December 27, 2011


Whose Tea Party Is It? (THEDA SKOCPOL and VANESSA WILLIAMSON, 12/27/11, NY Times)

In recent weeks, Gingrich has reached out to these grassroots Tea Party voters, older white middle-class conservatives who remember him from his glory days as an insurgent Democrat slayer. Gingrich's aggressive style and blistering critiques of the Democrats resonate with Tea Party voters. Gingrich has accused Democrats of socialist tendencies for decades; as early as 1984, he claimed that a Democratic member of the House of Representatives was distributing "communist propaganda."

But Gingrich has also tapped into what we identified as Tea Partiers' most fundamental concern: their belief that hardworking American taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for undeserving freeloaders, particularly immigrants, the poor and the young. Young people "just feel like they are entitled," one member of the Massachusetts Tea Party told us. A Virginia interviewee said that today's youth "have lost the value of work."

These views were occasionally tinged with ethnic stereotypes about immigrants "stealing" from tax-funded programs, or minorities with a "plantation mentality." When Gingrich talks about "inner-city" children having "no habits of working," he is appealing to a widely held sentiment among the Tea Party faithful. [...]

Tea Party activists are not uniformly opposed to government social programs, however. Our interviewees were very anxious that Social Security and Medicare be maintained. "I've been working since I was 16 years old, and I do feel like I should someday reap the benefit. I'm not looking for a handout. I'm looking for a pay out of what I paid into," one Tea Party member explained. 
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Posted by at December 27, 2011 7:31 AM

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