New York Times Still Claiming Tea Party Built on Fear of a Black President

August 27th, 2021 6:23 PM

The New York Times uncovered one reason President Biden isn’t facing his own “Tea Party” protest movement: Racism.

Why Biden Hasn’t Faced a Second Coming of the Tea Party,” the “Upshot” analysis by Ian Prasad Philbrick in Saturday’s news pages, claimed the Tea Party was built on racial backlash against America’s first black president, Barack Obama.

Barack Obama had been president for only a few months when the Tea Party roared onto the American political scene. Conservative activists rallied and organized by the hundreds of thousands against his economic stimulus plan and health care reforms. Their efforts torqued the Republican Party rightward and powered its gains in the 2010 midterm election.


Why has Mr. Biden -- at least so far -- escaped the sort of grass-roots ferment that dogged his two immediate predecessors?

Forget any thought of principled fiscal conservatism by conservatives -- it was fear of a black president, a smear that has characterized Times coverage of the Tea Party from the outset.

One possibility is that he’s simply perceived as less antagonizing. The Tea Party was driven more by anxiety and resentment over a demographically changing country that had just elected its first Black president, most political scientists agree, than by fiscal conservatism.

“I don’t think it was just Obama personally; it was what he represented,” said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist who has studied both the Tea Party and the anti-Trump resistance. “It’s the sense that people that don’t seem like America to you are taking charge.”

As a white man, Mr. Biden attracts less of this racial backlash….

Skocpol is not exactly a credible source on Biden, as shown in her embarrassing defense of Biden’s handsy reputation before he officially entered the presidential race in April 2019.

The transformation of the Republican Party since 2009 offers another possible explanation. The rise of the Tea Party “marked the beginning of a mainstreaming of right-wing resentment politics” that helped pave the way for Mr. Trump’s presidency, said Rachel Blum, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma.

Here was a backhanded compliment for the Tea Party. They were overly violent, only metaphorically so!

It’s also possible that the Trump era has changed the tactics and goals of conservative organizing. Although some Tea Party events featured guns and violent language, the movement influenced the political process largely by protesting, pressuring lawmakers on legislative issues and voting...

“The messaging is very much not about” using the traditional tools of grass-roots organizing, “like going to town hall meetings and contacting your elected officials,” said Dana Fisher, a University of Maryland sociologist. “This is more like intimidating your elected officials by packing assault rifles.”

Far-right militant groups whose members participated in the Capitol attack, like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, have taken part in more than 300 events (some peaceful) in the six-month period after Mr. Biden’s inauguration, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. And sizable shares of Republicans have downplayed or excused the events of Jan. 6….

Philbrick really stretched to link the Capitol attack to mainstream conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation.

In some cases, the Tea Party has embodied this shift. One of its founding organizers spoke at the rally that preceded the Capitol attack. Local Tea Party groups that remain active have embraced Mr. Trump’s election lies, Professor Skocpol said. And groups like FreedomWorks and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, which boosted the Tea Party movement, are now pushing restrictive voting laws.