Socialist Worker

American Tea Party is a bitter brew

by Emma Davis
Issue No. 2220

The Tea Party movement caused a dramatic upset in last week’s US primary elections—and pushed the Republicans even further to the right.

Both the US’s two main capitalist parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are in the process of selecting their candidates for November’s mid-term elections to Congress. 

Anger at president Barack Obama’s failure to lift the country out of recession has left the Democrats preparing themselves for a battering.

The Republicans had been expected to take control of Congress. But a string of gains by the very right wing Tea Party could be putting a rock in the party’s shoe.

The Tea Party campaign is a “populist” movement within the Republicans. It stridently rejects Obama’s “socialism” and feels let down by the fact that George Bush’s administration was not right wing enough for it.

Last week, Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell stunned the Republican Party leadership by beating rising star Michael Castle for the Delaware congressional nomination.

O’Donnell is pro-gun, anti-abortion, thinks masturbation is a sin, and calls climate change a “job killer”. In 2007, she told a Fox News interviewer, “American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.”

The Tea Party campaign has also won the Republican primaries in Alaska, New York, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Florida.

Republican leaders are beginning to panic that the Tea Party’s victories may push more moderate voters to turn to the Democrats.

Bush’s former top strategist, Karl Rove, voiced his discontent over O’Donnell’s triumph. “There’s just a lot of nutty things she’s been saying that just simply don’t add up,” he admitted in an unguarded moment on Fox News. “In my opinion this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.”


But the Democrats are making a mistake if they are relying on civil war within the Republican Party, or the “nuttiness” of Tea Party candidates to win the election.

The financial crisis and mass unemployment have led to huge discontent with the Democrats.

In the absence of a real left alternative, the Tea Party is currently the loudest voice on the streets. Since January 2009, when it first demonstrated against Obama’s economic stimulus bill, it has become the new face of activism in the US.

Despite the Tea Party’s claim to be a grassroots movement, in reality it’s more a case of astroturf—it is are primarily promoted by the likes of Fox News and TV host Glenn Beck.

It is anti-big government, pro-free market and extremely conservative on social issues, opposing gay marriage and abortion. The majority of members are white, middle aged men.

Over a third of Tea Party supporters accept the myth that Obama was born outside of the US. In September 2009, one million Tea Party supporters marched on Washington against Obama’s healthcare bill.

The Tea Party backs the anti-immigrant act passed in Arizona that targets 460,000 people currently living in the state.

Around 18 percent of Americans say they identify with the Tea Party movement.

Liberal Daily Show star, Jon Stewart, has called for an anti-Tea Party “Rally for Sanity” on 30 October—furthering the trend of celebrities and the mass media intervening on political issues.

While Stewart’s tongue in cheek slogan may not directly counter those of the Tea Party, it does call for something which has been missing in the left in America. It attempts to reach out to those 80 percent of Americans who aren’t drinking the right wing’s tea. 

The 5,000 anti-racists who marched against Islamophobia on 11 September in New York provided a sign of a left ready to fight back. 

This spark needs to create a flame of mass organisation from below to build a strong opposition to the Tea Party and create a real left alternative in the US, independent of the Democrats.

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Article information

Tue 21 Sep 2010, 17:36 BST
Issue No. 2220
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