The Tea Party And The Remaking Of Republican Conservatism

Theda Skocpol - Vanessa Williamson

Part 11

Report Chapter

40. The values and principles are listed at as of May 14, 2011.

41. The figure comes from ABC News, citing the Washington DC fire department. Russell Goldman, "Tea Party Protesters March on Washington," ABC News, September 12, 2009. Some conservative activists, including Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, dramatically inflated this number. For an a.n.a.lysis, see Nate Silver, "Size Matters; So Do Lies," available at as of May 26, 2011.

42. Ben Jones, for instance, described Beck as a "P.T. Barnum" and "a seller of soap," though he also commented positively on Beck's enthusiasm. Ben Armbruster, "Tea Party Leaders Criticize Beck's 8/28 Rally: 'All He's Doing Is Trying to Use Us to Promote Himself," Think Progress, August 24, 2010. Available at as of March 21, 2011.

43. Quoted in Dana Milbank, Tears of a Clown (New York: Doubleday, 2010). p. 242.

44. A number of Tea Party Republicans in 2010 would only talk to interviewers on Fox, where they knew they would get a much friendlier reception than they would in other news outlets. Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell reportedly claimed to have Fox News anchor Sean Hannity in her "back pocket," available for a softball interview at a moment's notice. See "'Voice of the opposition': How Fox News won the 2010 election," Media Matters, November 2, 2010. Available at as of May 14, 2011.

45. Asked why she went on Fox rather than more mainstream networks, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle asked the Christian Broadcasting Network, "Well, in that audience will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to Sharron send money?" "'Voice of the opposition': How Fox News won the 2010 election," Media Matters, November 2, 2010. Available at as of May 14, 2011.

46. The misinformation promoted on Fox has been the subject of numerous books and doc.u.mentaries; we discuss this point in more detail in the Conclusion.

47. CBS News/New York Times poll, April 512, 2010.

48. Vanessa Williamson, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin, "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism," Perspectives on Politics 9 (1) (March 2011).

49. These terms were repeatedly used on Fox News to describe the Tea Party; here we list only one example for each. Gra.s.sroots: Marianne Silber on Special Report with Brett Baier, April 14, 2009. Genuine: Mark Steyn, Fox Hannity, May 6, 2009. Organic: Carl Cameron, On the Record with Greta, February 4, 2010. Spontaneous: Karl Rove, On the Record with Greta, October 26, 2010. Independent: Sarah Palin, Fox Hannity, March 17, 2010. Mainstream: Charles Gasparino, Fox Hannity, March 26, 2010.

50. Ray Rahman, "Rupert Murdoch Talks Tea Party, China, and Fox Business ... on Fox Business," Mediaite, November 16, 2010. Available at as of May 11, 2011.

51. Glenn Beck, Beck, May 24, 2010.

52. Glenn Beck, Beck, January 19, 2010.

53. Greta Van Susteren, On the Record with Greta, April 16, 2009. John Fund, Fox Hannity, September 17, 2010.

54. See for example, the discussion on Special Report with Brett Baier, February 4, 2010.

55. Bill Kristol, Fox News Roundtable, February 21, 2010.

56. Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008).

57. Newt Gingrich, On the Record with Greta, April 17, 2009.

58. Jim Pinkerton, Fox News Watch Sat.u.r.days, April 18, 2009.

59. Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, February 8, 2010.

60. Glenn Beck, Beck, April 24, 2009.

61. Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, June 12, 2009.

62. Howard Kurtz, The Situation Room, April 13, 2009. Howard Kurtz, Reliable Sources, April 12, 2009.

63. David Carr, "Cable Wars Are Killing Objectivity," New York Times, April 20, 2009.

64. Howard Kurtz, The Situation Room, April 13, 2009.

65. CNN reporters tagged along and sent dispatches from two Tea Party Express bus tours. See Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith, "The Tea Party's Exaggerated Importance," Politico, April 22, 2010.

66. Alex Isenstadt, "Town Halls Gone Wild." Politico, July 31, 2009.

67. Mark Jurkowitz, "Town Hall Showdowns Fuel Health Care Coverage," Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, PEJ News Coverage Index: August 39, 2009. Available at as of May 11, 2011.

