A left-leaning organization that opposes white nationalism and white privilege has issued a report confirming that the tea-party movement not only is not dying, it continues to grow significantly.
The report comes from the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, which boasts of “new hope” for its “dreams for social and economic justice.”
The group is led by Leonard Zeskind, who describes himself as “a leading authority on white nationalist political and social movements.” He was trained as a community activist and and has work for more than a decade in the field.
The report, “The Status of the Tea Party: Membership, Support and Sympathy by the Numbers,” looks at the state of the movement that arose in response to Barack Obama’s far-left agenda and helped Republicans regain the House in 2010.
“Against IREHR’s expectations, the national organizations at the center of the tea party movement have maintained stable memberships in 2013,” states the report, which analyzes membership, location and commitment to the ideals of the movement.
“During the past year, tea parties have endured leadership changes, significant splits, and the emergence of competitive forces. Nevertheless, core membership numbers have neither receded nor died, but grown by four percent.”
The report notes that opposition to the tea party’s goals have “hardened,” but tea-party members have responded by a surge of commitment.
The report says the “core membership” is estimated at more than half-a-million people, concentrated geographically in the South, even though some local groups no longer are “active” and staging events.
“At its core, this report is a wakeup call for everyone who cares about human rights. The tea party threat to human rights remains persistent on a multitude of fronts,” Zeskind said.
The author of the report, Devin Burghart, warned: “Tea partiers are more than minions for millionaires, or the sum of ballots cast on Election Day. They are not illusions created by public relations magicians. Over the last five years, real people have been involved in real activities aimed at impacting politics, culture, and civil society in negative ways.”
The study charges that tea-party members, essentially, are racist.
“The tea party movement has been populated by large numbers of self-motivated persons, obviously angry and dismayed by the presidency of Barack Obama, his policies, and the change he signifies – particularly the fact that he has broken the white monopoly on the presidency.”
But the movement should not be ignored or discounted, the study warns.
“To claim that these individuals and their actions are somehow ‘fake’ ‘ignores the substantial evidence to the contrary, belittles those involved, and makes it more difficult to muster effective countervailing strategies,” it says.
The study identifies those who are “sympathizers” and explains it is this group that influences polls that “sometimes falsely conclude … that the tea party movement was dead or dying” through their answers to pollsters.
IREHR quotes charges by University of Washington political scientists Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto, who also claim racism in the tea party.
But the report notes that when a government scandal emerges, such as this summer’s revelations that Internal Revenue Service was discriminating against conservative groups, support for the tea party spikes upward.
The report defines another group as “supporters” of the tea party, estimating it numbers 6 million to 8 million.
Then there are “members,” who make “a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture.”
They “make calls, knock on doors, organize meetings, recruit new members, become leaders, and more,” the report said. It identifies five groups leading the national movement: FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, Patriot Action Network, Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Express.
The report notes that each one of those organizations faced obstacles during 2013, “nevertheless, all five of these national tea party factions continue to expand their membership base.”
The report said the criticism from “progressive pundits” that the movement is AstroTurf – driven from the top by large sums of money from a handful of people – is wrong. So is the view held by “Beltway political reporters” that it is about electoral campaigns.
“In both instances, movement dynamics, influence, and overall societal impact are ignored. … From the earliest days of the tea party movement … the evidence has suggested to IREHR that neither of these positions captures the full story of the tea party movement.”
The report also examines tea-party participation by region and state.