Working Hard, But For What?

There has been a lot of debate and discussion about what Bill Cosby has said about blacks. One thing he argues for is the need for hard work. The thing that he doesn’t understand is most blacks believe in hard work as much as most whites. But being a hardworking poor minority doesn’t get you very far in this country without all the privileges of race and class.

The cook at McDonalds making minimum wage, the self-taught unlicensed car mechanic working in an alley, the people doing yardwork for cash, the prostitute, and the drug dealer are all working hard. But they are working hard in a society that is working against them when they are poor minorities.

Those are some of the hardest jobs in the world. And some of the people working them are the among the most brilliant and talented around. The guy who works his way up from a high school drop out to the head of a gang is more hard working and innovative than the average manager you’ll find in other careers. I’m often reminded of the drug dealer who was intelligent and was well informed about economics (Social Environment & Human Potential):

“In the project, Venkatesh finds men and women who easily flit back and forth between the legal and illegal economies (depending, usually, on which pays more at any given moment). Drug dealers aspire to buy small businesses, and their subordinates move between legitimate jobs and the hustle of drug dealing and prostitution. What Venkatesh is able to develop, through the view J.T. grants him, is a new way of thinking about the ghetto and ghetto crime, as the consequences that come when morality is uncoupled from the law.

“J.T. is a good tutor. He is a learned and steady bureaucrat of the drug trade, a man with some college and management experience behind him. Most of his life is spent dealing with, somewhat endearingly, the small headaches of petit bourgeois career life—managing less-than-competent subordinates, handling the objections of Taylor Homes residents, and trying to restrict police access to the project.”

These people believe in the American Dream and try to live it best they can, under almost impossible conditions. They aren’t asking for handouts. They are solving their own problems, even when those problems are forced on them by the larger society.

Take gangs, for example. Most gangs are what white people would call militias. When the police fail in their job, gangs do the job for them. If you are a black who is targeted by the police and everyone you know is targeted by the police, you’ll organize in order to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighborhood.

That is how community forms when all of the outside world is against you, when life is difficult and desperate, where daily living is a fight for survival. When there are no jobs available, poor minorities make their own jobs. When there are no police to protect them, poor minorities police themselves. When the larger society is against them, they make their own communities.

They do this all under the hardest conditions in America. It is quite impressive what humans are capable of. Imagine what poor minorities could accomplish if the larger society supported them instead of trying to destroy their lives?

If hard work mattered in this country, black communities would be among the wealthiest. If there was a way to measure it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the results showed the average black is more hardworking than the average white.

Cosby isn’t wrong in saying hardwork is generally a good thing. But it misses the entire point.

It seems to me that most Americans love to work, even in our off time when no one is paying us. If Americans have a problem, it is that we work too much and work so hard that we work ourselves into an early grave.

In a just and fair world, we would work less for more. But neoliberal capitalism tells us our only worth is our time spent in labor and our worth is measured by our pay check. That seems effed up to me. There is or should be more to life than work, especially the drudgery work most Americans have to do just to get by.

We live at a time when there are more people looking for work than there are jobs. With mechanization and computerization, those jobs aren’t coming back and even more jobs will be disappearing. The advice of working harder is cruel and ignorant, especially when directed at the most poor and disadvantaged, those least likely to be able to find a job no matter how hard they work or how much education they get.

That said, if we must speak of hard work, let’s talk about working hard to build stronger communities, to build more social capital, to build better schools, to build much needed infrastructure, to build housing for the homeless, to build more parks, to build a stronger labor movement, and to build an actually functioning democracy.

Why not use our hard work for things that matter and make the world a better place? Why not use all the hard work we are already doing in order to achieve great things in our communities and our country?

Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration, Race, & Data

I’ve been feeling a strong draw to get back into my unfinished blogging project about violence and inequality, specifically in the United States, in relation to race and racism. It is a daunting task, and for the moment I must focus elsewhere, but let me for a brief moment revisit this topic.

The most interesting book I’ve read about the American racial order is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. The reason my mind has been brought back to this is because of another book I picked up a short while ago. It is Invisible Men by Becky Pettit.

