Thursday, August 18, 2011


As we were saying all along about the Tea Party ... I guess it took a study to make it official. Although the McGovern parallel is overstated — the progressive movement was motivated by an idealistic impulse that ended our involvement in Vietnam, fought for rights that are taken for granted today,  expanded our consciousness toward stewardship of the environment, and stood for peace and economic justice. If you're gonna go down fighting, you might as well do it for purposeful things.

Progressives stand for saving the planet, and our country, leading a rising tide of justice and prosperity. The Tea Party are the very antithesis of the progressive movement. They would destroy rather than build up this country; retrench into bigotry and theocratic rule rather than open the door of opportunity and religious tolerance; deny the science of global warming; defend polluting, job-destroying corporations as "people" against the Jeffersonian rights of the common man and woman.

No, there is nothing to compare the Tea Party to the progressive movement that backed George McGovern for president in 1972. But if one were to suggest the death of the Tea Party as McGovern's Revenge ... we'll take it. For, long after the schlerotic Teabaggers are consigned to the dungheap of history, succeeding generations of progressives will yet be around to carry the flag ever forward.
Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.

Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.

On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.

MEMO TO RACHEL: Lest you "treat" us with more dead airtime by trotting out MSNBC train wreck reclamation project Michael Steele to feed us more specious GOP political hack talking points, try looping the best-yet Steele interview on MSNBC, with the Reverend Al: STEELE — "You guys ... (SIGH) ... SI-I-I-I-GH ... (DEEP SIGH.)" Say your brilliant piece, Rachel, then loop Michael Steele sighing DEEPLY into the microphone when it's his turn to speak the talking points.

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