The National Catholic Review

In “Crashing the Tea Party,” an Op Ed piece in the New York Times (8/16), David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam present data they have culled from their own repeated interviews since 2006. Their primary finding is that the Tea Party has become increasingly unpopular with the American public. The percent of supporters has remained stable, they write, but the percent of opponents has doubled over the last 14 months to 40 percent. The Tea Party, they report, is even less popular today than other unpopular groups, like “Muslims” and “atheists.” In fact, it is as unpopular as “the Christian right.”

They say the Tea Party is less popular than either the Democrats or the Republicans, but what about Congress or, at a low point, Mr. Obama?

The authors have identified Tea Party members as longtime conservative Republicans, mostly white Christians who oppose immigrants and blacks (Sorry, Mr. President) and especially promote a bigger role for religion in government. The authors don’t spell out what this bigger role means in their short take, however. Too bad, because Catholics, across political parties, value a role for religion in the public square. Reports vary on how many Tea Partiers are Catholics; I’ve seen figures ranging from 18 percent to 28 percent, which means they could be about equal to the size of Catholics in American society--around a quarter.

In their conclusion, the Campbell and Putnam liken the Tea Party’s role in the 2012 election to the role played by the anti-Vietnam War movement in supporting McGovern in the 1972 election—a Republican landslide. The implication seems to be that they favored an extreme candidate, who lost the majority. It’s too early to assess the truth of that analogy. But if the authors are correct, the Republican Party may wish to curtail the influence of the Tea Party, lest Mr. Obama be re-elected, though few expect a landslide.

The Campbell and Putnam data, however, should be put beside a competing set of facts. First, Tea Party candidates won enough seats in the midterm to give the House a Republican majority. They have power, however popular they may now be. Second, these freshmen have consistently refused to compromise when voting, which has moved the Republican Party, and government policy, to the right. Just think about the deficit-ceiling debacle. Third, because of the strength of the Tea Party—its simple vows against tax increases and growth in spending, for example, and the outsized media attention it garners—the Republicans must figure out how to either pacify or satisfy the Tea Partiers as they select a presidential slate. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry appeal to the Tea Party—as would Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee were either of them to run, and Newt Gingrich, too, if more voters were to notice he has tossed his hat into the ring. Can any of them win? That’s where the popularity or unpopularity factor comes in.

 

Comments

Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 2:54pm
"It might be interesting if, for one day, the conservative commenters would be required argue the liberal perspective in their responses here - and vice versa.  The exercise helps really helps one to understand the issue and their own positions better, and to get a better insight into their "reactionary" stances."

Beth,

I think this is a helpful exercise, too.  I try not to be "reactionary," but I will say that, as an America-reading Catholic who is a registered Republican, it gets very tired of every day seeing your side of things presented and assailed as an unacceptable way, of not conforming to the Church's social teaching, of being opposed to fairness, and of even not caring for the poor among us.  That is very tiresome - and it sometimes makes me argue positions out of fairness because I dont think the other side is being presented fairly.  While I am a registered Republican, I do not think that the positions Democrats hold are incompatible with Church teaching (with the exception of the Dem Party's position on abortion); I think higher taxes, bigger government, neutrality on social issues ARE allowable under the Church's teaching.  But I'm not sure many America readers (and perhaps some of its writers/editors) share that view.
Tom Maher | 8/18/2011 - 2:29pm
JR Cosgrove (# 18)

I have no what argumment Jim Keane, S.J. is making in #17.  Or is this a personal attack on you for having the thoughts he does not approve of? 

The idea of the Tea party is racist as you say has beenrepeated in the press but never substatiated. Its a belief without proof or any substance.  If the Tea party is so racist then why is  Repreesntative Alan West one of the Tea party's most outspeken leaders in Congress?  Alan West of course is a newly elected black Represntative from Florida and is constantly urging budget reform and control of the run away national debt crisis.

Interestly Alan West is under attack for his prominent role in the Tea party by Democrats.  Of course it would be ridiculous to call him racist since so they go for other pretty strong stuff without substance. 

But if the Tea party is so racist how come there are so many blacks and everyone esle across the country involved with the Tea party.  The Tea party is a nationwide movement and does included all groups and income level amd other demographics.