The reason this book caught my attention is simple. Pettit, like Alexander, focuses closely on the data. It is a struggle trying to grasp what all the data means, and it is nice having books like these as guides. Invisible Men has the added value of looking not just at the data but also what data is collected (or not) and how it is collected, which gives us a rare opportunity to glimpse some blindspots.

I have just started the book and so can’t speak of it in detail at the moment. Let me just offer a passage to give you a taste of it (Kindle Locations 198-216):

“The intensive press coverage of America’s criminals and the extensive supervision of inmates by correctional authorities belie the invisibility of inmates, parolees, probationers, and others involved in the criminal justice system to the outside world. Inmates are a social group isolated socially, physically, and statistically from much of the rest of society. The vast majority of our nation’s inmates come from very few jurisdictions, and the facilities in which they are housed are even fewer in number (Heyer and Wagner 2004). Even our national data systems, as well as the social facts they produce, are structured around a normative kind of economic, political, and domestic life that commonly eludes those under the supervision of the criminal justice system.

“Inmates and former inmates are less likely than otherwise similarly disadvantaged men to hold down steady legitimate jobs, to participate in civic life, and to live in settled households. Even their institutionalization involves a segment of the state cut off from the usual methods of social accounting. We categorically exclude inmates and former inmates from the social surveys routinely used to gauge the condition of the U.S. population, and we systematically undercount them in the U.S. Census and social surveys.

“More than one hundred years ago, Émile Durkheim (1895/ 1982, 54) coined the term “social fact” to describe phenomena that both characterize and explain features of society: social facts are “the beliefs, tendencies and practices of the group taken collectively.” In his own research , Durkheim commonly relied on statistics such as rates of births, marriages, or suicides to isolate and examine social facts.

“This book documents how our collective blindness hinders the establishment of social facts, conceals inequality, and undermines the foundation of social science research, including that used in the design and evaluation of social policy. The decades-long expansion of the criminal justice system has led to the acute and rapid disappearance of young, low-skill African American men from portraits of the American economic, political, and social condition . While the expansion of the criminal justice system reinforces race and class inequalities in the United States, the full impact of the criminal justice system on American inequality is obscured by the continued use of data collection strategies and estimation methods that predate prison expansion.”

And then a little further on, the author sums it up and points out its relevance for us (Kindle Locations 222-225):

“The promise of the civil rights era has been undercut by a new form of invisibility manufactured by mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex. Yet the invisibility of large segments of the American population and the inequality it conceals is not a natural or inevitable product of prison growth.”

That gets the gears of my mind going. How can we understand something and discuss it when it is invisible to our collective sight? This makes for quite the challenge. We need to be very careful about the data upon which we base interpretations, speculations, theories, and conclusions. What is left out?

Slavery and Eugenics: Part 2

In my last post about slavery and eugenics, I used the logic of human biodiversity advocates (HBDers) in order to come to the opposite conclusion about the most probable expected results.

The alternate premise I used for the HBD-style logic was that of how for most of US history defiant blacks were more often imprisoned, killed or otherwise removed from the breeding pool. Hence, defiance-related genetics would have been severely lessened in the African-American population. As I concluded in that post, if the HBD theory is applicable to how genetics and society actually interact in terms of human behavior, American blacks should be the least defiant (and so most submissive, obedient, rule-following, law-abiding, non-violent, non-criminal, etc) demographic among all Americans. My point was that this is the opposite of the conclusions of HBD theory, at least as presented by the typical HBDer.

There is another argument that HBDers (and race realists) often present. I wish to turn it on its head as well.

This other argument is that blacks are so aggressive and criminal because generations of black women were raped by aggressive and criminal white men. So, the premise is that the white genetics that American blacks possess (on average 20% with 1/10 having +50%) is disproportionately the worst possible white genetics. Let me reverse this premise by pointing out that many of the white men impregnating black women throughout history have been white men with power (slaveholders or friends of slaveholders, employers, etc). So, actually the white genetics would quite likely be disproportionately from whites who were the most successful, often from Southern aristocracy or other elites (e.g., Thomas Jefferson).

