The Tea Party Does Not Exist

by Anthony Dimaggio and Paul Street

The white nationalist Boogie Man that has the NAACP and the Democrats on the run isn’t a bonafide social movement, at all, but a top-down creation of media and millionaires. The Tea Party is generally drawing much smaller crowds than the leftish U.S. Social Forum, but garners far more coverage from a corporate media that portrays the phenomenon as “rising up from the grassroots against establishment politics.” All indications are that the Tea Party is poorly organized and funded at the local level.


The Tea Party Does Not Exist

by Anthony Dimaggio and Paul Street

This article previously appeared on Znet.

It has been unable to organize outside of scattered local electioneering, largely in favor of Republican interests.“

Recent developments demonstrate that the Tea Party is not the powerful national force that it’s been made out to be. The organization’s meager levels of participation (documented in my and Paul Street’s past research) has finally come back to haunt the Tea Party in the run-up to the midterm elections, as it has been unable to organize outside of scattered local electioneering, largely in favor of Republican interests. In short, the Tea Party does not exist – at least not in the form depicted in the mass media and in political commentary.

Perhaps most indicative of the failure of local chapters to organize are two factors: the collapse of the pre-election National Tea Party conventions and the failure of Tea Partiers to organize and win primaries outside of smaller states. The fall 2010 National Tea Party convention in Las Vegas, although originally planned for July, was postponed, allegedly due to the unforgiving summer heat. Organizers promised the convention would take place in mid-October immediately prior to the midterms, although reporting in September concluded that the entire event had been cancelled. This was not the first time that the Tea Party suffered from a lack of participation at the cross-national level. The first national Tea Party rally in Nashville in February 2010 was generally poorly attended, with just 600 representatives from across the entire country. Some may claim that the low turnout was due to exorbitant costs ($549 to attend, plus travel, food, and lodging expenses), but this defense fails to explain why the Tea Party organized LibertyXPO was an abject failure, despite advertising free attendance. LibertyXPO, a national organization seeking to galvanize Tea Partiers, saw the collapse of its planned September 10th 2010 D.C. convention, was consciously timed to coincide with the equally lackluster 2010 9-12 D.C. Rally. LibertyXPO suffered from incredibly low attendance, and failed to raise even the $40,000 it originally sought to cover conference expenses, despite having spent almost an entire year networking with local Tea Party leaders and groups. Similarly, the 2010 9-12 D.C. rally planned for two days after the LibertyXPO meeting saw a turnout of just a few thousand protestors. In contrast, critics on the political left were framing the anti-war movement as essentially dead in late 2007, when just twenty to thirty thousand demonstrators rallied in Washington D.C. The Tea Party’s far weaker D.C. turnout in the run-up to the midterms – just 10 to 15 percent the size of the 2007 D.C. anti-war protest – should be evaluated just as critically by those on the right as the anti-war movement was assessed by those on the left. At a time when massive attendance and activism at national conventions and rallies was most needed, Tea Partiers were refusing to engage in the sort of action that would bring about a genuine mass movement.

The Tea Party’s failure to organize likely relates to its low level of resources and weak organizing at the local level.”

As a national federation, the Tea Party has largely been ineffective. The Tea Party’s failure to organize likely relates to its low level of resources and weak organizing at the local level - also demonstrated in the 2010 primary results. The Tea Party was much more likely to succeed in electing primary candidates in small states characterized by small populations and far smaller voter turnouts. The “movement” was largely unsuccessful on the national level, however, as a 2010 Wall Street Journal article titled “Big States Dilute Tea Party Strength” suggested.  As the paper reported during the primary season, the Tea Party benefitted from “little of either” in terms of monetary resources and wide-reading political organization.

The poor performance of Tea Party candidates in large states, in addition to the failure of the group to organize local chapters into a national force, stands in dramatic contrast to the massive support for mediated rallies and events that claim the Tea Party banner, but are manufactured from the top-down. A stark example is the August 2010 Glenn Beck-Sarah Palin “Restoring Honor” rally, which coincided with the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Reports suggested turnout at this Washington D.C. rally of 100,000 or more - the only Tea Party rally in 2010 that even came close to the hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors who regularly appeared in Washington between 2003 and 2005. Of course, the massive attendance of Beck’s rally suggests that the Tea Party phenomenon itself is largely a media creation, considering that Tea Partiers could not be bothered to show up in large numbers for their own convention and other national rallies when they failed to headline prominent national figures such as Beck and Palin. The Las Vegas Tea Party convention and LibertyXPO rally required sustained and mass based local activism (coordinated at the national level) to draw a mass large turnout, whereas Beck and Palin merely needed to employ their megaphone at Fox News to attract demonstrators. The failures of the LibertyXPO and Las Vegas convention is strong evidence that, contrary to the common media narrative, Tea Party supporters are not participating in local chapters on a substantial level.

