Not a Fun Party
Who are the members of the Tea Party?
“90% of Tea Party members are white; Less than 1% are Black
About 40% are college educated
60% are male; 40% female
55% make over $50, 000/year; 20% report making over $100, 000/year
95% report they are Christian; 40% describe themselves as Evangelical; 40% attend church services weekly
35% of all Party members live in the South; 25% live in the West; 20% live in the Midwest.
60% say they own a gun
Most Tea Partiers who report being angry also report carrying a large debt load. In other words, they’re just trying to keep their heads above water. They report having to work harder for less money while their number one asset, their home, has slid in value over the years. If they are lucky enough to have a retirement account such as a 401K, 40% report having borrowed at least once from the funds. “
This last bit of information is revealing. A significant number of Tea Party supporters are lower middle class. They are the people who receive no government support except, if they are old enough, perhaps Social Security and Medicare. They are the people whose incomes have stagnated since the middle 1970s. Above them are people who make astronomical amounts of money, many of them college drop-outs, many of them still quite young. For many of these newly rich, marriage and the heterosexual family are not the center of their social life. Some of them are even practicing homosexuals. Few of them go to Church every Sunday.
Tea Partiers are angry because they are not doing as well as many others. Their economic situation is, on the contrary, deteriorating as is their social situation. They pay taxes which they can ill afford so that the government—they believe—can support irresponsible life styles of people of color, of people who are on drugs, who are sexually licentious. At the same time their, to them obvious, white superiority can no longer be asserted proudly. It must hide shamefaced in a society that is governed by—horrors!—a black man.
Hence the whiny tone, the deep sense of being done to, of being the victim of forces that put to shame traditional American values. They have many grievances—economic, social, racial and religious.
But they are to blame for their own problems, for being too gullible when they listen to capitalist propaganda. Their economic straits are, after all, the results of free-market capitalism, which they admire so much and support vociferously.
Their frustration with the political system is connected with their foolish defense of free-market capitalism. As the latest Supreme Court decision striking down some limits on campaign contributions illustrates once again so vividly, capitalism as we know it today gives enormous political power to some and very little, if any, to most of us. They are right when they complain about lacking political power. But they have no idea why that is so.
One can refuse to lend a sympathetic ear to their racist ranting about social services. They are after all—as Whites – responsible for the oppression of people of color and refuse to take responsibility for that. The Africans who survived the Middle Passage did not freely choose slavery. They were enslaved by the ancestors of white Tea Party members.
But it is true that they are victimized, for instance by ruthless ideologues like the Koch brothers. They are right about that. Their victimization is all the more frustrating because they completely misunderstand its origins. Insofar as they allow themselves to be misled about capitalism and about the role of the very rich in our political system, they allow themselves to become complicit in their victimization.
The blame for their condition does not rest on leftists, communists, atheists, or people of color. The blame falls mostly on them for being credulous and gullible.
Not a fun party, that Tea Party.