I began thinking about this second line of thought because another book I’m reading: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Here is the relevant passage (The Definitive Griffin Estate Edition, Kindle Locations 1906-1928):

He told me how all of the white men in the region craved colored girls. He said he hired a lot of them both for housework and in his business. “And I guarantee you, I’ve had it in every one of them before they ever got on the payroll.” A pause. Silence above humming tires on the hot-top road. “What do you think of that?”

“Surely some refuse,” I suggested cautiously.
“Not if they want to eat – or feed their kids,” he snorted. “If they don’t put out, they don’t get the job.”
I looked out the window to tall pine trees rising on either side of the highway. Their turpentine odor mingled with the soaped smells of the man’s khaki hunting clothes.
“You think that’s pretty terrible, don’t you?” he asked.
I knew I should grin and say, “Why no – it’s just nature,” or some other disarming remark to avoid provoking him.
“Don’t you?” he insisted pleasantly.
“I guess I do.”
“Why hell – everybody does it. Don’t you know that?”
“No, sir.”
“Well, they sure as hell do. We figure we’re doing you people a favor to get some white blood in your kids.”

I wondered what moral and ethical difference there was between this sort of rape by coercion that threatened to starve a person, and rape by coercion that threatened to knife or shoot a person. Newspapers play up as sensational every attempt by a Negro to rape a white woman. Yet this white rape of Negro women is apparently a different matter. But it is rape nonetheless, and practiced on a scale that dwarfs the Negro’s defaults.

The grotesque hypocrisy slapped me as it does all Negroes. It is worth remembering when the white man talks of the Negro’s lack of sexual morality, or when he speaks with horror about mongrelization and with fervor about racial purity. Mongrelization is already a widespread reality in the South – it has been exclusively the white man’s contribution to the Southern Way of Life. His vast concern for “racial purity” obviously does not extend to all races.

(Later I encountered many whites who freely admitted the same practices my companion described. In fairness, however, other Southern whites roundly condemned it and claimed it was not as typical as my informants suggested. None denied that it was widespread.)

Now combine several centuries of decreasing defiance-related genetics with several centuries of superior white genetics. What we’d expect is, according to mainstream American standards, a superior African-American population (whether or not you want to conjecture this constitutes a separate breed of human). African-Americans should share more of the genetics of these upper class whites which, as HBDers argue, would include a stronger genetic predisposition toward higher IQ and such.

However, HBDers argue that the average lower IQ and higher criminalization rates of blacks is primarily genetic. But what is the basis of the HBD argument? Why doesn’t generation after generation of infusing supposed superior white genetics lead to an above average black population on various measures? Maybe because it isn’t primarily about genetics.

In reality, American blacks don’t seem all that different than any other group of people when all other confounding factors are controlled for. The only main difference is the racism/racial-bias with which they are treated.

Southern Blacks: From Old World to Americanized

I’ve been listening to the audio version of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. I recommend the book and the audio version in particular.

I’ve had a longtime interest in migration patterns, both to the U.S. and between regions. Reading this book is companion to my reading about the migrations of Southern whites to the same regions Southern blacks headed, mostly the industrial Midwest and California. My previous posts on Southern white migration can be found here and here.

This touches on one of my most favorite blogging themes, the Midwest. I have even more posts about that which I won’t even try to list or link. Where this book touched on the Midwest theme is in contrasting the Northern and Southern cultures. In quoting immigrants, Southern blacks spoke of moving to the North (and other regions of the non-South) as becoming “Americanized”. Others spoke of the South as the “Old World”, as if they had immigrated to the North from a foreign country in some far off continent.

The following are four passages from Wilkerson’s book, the fourth and longest one is Wilkerson speaking of her own experience as the Northern child of Southern black immigrants.

* * * *

It turned out that the old-timers were harder on the new people than most anyone else. “Well, their English was pretty bad,” a colored businessman said of the migrants who flooded Oakland and San Francisco in the forties, as if from a foreign country. To his way of looking at it, they needed eight or nine years “before they seemed to get Americanized.”

As the migrants arrived in the receiving stations of the North and West, the old-timers wrestled with what the influx meant for them, how it would affect the way others saw colored people, and how the flood of black southerners was a reminder of the Jim Crow world they all sought to escape. In the days before Emancipation, as long as slavery existed, no freed black was truly free. Now, as long as Jim Crow and the supremacy behind it existed, no blacks could ever be sure they were beyond its reach.

