Just How Racist, Sexist Are Most Tea Partiers?
Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones has dug into the latest survey on the tea party and come up with some interesting data:
So another pollster has attempted to address the question of just how racist the tea party movement really is. OK, that’s not exactly what the new Public Religion Research Institute survey set out to do, but that’s basically one of the most interesting take-aways. In a report published today on the role of religion in the 2010 elections, the institute released its findings from a 2010 post-election "American values survey" that asked, among other things, whether respondents believe that white people face significant discrimination. It’s sort of a loaded question, but still a less direct way of asking people about their views on race.
Tea party critics won’t be surprised to hear that 61 percent of people who identify with the movement said discrimination against whites "is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities." (White evangelicals also saw doors slamming in the faces of white people, with 57 percent agreeing that discrimination against people like themselves was equal to that against minorities.) That view was shared by only 28 percent of Democrats and about half of independents. Republicans were closer to the tea party on that question, with 56 percent agreeing that discrimination against whites is a big problem.Just as tea partiers think claims of discrimination against minorities are overrated, they also believe by a 6 in 10 margin that the government has paid too much attention to them—and to women's problems, too. While most Americans, according to the survey, believe that discrimination is still a significant problem for women, more than 58 percent of tea partiers think that women no longer face discrimination in the US.
I think it would be interesting to ask them what they consider discrimination. I would guess that some of them think Affirmative Action is discrimination, and that's not an intellectually incoherent view. Liberals take the position that past discrimination makes it necessary to tilt the playing field to racial minorities and women for them to get an even break, but it's not unreasonable to take to the opposite view. However, I'm not sure that's the main thrust of their complaint. I think they see that taxation is discrimination because the government redistributes money to people they don't believe deserve it. And certainly conservative Christians believe they are discriminated against by the first amendment's prohibition against establishment of religion. They really do believe that America is a "Christian nation" and that the government should be proselytizing on behalf of Christianity. Mencimer rightly points out that the tea partiers seem to have a much rosier view of the state of American equality, at least for women and racial and ethnic minorities. Indeed, they think that those people are now on top and are actively discriminating against whites, particularly white men. Considering the numbers of women and minorities in positions of power, that's fairly ridiculous, but I suspect they really do believe it.
This last finding was rather startling when I first read it, but after thinking about it for a while, I can see how this works: Three-quarters of them also believe that their God has granted the U.S. a special role in the world, a view that makes them much more inclined than other Americans to say that torture is justified in some cases. If our country is literally guided by God, then by definition, anything we do is right, including torture. And this is particularly true when the tortured are Muslims, who the Tea Partiers see as enemies of Christianity and America. In fact, looking back on it, I think the bizarre locution that Bush used whenever asked about this --- "America doesn't torture" --- might have been heard as a dogwhistle. We don't "torture" because torture is wrong and America, being God's chosen country, cannot be wrong. Therefore, nothing our government does can be considered torture.
The whole report is here and it's fascinating.