The massive attendance of Beck’s rally suggests that the Tea Party phenomenon itself is largely a media creation, considering that Tea Partiers could not be bothered to show up in large numbers for their own convention and other national rallies.”

Our analysis is reinforced by another study done by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, which found the marginalization of left social gatherings during the media’s preoccupation with the Tea Party. Julie Hollar found in her analysis that the fall 2009 march on Washington D.C. with tens of thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activists received significantly less coverage than the Tea Party marches in April. Similarly, the February 2010 Nashville Tea Party Convention received far more attention than the U.S. Social Forum, (a convention leftist and socialist activists) which drew 15,000 to 20,000 attendees (compared to the 600 at the Tea Party convention), but received just 1.5 percent of the coverage of the Tea Party convention in a sample of ten national news outlets.

The national media has played an important role not only in exaggerating the power of the Tea Party in relation to other social movements. Reporters have also masked the Tea Party’s failures when they raise serious questions about the group’s power as a movement. The collapse of the Tea Party’s LibertyXPO convention in Washington D.C. in the fall of 2010, for example, was largely ignored in national reporting. A Lexis-Nexis search finds that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post bothered to run a single story on the meeting’s collapse in September 2010, while directing strong attention to the earlier, although comparatively lightly attended Nashville conference earlier in the year. Additionally, coverage of the collapsed October 2010 Tea Party convention in Las Vegas was almost completely ignored at a time when reporters preferred the narrative of an ascendant and insurgent Tea Party – rising up from the grassroots against establishment politics. The failed Las Vegas convention was covered in just one story in the New York Times, and one story in the Washington Post in the last two weeks of September, when the story was originally reported by alternative media.

By downplaying the failure of the Tea Party to organize as a coherent national movement, the U.S. establishment press further reinforced the already-prominent view that the Tea Party is a vigorous, broad-based national phenomenon. The fact that Republicans will be picking up a large number of seats this fall is more the product of public anger at a two party system that has been unable or unwilling to ease public suffering in the worst economic crisis since the depression. It is to be expected, then, that Americans will come out to punish the party in power in light of its half-hearted attempts to stimulate a sagging economy and protect a workforce increasingly under assault from budget cuts and downsizing. We shouldn’t let the Tea Partiers false image as an “insurgent,” “grassroots” “movement” obscure this basic reality.

Paul Street is an independent journalist, policy adviser, and historian. Formerly he was Vice President for Research and Planning at the Chicago Urban League. Among his recent books are Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, 2008), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in Post-Civil Rights America (Routledge, 2005). His many articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune; In These Times; Dissent; Z Magazine; Black Commentator; Monthly Review, Journal of American Ethnic History; Journal of Social History, and other publications.

Anthony DiMaggio is the editor of media-ocracy (, a daily online magazine devoted to the study of media, public opinion, and current events.  He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University and North Central College, and is the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He can be reached at: [email protected]


I beg to differ

Your article contradicts itself in too many ways to list individually so let me say this: I've been active in the Tea Party since Spring of last year, I've been to rallies in 3 counties, I have friends who have attended rallies in DC twice and I communicate with Tea Party groups all over this country and 1 in Australia.  I have never seen a check from anybody to protest or even to cover any of my own expenses.  Some of us sell T-shirts and stickers to try to recoup costs but I'm still in the red on that front but that doesn't even matter.  I love my country and the Tea Party includes tens of millions who feel the same way.


I'm sure people with liberal blinders on will see what they want to see but, so what?  You were never going to join us and we'll never convince you we're right.  We'll just have to ignore you and keep working to return our nation's government to its constitutional bonds.

T.T. the numbers don't lie, it is what it is

The polling data was not done at the behest of Black Agenda Report, read em weep Timmy.  Your situation may be different, but it's NOT UNIVERSAL.


Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated


Published: April 14, 2010

"Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

Hey Cynic, Howzit!

When we started, there was such disgust with the GOP for turning into liberal light that we talked about creating a 3rd party.  It was widely agreed that we could get farther in a shorter period of time just taking over the GOP, using their structure and their rules of engagement but our principles and people.  That is the truth of the matter.  It was just easier to take over the GOP than the Democrat Party.  2 years later and ballots full of Tea Party patriots and we see the wisdom in that.


BTW, I hope you and yours are doing well.  Even if we disagree on ALOT of stuff, I still appreciate your passion and perseverence in what we have in common: demanding that government comply with the will of the governed.


God bless.

What's up T.T. ? Enjoy the ride, days are numbered

T.T. said:  "It was easier to take over the GOP than the Democrats."