One day a white friend went up to a longtime Oakland resident named Eleanor Watkins to ask her what she thought about all the newcomers.

“Eleanor,” the woman said , “you colored people must be very disgusted with some of the people who have come here from the South and the way they act.”

“Well, Mrs. S.,” Eleanor Watkins replied. “Yes, some colored people are very disgusted, but as far as I’m concerned, the first thing I give them credit for is getting out of the situation they were in.… Maybe they don’t know how to dress or comb their hair or anything , but their children will and their children will.”

Wilkerson, Isabel (2010-09-07). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Kindle Locations 5285-5297). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

Both men start to lament the changes all around them, the sadder effects of the big city of the North on the people of the South. George waxes on about the days when “people would come down to 135th Street with their house chairs, and they would baptize people in the Harlem River.

“We used to have a boat ride off 125th Street in the Dyckman section,” he says.

“Spread the blankets out. Midsummer, people didn’t have air-conditioning. People would stay up there all night and play card games.

“Things were so much different,” he says. “Drugs wasn’t heard of where I came from. When I came to New York, I didn’t know what a reefer was.”

“We got to being Americanized,” Reverend Harrison is saying. “It got to where we don’t help each other.”

Wilkerson, Isabel (2010-09-07). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Kindle Locations 8481-8487). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 * * * *

The hierarchy in the North “ called for blacks to remain in their station,” Lieberson wrote, while immigrants were rewarded for “their ability to leave their old world traits” and become American as quickly as possible . Society urged them to leave Poland and Latvia behind and enter the mainstream white world. Not so with their black counterparts like Ida Mae, Robert, and George.

“Although many blacks sought initially to reach an assimilated position in the same way as did the new European immigrants,” Lieberson noted, “the former’s efforts were apt to be interpreted as getting out of their place or were likely to be viewed with mockery.” Ambitious black migrants found that they were not able to get ahead just by following the course taken by immigrants and had to find other routes to survival and hoped-for success.

Wilkerson, Isabel (2010-09-07). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Kindle Locations 7605-7612). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

* * * *

The seeds of this project were sown within me years ago, growing up with parents who had migrated from the South and who sent me to an affluent white grade school that they themselves could never have dreamed of attending. There, classmates told of ancestors coming from Ireland or Scandinavia with little in their pockets and making something of themselves in the New World. Over time , I came to realize that the same could be said of my family and of millions of other black Americans who had journeyed north during the Great Migration.

I gravitated to the children of recent immigrants from Argentina, Nepal, Ecuador, El Salvador, with whom I had so much in common as the children of newcomers: the accents and folkways of overprotective parents suspicious of the libertine mores of the New World and our childish embarrassment at their nervous hovering; the exotic , out-of-step delicacies from the Old Country that our mothers lovingly prepared for our lunchboxes; the visits to my parents’ fellow “immigrant” friends— all just happening to be from the South and exchanging the latest about the people from back home; the gentle attempts at instilling Old World values from their homelands, my father going so far as to nudge me away from city boys and toward potential suitors whose parents he knew from back home in Petersburg, Virginia , who were, to him, upstanding boys by definition and who would make a fine match in his view, which all but guaranteed that I’d have little interest in them.

Thus I grew up the daughter of immigrants, “a southerner once removed,” as the Mississippi-born poet Natasha Trethewey once called me. My parents bore the subtle hallmarks of the immigrant psyche, except they were Americans who had taken part in an internal migration whose reach and nuances are still little understood.

Wilkerson, Isabel (2010-09-07). The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Kindle Locations 9802-9815). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tea Party: prejudiced against marginalized groups?

I mentioned the study done on racism in the Tea Party in a previous post (Tea Party Racism & Milwaukee Socialism). I’m posting again the relevant part of that post and adding further information about the values and attitudes of Tea Party supporters.

