After a year of denying the obvious, the American media is finally coming to the conclusion that the supposed Tea Party movement is simply a continuation of the failed 2008 Republican presidential campaign by other means. As the data show, the vast majority Tea Baggers don't merely identify themselves as Republicans, they vote for the GOP as well. And as it turns out, the wildest myths propagated by the Tea Bagger are broadly accepted by the Republican faithful. Even in their casual incitements to violence, they are, as Jon Stewart aptly put it last year, "confusing tyranny with losing."
Here, then, are the five sure signs that the GOP and the Tea Party are one and the same:
- Tea Baggers Vote Republican
- Republicans Share Tea Party Myths
- Let's Go to the Videotape
- A Common Language of Violence
- Republican Leaders Tell Us So
While their members might (see #2 below), the numbers don't lie. Far from being the "independents" trumpeted by half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Tea Partiers are just Republicans who happen to be louder and more in your face about it.
A new Quinnipiac University poll found that 74 percent are Republicans or independent voters leaning Republican while 77 percent voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008. (Exit polls showed that McCain won 90% of Republican voters but only 44% of independents.) That's a far cry for the current 8-point Democratic edge in party identification in the United States as a whole.
The Quinnipiac findings echo a February CNN survey which similarly demolished the myth of the Tea Bagger-as-independent. As CNN polling director Keating Holland noted:
"87 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate in their congressional district if there were no third-party candidate endorsed by the Tea Party."
Never in modern political history has a political movement been as consistently and profoundly wrong on matters of fact. Sadly, what many assumed what the delusional mindset of the far-right Tea Party fringe is mainstream thought in the Republican Party.
As was documented last fall in "10 Lessons for Tea Baggers," Republicans share the same schizophrenia as the Birchers, Birthers, Deathers and Deniers comprising the Tea Party goers.
For example, a DailyKos/Research 2000 poll found that a stunning 58% of Republicans did not believe (28%) or were unsure (30%) that President Barack Obama was in fact born in the United States. 17% of Republicans and 19% of white evangelicals (74% of whom voted for John McCain) insist President Obama is a Muslim, despite his repeated pronouncements and decades of church attendance to the contrary. After furious Tea Baggers interrupted town hall meetings with shouts of "keep your government hands off my Medicare," it turned out that 59% of self-identified conservatives and 62% of McCain voters hold that oxymoronic view of the federal-funded health care program for 46 million American seniors. And as I noted in February ("The Tea Party's Taxing Logic"), while President Obama cut taxes for over 95% of working households, the Tea Party instead believes the sun orbits the earth:
Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.
(Instead of calling President Obama a communist, Tea Partiers should be thanking him for the 10% increase in the average tax refund this year.)
As the Daily Beast reported this week, the contentious debate over health care did nothing to improve the mental health of conservatives:
On the heels of health care, a new Harris poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama: Two-thirds think he's a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim--and 24 percent say "he may be the Antichrist."
Long before President Obama as promised delivered the tax cuts they now decry, today's Tea Baggers were calling Senator Obama a socialist Muslim and demanding his birth certificate at McCain-Palin rallies across America.
Just take a look back at Alexandra Pelosi's documentary of the 2008 campaign, "Right America: Feeling Wronged." Clips from "Right America" are virtually indistinguishable from, say, the "trailer" making the rounds for a supposed film about the Tea Party movement called "Fraud." Let's go to the videotape: "Tea Baggers 2009" is just a sequel to the "McCain-Palin Mob," and a bad one at that. As one McCain supporter put it before the November 2008 election:
"We all hate the same things."
For more proof, look no further than the Washington Post's October 9, 2008 article, "Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally":
There were shouts of "Nobama" and "Socialist" at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee. There were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down as a media caravan moved through the crowd Thursday for a midday town hall gathering featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin.
As CNN reported in another October 2008 article titled, "Rage Rising on the McCain Campaign Trail," one future Tea Bagger announced at a town hall:
"I'm mad. I'm really mad. It's not the economy. It's the socialist taking over our country."
