Tea Party politicians don’t like people who are out of work. In Congress and in campaigns they consistently oppose paying unemployment insurance to the most distressed citizens, those who have been out of work for the longest time. A poll earlier this year found that 70% of Tea Party Republicans oppose extending unemployment benefits and 65% oppose raising the minimum wage, even though most other Republicans favor these policies.
They don’t like people who have suffered from catastrophic events beyond their control. Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party favorite who challenged Republican Senator Thad Cochran in a Mississippi primary, said he didn’t know if he would have voted for federal aid to those people in his own state who were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, legislation that passed the Senate unanimously.
They don’t like poor people in general. Their arguments for reducing food stamps are that poor people are not motivated enough to find work, that poor people prefer living off welfare, that poor people are undeserving of public assistance. 84% of Tea Party Republicans believe that government aid to the poor does more harm than good.
They don’t like immigrants. Most of those who identify with the Tea Party want to deport all undocumented immigrants. But Tea Party supporters don’t like immigrants in general: over half think that “immigrants” take away jobs from “Americans”.
They certainly don’t like Muslims. A Brookings/PRRI survey of American attitudes in 2011 found that most Tea Party followers believe that American (not foreign) Muslims are trying to impose Sharia law in the US.
They don’t like people who are not like them. Pew Research has found that the most conservative Americans are the most likely to want to live where everybody shares their political views. They want to live where everybody shares their religious faith, which is overwhelmingly evangelical Christian. Only 20% of the most conservative want to live among a mixture of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. About one-third of the most conservative would be unhappy if a family member married a Democrat and one-quarter don’t want a family member to marry a non-white. That fits with most Tea Party supporters’ generally negative beliefs about African-Americans: a 2010 study found that among whites who approve of the Tea Party movement, “only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45% believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy.” A Public Policy Poll in 2011 found that 46% of Mississippi Republicans thought interracial marriage should be illegal.
It’s obvious that Tea Party politicians don’t like Democratic voters, who have been the majority of Americans in 5 of the past 6 Presidential elections, and by far the majority in both the Presidential and Congressional elections of 2012. But this goes beyond dislike: two-thirds of the most conservative Republicans see the Democratic Party as a “threat to the nation’s well-being”.
Tea Party politicians don’t even like their fellow Republicans. They taunt other Republicans with the nickname RINO, Republicans In Name Only. They challenge established Republican politicians in primaries as insufficiently conservative. And as the Mississippi election last month demonstrates, they don’t accept losing. McDaniel, who was beaten in a narrow primary by Senator Cochran, won’t say he will vote for him in November.
Tea Party politicians don’t really believe in democracy. Not only does McDaniel argue that some people should not have been allowed to vote against him. He, like other Tea Party politicians, does not want to govern democratically. They want to impose their minority ideology on the rest of us. They believe that any compromise with the majority is evidence of evil. Dave Brat, who defeated Eric Cantor in Virginia, had a photo of Cantor speaking with President Obama prominently displayed on his website.
The most conservative are the least likely among Americans to favor politicians who make compromises. They don’t care that their core beliefs are not shared by most Americans. They are not willing to acknowledge their minority status. An early poll showed that nearly all Tea Party supporters believed their ideas reflected the views of most Americans, although every poll shows that they don’t.
The Tea Party is nothing like their namesakes. They do not believe that all men have inalienable rights. Only they have the right to say what is right. They don’t want to govern, they want to dictate. They don’t like most Americans, who don’t agree with their ideas. They probably don’t like you.
They are intolerant and dangerous. They applaud when radicals like Cliven Bundy take up arms against the state. Imagine what Tea Party politicians would do if they had power, if they could command the police, the armed forces, the FBI. Imagine their reaction to criticism, to dissent, to Americans exercising our rights say “no”.
Recognize the danger that Tea Party politicians pose to our way of life. Don’t vote for them.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, July 8, 2014