A study was published last week in the Social Science Research Network showing once and for all what many have been willing to assert already: the Tea Party is significantly driven by race. Though we’ve long known that the Tea Party is almost 100% white it was still possible to argue that, while there was a connection, some sort of reasonable core of beliefs was actually the main driver. Some for instance claim that their disdain has more to do with debt. Of course, that doesn’t seem at all likely since the tea party is currently in favor of Donald Trump; the candidate that is proposing more new debt than anyone in American history.
I don’t want to make too much out of the actual findings. First off, the sample size was small and that can often create misleading results. However, the sample was randomized among whites and the results are significant enough that we can be pretty certain there’s an underlying pattern. What it showed was that if we presented a group of people with pictures we can actually manipulate how positively they felt about the Tea Party. The only variable was whether images of Obama were altered to look either lighter or darker. The darker image of Obama made subjects twice as likely to say that they supported the organization than those shown an image of Obama who appeared almost white.
To be clear this is not uncommon among white people in general. Numerous studies of this sort have been done showing that people have a natural tendency within our country to assume the worst of African Americans while giving apparently white people a pass. What is different in this case is that scientists showed these psychological tendencies can actually produce tangible differences like a change in their opinions about groups like the Tea Party.
Just to clarify, the Tea Party formed almost immediately after President Obama took office. Way before he had a chance to rack up any debt or sign the ACA into law. There was nothing that the then protesters could have been reacting to other than the fact that the president was black. And if we didn’t realize it just by their timing and tone they made all sorts of nifty signs to clue us in. It was only later that the more reasonable sounding justifications began to rise to the surface. Tea Partiers didn’t like the debt that Obama was creating, even if the debt had more to do with his predecessor; they had serious questions about his upbringing and feared that he was a communist or a closeted Muslim. People demanded that he release his birth certificate even years after he already had. But they loved black people and had lots of black friends. If there’s anything this is NOT about it is race. You should be ashamed for suggesting so.
And this group has continued to provide sound bites ever since. Every action the president takes is either stupid or an evil plot of some sort. Conspiracies abound. He’s both a dictator and a wimp without any explanation for how somebody could possibly fulfill both roles at once. One week he gets showed up by Putin, who by the way is what a real leader looks like. Then the next he’s an evil secret Marxist who has no plans to leave his post in 2017; you know just like Putin. But history and science will uncover the real story and expose the thinly veiled excuses to throw dirt on a powerful black man that rose to power without asking our permission.
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