Come on T.T., nice try.  Fact of the matter is that Tea Partiers were always inclined to "Go right young man."  The strategic alignment with Rethugs will have short-lived success, however.  The Tea Party had a genuine chance to build a grass-roots movement of some broad (or broader) base had they stuck to their critique of the Bankster Bailout and Auditing the Fed Reserve.  Though you disagree with the characterization and though it may be unfair in some instances, when people start complaining about policies that are "socialist" that's dog whistle for "Black."  That's how the Black Intelligentsia views it. Or when folks talk about, "I want my country back, that's dog whistle for I want to return to the days of White Privilege.  Because this isn't just "my" country it is all of our country.

T.T. here's my prediction, you won't like it I'm sad to say:

In 2 years or by the time of the 2012 elections, the Tea Party movement will be in tatters, diminished and "left for dead."  The Rethugs will be picking your carcass.  There is no way in the world that the general populace is going to latch onto Tea Party rhetoric and principles, far too many of the candidates are extreme, and frankly, few of them have any policy proscriptions.  In fairness, neither do the Dummocrats. 

T.T. what we are going to see in the next 2 years is UNPARALLED gridlock, and most of it will be RIGHTLY (pardon the pun) laid at the feet of the Tea Party.  Few if any problems will be solved because both parties are rehashing the same old garbage.  The Tea Party gridlock will make even Newt Gingrich blush.  In 2 years T.T., the Elites will have used you guys up, thrown you to the curb and dismissed you as the Party of "No."  They'll attack you guys as "extreme" and then trot out the "serious, sober" Rethug candidate who won't weigh in on issues like homosexuality, DADT, condoms and the like.  Enjoy the ride now T.T., the roller coaster is reaching it's apex, but gravity will pull it down, down, down. 

Here's what Thomas Friedman says about the movement, which he calls the "The Tea Kettle" movement because all it does is blow off steam.  Thomas Friedman is hardly a liberal leftist, btw, in fact he's one of the neo-cons and globalists chief spokespersons.  Once the "classic" Rethugs use you guys to get back into office, they'll veer right back to the "center" in order to be "mainstream." In some respects you guys are being used by BOTH PARTIES. 


"The Tea Kettle movement can’t have a positive impact on the country because it has both misdiagnosed America’s main problem and hasn’t even offered a credible solution for the problem it has identified. How can you take a movement seriously that says it wants to cut government spending by billions of dollars but won’t identify the specific defense programs, Social Security, Medicare or other services it’s ready to cut — let alone explain how this will make us more competitive and grow the economy?

"And how can you take seriously a movement that sat largely silent while the Bush administration launched two wars and a new entitlement, Medicare prescription drugs — while cutting taxes — but is now, suddenly, mad as hell about the deficit and won’t take it anymore from President Obama? Say what? Where were you folks for eight years?

The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis."

Far be it for me to quote Friedman of all people, but when someone has the analysis right they got it right, just like I give the Tea Party kudos for getting the bailout and federal reserve criminal enterprise analysis right.  Enjoy the hey day T.T.,when the American public wakes up to the fact that you guys have no solutions, it will be short-lived. 

E.C.:You are kind to TT. On related, voting: DemNow headline

today's show: (3rd one down - I can't edit/move lines, sigh) - Republican linked group urges Latinos in Nevada to NOT vote in coming election "to send clear message that you can't take us for granted".   I recall that it's been done several times by Republicans, in particular when a close race in NJ for Gov. and the Repub operative bragged in the press about paying ministers and "democratic operatives" to urge their congregations to stay home (African-American voters).  He called it "walking around money": Ed Rollins, in an election in the 1993, on google in a blog entry of Oct. 3, 2008 reminding people.  I remember when Rollins bragged about it in 1993.

You surprise me my dear

I was restraining myself at it relates to T.T.  T.T. really believes in his fairly tales, who am I to tell a child Santa Claus isn't real?  lol

Seriously, I'm coming at him another way by showing him facts, upon facts, and sobering his reality by letting him know that the Tea Party movement will be dead in a couple years.  The Rethugs are going to toss them aside because the truth is that the Tea Party has no solutions, no problem solving skills, no policy making prescriptions, nary a read on REALITY PERIOD!  But they're entertaining as hell.

My Dear, when the public gets a dose of Tea Party governance or madness perpetrating as governance it's gonna be "one and done."  And the serious, money-ed class in America, the Friedmans, the Peggy Noonans and the Old Money literati and illuminati will have their so say because they control the organ grinders.  It's gonna be back to "centrism" come 2012.  Centrism is the new rallying cry  and common denominator whether Dummocrat or Rethug (We must govern from the center, blah blah blah).  We're gonna be dealing with Right Wing policies dressed up as Centrism till we puke. And after the Tea Party governance debacle, the Dummocrats will have free reign to be "centrist" (read, Right Wing) because once again the public will be numbed by their elected officials.