The issue of the national debt crisis is still very new to most people.  Most people do not even know of the  issue.  Even fewer peopel know about the actual horrors going on in Europe due to the European debt crisis, the real  life examples of what too much debt will do to a country.   

Are the Jesuits as a group too far removed or insulated from the world that they  do not realize or fully appreciate the impacts of our national debt crisis which if allowed to continue out of control will harm everyone, blacks, whites Asians rich and poor?

How old fashion and out of touch to mis-analyze the Tea party movement in terms of 1960s racial, and ethnic identity political.  The wrong lessons are being applied to the wrong people.   This is moralizing gone awry.
Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 2:09pm
Beth,

 
''if, for one day, the conservative commenters would be required argue the liberal perspective in their responses here - and vice versa.'' 


That would be great.  I can try to argue the liberal position because I have seen it enough and at least I try to argue the conservative position as best I can.  When I argue the conservative position the frequent response is not substantive but mocking or ridicule to make you look small or insensitive.  So I am all for trying it.


You see I more often than not have the same objective as the liberals, it is just that I want something that will work and not something that will make one feel good.  I also know a lot of conservative and liberals and know most are very good people, it is just how something is accomplished that is at issue or their understanding of what went before is not the same.
Beth Cioffoletti | 8/18/2011 - 1:46pm
It might be interesting if, for one day, the conservative commenters would be required argue the liberal perspective in their responses here - and vice versa.  The exercise helps really helps one to understand the issue and their own positions better, and to get a better insight into their "reactionary" stances. (why am I so quick to jump up and shout down the other guy?)

I would love to see the members of Congress employ this exercise in an effort to better understand each other.
Helen Mc Devitt-Smith | 8/18/2011 - 1:09pm
I have never taught American History (only Religion/Theology).  If I were to teach a course, I would feel obligated to point out to my students that at the Boston Tea Party: 
There were 342 chests of tea, more than 46 tons of tea leaves that were destroyed. That amount could have brewed 18,523,000 cups of tea. The reported losses would amount to a million dollars in today’s money.
(Isn’t that stealing? destruction of private property? vandalism?)
Some participants impersonated Indians so as not to be identified.
(Is that taking responsibility for one’s actions? Is that being courageous?)
The whole incident is hardly praiseworthy and the participants were hardly role models for today’s youth.
I’ll take the ride of Paul Revere any day as a model.
“As you know, he who warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure, as he is riding his horse through town, to send those warning shots and bells, that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”  (Sarah Palin)
(I’ll be honest. I am being sarcastic here.)
Tea Party People, “wake up and smell the coffee.”  You are not doing the Republican Party or our country any good with your intransigence, vindictiveness, and Halloween-like, American patriot costumes.
Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 12:06pm
''Mr. Cosgrove, your brave stand against racism is duly noted.''
 
How incredibly condescending.  
Tom Maher | 8/18/2011 - 11:33am
Jim Keane (# 14)
 
Excuse me but have you noticed the central theme of this article and the NY Times article it references is the highy speculative notion that the Tea party may be in sharp decline?   This speculation offers plenty of basis for criticism and yes it does fall into a pattern of wishful thinking that ignores an overall realistic assessment of the Tea party's  very real and growing power and influence in the halls of Congress.   To the contrary of this theme of decline, it is entirely possible and even likely the number of Tea party Senators and Representative will sharply increase in the 2012 election even futher than the historically large gains made in the 2010 election just last fall. 

This article and the NY Times article it refences fails to recognize the source of the Tea party's growing strenght.  The Tea party movement is not an idenity based movement but is rather an issue based movement.  The Tea party's primary  is the correction of our national debt crisis and the urgently needed reform of the federal goverenment's finances.  Tea party voters are insisting their Representatives and Senators reform federal fiances and are not accepting excuses.  Earlier this month Congress passed legislation now in law to reduce the national debt due to Tea party politcal influence .  This voting block is not going away and will likely increase as long as there is a national debt crisis. 
Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 11:05am
Father Keane,

I read Ms. Smith's OP and found it extremely offensive.  It says that the Tea Party are racists and by implication that those who support it are supporting a racist organization.  I have been following this movement since its beginning and have not seen one iota of this or its connections to promoting religion in government.  It has from the start been about economic issues.  That you do not see this is amazing. 


