At the same time I posted about the folks who spent two years within the Tea Party, the New York Times was conducting a poll among Tea Partiers and confirms what a lot of observers — including myself — have known about them: they’re just a re-branding of the same old reactionary right-wing Republicans that have been around since, well, as long as anyone can remember.
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
I have strong memories from forty years ago, when I was a senior in high school, of people who were outraged about my school having “colored” students and railed about long-haired “hippie types” (like me) who listened to demon rock and roll, dodged the draft (in my case, by being a conscientious objector), mocked mainline religion, read Tolkien and plays by that notorious homosexual, Oscar Wilde, and became gay theatre scholars. Some things never change.
By the way, it’s interesting to note that among my friends who grew up with parents who carried on about the destruction of society in the 1960’s, they were the families who ended up with divorces, estrangement, and stints in rehab. It’s purely anecdotal, but the more the parents tried to prevent their kids from growing up and shielded them from the outside world, the more they fought to get away. Take from that what you will.