!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: US House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus
US House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus was a participant or observer in the following events:
Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights logo. [Source: IREHR / Facebook]The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) issues a comprehensive, multi-part report on the American “tea party” movement. The report is written by IREHR vice president Devin Burghart and IREHR president Leonard Zeskind, both accomplished authors and researchers. The report examines six national organizational networks which Burghart and Zeskind say are “at the core of the tea party movement.” These six include: the FreedomWorks Tea Party; the 1776 Tea Party (“TeaParty.org”); Tea Party Nation; Tea Party Patriots; ResistNet; and the Tea Party Express. The report examines their origins, structures, leadership, policies, funding, membership, and relations with one another. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010]
Data Collection Methodology - The authors provide details of their data collection methodology in a separate section of the report. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Racism, Anti-Semitism Rampant in Many (Not All) Tea Party Organizations - The report explicitly notes that “[i]t would be a mistake to claim that all tea partiers are nativist vigilantes or racists of one stripe or another.” It shows that while tea party organizations, and many media outlets, paint tea partiers as concentrated primarily on “budget deficits, taxes, and the power of the federal government,” in reality many tea party organizations are very focused on racial, nationalist, and other social issues (see January 14, 2010). The report finds: “In these ranks, an abiding obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) is often a stand-in for the belief that the first black president of the United States is not a ‘real American.’ Rather than strict adherence to the Constitution, many tea partiers are challenging the provision for birthright citizenship found in the 14th Amendment.” Many (not all) tea party organizations open their ranks “to anti-Semites, racists, and bigots,” the report finds, and in many of those organizations, the racists and bigots have leadership positions. And, it finds, white supremacist organizations routinely attend and even present at tea party rallies, “looking for potential recruits and hoping to push these (white) protesters towards a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy.” The report notes that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is trying to find money and support among tea party organizations to launch a 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The leaders of the 1776 Tea Party organization “were imported directly from the anti-immigrant vigilante organization, the Minuteman Project,” the report notes. Tea Party Nation has attracted a large contingent of so-called “birthers,” Christian nationalists, and nativists, many of whom display openly racist sentiments; some other tea party organizations have now distanced themselves from that particular group. ResistNet and Tea Party Patriots, the two largest “umbrella” organizations or networks, are also rife with anti-immigrant nativists and racists; the Tea Party Patriots have openly embraced the idea of the repeal of the 17th Amendment (see April 8, 2010). At least one group, the Washington DC-based FreedomWorks Tea Party, has made some efforts to focus its actions solely on economic issues and eschew social or religious issues; those efforts have largely failed. There is a large and disparate “schema” of racist organizations and belief systems in America, the report notes, from Nazi sympathizers to “America-first isolationists,” “scientific” racists, nativists, “paleoconservatives,” and others. Generally, the more mainstream and less extremist racist movements and persons gravitate to tea party organizations. “[T]he white nationalist movement is divided between two strategic orientations: the go-it-alone vanguardists and the mainstreamers who seek to win a majority following among white people. It is decidedly the mainstreamers, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens… who seek to influence and recruit among the tea partiers.” The same can be said of militia groups: the more mainstream of these organizations are the ones taking part in, and recruiting at, tea party events. The two—racist and militia groups—have, of course, a heavy overlap in membership and belief structures. Tea party leaders and members tend to strongly dispute evidence that their fellows espouse racist beliefs. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Economic Beliefs Tied to Anger at Immigrants, 'Undeserving Poor' - The tea parties are most often characterized as anti-tax economic conservatives who oppose government spending; however, the report finds, “there is no observable statistical link between tea party membership and unemployment levels.… And their storied opposition to political and social elites turns out to be predicated on an antagonism to federal assistance to those deemed the ‘undeserving poor.’” Many tea party members and organizations, including some of the movement’s most visible political leaders, are openly anti-immigrant. The House’s Tea Party Caucus, led by Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), has a significant overlap with the members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, led by tea party supporter Brian Bilbray (R-CA). The Immigration Reform Caucus has introduced legislation that would end the Constitution’s principle of “birthright citizenship.” The racist and anti-immigrant themes at play in many tea party organizations have dovetailed in these organizations’ attacks on President Obama as being a “non-American.” The report observes: “The permutations go on from there: Islamic terrorist, socialist, African witch doctor, lying African, etc. If he is not properly American, then he becomes the ‘other’ that is not ‘us.’ Five of the six national factions have these ‘birthers’ in their leadership; the only exception being FreedomWorks.”
