“It’s important to acknowledge that the Boston Tea Party has nothing to do with today’s group of mostly white rich Americans who identify themselves as ‘Tea Party’ members,” says a retired Eugene historian who said he’s speaking out at local political events after reviewing findings of a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll released last month found “only 1 percent of Tea Party supporters are black, and only 1 percent are Hispanic. It’s almost all white.” Moreover, the poll noted that “Tea Party supporters are twice as likely as white independents to believe that President Barack Obama was born in another country.”
Tea Party appeals to the have’s and not the have not’s
The New York Times/CBS News poll found that Tea Party members “were more than eight times as likely as white independents and six times as likely as white Democrats to think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.”
One the nation's oldest and largest civil rights groups, the NAACP, is condemning what it calls blatant racism inside the popular Tea Party movement, stated the organization when met for its 101st annual convention last month in Texas.
"We have no problem with the Tea Party," said Benjamin Todd Jealous the NAACP president. "We have a problem with the Tea Party tolerating racism in its ranks."
Here in Eugene, there’s a local “Tea Party” group that tends to “meet in secret,” says the history professor, who’s been looking into what Tea Party people are “really saying.”
“I don’t think the Tea Party wants more inflammatory rhetoric from Sarah Palin because everybody knows she’s not qualified to be the leader of the free world. What I’ve researched is the Tea Party is really about greed because these are rich people who don’t want to pay a lot of taxes. They are un-American, in my view, because of the role racism is allowed to play in the Tea Party movement,” the professor added during a recent interview at the University of Oregon where he's researching Tea Party history.
Overall, "I don't think most Americans have a clue what these Tea Party people are really about. It's more than strange. It's alaming," he adds.
For instance, the New York Times/CBS News poll has generated a lot of concern both in American political circles, and overseas where many fans of the U.S. are confused about radical Tea Party views.
“The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45,” according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Moreover, the poll noted that they “hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as ‘very conservative’ and President Obama as ‘very liberal.’ And while most Republicans say they are ‘dissatisfied with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.’”
Tea Party viewed as rich bullies who want it their way
According to the New York Times/CBS News poll, “the Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package and its supporters have vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care.”
At the same time, the poll noted how the Tea Party supporters’ have “fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.”
Also, the poll showed that the overwhelming majority of Tea Party supporters say President Obama “does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.”
The poll is shocking in its findings that Tea Party members “are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.”
What the Tea Party really wants
Asked what they are angry about, “Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent health care overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington,” stated the New York Times.
“The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands,” Elwin Thrasher, a 66-year-old semiretired lawyer in Florida, said in an interview after the poll. “I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.”
They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy.
For example, “more than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say ‘America’s best years are behind us’ when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.
Also, nearly 9 in 10 of Tea Party members “disapprove of the job Mr. Obama is doing over all, and about the same percentage fault his handling of major issues: health care, the economy and the federal budget deficit.”
“Ninety-two percent believe Mr. Obama is moving the country toward socialism, an opinion shared by more than half of the general public.”
“I just feel he’s getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”
The nationwide New York Times/CBS News telephone poll was conducted April 5 through April 12 with 1,580 adults. For the purposes of analysis, Tea Party supporters were oversampled, for a total of 881, and then weighted to their proper proportion in the poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all adults and for Tea Party supporters.
Image source of U.S. Post Office “Boston Tea Party” stamps: Wikipedia