To someone who has followed this debate from the beginning, what I see is a desperate attempt by a failed ideology to stigmatize a group that is standing in their way in any way they can.  They are now trying to implement a racist strategy.  I find such an attempt a new low point in politics and even more disturbing that America is participating in this false stigmatization.


I suggest that America examine all the instances of racist example by the Tea Party.  If they cannot come up with any or only a few then I suggest that those here who denigrate it , apologize for their behavior. 


And yes I read Ms. Smith's OP and the Times OpEd.  What will drive the political changes in the next few years is economics and few will be willing to let religion get into it.  As I said it is a desperate attempt to falsely stigmatize others and the Church and Jesuits have names for such attempts. 
Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 8:11am
This whole thread is whistling past the grave yard. Which party went "all in" on the supposedly brilliance and superiority of a single man... a man whose bona fides for such brilliance and having 'all the answers' and being so utterly superior in diplomacy (the world will love us again, the wars will cease, jobs will come roaring back...) were all claims without backing - made by people who demanded that we just trust them?

Now these same folk and their party is in disarray and looking about for some boogie man to have some 2 minutes of hate (ala scapegoating).

The Tea Party is growing - 2010 was a sign of a tectonic shift afoot. But since then they've been gathering regularly, expanding their numbers and networks and vetting primary challengers galore. No doubt both the DNC and GOP despise these people and are actively trying to subvert and run false flag ops too. But we'll see in 2012 my friends...

so do you progressive liberals a) pooh pooh the tea party as over and so get caught by surprise or b) open your eyes?
Anonymous | 8/18/2011 - 12:28am
''due to what you call a fisaco.''


Regardless of what is in the bill and whether one agrees with it or not, how can one not say it wasn't a fiasco.  I doubt anyone still knows what is in it and the way it was passed was a new low point in congressional behavior.  Then for the leader of the House to say of this 2700 page bill that we have to pass it in order to find out what is in it, should be one of the amazing bits of chutzpah in history.  Can anybody imagine what the press would do to a Republican president and congress if they did this.  I can tell you what the Republican voters would do.


They are still writing regulations on this bill so no one knows for sure even if it withstands a Supreme Court challenge, what all the implications are.  It is one of the reasons why business is reluctant to hire.  How much will each hire cost them in terms of health cost and how will these regulations play out?  It is a repeat of the Great Depression where Roosevelt made it so onerous for business that they did not want to expand or hire.


Yes, most definitely a fiasco. 


I am happy for everybody's children and grandchildren and always encourage them to vote.  My kids all got jobs and healthcare right out of college except for the one who got a masters and then was covered by NYU till she graduated and got her own through her job. 
Tom Maher | 8/17/2011 - 11:15pm
Vice President Biden and Representative Doyle on August 1 attacked the Tea Party negotiators on the debt ceiling negotitations as being terrorist according to POLITICO.  This story is still circulating two weeks later.  Today, August 17,  POLITICO issued a statement again  standing by this story which had five professional journalist as sources who had personally witnessed these statements.   POLITICO reported the story four hours after ther terroist statements were made.

 This terrorist statement by adminstration and Democratic party officials has aroused great resentment at the administration who have repeatedly tried to deny the terrroist statments were made.  The administration has lectured on maintaining civilility in political discourse.

The Tea party has been repeatedly smeared  and misreperesented by the admisistration, the Democrat party ard the  press.  The New York Times article referenced in the above article does not accurately represent what the Tea party is and is not.  The idea that the Tea party may ahve a religious agenda to promote is not evidenced by it well known and highly visible public political initiatives. 

The press has misinformend the public of the strong main stream support the Tea Party has enjoyed.  This public support has allowed the Tea Party endorsed candidates great  success in the recent 2010 election where many Senators and Representitive that support the Tea Party were elected and have become a politcal force in Congress.
Anonymous | 8/17/2011 - 10:16pm
Well gee, if the tea party is unpopular, surely all's well in the world, right and we can all relax. I mean, the GOP is unpopular too. so are pro-life Catholics. Nothing to see here folks, alls OK... our intellectual and moral superiors have spoken the pronouncement: the other is unpopular so we need not even listen to their point of view while we flatter ourselves with being open minded and non-judgmental.
 
