Free Markets, Free People

tea party

New Jersey, Tea Parties and real “change”

I mentioned a few days ago that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey correctly identified the source of the voter’s anger in that state, ran on it, managed to get elected and now is in the middle of a very interesting and effective campaign to reign in government and government spending.  I also mentioned that he’d probably get only as far as the public was willing to tolerate cuts to services. 

Well, so far, it seems the public is still engaged and supporting him.  Take yesterday’s elections addressing school district budgets:

Thirty-four of 39 school budgets in the county were defeated.

School districts spending plans were massacred at the polls during the annual school elections Tuesday as voters used the ballot box to vent their frustrations about higher taxes.

According to unofficial results at press time, only five of 39 school district budgets were passed, a 12 percent approval rate, the lowest this decade and possibly longer.

The only other time this decade that fewer than half the budgets failed was in 2006 when only 17 of 39 budgets won approval.

As the article notes, it was a “massacre”.

The Governor has pitted himself against a very powerful (and arrogant) teacher’s union which has, in the past and with Democrats in power, pretty much gotten its way.   But because Christie has laid out the options and the reality of the situation faced by the taxpayers of the state (NJ has the highest taxes in the nation), the union isn’t in quite the powerful position it once enjoyed.  Voters are letting it be known that, even if they don’t entirely support the Governor’s plan, they at least give it more support than that of the teacher’s union.

Interestingly, the turnout was not typical for these types of elections:

Unlike most elections, this year’s featured heavy turnout as voters appeared to come out in droves to weigh in on spending plans.

That’s an engaged and active electorate taking the opportunity, as the article notes, to “weigh in” on how their tax dollars are spent.  And, for the majority of the budgets, they did not like what they saw (there’s a whole process that follows this that may see those budgets passed anyway, but if that happens it will only further inflame the situation).

Now I keep turning to New Jersey, a deeply blue state in most elections, to point to it  as an indicator.  Like the Tea Parties, what is going on in NJ is an indicator of the level of anger and frustration the electorate (to include Democrats) has with government at all levels today.  The election of Scott Brown in deeply blue MA was another indicator.  The Tea Parties a third indicator.

All of them are fair warning to politicians of all parties that this mid-term coming up isn’t going to be your normal election.  I’m beginning to think sea-change.  And I’m also beginning to think that if the newly elected group doesn’t work out, sea-change number 2 will follow in two years.  I think the people are serious about changing the culture of government at every level, I think they’re more engaged than they’ve been in decades, and I think they’re going to stay engaged.

Pundits and politicians continue to whistle past this political graveyard saying that the American people will forget all of this by November, espeically if we see some light at the end of the  “economic improvement” tunnel.  That the public can’t sustain this anger for that long and it will wither away.  While I admit that’s certainly been the case at times in the past, I think they’re fooling themselves if they think that’s going to happen this time.

So watch New Jersey during the run up to November.  Watch what happens there.  See if the people of NJ begin to turn on Christie and his program.  See if his support begins to wane.  I’m guessing it won’t – at least not before November.  And if it doesn’t, I think the word “bloodbath” to describe the results of the midterms may end up being considered an understatement.



It’s not just Obama

One of the things I’ve been saying for months is the Tea Party is not just a reaction to Obama and his agenda (although both he and his agenda have just continued to add to a decline in public trust and satisfaction in government). The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published a chart that makes that point well:

The present slide, in both trust in government and satisfaction with the nation began in about 2003 – one would guess about the time of the invasion of Iraq. Note that at that time trust in government was at an all time high. But the erosion of that trust and satisfaction in the nation, began a pretty steep slide at that point. Note too that satisfaction with the nation (i.e. the nation headed in the right direction) took a brief turn upward with the election of Barack Obama but then swiftly turned south again. Presently both indicators at near all time lows.

Note as well that the last time the indicators were in the same area was 1994 when Democrats were power and after a precipitous decline from the Bush I administration that continued through the first two years of the Clinton administration.  Also consider that when the trust numbers again began to rise after ’94, the GOP was attempting to pass the Contract with America (aimed at some of the present Tea Party goals) and were ending “welfare as we know it”.