'Nationalism' of Tea Parties - Most tea party organizations hark back to the Revolutionary War era and the Founding Fathers as their forebears, sometimes even dressing in 18th-century costumes, waving the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, and claiming that the US Constitution as written should be the touchstone of all legislative policies. However, the report notes that their “American nationalism” is hardly inclusive: “[T]heirs is an American nationalism that does not always include all Americans. It is a nationalism that excludes those deemed not to be ‘real Americans’; including the native-born children of undocumented immigrants (often despised as ‘anchor babies’), socialists, Moslems, and those not deemed to fit within a ‘Christian nation.’” The report connects the tea parties’ concept of nationalism (see October 19, 2010) back to the “America First” ideology of Father Charles Coughlin, a vocal anti-Semite and supporter of Nazism (see October 3, 1926 - 1942). The report notes: “As the Confederate battle flags, witch doctor caricatures, and demeaning discourse suggest, a bright white line of racism threads through this nationalism. Yet, it is not a full-fledged variety of white nationalism. It is as inchoate as it is super-patriotic. It is possibly an embryo of what it might yet become.”
Multi-Million Dollar Complex Heavily Funded by Right-Wing Foundations - The tea party movement presents itself as a loose confederation of ground-up, grassroots groups and organizations put together by principled citizens driven by their political and social concerns. However, the reality is that many tea party organizations are for-profit corporations and/or political action committees, with some equally well-funded non-profit corporations included in the mix. Collectively, they have succeeded at trumping the Democrats’ advantage in Web-based mobilization and fundraising.
Resurrection of 'Ultra-Conservative Wing of American Political Life' - The report finds that the tea party organizations “have resuscitated the ultra-conservative wing of American political life, created a stiff pole of opinion within Republican Party ranks, and they have had a devastating impact on thoughtful policy making for the common good, both at the local and state as well as at the federal levels.” The report finds: “The tea party movement has unleashed a still inchoate political movement by angry middle class (overwhelmingly) white people who believe their country, their nation, has been taken from them. And they want it back.” Whom they apparently “want it back” from is from non-white Americans. The report notes that the tea party slogan, “Take It Back, Take Your Country Back” is “an explicitly nationalist refrain. It is sometimes coupled with the assertion that there are ‘real Americans,’ as opposed to others who they believe are driving the country into a socialist ditch.”
Three Levels of Structure - As with most entities of this nature, there are three fundamental levels to the “tea party structure.” Some 16 to 18 percent of Americans say they have some sympathy with tea party ideals—these citizens, numbering in the tens of millions, form the outer ring of the structure. The next ring as an ill-defined group of perhaps two million activists who go to meetings and rallies, and buy literature. The core is composed of some 250,000 heavily involved members who take part in the Web-directed activities of the tea party organizations. The report focuses on this group as the hub of what it calls “tea party nationalists.” As time goes on, the tea parties continue to add members to their ranks. The Tea Party Patriots and ResistNet are, at this time, experiencing the fastest rate of growth; the report notes, “This would tend to indicate a larger movement less susceptible to central control, and more likely to attract racist and nativist elements at the local level.” The tea parties as a whole will continue to wield their influence on American political and social debates, though the tea parties may begin to splinter as some members move into the more structured Republican Party apparatus and others move towards the more extremist white nationalist organizations. The report does not include local groups not affiliated with one or the other of the national networks, and the ancillary organizations that have worked alongside the tea parties since their inception. The report notes some of these ancillary organizations as Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty (see August 4, 2008), Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), the National Precinct Alliance, and the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011). The report also notes the existence of the “9-12 movement” (see March 13, 2009 and After), but does not count that as a separate network, and goes on to note that after the 2009 9-12 rally in Washington (see September 12, 2009), many 9-12 groups joined a tea party organization. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010]
Response - Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, responds to the release of the IREHR report by saying: “Here we go again. This is typical of this liberal group’s smear tactics.” Phillips does not cite examples of the report’s “smear tactics.” [Kansas City Star, 10/19/2010]
Entity Tags: National Precinct Alliance, ResistNet, Tea Party Express, US House of Representatives Immigration Reform Caucus, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation, Minuteman Project, US House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus, Michele Bachmann, Leonard Zeskind, Judson Phillips, 1776 Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, Barack Obama, Brian Bilbray, Council of Conservative Citizens, Charles Edward Coughlin, Devin Burghart, John Birch Society, Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, FreedomWorks Tea Party, Campaign for Liberty, David Duke
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, writing for their organization Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR), examine the role of “nativism” in the ideology of “tea party” members in a multi-part IREHR report (see August 24, 2010). (The Free Dictionary defines “nativists” as having “a sociopolitical policy… favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants,” and favoring “[t]he reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.”) According to Burghart and Zeskind, many members and leaders of various “tea party” organizations are convinced that President Obama is not a “native-born” American, has never produced a valid birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), and is not a valid American citizen. They write that the idea “that Barack Obama is not a real American, but a ‘lying African,’ is… found across the entirety of the tea party movement. Hundreds of posts echoing these sentiments are on the Tea Party Nation Web site.” Since the first tea party protests in April 2009, they write: “those who do not believe that President Obama is a native born American have been widely visible. They have claimed he was a Muslim instead of a Christian, that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia, rather than in Hawaii. And that Barack Obama was a non-American socialist who conspiratorially slipped into the White House.” Characterizations that the tea party movement is