68. A picture of the print ad is available at, along with CNN's response, as of May 12, 2011.

69. Rick Sanchez, CNN Newsroom, September 18, 2009.

70. Wolf Blitzer, The Situation Room, September 18, 2009.

71. Jeffrey Toobin, Campbell Brown, October 23, 2009.

72. Peter Dreier and Christopher R. Martin, "How ACORN Was Framed: Political Controversy and Media Agenda Setting." Perspectives on Politics 8(03): 761792 (2010). Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.) 73. Brian Stelter, "Reporter Says Outburst Was Spontaneous," New York Times, March 3, 2009.

74. Rick Klein, "The Note, 4/15/09: Tea Time-Conservative gra.s.sroots flex organizing muscle on Tax Day," ABC News's The Note, April 15, 2009. Available at as of March 21, 2011.

75. Gail Collins, "Barack's Progress Report," New York Times, August 6, 2009. A29.

76. Bud Kennedy, "Burleson Tea Party is about taxes (and secession)," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 8, 2009. B2.

77. Previously, the Tea Party's only apparent electoral effect had been to hand a New York Congressional seat to a Democrat in October 2009. When a nominal "Tea Party" favorite, Doug Hoffman, pushed out a moderate Republican, Dede Scozzafava, she endorsed her Democratic opponent, Bill Owens, who went on to win the general election.

78. Evan McMorris-Santoro, "Marco Rubio's Tea Party Problem," Talking Points Memo, March 30, 2010. Available at as of March 14, 2011.

79. Sam Stein, "Scott Brown Held Tea Party Fundraiser Before Professing to Be Unfamiliar with Tea Party," Huffington Post, January 14, 2011. Available at as of March 14, 2011.

80. Ben McGrath, "The Movement: The Rise of Tea Party Activism," The New Yorker, February 1, 2010.

81. Ironically, the first beneficiary of the mainstream media's newfound interest was the February 2010 "Tea Party Convention"-a for-profit venture rejected by many of those most involved in the Tea Party.

82. Barstow, "Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on the Right," New York Times, February 16, 2010.

83. All data regarding the frequency of poll questions draws from the Roper Center's database of opinion data. Of course, the database is not a complete catalog of all poll questions ever asked-indeed, at least a few polls we have seen about the Tea Party are not included in the Roper Center's collection. The Roper database is, however, the world's largest archive of survey data and includes Tea Party polls from the major polling agencies.

84. Richard Wolf, "Afghan War Costs Now Outpace Iraq's," USA Today, May 31, 2010.

85. Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith, "The Tea Party's Exaggerated Importance," Politico, April 22, 2010.

86. President Obama received the votes of 70 million people, as FEC results attest. David Brooks, "The Geezers' Crusade," New York Times, February 2, 2010. FEC results available at as of May 11, 2011.

87. Adele Stan, "The Tea Party Movement: A Force to Be Reckoned With," Huffington Post, May 7, 2010. Available at: as of March 14, 2011.

88. Mark Blumenthal, "Re: Tea Party Polling,", February 17, 2010. Available at as of March 14, 2011.

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89. E.J. Dionne Jr., "The Tea Party: Tempest in a very small teapot," Washington Post, September 23, 2010.

8. Amy Gardner, "Gauging the Scope of the Tea Party Movement in America," Washington Post, October 24, 2010.

9. Stephen Ansolabehere and James M. Snyder, "Weak Tea," Boston Review, March/April 2011.

10. Ibid.

11. Several limitations of the Ansolabehere/Snyder exercise are clear. They measure "Tea Party candidates" by looking only at elite organizational endors.e.m.e.nts, rather than gra.s.sroots engagement. They also fail to consider whether Tea Party winners were unusually conservative for their districts and states. Data we present below suggest that the latter may well be true-that the Tea Party helped to move the House GOP caucus sharply toward the far right.

12. Reid Wilson, "RNC Officials Feud Over Debt Reports," Hotline On Call, October 20, 2010. Kenneth R. Bazinet and David Saltonstall, "Republican National Committee spent nearly $2,000 at West Hollywood strip club Voyeur," New York Daily News, March 29, 2010.

13. Nate Silver, "a.s.sessing the G.O.P. and the Tea Party," New York Times, September 20, 2010. Available at as of May 12, 2011.