The conclusion is that the Tea Party is mostly white males (although another study showed they were slightly more female) who have more wealth than most and higher education than most Americans (it sounds like the Pew Enterpriser demographic which is also the Fox News loyal viewership). So, the Tea Party supporters are mostly Americans who live a privileged lifestyle. This affluent class is critical towards government in that they blame the government for the problems on Wall Street (according to Pew, Enterprisers are the group that does the most trading in stocks and bonds). But this group (and conservatives in general) are only critical of government when a Democrat is power (whereas liberals are equally critical no matter which party is in power: Republicans Support Big Government… just as long as Republicans are in power).

Most important, this privileged class has little compassion towards those who were born with less privilege. Also, they see themselves as the dominant class, i.e., “Real Americans”. They are worried about losing their dominance with the increasing numbers of minorites, the increasing social liberalism of the young generations, and the growing acceptance of diversity (interrracial dating and marriage; atheism, agnosticism, and other religious “nones”; social justice Christianity; pick-and-choose religious sensibility). They have always loved big government when they were in power for most of the last several decades, but now they worry that the government might be helping the poor and needy… which really makes them mad.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20002529-503544.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody

Tea Party supporters are less likely than Americans overall to believe whites have more opportunities to get ahead than blacks.

Just 16 percent of Tea Party supporters say whites have more opportunities to get ahead, compared to 31 percent of all Americans. Seventy-three percent say both have equal opportunity, compared to 60 percent of Americans overall.

Fifty-two percent believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people. Far fewer Americans overall — 28 percent — believe as much. Among non-Tea Party whites, the percentage who say too much attention has been paid to the problems of black people is 23 percent.

A majority of Tea Party suppers believe the Obama administration treats both blacks and whites the same way. But one in four believe the administration favors blacks over whites, an opinion shared by just 11 percent of Americans overall and seven percent of non-Tea Party whites.

http://www.salon.com/news/the_numerologist/2010/04/15/who_are_the_tea_partiers/index.html

A comprehensive poll conducted for the New York Times and CBS News and released late Monday CBS News/New York Times essentially found what anyone watching a couple minutes of news footage of a rally would intuit: the 18 percent of the nation that identifies with the Tea Party movement tends to be white, male, older than 45 and Republican. And also hypocritical: despite their anti-spending rhetoric, Tea Party supporters told pollsters that two of the federal government’s most money-consuming programs, Social Security and Medicare, are worth the cost to taxpayers (maybe not a surprise, given the Tea Partiers’ average age). 

Interestingly, despite the frequent framing of the Tea Partiers as a predominantly blue-collar, the NYT poll also found that they are wealthier and better-educated than the public as a whole. And half of them think the Obama administration’s policies favor the poor.

If you stopped there, you might think this is largely a class-based movement, built on the principle of “I got mine.” But there’s more to it than that: 25 percent of the movement’s supporters think that the administration favors blacks over whites (compared with 11 percent of the general public).

[…] The UW survey shows Tea Partiers’ concerns with federal government spending are bound up with fears of having to share “their” benefits with people who aren’t deserving – and who also happen to be non-white.

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/joan_walsh/politics/2010/04/15/tea_party_racial_paranoia/index.html

Yes, they’re white, older, male and Republican; 56 percent make over $50,000 a year and 12 percent make over $250,000. They’re more likely to rely on Social Security and Medicare than the average voter — and, no surprise, they tend to approve of those two programs.

[…] As my friend Digby points out, make that “way more likely: 52% of them think that as compared to only 28% of the general public.” (Digby delves into much more detail about the poll, here.)

[…] And Tea Party supporters don’t like it when anyone notices the racists in their midst? I’ve written before that I find it galling when the wealthy, white Pat Buchanan (who by the way spent much of his adult life on government health insurance) lectures me about being “condescending” to the Tea Partiers, as though they’re a grass-roots uprising of the vulnerable against the elites. That’s garbage: They are a well-funded uprising of the elites against the vulnerable. And they’d be nowhere if their mission wasn’t largely supported by the top of corporate America (and the GOP shadow government in waiting).The idea that the Obama administration’s policies somehow favor black people will come as a surprise to many in the black community who are concerned that the president hasn’t done enough to directly address the crisis of unemployment, especially among black men. I happen to believe Obama’s race-neutral employment policies, targeted to place, not race, are the way to tackle the problem. But I have an idea for Tavis Smiley, Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson: They should hook up with the Tea Partiers. That’s an audience that really needs to hear their complaints about how little Obama is doing for black people.

http://uwnews.org/article.asp?Search=tea+party&articleid=56877

“The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.