Some would argue that the political stars are aligning precisely as they did in ’94 which saw a resounding GOP victory. The situation, via the graph, certainly seems similar. But is it really? A couple of key paragraphs may disabuse one of that notion:

The public’s hostility toward government seems likely to be an important election issue favoring the Republicans this fall. However, the Democrats can take some solace in the fact that neither party can be confident that they have the advantage among such a disillusioned electorate. Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all-time high, continues to climb.

The Tea Party movement, which has a small but fervent anti-government constituency, could be a wild card in this election. On one hand, its sympathizers are highly energized and inclined to vote Republican this fall. On the other, many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the Tea Party represents their point of view better than does the GOP.

This indicates the dissatisfaction isn’t necessarily partisan. That is the dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and the decline in public trust haven’t been driven exclusively by Obama and his agenda. As you can see, both indicators were in rapid decline well before Obama was a glint on the political horizon. What has happened is a over the past 10 or so years, the political culture within the country has begun to shift. More and more awareness of the impact, intrusion and cost of government has reached a broader audience. Our technology and connectedness has indeed had a political impact. And the numbers you see on the chart are partially a result of that.

So while Obama is the man in the hot seat at the moment, he isn’t the only reason for this general feeling of distrust and dissatisfaction. This has been brewing for some time – years in fact. It just reached a critical point – a “turn out in the streets” point – when TARP, bailouts, takeovers and trillion dollar deficits came so fast and furious that it could no longer be ignored or glossed over. Government is out of control, the Tea Party is simply a manifestation of the general dissatisfaction with government. Neither party is immune from the voters ire this November because they recognize both got the nation in this position. The only advantage the GOP holds is they are marginally recognized as the fiscally conservative/small government party (why, after the Bush years, is anyone ‘s guess). That’s why they hold a lead in most Congressional polling. But I wouldn’t call it a solid lead at this point. The Pew study makes it clear that many out there see the TP as what the GOP isn’t – truly committed to fiscal conservacy and small government. In other words, a significant portion of potential GOP voters don’t trust the GOP anymore than they do the Democrats although the GOP should be the party of choice for them (if one is to believe the principles they espouse).

The point – if the GOP wants to take and hold the reigns of power at a national level, they had better not only talk the talk (something they’re very good at) but also, once given the opportunity, walk the walk (something they are very poor at doing and the reason -although they don’t seem to understand it – they continue to get bounced out of power).


Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems – including more government control over the economy – than there was when Barack Obama first took office.

Figure it out boys and girls – here’s the ticket. Accept it, internalize it, run on it and then do it. If they don’t then the cycle you see above in the chart will only repeat.



Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Apr 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy, Tea Parties, and the Democtrats’ approach to politics. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Planning to crash the party

I’ve been watching this for a while – groups that have plans to crash the Tea Parties planned for April 15.   Michelle Malkin gives a pretty good rundown of the one group in particular that has gotten my attention.  They call themselves the “Tea Party Crashers“.  You’ll love their action plan. Saying they plan on infiltrating the TP, they will then attempt to discredit, or as they say “dismantle and demolish” the TP by whatever “nonviolent means necessary”.  That leaves the field pretty wide open, but as you read on down, the plan is plainly stated.  First they define the TP as  a “loose affiliation of racists, homophobes and morons; who constitute a fake grass-roots movement”.  The left has attempted to lay those labels on the TP since its beginning and the Tea Party Crashers plan to try to make them finally stick:

Whenever possible we will act on behalf of the Tea Party in ways which exaggerate their least appealing qualities (mispelled protest signs, wild claims during TV interviews, etc.) to further distance them from mainstream America and damage the public’s opinion of them.  We will also use inside information that we have gained in order to disrupt and derail their plans.

Tea Party Crashers claims it has already infiltrated TP meetings, thus the claim they’ll use “inside information” to accomplish their goals of disruption and derailing TP plans.

Malkin identifies the head of Tea Party Crashers as Jason Levin.  She also uses a personal example of how this sort of smear has been accomplished in the past:

I speak from direct experience about the underhandedness of Tea Party smear merchants. On Feb. 17, 2009, at one of the country’s first tax revolt rallies in Denver, a man approached me amid a throng of bona fide anti-stimulus protesters and thrust a camera in my face. I obliged cheerfully, as I usually do after such speaking events. I later learned from the character assassins at Progress Now, a left-wing outfit that just happened to be there and just happened to snap a close-up photo of the interaction, that the man pulled out a sign at the last minute (which I didn’t see until later) sporting Obama’s name with a swastika on it. He held the sign away from me, but in direct view of the Progress Now cameraperson.

