Cambridge Journals Online has an article about the make up of the Tea Party
. There are several things that stand out; one, nearly half of the Tea Party have been political activists in the Republican prior to the formation of the Tea Party movement and most of the Tea Party are republican or leaning republican despite claims to independence. The demographic profile of the Tea Party is;
Older, white, and middle class is the typical profile of a Tea Party participant. Between 55 and 60 percent of supporters are men; 80-90 percent are white; and 70-75 percent are over 45 years old. Given the disproportionate number of older white males, it is little surprise that Tea Party supporters are usually found to have somewhat higher incomes than typical Americans.
One of the areas the paper focused on is how the traditional media - television through Fox News - gave the Tea Party a shared identity and probably saved it from political ambivalence. It was the unified cultural and political view that Fox News offers which contributed to the shared political identity that the Tea Party united around.
It is not only in the quantity of Fox News coverage that we can see the media organization's role as an organizer of this community, because the quality of coverage the Tea Party has received on Fox is fundamentally different from the coverage on other major networks. Fox News has explicitly mobilized its viewers by connecting the Tea Party to their own brand identity. In early 2009, Fox News dubbed the upcoming Tea Party events as "FNC [Fox News Channel] Tea Parties."
The paper argues that Fox News, rather than being an echo-chamber or propaganda outlet, has for the Tea Partiers acted as a "national social movement organization". This is where a scattered minority who feels isolated or marginalized finds a collective identity in a national organization that provides collective identity. This was the role Fox News played in the social organization movement we know as the Tea Party.
The paper also peers into the political ideology of the Tea Party. The cool representation of the Tea Party is that they are libertarians who seeks minimal government. This isn't true. It was obvious at most of the Tea Party events which appeared in the media and on the internet that Tea Partiers consumed Medicare and Social Security. Which had many mark them as hypocrites.
Additionally there were signs to the effect of "Fix Old No New" and "Keep Government Hands Off Medicare" during the Affordable Care Act town hall meetings. Again, that seemed to the non Tea Partiers as irrational, ignorant and hypocritical.
The paper argues that the Tea Party has a morality that guides the seemingly contradictory rationality of their politics. Basically it is they don't like government services going to groups they consider 'undeserving'. These undeserving groups are ones that haven't worked for the privilege of receiving government programs and consist of the young and immigrants.
The paper argues that for Tea Parties that line between deserving and non-deserving of government support and programs is 'working' and 'non-working'. However, as the paper makes clear, this is a fuzzy line and isn't dependent on a clear definition of working, rather it has cultural overtones and is seemingly a function of stereotypes of young and immigrants.
Though the opposition between working and nonworking people is fundamental to Tea Party ideology, the empirical dividing line between these categories is not immediately clear. For instance, the distinction between workers and non-workers is not necessarily linked to actually holding a job. In Massachusetts, a third of Tea Party members we surveyed were students, unemployed people, or retirees. Thus, the definition of "working" is an implicit cultural category rather than a straightforward definition.
The non-working and freeloading component of America that the Tea Party sees is more about young people who don't share the older Tea Party's view of America and American values. Since physically working is not a hard divide, the paper found that anecdotes for freeloading and lazy young people were often used by Tea Partiers to justify the non-deserving. Immigrants received similar cultural standing in the eyes of Tea Partiers;
Unauthorized immigrants are also explicitly included in the "nonworking" population who may try to freeload at the expense of hardworking American taxpayers. In general, Tea Partiers do not explain their opposition to unauthorized immigration in terms of a job threat.
The paper notes that while the illegal immigration views of the Tea Party suggests an element of racism in the Tea Party, when public gatherings were held for the Tea Party, organizers and members went out of their way to make it well known that anyone with racial signs or views was not welcome. However, this cultural fear of America changing is informing Tea Party rationality;
Rather than conscious, deliberate, and publicly expressed racism, these racial resentments form part of a nebulous fear about generational societal change - fears that are crystallized in Tea Party opposition to President Obama. As we've seen, many Tea Partiers are deeply concerned that the country they live in is not the country of their youth--and that they themselves are no longer represented by the US government. It is no coincidence that the Tea Party emerged only weeks into the new president's term; in Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's study, only five percent of Tea Party supporters report having voted for Obama in 2008.
It is hard not see the Tea Party as being used, by both Fox News, conservative talk shows hosts who almost preyed on the Tea Party members for their willingness to hear what they want, and traditional pro-business conservative groups that attached to the Tea Party in order to give these old conservative advocacy groups some grass roots legitimacy.
Race has been a problem for the liberal democratic world since the enlightenment. The liberalism of the time hoped for human perfectibility, but it saw as a real and achievable goal, the equality of all individuals; politically, socially, culturally and economically. Political equality means universal emancipation, no longer would individuals be denied the right to vote because of their sex and their color.
Liberal democratic nations have had their issues and even today, minorities still have issues achieving political equality. Gay marriage is a good example, but the world of the 18thC is far changed from the world of the 19thC, 20thC and 21stC. The pace of change with globalization is an anti-poverty effort as much as it is a promise of the enlightenment and liberalism.
Anil Dash made the observation
that for many Tea Partiers they are grappling with monumental change. Globalization and the acceleration of technology has meant America has become this amazing multi-cultural place where software creates and destroys new industries within a decade.
For a software engineer such as myself it is like heaven. It is pure amazement that I am in the hub of the American economy during this period with the skills that make me attractive, desirable and productive.
The workplace is different as well. My software team has two Americans - of which I am one courtesy of naturalization - but neither of us were born in America. The Tempe software group is all Australian, Indian and Chinese. If you put our Californian and Phoenix groups together, I am the only white person that forty years ago would have visually passed the myth of the hard working Protestant American of Anglic or Tuetonic background.
For me it is exciting times. For the older white Americans that are used to being in a politically privileged position - for instance Social Security and Medicare are aimed largely at the older white political group of seniors - they are seeing that change into a globalized world where American business - starving for quality workers - will drag anyone capable or willing into the United States economy.
Dash is wrong when he says the Tea Partiers are not partisan, but his comments on the older white Americans grappling with change and seeing a world - probably a mythical one - disappear under a black President, amazon, iPads, facebook, ping pong in the workplace and offshoring. Dash comments;
What you find they [the Tea Party] is struggling with is the death of white privilege. Now its not completely gone. But they are saying its not that a black man can be elected to President of the United States. It is that a white man no longer will be.
Barack Obama was the first time a majority of white people voted for a candidate and they didn't win the presidency. How do you think this guy [old man on a walker at a tea party event] feels about having that control wrenched from his hands.
I don't consider the Tea Party a serious political movement. As the 2010 Congressional elections showed, their candidates were non-serious, politically caustic and, ironically, enabled the Democrats to retain power in the Senate despite a horrible economy which is usually the best predictor of electoral performance.
The United States has a history of conservative groups becoming rabid, nonsensical and irrational when a Democratic is in the White House. And both sides are not equally bad, the conservatives are far worse in their behavior when a Democrat holds power.
This paper sheds some light on what was thought as hypocrisy on the part of Tea Partiers in terms of government support. The joke of old white people on social security and medicare advocating against government health care was seen as ridiculous and hypocritical. With this new knowledge of the Tea party, it is still is. Worse, it is culturally ignorant and based on stereotypes and misconceptions.
Changed underserving to undeserving in the title. Will probably mean it appears twice in the google rss feeds though.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.