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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea Party Not Perot Movement, Just Reinforcing GOP Status Quo

Ah, Ross Perot. Those were the days. I got all giddy when Perot talked about taking a shovel and scooping out the barn (the barn was Washington). I attended a political forum in Hansen Hall at SDSU and parroted all sorts of Perot platitudes insisting Perot would save our country from... well, I'm not sure what. My heart swelled with pride every time I drove under the bridge on I-29 south of Brookings where someone painted some hopeful Perot graffiti ("If you vote, Perot can win," I think it said... and no, I didn't do it).

Watching the Teabaggers get all hot and bothered this past year, listening to some familiar-sounding singing in the shower about taking Washington back, I thought maybe we could trace a cultural or historical connection between 1992's Perot voters and the folks bringing tricorner hats back into fashion today.

The Washington Post's Dan Balz analyzes possible connections between today's Teabaggers and the Ross Perot electorate of 1992. Are their connections? Balz finds the similarities balanced by important differences.
  1. Teabaggers are mostly white (87%, by WaPo's survey), but less so than Perotistas (94%). (Of course, Dems are mostly white, too—65%.)
  2. Teabaggers include more men than women, like Perot voters.
  3. The two groups have identical educational backgrounds: one third with college degrees, two thirds without.
  4. Teabaggers are older, with a majority over 45. 63% of Perot people were under 45. (Hmm... maybe they are the same voters, just 18 years older now!)
  5. Teabaggers are richer than the folks who followed the Texas billionaire. Perot's voters matched the economic class distribution of the general population, while the Tea Party draws more from the wealthy folks.
  6. The Teabaggers are undeniably a conservative movement; Perot voters did not clearly fit a party or ideological profile:

If anything, [the Tea Party] is simply an adjunct of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, even if many of its supporters say they hold no particular allegiance for the GOP and are critical of party leadership....

Despite the same strong anti-government sentiment and focus on the federal budget deficit as the tea party activists of today, the Perot voters were far less conservative.

In 1992, 53 percent of those who backed Perot for president described themselves as moderate, with 27 percent calling themselves conservative and 20 percent liberal, according to the exit polls. Among tea party activists, the Post poll and the CBS-New York Times poll found that nearly three-quarters called themselves conservative. David Winston, a Republican pollster, pegged the group's makeup as 65 percent conservative, 26 percent moderate [Dan Balz, "Don't Be Too Quick to Mistake Tea Party for Perot Movement," Washington Post, 2010.04.18].

Of course, my friend Joseph Thompson tells me that we get more conservative as we get older (so far, I'm headed the opposite direction, but I'm just one data point). Maybe that's what happened to the Perot voters. That, and they got worse at spelling. (But haven't we all, thanks to spellcheck?)

The big difference, says Balz, is that the Perot movement was a challenge to both parties. That's part of why I got excited about Perot in 1992. He really was the underdog, someone with the potential (however faint and fleeting) to start a third party. Practically speaking, the Perot movement was a genuine alternative, a genuine challenge to both parties. Dems and the GOP both had a reasonable shot at competing for Perot votes.

The folks in tricorner hats aren't an alternative; they're an extension of the two-party system. They like to say they're about throwing all the bums out in Washington, but show me one Republican Congressman they plan to replace with a non-Republican. The Teabaggers are all about beating Obama, beating Dems, and establishing a Grover Norquist hammerlock on the Republican Party. They're just slightly different packaging for what Republicans have been selling since 1994.

Update 2010.04.22 07:24 CDT: Soldier of wisdom Thompson comes this close to meeting my challenge: he points out that the astroturfy Tea Party Express has endorsed incumbent Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick from Idaho. Minnick is a Bluer Dog than Herseth Sandlin, with a vote against the stimulus package along with opposition to cap and trade and health reform.


  1. There might be one more similarity. Both movements had their focus on one man.Perot for United We Stand and Obama for the Tea party.

  2. "If anything, [the Tea Party] is simply an adjunct of the conservative wing of the Republican Party ..."

    Well, the Tea Party certainly is something -- and I, for one, hope that it becomes (if it's not already) an adjunct, or better yet an integral part, of the Republican Party.

  3. Michael Black4/21/2010 1:21 PM

    What does Bill think of the Tea Party?

