Three weeks ago, I wrote about why I don’t support the Tea Party. Among my reasons was that it is not inclusive to minorities. After reading Tyler Duggar’s “The Tea Party revisited” in last week’s Concordian, I am motivated to clarify a few points regarding the Tea Party and its relation to minority groups.
I attended a panel discussion last month at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, with Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen, co-authors of the book “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party is Fundamentally Remaking our Two-Party System.” Schoen, a self-proclaimed Democrat, repeatedly spoke about how the Tea Party is inclusive of all races, despite the racism of some of its members. Tyler made a similar point in his article last week. The fact that the Tea Party has racist members does not make the party itself racist. But who determines what is or isn’t a part of the Tea Party?
Rasmussen and Schoen repeatedly emphasized that the Tea Party is a grassroots people’s movement. They said that the Tea Party “has no leaders,” that it has no agenda driven from above. That means that the Tea Party is what its members make it. If Tea Party members choose to hold signs that make negative comments about minority races, religions and sexual orientations then those views have to be considered a part of the Tea Party movement. Of course, there are always outliers in any group, but those holding negative views toward minorities in the Tea Party are not merely outliers.
As I mentioned in my initial piece about the Tea Party, I’d estimate that around a quarter of the signs I saw at the 9/12 rally had to do with race or religion. I can’t claim my estimation skills to be perfect, but that it is an honest estimate. A University of Washington poll released this summer found that 88 percent of those polled who support the Tea Party also support Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. A New York Times/CBS poll conducted earlier this year found that 52 percent of Tea Party supporters “think too much has been made of the problems facing black people” as opposed to 19 percent of the rest of the population. Those numbers represent a significant portion of Tea Partiers who hold negative views toward minorities.
Then there is the matter of actual inclusion of minorities in the Tea Party. It stands to reason that an “inclusive” institution would include minorities. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I estimate that around 99 percent of the people I saw at the 9/12 rally were white. Again, my estimation skills aren’t perfect, but even with a huge margin of error, that number is troubling. Though most Tea Party members may not be openly hostile toward racial minorities, something about the party and its principles and practices have alienated non-whites.
Defenders of the Tea Party, like Rasmussen and Schoen, maintain that the Tea Party is united only by economic principles, and, to a certain extent, that is true. Is holding racist views a prerequisite to identifying with the Tea Party? Certainly not. But to deny that the Tea Party marginalizes racial minorities is ludicrous. Even just a cursory look at the numbers shows that it has.
Ayah Kamel is a senior Political Science and Global Studies major from Fargo. She has been verbally spouting opinions since she could talk and is happy to be able to write them down as a member of The Concordian’s opinion staff. Although Ayah does not yet know what the future holds for her, she has latent dreams of becoming the next Nicholas Kristof.