Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Who is the Tea Party?

In many states primary elections in the coming months will determine which Republicans will be on the ballot in November. Across the country, Tea Party Republicans are running against incumbent Republicans, claiming that they are not conservative enough. Who are these Tea Party candidates and what do they believe? Who is the Tea Party?

Chris McDaniel is running against Senator Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Cochran has represented Mississippi in the US Senate since 1978. McDaniel is a lawyer who has been in the Mississippi state senate since 2008. McDaniel’s website offers familiar conservative Republican positions. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act immediately, lower taxes, repeal regulation. He is against “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and government support for renewable energy. He supports opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and using the debt limit to force deep spending cuts. He hates the idea of gay marriage. McDaniel supports the Personhood Amendment saying that life begins at fertilization, which would mean banning certain popular contraceptives, such as the IUD and the pill. These are typical Tea Party positions.

His website doesn’t mention McDaniel’s support for racists in Mississippi. He has welcomed the Twitter support of someone named R.R. Smith, who is a white supremacist and antisemite. He gave a speech at a neo-confederate event, where another speaker claimed Lincoln was a Marxist.

After claiming on Facebook that $2 billion were wasted in the $5.5 billion Katrina disaster relief bill, McDaniel has retreated, first into ignorance (“I don’t know enough about it.”), then into a complete about-face, with his campaign spokesman saying he would have supported it. He has blamed gun violence on hip-hop and said that waterboarding was a “fairly humane form of torture”, and therefore a good idea.

Another Southern Tea Party candidate was Dean Young, who was defeated in a special election in Alabama in November by the more establishment Republican, Bradley Byrne. Young had been unable to identify the Republican House whip or the Secretary of the Treasury, and questioned President Obama’s birthplace. He focused his campaign on attacking homosexuality, claiming that gays in Alabama must have come from somewhere else, like California.  He said, “We are witnessing the end of a Western Christian empire.”

Young claimed falsely that he was a Navy Seal, that he was “youngest platoon leader in the Air Force,” (the Air Force doesn’t have platoons), and that he owned multi-million dollar businesses. He said he would “under no circumstance” vote to raise the US debt limit. In the election, Young was defeated by only 5 points.

Perhaps the most significant Tea Party challenge is to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky by Matt Bevin, a millionaire businessman. Bevin’s most recent campaign ad also opposes raising the debt limit. Bevin criticizes McConnell for supporting the 2008 bailout of big banks, although in 2008 Bevin supported that policy himself as a millionaire investor who stood to profit. Bevin is in favor of a flat tax, cutting off all federal benefits to undocumented immigrants. He opposes “all tax increases” and any restriction on types of guns or ammunition that citizens may buy. Like McDaniel, he opposes “any judicial nominee who will not interpret the Constitution as originally conceived by our Founders”. Since the Constitution explicitly accepted slavery, it is not clear where he would find acceptable nominees.

Dr. Greg Brannon is a Tea Party candidate trying to become the Republican nominee to challenge Senator Kay Hagan in North Carolina. In October he said food stamps were a form of slavery. He also said that “all ten of Marx’s planks of communism are law in our land today.” That idea is promoted by a website named criminalgovernment.com, which labels the American Bar Association, the Democratic Party and the Republican National Committee as anti-American. In October, he co-sponsored and spoke at a rally organized by the League of the South, which favors secession of the former Confederate states. He opposes “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

Tea Party candidates are challenging virtually every top Republican leader in both houses of Congress. They advocate extreme positions. They promise to cut taxes and significantly reduce spending, but offer in the speeches and on their websites no clear path to accomplishing that. They certainly would cut large pieces from the safety net that keeps the poorest Americans from hunger and homelessness, and reduce the environmental regulations that prevent pollution of our water, air and food.

Their ideas in fact reflect the broader ideology of the most conservative Republican voters. These older, overwhelmingly white evangelical Christians fear modern life. They believe America is in a downward spiral toward socialism. They fear minorities. They hate President Obama and a Democratic Party whom they suspect of pandering to those minorities with welfare to win votes. They distrust scientists who study evolution and climate change. They think that gay marriage represents the end of Christian civilization. Although they don’t like the beliefs of most other Americans, and despite every poll, they believe their views are shared by most Americans.