    I am very curious to hear his view.

  4. Homosexual slurs and Ross Perot idiocy aside, most Tea Party groups around the country (there is no central leadership, despite the prominence of a couple of national-level groups) are most assuredly not adjuncts or auxiliaries of the GOP. In fact, there are a number of RINOs in the Republican Party who despise the Tea Party almost as much as many Democrats do.

    Will the Tea Party movement benefit the GOP's electoral chances? That's up to the GOP, whether they want to keep playing the same old Democrat-Lite political games, or get serious about adhering to core Republican values. The Tea Party movement is about values and principles, not politics.

  5. Maybe I should have said that I hope the GOP embraces the principles of the Tea Party.

  6. Seems like Bob is contradicting himself here, but you have to shorten his sentence (take out his parenthetical) to get it.

    Ellis: "...most Tea Party groups around the country are most assuredly not adjuncts or auxiliaries of the GOP. In fact, there are a number of RINOs in the Republican Party who despise the Tea Party..."

    In other words, according to Ellis, Tea Partiers aren't RINOS, they're the REAL Republicans (or is it the REAL conservatives? Who knows... Bob doesn't specify.)

    To help clear things up here, take a look at this analysis of why the Tea Party people are emphatically not of the same political persuasion as the Perotistas:


    The long and short of it is that Ellis is pretty much correct in one sense — the Tea Partiers are NOT in general of the same political persuasion as the folks who supported Ross Perot.

    Perot followers were moderates... populists moderates. The Tea Partiers are ultra-conservates. One could imagine lots of Disgruntled Dems and Repub moderates following Perot, and if memory serves they did.

    Not so with the Tea Party movement.

    There could be exceptions of course. But these, I would classify as those of the "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" variety.

    MB, not sure if you're asking me what I think of the Tea Party or some other "Bill." If you ARE asking me, I guess I agree with Bob up to a point. There is no central leadership.

    To which I would add... but rather a seeming confusion of leadership (who's following whom where), a confusion of ideas, a confusion over the difference between fact and opinion, and oftentimes even confusion over fact and fiction.

    No wonder Bob is confused. Who among them isn't?

  7. All that said, I suppose I should, in all candor add that I myself echo Will Rogers when he said, "I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.."

  8. Bill, you prove almost every time you say anything that you are clueless, though you did make a record-breaking amount of sense with your last comment.

    I am not confused in the slightest. I know what I believe and why I believe it. A great deal of why am not confused is because, unlike virtually all liberals, I have a firm grasp on the difference between fact and opinion, evidence and assumption.

    Most Tea Party folk live in the real world, not the fantasy world of liberalism. You should give it a try sometime; your aforementioned dabbling with rational thought and accuracy shows promise. I bet you'd come to like it.

  9. Michael Black4/21/2010 7:56 PM


    I'd like to know what SD's most celebrated (and hated) Republican thinks of the Tea Party.

  10. ...and yet you believe that the universe is only 6,000 earth years old, Bob. Some firm grasp on reality.

  11. [Good grief: can one post go by without Bob turning the comment section into a discourse on what a wonderful guy he is? Bob, get over your obsession with yourself.]

  12. This Poll suggests Bob's self centered mentality is a reflection of the tea party as a whole , and this Poll suggests that really their beliefs are all over the place. While Perot's party actually received 20% of the vote in the "92" presidential election, it is clear that the teabaggers voted R the last time they voted and will be voting R next time as well. In all likelihood the teabaggers will be less consequential in American politics. Republican politicians will be very keen on this and pander appropriately. It would be foolish for any Democrat to pander as it would do more harm with their base and there wont be any teabaggers voting for democrats this fall, except of course for the perpetually confused.

  13. Wow: 84% of Teabaggers think their views reflect the views of "most Americans", compared with only 25% of the general population thinking the same thing, and 38% of the population having the agnostic decency not to presume to know the answer to that question? Talk about delusional! I think I'm right about stuff, but I don't have to manufacture an imaginary majority who agree with me to validate my beliefs. Good catch, Barry!

  14. Update 2010.04.22 07:24 CDT: Sergeant Thompson comes this close to meeting my challenge: he points out that the astroturfy Tea Party Express has endorsed incumbent Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick from Idaho. Minnick is a Bluer Dog than Herseth Sandlin, with a vote against the stimulus package along with opposition to cap and trade and health reform.