I can't wait for 2012.
T BLACKBURN | 8/17/2011 - 5:47pm
I was going to stay out of this, but JR provoked me. I see two Tea Parties, the nice local people in sunhats who seem very, very scared about deficits and pushy government - and whoever it is that announces what ''the Tea Party'' demands in Washington. I am told the locals have not been coopted, but I am told that in identical words from the people who have been ... um...I think maybe coopted. The three leading Republicans in the presidential race seem to please the Washington Tea Partiers. So who is desperately seeking Chris Christie or Paul Ryan or hoping, at least, that Mitt Romney will loosen up? It isn't Democrats, like me, looking for someone to vote for.
I've had write-ins before, and I can do it again, but if I were a Republican I would be clinically depressed.
ed gleason | 8/17/2011 - 4:54pm
JR says 'I have been to a couple Tea Party events and the people are very nice and reasonable."
Ed says  " I have been to a couple of Republican country clubs and the people are very nice and reasonable"
Anonymous | 8/17/2011 - 4:29pm
I would be wary of anything that comes from the NY Times about the Tea Party.  They are mainly shills for the Democrats.  I have been to a couple Tea Party events and the people are very nice and reasonable.  But with any movement that gathers support from 30-40% of the population, you will get some undesirable participants.


If anyone wants to keep up with the Tea Party the best site I know of is Instapundit.


http://www.pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/

 
It is run by Glenn Reynolds who is one of the best known bloggers on the internet and has written a book about blogging.  He is an extremely reasonable person.  Attempts to portray the Tea Party people as somehow extremist is a joke and is being done because those who are doing it are finding their political agenda is being thwarted by nice average people.
ed gleason | 8/17/2011 - 7:28pm
JR " Then the healthcare fiasco escalated'
My five college aged grandchildren have health insurance till 26 due to what you call a fisaco.. And everyone in a large extended voting family is happy. How many votes does your family have?
Anonymous | 8/17/2011 - 6:46pm
The Tea Party had its beginnings with Rick Santelli's rant.  


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp-Jw-5Kx8k


About two minutes into the video Santelli out of the blue uses the word tea party in Lake Michigan.  It is all about paying mortgages.


I am sure there were others before that had similar sentiments but the movement could point to that moment as the catalyst for movement.  A couple months later on tax day there were rallies all over the country.  Then the helathcare fiasco escalated and more got interested.  Notice something, it is about economics.


For something this big, there will be many others who attach themselves but it is inappropriate.  Two of the main sites that follows the Tea Party are Instapundit and the pajama's media.  I suggest that anyone who wants to write on it look at at a minimum these two websites to see what they say.  Writing on it and not doing that would be negligent.  I have been following it for 2 years and have not seen any of the stuff these supposedly gold plated researchers have found.  The people in the Tea Party are not necessarily Republicans and have gone after them too.  Many identify themselves as independents.  Here is a survey that showed 4 in 10 Tea Party supporters were Democrats or independents.


http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/polls/90541-survey-four-in-10-tea-party-members-dem-or-indie


So I believe there is an agenda here and it is not depicting the Tea Party accurately.  Otherwise the so called trends would be showing up on major Tea Party sites.  Mr. Blackburn above confirmed my assessment by saying that many in the Tea Party want Christie or Ryan to run and I think many would be pleased with those choices especially Ryan.  They are appealing for their economic positions.  Christie has done some great things in New Jersey but may have some issues that would hold him back.  One is honesty.  He said is not ready to run and Christie is brutally honest.


Here is an article in the Washington Post about what the Democrats are trying to do.  And I assume the same thing that inspired this article inspired the post here.  Today's talking points strategy gets out and articles get generated accordingly.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/as-bachmann-and-perry-surge-democrats-link-entire-gop-field-to-tea-partys-extreme-policies/2011/08/17/gIQAEAmeKJ_story.html 
Anonymous | 8/17/2011 - 4:43pm
Also I noticed on re-reading this how  the left is distorting the Tea Party.  It is mainly about economics and size of government and in the above post, it implies racism and fundamentalist Christian identity.  The left knows they cannot win the economic argument so they are trying to scare people into thinking that the Tea Party is something it is not.  


I am sure there are Tea Party members that fit this description but most of what I have seen is about taxes, healthcare, government spending and regulations.  The events I was at was being run by two black people in New York city and there were several Jewish people there.  Not my stereotype of racial and religious bigotry.


I expect more of these types of distortions from America as we get into the next presidential election.  That is what is disturbing about this site.