These candidates represent the broadest challenge to incumbent Congressmen and to the direction of modern American politics. This electoral year will say much about our future.

Steve Hochstadt
Jacksonville IL
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, March 4, 2014


  1. "Who Is the Tea Party, Anyway?"

    A group of people who think that (in accordance with the Constitution) the proper function of government is to preserve our rights, not limit and interfere with them. They have read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers (where the people who wrote the Constitution explain what it means). They believe that those documents show that the Founders established a Federal government, and that it means that government power and the taxes to support it should not be eliminated but should be concentrated at as low a level as possible - at the local and State level - and that the Federal government's power should be restricted accordingly.

  2. Hm. You hold up Chris McDaniel as an example of the Tea Party. Yet neither the link that YOU provided nor any of the other information you posted about him says anything about his having been endorsed by any Tea Party group. The list he gave of political influences is lengthy and comprehensive - and does not list the Tea Party. So you're lying when you say he's an example of the Tea Party movement

  3. Next you hold up Dean Young as an example of the Tea Party. But, again, going to the link that YOU provided, it says:

    "That's not quite right—major tea party groups have largely stayed out of the race, and Young was preaching his particular brand of conservatism long before Rick Santelli and Sarah Palin helped launch a movement."

    Again - NOT a member of the Tea Party. If you share some philosophies of the Tea Party but also have some extremist views that the Tea Party does not share and the Tea Party groups do not endorse you, that does NOT make you a Tea Party member, it does NOT mean that your views are Tea Party views and it does NOT make the Tea Party responsible for you anymore than the Democrats are Socialists because some Socialists favor and promote Democratic policies.

    Another lie by you, in other words.

  4. Then you talk about one Matt Bevin and a Dr. Greg Bannon. You claim they are Tea Party candidates. But you provide no links at all to support that assertion - no documentation that they claim Tea Party affiliation or that any Tea Party group supports or has endorsed them.

    I can't say you're lying here based on your post - but I can say that you have not even attempted to prove your assertions.

  5. You're a professor of history? Is this how you teach?

    Here's how this article reads: "The Tea Party people have extreme views. We know this because Tea Party people hold certain views that these candidates hold, and these people also hold extreme views. Because some of their views agree with Tea Party movement ideas they are Tea Party candidates, even though the Tea Party has not endorsed them and they have not claimed affiliation with the Tea Party. Therefore all their views are Tea Party views. Therefore Tea Party people hold extreme views, and Tea Party people are thus extremists."

    According to your logic the Democratic Party is Socialist.

    If this is the standard of teaching at Illinois College then the students there are being very poorly served and are not being taught how to think logically or critically.

  6. "He opposes “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants."

    I'm curious. That candidate says:

    "Congress and the President must make every effort to secure our borders. Immigration requirements should be updated and enforced for all those wishing to enter the United States. Law abiding America taxpayers should not be forced to pay for welfare, medical care, and other expenses for illegal immigrants – essentially subsidizing that illegal activity.

    Once these subsidies for illegal immigration are removed, the problem will likely become far less widespread and far more manageable. We need to reform our immigration system so as to reduce the incentives for immigrants to come here illegally.

    Millions crossing our borders without our knowledge constitutes a clear threat to our nation’s security. I will work to secure our borders immediately."

    Do you think these are extreme or unreasonable views?

  7. Ronwf not only has difficulty being succinct, his research abilities are poor. Every one of the candidates I wrote about has been consistently labeled as a tea party candidate. For example, Brannon (not Bannon) says so on his own website. The United Kentucky Tea Party said this week that McConnell should drop out of the Republican primary in favor of Matt Bevin.

    More interesting than ronwf’s problems with reading are his attempts to disavow the actual men who are running with Tea Party positions. He offers his definition of Tea Party principles, expressed in their most favorable form. The trouble is that the politicians whom Tea Party groups support are extremists, promoting ideas that combine wackiness, fractured history, and radical ideology. Previous Tea Party favorites like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell are perfect examples of the translation of Tea Party ideology into failed politics.

    Steve Hochstadt