And the Tea Party is hardly centrist.  To call some of the more prominent ones extremists would be putting it mildly.  Watch them implode on the national stage.  Plus, they are eventually going to get tired of Palin and Beck playing them like a fiddle.  Beck and Palin are poised to turn on them in a heartbeat.

Last, "too kind to T.T.?"  Well NYCArtist, you would be the last person I'd expect to hear that from, coming from the "Queen of Political Correctness."  Keep it up and next time I'll tell T.T. he's "deaf and dumb" to the Rethug cooption.  lol  Have a wonderful day my Dear.  lol

Dog whistle?

I don't speak dog whistle but I have something to say about 2 of your assertions.  When I think of socialists, communists, communitarians, fascists, etc. (distinctions are false) Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and even Mussolini come to mind.  I can't for the life of me name a Black socialist unless you're talking about Barack Obama.  I don't think even he is a good example because he's weak and incompetent, more of an annoyance than a revolutionary.  To wit, I don't think "socialist = black" holds water.


Second is the "gimme back my country" or however you hear it.  In all the Tea Party events and meetings, I NEVER hear that.  In fact, the only place where that's common is among liberal commentators.  Even a dog can chase a car but what does he do when he catches it?  If I "give" you the country, what will you do with it?  See, it's silly.  We have specific goals (I know they're not favored by Black Nationalists and that's OK) including stricter limits on government concerning The People's 1st Amendment rights.  For example, people would not have to have permits to gather and speak in public.


The other part of that is to DRASTICALLY cut entitlement spending, leaving money with the people who earn it.  Programs have grown enormous and corrupt and need to be reformed from the ground up.  That'll mean starting from scratch.


Gotta go for now.  I hope you're doing well.  God bless your whole family.

Physical, intellectual, and spiritual invalids


Matt Taibbi's article in the current Rolling Stone offers a slightly different picture:

"Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains...


A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it."

Yes and no.


Thank you for your comments.


I agree about Rolling Stone–especially editor and publisher, Jann Wenner, who just did the most cravenly ass-kissing interview I’ve ever seen with Obama.   Bit I disagree about Taibbi.  Check out his article on what’s farcically called the health reform bill:


And this article by Taibbi on the financial reform debacle:


Although a fan of Alexander Cockburn since his Village Voice days, he now tires me.  He’s become too smug and dogmatic.

He calumnies people who challenge the official conspiracy theory on what happened on 11 September 2001, or the official story of the Kennedy asssassination, or those who believe in climate change, but resorts to name-calling rather than attempt to refute the arguments offered.


When I had a television,  I watched and loved Stewart, Colbert, and Dave Chappelle.  However, they are comedians, not political analysts.  A serious political analyst and comedian was the late George Carlin.  Listen to his dissection of religion, the “Right to Life” movement, or America’s rulers.


I am not familiar with Ted Rall or Dissident Voice.  Will check out both on your say-so.


On BAR we can agree.  Not only because of Dixon, Ford, Kimberley, Bell, et al,  but because of the comments by its readers.  I’ve learned a lot from your comments, as well of those of EC, CN, and Peasehead.



beverly: I like your comment.

Full of good stuff.  I don't know that much about Taibbi but I read his "bubble" article, way back when re Wall St.


Why does the introduction bash the NAACP when it isn't mentioned in the article. Even though it isn't perfect, the NAACP is a great mass organization that is fighting for the people.


I would add endemic police brutality or the culture of police impunity to the list of things that the NAACP has been totally ineffective on. I believe that there is both a lack of imagination and a lack of will on the part of the NAACP and many similar organizations. For example, knowing what the so-called justice system has done to Blacks for centuries, why did it take a largely white group of attorneys to creat the Innocence Project? Too many Blacks and progressive institutions still seem to believe that the only solutions are a combination of unending doses of tough "love" and having people of color and women occupy symbolic positions in real offices where they do nothing but make empty symbolic gestures, while the institutions which they allegedly control continue to destroy and disadvantage Blacks. The NAACP is hopelessly wedded to the fallacy that members of a despised minority group can somehow change institutions which are owned and operated by people other than themselves, for their benefit from the inside.


The NAACP is sadder than sad.  They are so sad, I feel sorry for them at times, for about 5 minutes anyway.

They have chosen to be feckless, much like Obama and the Dummocrats.  And throw in the CBC for good measure.

Hadn't heard much from NAACP on crack/powder sentencing disparities either. 

Or how about the myriad injustices flowing and continuing to flow from Katrina? We're talking seminal issues here, not fringe issues like Imus dissing the Rutger's Women's Basketball Team or Limp baugh buying a piece of an NFL franchise.

Do THEY even know what they stand for???

"Lack of imagination and will."  Nuff said.

Drew Brees Jersey