(NNPA)—Despite efforts to depict the so-called “tea bag protesters” as part of an independent political movement, new polling data reveal that approximately three-quarters of them are Republicans or lean toward the GOP and 77 percent of them voted for John McCain in 2008.
Those are the findings of a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
“The Tea Party movement is mostly made up of people who consider themselves Republicans,” Pete A. Brown, assistant director of the university’s Polling Institute, said in a statement. “They are less educated but more interested in politics than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack and are not in a traditional sense swing voters.”
While only 33 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin, 72 percent of tea party members are impressed by McCain’s former running mate. Eighty-eight percent of those polled said if their congressional election were held today, they’d vote for the Republican candidate. According to the poll, 88 percent of the tea baggers are White.
Because GOP leaders and tea bag protesters are joined at the hip, Republicans can’t credibly distance themselves from what New York Times columnist Frank Rich called a “tsunami of anger” and venom spewed by the right-wingers. It was during a recent Tea Party-led protest on Capitol Hill that African-American congressmen were called the n-word and one, Emanuel Cleaver II of Kansas City, Mo., was spat on by a protester.
GOP leaders issued perfunctory disclaimers intended to give the impression that they frown on such behavior. However, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele couldn’t bring himself to call the actions what they were—racist and homophobic.
The Washington Times quoted Dale Robertson, founder of teaparty.org, as saying Democrats were “trying to label the tea party, but I’ve never seen any racial slurs.”
Evidently, Robertson can’t read his own signs.
He was reportedly kicked out of a Tea Party event last year when he appeared carrying a sign that read, “Congress = Slaveowner, Taxpayer + Niggar.”
Clearly, he is proficient in neither reading nor spelling.
But characters such as Robertson have been emboldened by the rhetoric and actions of GOP leaders whether inside or outside of Congress. As protesters gathered at the foot of the Capitol, some Republican members of Congress greeted them, holding a “Don’t tread on me” banner. One, Rep. Steve King, simulated slapping a photograph of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Inside, when disruptive protesters were ejected from Congress by Capitol police, some Republican members of Congress applauded the unruly visitors.
As Frank Rich pointed out, this is about more than health care reform.
“If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory,” Rich explained. “The conjunction of a Black president and a female speaker of the House—topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay congressional committee chairman—would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that [Barney] Frank, [John] Lewis and [Emanuel] Cleaver—none of them major Democratic players in the health care push—received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan ‘Take our country back!,’ these are the people they want to take the country back from.”
This anger has been stoked by the usual conservative radio talk show hosts.
After Republican efforts to derail health care reform failed, Rush Limbaugh said: “They [Democrats] won because they held Congress and the presidency, and therein lies the lesson: We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out. We need to chase them out of town…”
Repeated lies by Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have caused a majority of Republicans to accept unfounded lies about Obama as facts.
According to a recent Harris poll, most Republicans (67 percent) believe the president is a socialist, wants to take away the right to own guns (61 percent), is a Muslim (57 percent), wants to turn over the sovereignty of the U.S. to a one-world government (51 percent) and has done many things unconstitutional (51 percent).
Sizable minorities also believe Obama was not born in the United States and therefore ineligible to be president (45 percent), is a racist (42 percent) and is doing many of the things Hitler did (38 percent).
Even when Obama is doing what other presidents have done, he gets criticized by Republicans.
For example, after Obama made 15 recess appointments—placing officials in federal positions while the Senate, which normally approves such nominations, was in recess—Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the move would further chill relations between Obama and the GOP.
Neither the senior senator from South Carolina nor his fellow Republicans acknowledge that George W. Bush made the same number of recess appointments at this stage of his presidency. By the time Bush left office, he had made 171 recess appointments, according to the Congressional Research Service.
But this isn’t about telling the truth. It’s about trying to regain political power, even if that means being hypocritical, trading in blatant lies and pretending this is a modern-day tea party revolt.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)