That cameraperson just happened to be a former CNN producer, whose blog post on the photo just happened to be immediately disseminated by the local press and to the hit men at the radical-left Media Matters website. The narrative was set: A conservative supporter of the nascent Tea Party movement posed for a photo with a man holding up a swastika at a protest against out-of-control spending! Ergo, the anti-stimulus protesters and the entire Tea Party membership are all racist, fascist menaces to society!

The point of exposing this now is to make it clear that every single solitary unacceptable sign, vulgar or “racist” slur, etc. that is seen or heard at the TP rallies tomorrow should immediately be suspect and, quite frankly, blamed on these guys.  And, per Levin, since this has supposedly been going on for a while, it is just as likely that if there actually were racist and anti-gay slurs thrown around on the day of the health care reform bill’s passage, it is entirely possible that those too were hurled by the Tea Party Crashers.

As for the TP – get plenty of pictures and videos whenever you see something that casts your group in a bad light.   Then get them up on the ‘net.  Someone will recognize the person shouting the slur or holding the unacceptable sign.  And someone will also know their background.  TPers also need to visibly and loudly repudiate such people (as they did to the person who yelled an anti-gay slur at the HCR event) at the moment their utterance is made or their sign appears.

Polls now show a significant portion of the American public identify with the TP movement.  This obviously is a blatant attempt to wrongfully discredit an organization simply because politically it is at odds with the big government left.  Ironically, the publishing of the Tea Party Crasher’s agenda gives the TP plausible deniability, and the identification of people who attempt to carry out the Tea Party Crasher agenda with that group will inoculate the TP from many future assertions they’re anything other than small government, anti-tax and spending protesters.



Tip of the iceberg

That’s the phrase I’ve been using for months to describe the Tea Party (TP) activists you see at protests.  They represent a small portion of those who actually identify themselves with the TP movement.   Rasmussen, today, releases a poll which confirms the assertion:

Twenty-four percent (24%) of U.S. voters now say they consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. That’s an eight-point increase from 16% a month ago.

That is a significant chunk of voters. Note too the 8 point increase from a month ago? What was it that was passed into law a month ago? So there is proof that the passage of HCR didn’t at all cause the populist fire abate, but instead fueled it even more. Why is that? Rich Lowry gives as good a summation as anyone:

The tea-party movement is an act of pre-emption, based on the simple calculation that higher spending eventually means higher taxes. For all the tsk-tsking about its supposed irresponsibility, the movement is attuned to the future in a way that the president — who hopes to evade or hide the consequences of his budgetary choices for as long as possible — is not.

And the passage of HCR in the face of the TP outcry only added to the frustration the people are feeling. It also added to those who identifed themselves with the TP. Obviously, then the demonization of TP isn’t being terribly effective, is it?

Of course, as Lowry implies, the TP members figured out long ago what HCR really meant in terms of the size and scope of government and consequently what has to happen to pay for it. Lowry points out that the expiring Bush tax cuts will raise about $700 billion over 10 years – half the amount of the deficit for this year alone. So where will the rest come from? Obviously not from the rich.

Jennifer Rubin:

So we hear whispers now of a VAT. And the bipartisan commission will certainly suggest all sorts of “revenue enhancers.” The Tea Partiers saw this coming, and so will the general electorate. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the prospect of many more tax hikes will be up for debate in the midterm elections. And having violated their pledge not to tax those making less than $200,000 to pay for health care, Democrats are poorly situated to defend middle-class taxpayers.

There was talk for some time that the tax issue had faded. Republicans would have nothing to argue about, claimed the mainstream pundits. But alas, like so much else, Obama has done a yeoman’s work for conservatives. The tax issue is back. In a big way.

The 24% now identified with the TP (and, I’d guess another 5% who don’t formally identify themselves with the TP but do indeed share their beliefs) have known this was coming and are now being proven correct. The Democrats think HCR will fade from the public’s mind by the time the mid-term elections roll around in November. I don’t happen to share that belief (and this poll tells you why), but even if it did, look at the issue that won’t fade – the question that must continue to be asked by the TP and GOP is “how are we going to pay for all of this?” And use every means available to confront Democrats with that question and demand an answer. My guess is if they’ll do that, the TP numbers may swell to an even greater percentage by November and turn over the House.

