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What to Make of the Tea Party

May 4, 2010

Several NT2 editorial board members went into the field recently to explore the Tea Party phenomenon. They returned (unscathed) to report that Democracy is alive and well in New York. It is, however, not well-organized, not well-informed and not very articulate. Nevertheless, our Tea Party experience, for the most part, was quite positive.

First the negative: The folks attracted to the Tea Party movement are angry. Really angry. In their anger, they rail against “O-bum-a” and the “Dumb-a-crats” whom they believe are leading us all toward socialism. Rather than seeing government as a disorganized mess led by incompetent, spineless pols, they are convinced that government is controlled by dark forces determined to destroy our personal freedoms.

Now the positive: Tea Party activists are also committed to leading a Democratic uprising against the current broken system. They believe there are millions of dissatisfied voters, who, if given the proper information and encouragement, will rise up and vote incumbents out of office. At NT2, we think this is terrific. This is the opposite of apathy, and we are thrilled to see it.   

But as it is with all political efforts, leadership is required. The Tea Party events we attended were organized by good people who are new to political activism. What they lack and desperately need are candidates with character, substance and style who will be the embodiment of their movement. But that’s a tall order. In this regard, some of the Tea Party activists we encountered are convinced that Carl Paladino is the answer. They say Paladino is a great guy who has been misunderstood and mischaracterized by the liberal media in New York. We’re a little skeptical on this score, but we will try to keep an open mind. 

Throughout our nation’s history, the real value of movements such as the Tea Party has been to  serve as a catalyst for reform in the mainstream parties. What happens is that the Republicans and Democrats see what’s happening underfoot and steal their good ideas. This sounds wrong, but it isn’t.  It’s the way the system is supposed to work. In fact, the party that doesn’t learn and doesn’t make changes will naturally lose support. 

And in this regard, it sure seems like the Democrats controlling Albany are indeed acting the part of “Dumb-a-crats.” No?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2010 10:38 AM

    That’s a pretty fair assessment of the TEA Party movement across the nation from what I have been able to gather. Good decent folks that are leaderless.

  2. mark Keister permalink
    May 4, 2010 12:19 PM

    Trouble is most of the money behind these “parties” comes from folks like Mr. Koch of Koch Industries, one of the wealthiest Right wing nutz imaginable – to be sure; he and other funders are praying on the fears and ignorance and of course, justifiable concerns, but mostly the fears of these folks- but really praying upon them . . . there is also a division with in the Tea Party movement – the Ron Paul wing and the Redneck racist wing . . .birthers etc.

  3. hughctaylor permalink
    May 8, 2010 6:12 PM

    Your post is superficial, and a bit misleading about the Tea Partiers. We now have a pile of polls which detail the characteristics of Tea Partiers nationally. Maybe the NY tribe is different. I doubt it. Unless you are a white, Republican voter over 45, who really likes Glenn Beck, you are probably not a Tea Partier. The uprising you are talking about is an uprising against democrats, not incumbents in general.

    It turns out that the single strongest indentifier of a Tea Partier is their enthusiasm for Glenn Beck. Nationally, 18 percent of people have a favorable opinion of Beck, versus 59 percent of Tea Partiers . (Times/CBS poll April 14, 2010)

    Unfortunately, along with their affinity for the batshit Beck, Tea Partiers have much higher levels of racial intolerance than other whites. By far the most detailed, and transparent, study of Tea Partier attitudes was carried out by the U of Washington/WISER institute. It’s worth a look. The methodology is solid and transparent. (

    Much effort has gone into framing Tea Partiers as independent types who have gotten fed up. Here’s what one of the top experts on Ross Perot said about that:

    “The major difference is that the Perot movement was a total rejection of both parties, while the tea party movement is a total rejection of only one party–the Democrats.” (Ron Rapoport William and Mary political scientist to

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