It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.

http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/archives/201077.asp

“While it’s clear that the Tea Party in one sense about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,” said Christopher Parker, the assistant professor of political science at the UW who directed the survey. Among his findings:

  • Southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the Tea Party than whites in other parts of the U.S.
  • Conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the Tea Party.
  • Strong support for the Tea Party resulted in a 45 percent decline in support for health-care reform compared with people who opposed the Tea Party.
  • 30 percent of the 1,015 had never heard of the Tea Party. But among those who had, 32 percent strongly supported it.
  • 56 percent of Republicans who had heard of it strongly approved. So did 31 percent of independents and 5 percent of Democrats.
  • Whites who disapprove of President Obama are 55 percent more likely to support the Tea Party.
  • Among whites who approve of the Tea Party, 35 percent say they believe blacks are hardworking, 45 percent said they believe blacks are intelligent and 41 percent believe them to be trustworthy.
Tea Party Survey

http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/mssrp_table.pdf

http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/teaparty_table.pdf

http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/racepolitics.html

For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.

[…]  Overall, the average distance separating respective levels of tea party support, across various marginalized groups, after rounding, is 17% for blacks, 12% for immigrants, and 13% for gay rights, respectively.

Rather large differences also emerge upon consideration of liberty, equality, and perceptions of president Obama’s character traits. On questions that tap issues of liberty, the gap between true believers and those in the middle is greatest on the question of whether or not the “government can detain people as long as they wish without trial,” where true believers support the proposition by 25 points over those in the middle. The difference narrows to 8 points when people were asked to consider whether or not people with political beliefs at variance with the much of the country are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Overall, for this set of questions, the mean difference is 19 points, where “true believers’” preferences appear to run counter to liberty, at least relative to those in the middle (table of results: click here)

Similar results obtain for egalitarianism, where strong supporters of the movement appear less inclined toward equality. Consider the proposition where the distance between groups is greatest. When asked to opine on whether or not “we’d have many fewer problems in this country” if people more treated more equally, only 31% of true believers agreed, versus 55% of those in the middle, reflecting a 24 percentage-point difference. The smallest difference, a 17 points, emerges when respondents were asked whether or not “our society should do whatever is necessary to ensure equal opportunity in this country,” where 81% of those in the middle agree, versus 64% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference is approximately 22 points.

Finally, at least for this round of analysis, we turn to the way in which support or the tea party informs how people perceive the president. At its most narrow, 21 points separate true believers from those who dwell in the middle, where 65% of the latter see the president as a strong leader versus 44% of the former group. The gap reaches its widest point on the issue of whether or not the president is moral: 64% of those in the middle agree that he is moral versus only 32% of true believers. Overall, the mean difference between the groups, in the way in which both perceive the president, is approximately 26 points.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/04/new-data-on-tea-party-sympathizers.html

THE TEA PARTY IN THE AGE OF OBAMA:
MAINSTREAM CONSERVATISM OR OUT-GROUP ANXIETY?
MATT A. BARRETO, BETSY L. COOPER, BENJAMIN GONZALEZ,
CHRISTOPHER S. PARKER, CHRISTOPHER TOWLER

ABSTRACT

With its preference for small government and fiscal responsibility, the Tea Party movement claims to be conservative. Yet, their tactics and rhetoric belie this claim. The shrill attacks against blacks, illegal immigrants, and gay rights are all consistent with conservatism, but suggesting that the president is a socialist bent on ruining the country, is beyond politics. This paper shows that Richard Hofstadter’s thesis about the “paranoid style” of American politics helps characterize the Tea Party’s pseudo-conservatism. Through a comprehensive analysis of qualitative interviews, content analysis and public opinion data, we find that Tea Party sympathizers are not mainstream conservatives, but rather, they hold a strong sense of out-group anxiety and a concern over the social and demographic changes in America.