But back to the title – Democrats reading the Rasmussen poll should understand one very important thing – each time you call the members of the TP things such as thugs, racists, homophobes, nazis, brownshirts and fascists, you’re addressing 25% of the voters. And yes, they will and have taken that personally. Great strategy – please, keep it up.



So who are the racists?

I assume this AP story won’t quite get the coverage or have the legs that the unsubstantiated stories about racist slurs being hurled at members of the black caucus received:

They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement—and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.

“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.


Johnson and other black conservatives say they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government. The fact that they’re black—or that most tea partyers are white—should have nothing to do with it, they say.

“You have to be honest and true to yourself. What am I supposed to do, vote Democratic just to be popular? Just to fit in?” asked Clifton Bazar, a 45-year-old New Jersey freelance photographer and conservative blogger.

I throw this out there for the Frank Rich’s of the world who’re convinced that a) all Tea Partiers are racists and b) only Tea Partiers can be racist.  If Rich is really that concerned about racism, isn’t about time he addressed this blatant example?

CNN adds a little more for contemplation as it covered 5 stops on the western Tea Party tour:

But here’s what you don’t often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.


It is important to show the colorful anger Americans might have against elected leaders and Washington. But people should also see the orange-vested Tea Party hospitality handlers who welcome you with colorful smiles.

There were a few signs that could be seen as offensive to African-Americans. But by and large, no one I spoke with or I heard from on stage said anything that was approaching racist.

Almost everyone I met was welcoming to this African-American television news producer.

That can’t be right can it – after all, Frank Rich has assured us that the Tea Parties are the new home of the racists.  And Steve Cohen has made it clear that they’re just klansman without robes.

Conclusion?  I guess you just can’t trust CNN, huh?



More fuel for the Tea Party discussion

As we do the back and forth on the origins of the Tea Party (TP) a poll has been published that gives us a peek at the demographics:

Diverse group:

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

Tip of the iceberg:

The Winston Group conducted three national telephone surveys of 1,000 registered voters between December and February. Of those polled, 17 percent – more than 500 people — said they were “part of the Tea Party movement.”

Unified by fiscal matters:

The group is united around two issues – the economy/jobs and reducing the deficit. They believe that cutting spending is the key to job creation and favor tax cuts as the best way to stimulate the economy. That said 61 percent of Tea Party members believe infrastructure spending creates jobs. Moreover, given the choice Tea Party members favor 63-32 reducing unemployment to 5 percent over balancing the budget.

43% do not identify themselves as Republicans. That’s a large chunk – bigger actually than I thought it would be. And 13% self-identified Democrats. That diversity of politics tends to moderate the platform and explains why in some areas you hear Medicare cuts used as ammunition against the HCR monstrosity. What I would have loved to have seen is age demographics on this, because I’m also of the opinion that for the most part this is an older movement in terms of age of those identified with it. The poll says the make up is “male, slightly older and middle income”. I’m not sure what “slightly older” means. Someone will find a way to put “white” in front of male and revive the “angry white male” meme, I’m sure.

17% is a significant chunk of the population if that’s a good indicator of the size of the TP movement. Those we see out in the streets and attending TP rallies are indeed the tip of the iceberg if that’s true.

The unifying themes are economy and the deficits. Jobs and spending. But, as you can see the diversity of opinion is evident in the two issues cited in the poll. Neither reflect a “hard core” fiscal conservative theme. And both actually place jobs before spending.

So those points tend to reinforce my ideas about the Tea Party movement.

OTOH, reinforcing one of Jason’s primary contentions:

The group also vehemently dislikes President Barack Obama – even more so than those who called themselves Republicans in the survey. Over 80 percent of Tea Party members disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, whereas 77 percent of Republican respondents said they disapprove of Obama. The Tea Party members are also strongly opposed to the Democrats’ healthcare plan, with 82 percent saying they oppose it — only 48 percent of respondents overall were opposed.