based almost solely on economic concerns are belied by the strong threads of social conservatism, including “nativism,” evident in tea party ideology (see August 16, 2011). Conservative activists such as Pamela Geller, the authors note, have fueled tea party nativism and anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant stances. Geller is, the authors claim, a classic “Islamophobe,” expressing what a 1997 study by the Runnymede Trust termed an “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.” Geller has frequently spoken at tea party events, often declaiming about the “threat” Muslims pose to America. Geller’s three “organizational fronts,” as Burghart and Zeskind call them, are her blog, “Atlas Shrugs,” and her two groups, SIOA (Stop Islamization of America) and the Freedom Defense Initiative. All are listed as official “partner” organizations of the ResistNet Tea Party faction. Geller is also a “birther” (see October 24, 2008, August 4, 2009, April 27, 2011, and April 29, 2011) who believes Obama is a “third worlder and a coward” who is “appeas[ing] his Islamic overlords.” Many tea party organizations also support anti-immigration legislation; Burghart and Zeskind cite a July 29 decision by the National Leadership Council of Tea Party Patriots to support Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration bill, SB1070. The largest umbrella tea party organization, the 1776 Tea Parties, holds as two of its “non-negotiable beliefs” that “illegal aliens are illegal” and “English only is required.” The 1776 Tea Parties also support Arizona’s SB1070, and has as members of its board two members of the violently anti-immigrant Minuteman Project. The tea party groups’ support for “birtherism” and nativist ideology has caused “something of a rift” between the groups and FreedomWorks, the lobbying organization that has funded the groups since their inception (see April 8, 2009 and April 14, 2009). Tea party members have targeted FreedomWorks founder Dick Armey over his limited support for pro-immigrant reform; one Tenneessee tea party organizer recently wrote, “I think we should tar-and-feather Dick Armey.” Conservative blogger and activist Michelle Malkin, a vocal supporter of the tea party groups, has called Armey an “amnesty stooge.” Tea party organizer Roy Beck of anti-immigration organization NumbersUSA recently wrote that Armey “wants immigration to be treated as a social issue with no place in the tea parties,” and suggested FreedomWorks may be trying “to intimidate local tea parties” to stay away from the issue at the behest of “corporate benefactors [who] want the foreign labor to keep pouring in.” Congress members such as Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and others in Bachmann’s House Tea Party Caucus are strongly anti-immigrant. And 42 of the 51 Tea Party Caucus members also belong to the House Immigration Reform Caucus, which supports blocking any immigration reform that would give illegal residents a pathway to citizenship. Burghart and Zeskind write, “Opposition to ‘birthright citizenship’ extends throughout the tea party movement, and is often linked to an explicit fear of the demographic transformation underway in the United States, in which white people are projected to become one minority in a country of minorities during the next several decades.” ResistNet’s state director in Alabama, Jason Leverette, recently wrote of his fear that whites (“real Americans”) were being “out-bred” by “Mexicans” who want to take over the nation and “rule America! If this trend continues… by 2050 the United States will be ruled by Hosea Jesus Delgado Gonzalez Calderon, Esq. WTF!” Burghart and Zeskind conclude, “It is here, at the conjunction of nativism, opposition to birthright citizenship, the denigration of President Obama, and the fear of the new majority in American life, that the unstated racism embedded within the tea parties becomes vocal and unmistakable.” [The Free Dictionary, 2009; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Entity Tags: FreedomWorks, Tea Party Nation, US House of Representatives Immigration Reform Caucus, US House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus, Devin Burghart, Barack Obama, Freedom Defense Initiative, Roy Beck, Stop Islamization of America, Pamela Geller, Leonard Zeskind, Jason Leverette, Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, ResistNet, Michelle Malkin, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, National Leadership Council of Tea Party Patriots
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama tells CBS News interviewer Scott Pelley that he cannot guarantee Social Security recipients will get paid on August 3 if Congressional Republicans block the government from raising its debt ceiling by August 2. If the debt ceiling is not raised by that date, the US will go into default on the debt it owes to other nations. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue,” he says, “because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” The Obama administration and a large number of economists and financial leaders have warned of economic catastrophe if America defaults on its debt (see May 20, 2011); many Congressional Republicans, led by the House Tea Party Caucus, have refused to consider the idea of raising the debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011 and June 26, 2011), and some even welcome the idea of a debt default. Many Republicans and Democrats are attempting to use the debt ceiling issue to work out a larger economic approach to long-term deficit reduction. Republicans want huge federal spending cuts, mostly from social safety-net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, while Democrats want smaller spending cuts balanced by increased revenue through tax increases on the wealthy and the closing of corporate tax loopholes. Obama warns: “[T]his is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) states flatly that Congressional Republicans have no intention of attempting to work with Democrats or the Obama administration to balance the budget or reduce the deficit, saying, “After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable.” However, McConnell says Congressional Republicans would work to avoid default. “The president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default,” McConnell says in remarks on the Senate floor. “Republicans choose none of the above. I had hoped to do good, but I refuse to do harm. So Republicans will choose a path that actually reflects the will of the people, which is to do the responsible thing and ensure that the government doesn’t default on its obligations.” Obama says he would refuse to sign a short-term debt ceiling increase, a tactic advocated by Republican strategists who want to bring the issue up again, and perhaps force another economic crisis, in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign. “This is the United States of America and, you know, we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments,” Obama tells reporters. “You know, we don’t risk US default on our obligations because we can’t put politics aside.” [CBS News, 7/12/2011; Daily Mail, 7/13/2011] The next day, McConnell offers an “alternative” debt ceiling plan which many see as fraught with political costs for Obama and Congressional Democrats (see July 13, 2011).
