Tea Party Voters Seem Unperturbed by Politicians’ Personal Ethics

By Patrik Jonsson

In many respects, the movement stands to benefit Republicans.

A Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll showed that of the 44 percent of Americans who favor the tea party, 79 percent of them want to see Republicans take control of Congress. Of those 44 percent, 56 percent say they would consider attending a tea party event, an indication of how passionate they feel about the election.

Other pollsters agree that the tea party’s political engagement is high. “Even when you control for things associated with political participation, like accessibility, income and education, people who support the tea party outparticipate people who don’t support the tea party by a wide margin,” says independent pollster Christopher Parker at the University of Washington.

That engagement was evident in Delaware, where tea-party favorite Christine O’Donnell upset veteran Mike Castle to win the Republican Senate nomination. In the two days after her victory she brought in more than $1 million in online donations, her website reported. Such “money bombs” – small donations from a large number of donors – have characterized key tea party flavored races.

But the tea parties’ independent streak could also help Democrats in some races. In picking winners like Ms. O’Donnell, tea party voters have also chosen a few ethically challenged loose cannons who might be too far to the right to win general elections. Delaware’s GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell has some skeletons in her closet.

A test of tea party principles

How much this comes into play will be a test of one of the tea party’s core principles: a distrust of government. For their part, tea party voters seem unperturbed by politicians’ personal ethics, standing by candidates so long as the candidates say they will continue to stand by a principled small-government message.

The question is how deep this anti establishment mood runs in the broader electorate.

Speaking to CBS News, President Bill Clinton warned Democrats to take the anti establishment mood seriously. “[W]e may be entering a sort of period in politics that’s sort of fact free, where the experience in government is a negative,” said Mr. Clinton.

Others agree.

“It’s a fascinating dynamic that having the establishment label is the scarlet letter of the cycle,” says Nathan Gonzales, political editor for the nonpartisan political newsletter the Rothenberg Report in Washington. “If you’re not the establishment, people project onto you whatever they want, whatever they want you to be. They’re willing to ignore significant [faults]  in order to uphold their own personal narrative and political philosophy: that establishment is bad.” (Read What Palin was up to while being considered to run as vice president.)

Reluctant bedfellows?

Of course, there is a natural cross-fertilization between conservative tea party groups and the GOP.

Groups like the Tea Party Express (which is run by a Republican marketing guru), FreedomWorks (which announced it was backing Joe Miller on Thursday), and Tea Party Nation are tapping into Republican networks and expanding their endorsement lists, often to include more mainstream Republican candidates. Meanwhile, Sen. Jim DeMint has come forward as a veritable one-man tea party cheerleader.

The $1 million donation to the Tea Party Patriots, too, in some ways represents an effort to mainstream the tea party, some suggest. Adam Brandon, a spokesman with FreedomWorks, one of the national organizations trying to steer the tea party energy into Republican success in November, says that “the brilliance of everything you’re seeing is that its strength is in its decentralization.”

Ultimately, Republicans may feel some backlash for tea party decisions, Mr. Gonzales says.

5 things Conservatives Should Be Wary of in the Tea Party

Read More


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WakeUpAmerica
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 06:11:43

    Excellent post, Syrin. I have long wondered about the dichotomy of ethically-challenged candidates being promoted by fundamentalist “christians.” It has always seemed to me that fundamentalists have embraced the Bible in a completely literal sense when it serves them while inserting “their” interpretation here and there in an effort to make sense of a chaotic world. It seems that their fear of all things “establishment” drives their passion for certain candidates beyond the realm of rational thinking. They have thus narrowly focused on a two plank platform in choosing candidates to support – anti-choice and anti-government – and ethics be damned. I find it rather bizarre of the Tea Party movement that their two planks are mutually exclusive. So while they self-righteous tout their indignation over Roe vs Wade and government intrusion, they also completely minimize character traits such as: integrity, morality, responsibility, service, forgiveness, and basic human kindness. To think that a two plank platform will move this country forward is parochial at best. I see it as dimming the light at the end of the tunnel.


    • Syrin
      Sep 27, 2010 @ 17:01:09

      Thanks for your excellent observation and almost bumpersticker smack on statement.. TEA Partiers: minimize character traits such as: integrity, morality, responsibility, service, forgiveness, and basic human kindness. Agreed, a two plank platform will NOT move this country forward, no matter what two planks! I’m asking for responsible, balanced and common sense solutions.. I think I’m asking for way too much =-)


  2. Syrin
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 16:40:44

    Please check out the links scattered throughout the story. The links go to additional supporting articles. The point for me is these people can talk anti-abortion and anti-government all they want! What have they done, but be in conflict? Have they provided ways to work within the established boundries. NO! Instead these people want to create their own way of doing things.. which has no chain of command, No hierarchy, No accountability & No common sense.. I have no reason to give my time and money to this rudderless, halfbaked movement.. Look at who they chose to represent them. [Palin, O’Donnell]..It’s a mob mentality and indeed, a new fact free ideaology and ethics be damned. I have grown to have very little in common with these folks.. Without intellect, self control and personal ethics, who the heck needs YOU? I’ve been conservative all of my adult life working quietly with those in my community to slowly bring change in the areas of faithbased community projects and lessening the need for abortions with education. Of course this isn’t quite as popular!


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