Although dislike is high, it doesn’t yet point to Obama being the reason for their formation. What it does point out is much more than just the Republican portion (57%), if everyone of them voiced their dislike, weren’t the only one’s who dislike Obama. A good portion of the independents must feel that way as well – something I’ve been droning on about for some time.

And to my point about Congressional Republicans:

The group has a favorable view of Republicans generally but that drops from 71 to 57 percent if they’re asked about Congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats are viewed very unfavorably by 75 percent of Tea Party members – a uniquely strong antipathy. An overwhelming 95 percent said “Democrats are taxing, spending, and borrowing too much.”

There is a good bit of anti-incumbent fever among this group. And I think part of it is they’ve seen the Congressional Republicans talk the talk so many times and then cave when given the opportunity to walk the walk.

Interestingly Gallup has done a similar poll to the Winston poll.  And they find a slightly larger percentage supporting TP but find the demographics to be very similar to the Winston poll:

Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Their polling found a much larger independent percentage (43%) and slightly smaller Republican (49%) and Democratic (8%) slice. Men to women is 55% to 45%. Gallup did publish age demographics 50% are age 50 or older, however, when you look at the comparison to all of the US the TPs are very representative of national demographics.

What these polls tell us is while there is a rightward skew to the TP (which some would explain by saying the country is a “center-right” country) the demographics of these polls show a remarkably diverse group that are quite representative of the demographics of middle America. And, they’re finally fed up.

While we’ll probably argue till the cows come home as to the TP’s origins, but it hard to argue that the group isn’t diverse, has a unifying theme, and isn’t aimed at changing the way the federal government does business – and if that means firing every Congressional Rep up there, they seem more than willing to do that. The party most threatened is the Democratic party, however, Republicans that don’t meet TP criteria are subject to attack as well. And that’s entirely justifiable in my book.



Observations Podcast for 04 Apr 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Bryan and Dale discuss the state of the economy and the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Presidential poll numbers: What do they mean?

I’m sure everyone remembers the left’s constant trumpeting of negative presidential popularity polls during the Bush administration.  Understandably, now that the shoe is on the other foot, they’re not quite so keen on those polls anymore.  However there is an interesting point to be drawn from them.  Take this week’s Rasmussen poll on job approval numbers:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18

Now the overall poll, including the “slightly approve” and “slightly disapprove” categories, show overall approval at 45% and disapproval at 54%. That’s obviously bad news for the President. However the most significant numbers are found in the strongly approve v disapprove categories, because those are people – voters – who’ve pretty much made up their minds about the guy. Essentially those Obama has left “strongly approving” of his job performance is his base. And his base isn’t enough to get him anywhere near an election win. Meanwhile, a motivated 43% (by motivated, I mean they’ll most likely vote because the do “strongly disapprove”) don’t like this guy’s job performance at all.

That’s not necessarily good news for Republicans as with the rise of the Tea Party, they don’t have an automatic in as in past years.

In a three-way generic ballot test, it’s Democrats 34%, Republicans 27%, and the Tea Party at 21%. However, most Tea Party supporters would vote for the Republican if the GOP candidate was the only one with a chance to win.

Message to GOP? You’d better figure out the “Tea Party” issues quickly, co-opt them (i.e. adopt them) and deliver on them or be prepared to see a TP candidate in 2 years again (the reason it is so hard for a 3rd party to establish itself in the US is the 2 major parties have a tendency to co-opt their ideas depending upon which side of the political spectrum the 3rd party falls.). That shouldn’t be a particularly difficult job. However, the TP will provide an option for disaffected voters whether they choose to exercise it or not (it’s easy to claim you’ll vote TP if the GOP candidate isn’t what you want, until you realize the Dem is even worse). Hopefully that threat will be enough to scare Republicans back to their principles and keep them there.

Anyway, back to Obama’s poll numbers – they indicate a real problem for his re-election. I’ve found that in polls like that, the strongly approve or disapprove numbers best reflect the real job approval feeling within the country. A +18 would be formidable. But a -18 says “vulnerable”.

Lots of time between now and Nov. 2012, but Obama isn’t doing himself any favors with the path he’s stubbornly taken. My guess is that disapproval number will actually get worse before the next presidential election. Will it ever reach “Bush country”. I think it is possible. And if it does, you may see a Ted Kennedy like insurgency that finds Obama with a Democratic challenger. That would be fun.