Three members of the US House of Representatives’ “tea party” caucus introduce a measure to force the federal government to pay the principal and interest on the debt, and to continue to pay military personnel, even if the government goes into default because Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. The Obama administration and a bevy of economists and financial leaders have warned that if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, the US will go into default on its debt, sending the nation’s economy into a tailspin and perhaps triggering a worldwide economic downturn (see May 20, 2011). Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA), and Louis Gohmert (R-TX) introduce House Resolution 2496, the PROMISES Act (Payment Reliability for Our Obligations to Military and Investors to Secure Essential Stability Act). All three accuse the Obama administration of lying about the potentially disastrous effects of a national default (see April 30, 2011 and June 26, 2011). President Obama recently said he could not promise that Social Security and disability checks would go out to senior citizens and veterans on August 3 if the nation defaulted on its debt on August 2 (see July 11-12, 2011); Bachmann and the others accuse Obama of lying and “fear mongering.” Bachmann says, “Don’t allow military men and women to dangle over a fire and claim they won’t get paid.” All three say that even if the government defaults on its loans, there is enough money to pay the Defense Department, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. Gohmert says that Obama should have told the nation, “The only thing that you have to fear is fear itself,” and says House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) should “not… trust the president anymore.” King says of Obama, “I can’t imagine what his argument would be against paying our military and keeping our credit rating up.” Obama has offered Congress a package containing $4 trillion in spending cuts and small tax increases on the wealthy, a package that has been rejected by Congressional Republicans. Instead, Bachmann says, “President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending sprees.” Bachmann refuses to say who would not get paid if the nation went into default, saying instead, “We want to take the politics out of this issue.” [Minnesota Independent, 7/13/2011]
In a Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa, candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claims that the recent decision by financial services firm Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the US credit rating (see August 5, 2011) proved that she and her fellow “tea party” Republicans in the House of Representatives were right to resist an increase in the debt ceiling. S&P itself (see August 11, 2011), along with an array of economists and private-sector financial leaders (see May 20, 2011, August 5-6, 2011, and August 12, 2011), says that the battle by Bachmann and her fellow House Republicans to refuse a debt-ceiling increase, even if it meant the US would default on its debt, is what led to the downgrade. But Bachmann sees the issue very differently. She reiterates her position in a post-debate interview on Fox News, saying, “Standard & Poor’s essentially proved me right.” The firm’s decision to downgrade the US credit rating came about, she says, because “we don’t have an ability to repay our debt.… We just heard from Standard & Poor’s, when they dropped our credit rating and what they said is we don’t have an ability to repay our debt. That’s what the final word was from them. I was proved right in my position. We should not have raised the debt ceiling.” Pat Garofalo of the progressive news Web site Think Progress writes that “it’s blatantly clear that Bachmann has no idea what S&P said, because just about every word out of her mouth regarding the agency’s decision was incorrect.” Garofalo notes that “S&P never said ‘we don’t have an ability to pay our debt.’ After all, the agency still rates the US as AA+, meaning it has a ‘very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.’ One S&P analyst characterized the difference between AA+ and AAA as just ‘degrees of excellence.’” Moreover, Garofalo notes, S&P downgraded the nation’s credit rating because, as it said in its own press releases and subsequent statements, “the use of the debt ceiling as a political football and GOP intransigence on taxes.” Bachmann has long derided the idea that not raising the debt ceiling would be detrimental to the US economy (see June 26, 2011, and July 13, 2011). [Think Progress, 8/12/2011]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.