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Polls show that the Tea Party’s logic is perfect — for the Mad Hatter

Las Vegas Sun, 4/20/10 - Americans’ “anger” about government and politics in general has been reported ad nauseam, largely thanks to the Tea Party movement. Tea Party activists are angry — very angry — and they’ve been running around the country telling people so. They passionately talk about what they say are federal government takeovers and the erosion of constitutional rights — yet without any real specifics attached.

Recent polls have shown that although supporters of the Tea Party movement may be angry, their anger is often misplaced. Instead of being angry at President Barack Obama, the Democrats or Congress, they should look in the mirror. Their arguments are full of contradictions. For example:

• The leading cause of anger, according to a poll done this month for The New York Times and CBS News, is health care reform. Tea Party activists claim that the legislation will have government bureaucrats interfering with people’s medical care (it won’t), but they don’t seem to have a problem with private insurance companies doing that — for a profit. Nor do they have a problem accepting government health care. Tea Party supporters are more likely to either receive or have an immediate family member who is receiving Medicare or Social Security than the average American.

• Tea Party activists like to say they’re independent and are upset at politics as usual from both Republicans and Democrats. But they aren’t terribly independent. The polls show that they don’t want a third party. They largely support the Republican Party — 54 percent see the party favorably and 66 percent usually vote for GOP candidates.

• Despite all of the talk about their concern regarding the federal deficit, when given a choice between cutting the deficit and cutting taxes, more Tea Party supporters said they would take the tax cut. You would think they would be pleased at the tax cuts the president and Democrats in Congress passed or the fact that the average American paid less in federal taxes on the returns they filed this year.

To fully understand the Tea Party’s contradiction, consider that 92 percent of the movement’s supporters say the country is moving toward socialism — that’s 40 percentage points more than the average American. However, ask about taking away “socialist” programs like Social Security and Medicare and you’ll likely get a fight. In a story in the Times last week, some people said they were entitled to those benefits because they paid into the systems. Others, like 62-year-old Jodine White of California, wondered about their positions.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” she told the Times. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Indeed. If people stop being angry long enough to think, they might see the light and change their minds.

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