14. Mary Cheney, for instance, explained that the work being done by Karl Rove's Crossroads group "would normally be done with the RNC." Jim Rutenberg, "The Gloves Come Off Early for the Midterm Elections," New York Times, September 26, 2010. A1.

15. This paragraph draws on 2010 exit polls as summarized in Table 1.10 in Sabato, "Pendulum Swing," pp. 3643. See also the discussions in Isaac T. Woods, "Bringing Down the House: Reliving the GOP's Historic House Gains," in Pendulum Swing, edited by Sabato (Boston: Longman, 2011); and Costas Panagopoulos, "The Dynamics of Voter Preferences in the 2010 Congressional Midterm Elections," The Forum 8 (4), article 9.

16. Though predictions are sufficiently varied that somebody is right or close to right each time!

17. Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser, How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic 2008 Presidential Election (New York: Vintage, 2009).

18. Sabato, "Pendulum Swing," pp. 2930.

19. Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry Brady, Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital." Journal of Democracy 6(1): 6578 (1995); Steven Rosenstone and John Hansen, Mobilization, partic.i.p.ation, and democracy in America (New York: Macmillan, 1993).

20. Michael p. McDonald, "Voter Turnout in the 2010 Midterm Elections," The Forum 8(4), article 8, Table 1.

21. Todd and Gawiser, How Barack Obama Won.

22. Sabato, "Pendulum Swing," p. 37.

23. Adam Nagourney, "Politics and the Age Gap," New York Times, September 12, 2009. See also the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll (March 2011), available at as of May 16, 2011.

24. Karl Rove, Fox Hannity, September 14, 2010.

25. A good overview of O'Donnell's career and the controversies she was involved in appear in Sandhya Somashekhar and Perry Bacon, Jr., "Delaware's O'Donnell is a 'Tea Party' Hero, but Controversy Casts a Shadow," Washington Post, September 18, 2010.

26. "Tea Party Backs O'Donnell in Delaware," Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire, August 30, 2010. It is worth noting that not all national Tea Party organizations got behind O'Donnell. Fearing she might be unelectable, FreedomWorks did not follow the lead of Tea Party Express. But this underlines that national advocacy groups are free-ranging. They operate separately from one another-as well as separately from formal GOP organs.

27. In the 2000 U.S. Census, Kent County had a population of 127,000 and Suss.e.x recorded 157,000, making the two of them together significantly smaller than New Castle, with 500,000 people. This population imbalance among Delaware counties made it impossible for a GOP candidate who could not appeal to the voters of northern Delaware to defeat a Democrat with strong support there. But in the GOP primary, voters from central and southern Delaware weighed heavily, and these voters were older, whiter, and much more conservative in their social, religious, and political views. For an overview of these facts about different regions of Delaware, we are indebted to the paper prepared for Theda's fall 2010 Harvard undergraduate seminar on "Inequality and American Democracy": Cedrick Yancey, "'Welcome to the Jungle': Examining Tea Party Involvement in Delaware's Senatorial Race and Its Implications for the Larger Republican Party."

28. An overview of the election appears in Samuel B. Hoff, "Of Witches' Brew and Tea Party Too!: 2010 Delaware Senate Race," in Pendulum Swing, edited by Larry J. Sabato (Boston: Longman, 2011). According to Hoff (p. 213), "Republican turnout exceeded Democratic turnout in the 2010 primary by an almost 3-to-1 ratio. The 32 percent turnout among registered Republicans doubled the turnout among voters in the party's primary that occurred in 2008 and quadrupled the turnout from 2006." The surge of voting from Christian conservatives is discussed in Jeff Montgomery, Beth Miller, and Ginger Gibson, "Delaware Politics: Rise in Evangelical Activism Tips Scales in Primary," The News Journal, September 19, 2010.

29. Karl Rove, Fox Hannity, September 14, 2010.

30. Jason Linkins, "Rove 'Endorses' O'Donnell, A Day After Calling Her 'Nutty'," Huffington Post, March 14, 2011.

31. Facts about funding amounts and sources for the 2010 Delaware Senate race, as well as earlier O'Donnell races, come from Federal Election Commission data, made readily available by the Open Secrets project of the Center for Responsive Politics.

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