by Max Brantley
An interesting New York Times op-ed reviews the plunging poll approval numbers for the Tea Party and delves into the numbers for some insight into who TPers are.
They are highly partisan Republicans for the most part, not political neophytes.
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.
Religion and politics and extreme conservatism? Meet Tea Party faves Bachmann and Perry. Ah, but the numbers contain some good news, too.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
Not coincidentally, President Obama is painting the entire Republican presidential field with the Tea Party brush. Too extreme. It's a good label, particularly when true.