Ezra Klein Cites Academic Work: Tea Party Is 'Racist, Sexist, Xenophobic, Homophobic, and Anti-Obama'

Ezra Klein may be young, but he’s not young enough to miss how recycled it is to smear the Tea Party as haters in every category. Nevertheless, Klein sought out and interviewed Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington, is co-author of the book "Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America".

After rigorous, professorial study, Parker found people don't fully appreciate why Tea Partiers won't compromise: “when I looked at it empirically, I found that people who supported the tea party tended to be more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Obama.” Klein then professed that this made him bristle a tiny bit:

KLEIN: So I’m not exactly a tea partier myself. But when I hear you say that I bristle. The description members of the tea party would give of themselves is that they’re really concerned about the growth of government and the rise in taxes and the management of the economy. Labeling them things like racist, sexist and homophobic sounds like an attempt to just write them out of civilized discourse. So persuade me that this isn’t just an attack.

PARKER: What I do in these surveys and models is I account for desire for limited government. I account for ideology. I account for all these other things where people could say they’re just more conservative. There’s just this empirical connection between support for the tea party and antagonistic views toward quote-unquote marginalized groups, or, if you prefer, toward quote-unquote not real Americans. If you look at the historical and social scientific literature on American national identity, the portrait that emerges is mainly white, male, middle class, straight, at least a bit educated, and a bit older.

Look at who rose during this period. It’s not all about Obama. Nancy Pelosi was the first female speaker of the House. Barney Frank wielded real power. Two women, one of whom was a Latina, went to the Supreme Court. Undocumented workers have gotten a ton of attention. There’s been the rise of same-sex rights.

That’s the crux of the book. The title is ‘Change They Can’t Believe In’. This isn’t new. Whenever there’s rapid social change it triggers this kind reactionary conservatism. People see their social prestige threatened, their way of life threatened. And they react.

Parker tried to explain his muddy methodology: after reviewing National Review Online, they categorized only five percent of its content under a category called “Conspiracy/Socialism/Government Bad.” But Tea Party websites have 33 percent of that. What any of that has to do with racism, sexism, and homophobia is anyone’s guess. In fact, Parker finds 12 percent race/racism content on NRO, and only five percent on Tea Party sites. If Parker wrote something anti-Boehner that seemed very emotionally overwrought, is it fair to say Parker hates white people?

One would think a real academic study of alleged Tea Party hatred of the "marginalized" would actually do a poll asking if the Tea Party interviewees believe in white supremacy and male chauvinism, and hate immigrants and homosexuals. Apparently, just having dramatically negative feelings about Obama makes you racist:

PARKER: So it’s not just that we’re seeing results like 76 percent of tea partiers want to see Obama fail. We also ask if people think Obama is destroying the country. We asked this question of all self-identified conservatives. If you look at all conservatives, 35 percent believe that. If you look at tea party conservatives and non-tea party conservatives, only six percent of non-tea party conservatives believe that vs. 71 percent of tea party conservatives.

Klein thought the most salient part of this self-congratulatory exchange was the finding that the Tea Party sees Obama as evil and refuses to compromise. Earth to Klein: And the Left would greet compromising with Tea Party conservatives as what?

Tea Parties Washington Post Christopher Parker Ezra Klein
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