    An Idaho Democrat that makes Newt Gingrich look liberal. This is pure tokenism, espcially when you look at the specifics on the Tea Party Express

  15. You misunderstand, Cory (probably on purpose, as usual). It isn't about me; it is about the truth.

    You, Bill and the rest of your socialist ilk hardly cease to attack the ideas and principles that produced the greatest nation the earth has ever seen. I didn't come up with these ideas; I merely acknowledge them and provide a lifeline to reality for any open-minded reader who may stray onto your Marxist website.

    You reject the formula for success that has been overwhelmingly proved to work in favor of socialist dreams and fantasies that must ignore human nature and reality, and in doing so, you attack the freedom and property rights of your fellow Americans.

    Such reprehensible behavior should be denounced every time it rears its ugly head. You said yourself recently that shameful behavior deserves to be identified publicly and denounced.

    The attacks on freedom and the American way that are SOP in Madville are the epitome of shameful behavior.

    Oh, and Bill, for someone who apparently believes in patently unscientific principles (matter from nothing, life from lifeless materials, etc.), and believes you're nothing but a follically-challenged talking ape, I wouldn't crow too loudly about your own grasp on reality.

    You have absolutely no proof whatsoever that the earth is older than about 6,000-10,000 years. None. No such proof exists. As I said, you confuse your assumptions (flawed ones, at that) with fact. I cannot prove the earth is indeed only 6,000-10,000 years old (though there is compelling scientific evidence for that contention), but at least I do understand something that almost no evolutionist (or liberal, for that matterr) seems to be able to grasp: the difference between an idea and a fact.

    Unlike you, when I realized I was placing my faith in unproved assumptions that were masquerading as fact, I soon realized what a set of "emperor's new clothes" the theory of evolution is, and I abandoned my faith in it when I realized there was a theory that, unlike materialism/naturalism/evolution, was logically consistent and better fit the available evidence. It seems you are incapable of relinquishing faith in an untenable theory, though I can't be certain whether it's a matter of being afraid of the moral consequences, a mental block, or just an insecurity about admitting you were wrong.

  16. Barry, I am not self-centered, and this is not about me. If it were about me, then my grasp of the facts and reality would be unattainable for most people. That is not the case; an average person of average intelligence with average education can easily understand these things...though a person hostile to these facts cannot attain their grasp because people generally will refuse to grasp truths that interfere with their desire to manufacture their own reality.

    Rather than self-centered like liberals and ever-seeking for others to do things for me that I should be doing for myself, my focus is America-centered, and I won't remain silent when people are trashing our country and trying to pervert it into socialistic distortion of what it was created to be. This country is the heritage of the American people, and it also happens to be the best one on the planet despite everything you socialists have done to destroy it. Tea Party folk in general also recognize that our nation is the best in the world, and they understand why it is the best, and they want to see us return to those values.

    As for the results of the poll you mentioned, you either have to be insane or a liberal (forgive the redundancy) to contend that the opinions of Tea Party folk are "all over the place." Perhaps you are projecting your own inconsistent philosophy on those you despise. Or, like most socialists, you are engaging in pure deceptive propaganda. Despite the fact that there is no single person who has created this mess, and no single area in which the damage was done, Tea Party people are remarkably united in their recognition that failure to obey our Constitution and the corresponding explosion of unconstitutional federal overreach are behind the problem.

    The only significant disparity between the opinions of Tea Party people and average Americans (who aren't involved in or knowledgeable of what the Tea Party movement is really about) stems from the nonstop propaganda from the "mainstream" media and other members of the Left such as yourself who realize your only hope of hanging onto your socialist progress is to deceive the unsuspecting public into believing Tea Party folk are a bunch of violent racists.(Hint: I talked to some people just this morning who illustrated the proof that more and more people are seeing through this propaganda bilge of yours all the time)

    The sad reality is that there are only two political parties which function as useful vehicles for electing representatives to office. As pathetic as the GOP has become because of its infestation with liberals, it is far less infested than the Democrat Party. Accordingly, the odds are much better that a decent, Constitution-respecting candidate will come from the GOP than from the Democrat Party, which at the national level has been a home for little more than socialists and sexual anarchists for decades; the few exceptions like Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman are becoming more rare all the time.

