With Tea Party groups newly energized after Tax Day protests against government spending, a New York Times/CBS News poll released last week renewed debate about who tea partiers are and what they want. The Times found that tea partiers — mostly white, Republicans, and male — are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, but also more likely than other Americans to believe that President Obama has done too much to help black people. Does the Tea Party have a race problem, or are liberal commentators twisting the findings to discredit an increasingly powerful conservative force in American politics? (Watch a CBS report about the Tea Party's surprising members)
Race is part of the Tea Party fire: Tea partiers are "driven by many factors that have nothing to do with race," says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. "But race is definitely part of what's going on." The poll numbers just prove the Tea Party is nothing new — its wealthy, white protesters, with their recycled states' rights and Confederate slogans, are just spouting the same old far-right, anti-government "populism of the privileged" this country has heard many times before.
"The Tea Party: Populism of the privileged"
Tea parties have nothing to do with race: Liberals are clearly confused by the "spontaneous combustion of millions of people," says Michael Walsh in Big Journalism, "who have been roused to anger and action in a way not seen in this country since the late sixties." Tea partiers haven't been shy about what makes them so mad — wasteful government spending. But the pro-Obama mainstream media lives in an "alternate reality" where their rivals are always driven by race.
"Salon asks: 'Can we stop pretending the Tea Party is populist?'’ Um ... no"
Tea partiers are in denial: "Tea Party supporters don't like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst," says Joan Walsh in Salon, but it's a fact that's getting hard to deny. Days before the Times released its poll, a University of Washington survey found that Tea Party supporters in seven battleground states "have bigoted views about black people generally," with 41 percent believing blacks aren't trustworthy.
"The tea partiers' racial paranoia"
The racism charge is dishonest: The fact that most tea partiers are white means nothing, says blogger Jay Tea in Wizbang. So are most Democrats in Congress, and most MSNBC hosts. Tea Party critics are just using "circumstantial evidence" to justify the phony racism label because it's easier than debating the issues. Liberals "think that if they can make public perception of the Tea Party movement into a racist group," they can kill it.
Overtly racist? No, but ...: "The Tea Party is not racist," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. "But it is an almost entirely white movement, largely driven by a sense that the government is taking money away from people like them and giving it to people unlike them, with 'them' understood in a racial context."
"Are tea partiers racist?"