers as their unwitting foot soldiers.

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Mapping the Tea Party

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The Rundown Blog at PBS has a map of the Tea Party, adapted from a database created by Patchwork Nation that aggregated names of Tea Partiers registering in various online directories.

According to this collection of databases, there are 67,000 registered Tea Partiers across the country. The heaviest presence was found to be in fast-growing suburbs, known to be Republican strongholds.

The geographic snapshot: According to tea party member databases, there are roughly 67,000 members in counties across America, but the biggest producers of tea-party members in Patchwork Nation, per capita, are the “Boom Town” counties. These places experienced rapid growth around 2000 – and the worst part of the housing crash that followed.

What might be more interesting is which traditionally conservative demographics did not register as Tea Partiers:

One might, for instance, expect to see more members in the aging “Emptying Nests” or socially conservative “Evangelical Epicenters.” Both lean conservative, but both groups appear lower on this list.

As many have already noted, there is something of a divide between the tea party and more religious conservatives. Some in the “Epicenters,” for example, feel the group is not focused enough on social issues.

Also, it may be that people in the “Emptying Nests,” where computer skills are often lacking, simply haven’t registered with the websites.

It’s also worth noting that the small-town “Service Worker Centers” sit low on the list. Those places do tend to lean right, but they don’t seem very engaged with the tea party yet.

From a political strategist’s standpoint, this division between Tea Partiers and religious conservatives is intriguing. For a long time, the religious right cornered the market on conversative passion and intensity. Yet, now, fiscally-minded Tea Partiers seem to be taking that mantle and running with it.

The Republican Party has some interesting decisions to make in the future in trying to balance both sides while sustaining the political momentum it has. And all of this must be done recognizing that young people aren’t religious and aren’t fond of the Tea Party’s socialism-phobia.

Brooks: Tea Partiers Are the New ‘New Left’

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David Brooks’s column today in the Times explores the similarities between the Tea Partiers of today and the New Left of the late 1960s and 70s. It’s an interesting comparison/contrast, however it’s interesting to me that Brooks can’t make a final determination about the Tea Party.

The New Left then, like the Tea Partiers now, had a legitimate point about the failure of the ruling class. But they ruined it through their own imprudence, self-righteousness and naïve radicalism. The Tea Partiers will not take over the G.O.P., but it seems as though the ’60s political style will always be with us — first on the left, now the right.

His description of the New Left as “[imprudent], [self-righteous], and naive” begs the question of where he predicts the Tea Party might be headed. But instead, Brooks puts forth an obvious last conclusion without commenting on the future of the party. There’s something fishy there to me.