    I'm sure some Tea Party people will be taken in by liberals who pretend to be conservatives (most do), but most of us are looking well beyond cheap words, closely scrutinizing statements and checking voting records.

    We're in this for the long haul. We know our country is worth saving and getting back on tracks, and we're willing to invest the time and sweat to do it. We're not going away. But if you want to think so, by all means, go ahead. That'll just make it easier for us to restore constitutional government; then you can either get with the American program or move to Cuba.

  17. "I'm sure some Tea Party people will be taken in by liberals who pretend to be conservatives ..."

    Not many!

  18. Bob. The only thing that the teabaggers are remarkably united against is Barack Obama.

  19. Hey Bob, maybe the Tea Party Express will come here and endorse a canidate in South Dakota for you! Remarkably united?

  20. Apparently, Bob doesn't believe in the speed of light either.

    I wonder where he thinks gold comes from.

    I wonder if he's ever read Einstein or Max Planck.

    I wonder if he believes in nuclear fission, fusion, radioactivity and electricity.

    I wonder if he knows how long it takes for light to get here from the sun, or if the other stars are suns too, and how long it takes for their light to reach us.

    I wonder if he knows what a galaxy is, or how far away they are or how long it takes their light to reach us.

    I wonder if he believes people landed on the moon and in how they did it.

    And I wonder if he understands how and why the computer he is using works.

    In short, I wonder about Bob.

    Because he wouldn't recognize a proof or a truth if it was staring him in the face.

    How does one come to be like that, I wonder?

  21. I wonder if Bill assumes that the speed of light has never changed over the course of history, even though we have now observed (not theory, not assumption, but observed) the speed of light change under differing conditions in the lab?

    Or if Bill knows that a little over a year ago, researchers at Oxford University discovered that our area of space seems to be unusually devoid of matter when compared to the rest of the universe, and that this could warp space-time in such a way that stellar objects could appear to be farther away than they actually are?

    It's amazing the things one can learn when one has an open mind to science.

  22. Looks like Bob pulls his science from the same place he pulls his politics.

  23. Okay, Bob, I'll bite, mostly because I just want read your answer.

    What evidence do you have that the speed of light has changed throughout history? Is it speeding up? Or slowing down? Or does it just change at random whenever?

    And if objects were farther away from us than they appear to be, how would you measure that? And would it take more or less time for their light to reach us?

    Please "enlighten." Thanks.

  24. Yes, Barry, I pull them both from the real world. You should give it a try sometime.

    And Bill, I didn't say I had evidence that the speed of light has changed at some point or points over history. I am very precise with the words I use. I stated that you apparently assume that the speed of light is constant in all areas of the universe and has been constant throughout the course of time. In other words, I was indirectly asking you what proof you have of such a contention, and we both know the answer is "none;" you merely assume that to be the case.

    And as I pointed out by the fact that scientists have actually slowed down light nearly to a standstill in certain conditions, that it is possible for light to travel at different speeds. And since there is no rational way for us to reasonably assume that speed has never changed in the last 1,000 years (let alone a theoretical 1 million or billion or more), or can we reasonably assume the speed of light may not travel at different speeds outside the gravity well of our solar system or elsewhere in the cosmos, it would be a mistake to dogmatically assume that it has not and cannot change.

    But I don't do command performances to supply information to people who have demonstrated strong aversion to inconvenient facts, especially when the information is pretty easy to find with Google.

    Information is so much more satisfying and meaningful when we find it for ourselves, and I have no doubt that you can, provided you are really interested in expanding your horizons.

  25. It would be more rational, Bob to make assumptions based on the preponderance of evidence than it would be to make assumptions based on no evidence whatsoever.

    It always amuses me when Creationists cling to any scientific kernel that might appear to bolster their preposterous historical claims all the while insisting that scientists and historians can't prove anything.

    That's foolish at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst.

    I'll split the difference with you Bob and give you benefit out the doubt, since at least — and at long last — you are finally starting to argue that one should keep an open mind.

    That's progress. Baby steps maybe. But progress nonetheless.

  26. I've never done or encouraged anything different, Bill. May God bless you for your conciliation.

  27. God bless you too, Bob. Thanks.


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