It’s tough for Tea Party supporters these days. The movement’s members find themselves under increasing attack as their challenge to the status quo grows stronger. Democrats, still sour from losing the House, have lost their cool. “As far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can go straight to hell,” proclaimed ethics-challenged Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, at an Aug. 20 community meeting.
Even academia is joining the mob. As The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan chronicled, a recent American Political Science Association convention was chock full of eggheads claiming “racial resentment” and “anger” motivate Tea Partyers. Papers presented at this esteemed event include “Bitter Tea: Partisanship, Ideology and Racial Resentment in the Tea Party Movement,” “Civil Rights and LGBTQ Scapegoats in the Tea Party Movement” and “Passionate Patriotism: Gender and the Discourse of Anger in the Tea Party Movement.”
Meanwhile, at the American Sociological Association’s August convention, professors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University purported to address “Cultures of the Tea Party.” Their paper claimed “authoritarianism, ontological insecurity, libertarianism and nativism” are the primary cultural dispositions of movement supporters. That’s academic code for “controlling, backward, intolerant and racist” and strongly reminiscent of President Obama’s condescending dismissal of dissatisfied voters as bitter folk who cling to guns and religion.
The paper defined nativism as “negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration.” Even though just 18 percent of Tea Party supporters surveyed felt “very negatively” about immigrants, this was declared a fundamental characteristic of the movement. Among the general population, 12 percent said they felt the exact same way. Tea Party supporters were said to have “ontological insecurity” because a majority were concerned about “changes taking place in American society these days.” The same could be said of most Americans, as a Gallup poll found 88 percent of the country to be “dissatisfied with the way things are going.”
The worst of the sociologists’ assertions is that the Tea Party is authoritarian because it believes “obedience by children is more important than creativity.” The researchers came up with this gem by offering a false choice in survey questions, such as “Would you say it is more important that a child obeys his parents, or that he is responsible for his own actions?” Ensuring that children pay attention when told not to run out into the street is not the same as crushing their little spirits.
The wink for those in on the joke came in the paper’s reference to Karen Stenner’s 2005 book “The Authoritarian Dynamic,” which builds on years of research into a construct known as “the authoritarian personality” characterized by a “predisposition to intolerance.” As the book explains, “Some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy. … [these people] will always be imperfect democratic citizens, and only discouraged from infringing others’ rights and liberties by responsible leadership, the force of law, fortuitous societal conditions and near-constant reassurance.”
The message is clear for those down with the lingo. Academics are labeling Tea Party supporters imperfect democratic citizens who need to be contained, not heeded. What they’re missing is the Tea Party is a movement of ordinary Americans seeking to address the real problems facing our nation. Instead of resorting to thinly disguised name calling, these supposed intellectuals ought to study the Tea Party’s policy message and learn a thing or two about their legitimate worries.
Anneke E. Green is Assistant Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Times.
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