Facing a backlash from the public over the violence and threats their frothing-at-the-mouth supporters have unleashed, Republicans leaders are walking back their tough talk. Indiana's Mike Pence, the number three Republican in the House declared there is "no excuse for bigotry, threats or acts of vandalism and I condemn such things in the strongest possible terms." Just days after warning that Democrat Steve Driehaus "may be a dead man", House Minority Leader John Boehner insisted that even for his "angry" Americans, "violence and threats are unacceptable. That's not the American way."
Sadly, casual incitements to violence have been the Republican way for years.
And this isn't just reflected by Glenn Beck's recent talk of "revolution," Michele Bachmann's call to Minnesotans to be "armed and dangerous," Tea Party protestors packing heat or carrying signs praising their Browning weapons. As "From Republican Rhetoric to Right-Wing Terror" detailed:
Whether concerning guns, abortion, gay Americans, immigration or judicial appointments, the line connecting the rhetoric of the Republican Party and the mainstream conservative movement behind it to right-wing terror is a very short one.
Consider judicial intimidation. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo affair, House Minority Leader Tom Delay warned, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today." On April 4th, 2005, Senator John Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a not-too-thinly veiled threat to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of one judge in Atlanta and the family members of another in Chicago and Atlanta, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:
"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country...And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."
Anti-abortion terrorists, too, have gotten a wink and a nod from Republican leaders. While then-Attorney General John Ashcroft denounced clinic bomber Eric Rudolph as a "terrorist," GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin would do no such thing regarding Rudolph's ilk. During an October 2008 interview with NBC's Brian Williams Palin refused to similarly brand violent right-wing radicals as terrorists:
WILLIAMS: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist, under this definition, governor?
PALIN: (Sigh). There's no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our U.S. Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist. There's no question there. Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that uh, it would be unacceptable. I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there.
And the tacit endorsement of domestic terror hardly ends there. Throughout their 1990's campaign to gut the Internal Revenue Service, Republican leaders denounced the "Gestapo-like tactics" and "armed personnel in flak jackets" of an IRS that "is out of control." After a suicide pilot flew his plane into an Austin IRS building in February, Tea Party hero and new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown yawned that "people are frustrated." Iowa Rep. Steve King reacted by announcing that "when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America."
As the House health care debate reached its climax this weekend, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) blamed Democrats' "totalitarian tactics" for prompting Tea Party activists to hurl racial epithets, homophobic slurs and worse. Meanwhile on the House floor, GOP representatives cheered as a protester yelled "kill the bill" from the gallery.
The demand that the Tea Party and the Republican Party should be viewed as identical comes from an authoritative source, the leadership of the GOP.
Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) turned to Twitter this weekend to proclaim he was "grateful for the thousands of patriots who are storming the Capitol today protesting government healthcare and defending freedom." In December, Demint insisted "the GOP leadership needs to stand up for mainstream American principles" before concluding:
"We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican party. If we do that, we can stand up and create the biggest tent of all."
Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite and benefactor, also made clear that she sees no space between them. Her preferred approach:
"Well, it's embrace the tea party movement with full arms...if the Republican Party is wise, they will allow themselves to be re-defined by the tea party movement. And I hope that that will be the case."
The electioneers of the GOP second that emotion. Guy Harrison, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), proudly declared, "We love the tea party movement." For his part, Texas Senator and head of the Republican campaign operation in the Senate John Cornyn argued, "I think it's important that we try to channel these relative newcomers to the political process through our primaries so that they can have an impact on who's nominated." And in January, RNC chairman Michael Steele told Fox News' Neil Cavuto:
"As I like to tell people - long before there was this big push on tea parties - if I wasn't doing this job, I'd be out there with the tea partiers."
Then, of course, there's Sarah Palin. The half-term Alaska Governor not only headlined (for a large fee) the February Tea Party convention in Nashville, she praised the "everyday Americans" she proclaimed to be "the soul of this movement." Two weeks later, she called the in-your-face Tea Baggers "a grand movement," adding, "I love it because it's all about the people." But, she insisted, those lovely people need to proclaim their fidelity to the Republican Party which already confirmed its loyalty to them:
"Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party," Palin said. "Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they're going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: 'R' or 'D'."
And so it goes. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, warned Americans on the brink of civil war that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Now, through its encouragement of its most ardent Tea Party followers, the Party of Lincoln is threatening the nation's peace and domestic tranquility. Hopefully, this party united cannot stand.