Lucas and Deutchman Comment on Tea Party – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Lucas and Deutchman Comment on Tea Party

DeWayne Lucas, associate professor of political science, and Iva Deutchman, professor of political science, were recently quoted in an article in the Messenger Post newspapers, “Tea Party: Steeped in Controversy.” The professors answered the questions, “Do you think the Obama supporters of 2008 will come back and give the Tea Party a run for its money?” “How involved do you think youth/minority/women voters will be in the election?” and “What influence do you think the Tea Party movement will have on this election?”

In response to the last, Deutchman is quoted: “As for the Tea Party, I wish I knew. I simply don’t know enough about them and I don’t think anyone does. I have no idea, as of this point, whether they are a serious faction within the Republican Party, strong enough like evangelical Christians once were, to take over and move the party right. Or are they a fly by night, flash in the pan movement that will be gone in 2012? I just don’t think we can say at this point because they are too new. I don’t know what they believe; I don’t know who funds them; and I don’t know how tied they are to the Republican Party. It will be interesting to find out.”

The article quotes Lucas, “The Tea Party movement is poised to have a dramatic impact on this election and how we interpret the future direction of American elections. They have already shifted the electoral choices of a number of congressional races. The immediate question is whether they are going to be able to galvanize their energy to actually win a number of general elections. I am doubtful that they will be. The long-term question and impact nonetheless is how their energies will play out in the future directions of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. After the election, Republicans will have to decide whether to continue to pursue Tea Party interests or return to their party standards. The election will be very important in how the Republican Party decides to proceed in the future.”

A member of the faculty since 2000, Lucas holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his M.A. and Ph.D. from State University at Binghamton.

Deutchman, a member of the HWS faculty since 1987, holds a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in political science and economics.

The full article, with their answers to all of the questions, follows.


Messenger Post
Tea Party: Steeped in controversy
Julie Sherwood • staff writer • October 21, 2010

Victor, N.Y. –
It was Sept. 12, 2009, during a demonstration in Washington when Michael Staub realized he had found a wave of like-minded people like nothing he had ever experienced.

“We went down on the spur of the moment” to the capital, he said of the trip he and his wife, Franette, made from their home in South Bristol. “It was the first time we had ever done anything like that.”

What began as a sight-seeing excursion turned quickly into participation in a rally and march. Like the hundreds of people they joined – some carrying signs, shouting anti-government chants and wearing costumes – Staub said he felt a kinship with what is now called the Tea Party movement.

“Taxes are way too high, the federal government has become too large and is in areas where it doesn’t belong,” he said.

An electrician, Staub is one of dozens of people involved with one of the many Tea Party groups that have sprung up in the past two years as people take their displeasure with Washington to the streets.

“We are not angry at any one group of people, but we are upset with government taking our money from us,” said Staub, a member of the Ontario County New York Tea Party.

Among the existing policies that disturb him: the recently-passed federal health care reform bill that requires all Americans to buy health insurance. “That is a socialist policy,” he said.

What exactly is the Tea Party? The definitions vary and arguments abound about whether it is a party, a movement or something else. Websites for the dozens of groups that fall under the heading, Tea Party Patriots, for example, post similar philosophies.

As 59th state Senate candidate David DiPietro put it, “It is the biggest name in politics.”

DiPietro, a Republican from Erie County, is the only candidate in the state to be on a Tea Party line in the Nov. 2 election. While there are a lot of Tea Party groups, he said, they all follow the general philosophy of fiscal responsibility; individual freedom and a free market economy.

Staub said he feels a kinship with the other Tea Party groups in the region, including Rochester, Victor and Naples. A meeting Monday evening in Farmington brought together a number of people to vet candidate Sean Hanna, the Republican running in the 130th Assembly District.

How much influence the Tea Party will have on the midterm elections and whether its primary role is to back candidates or give citizens a stronger voice in opposing certain government policies is another matter.

“The Tea Party was supposed to be a voice of the people,” said Janice Volk, a Republican running as a write-in candidate for the 29th Congressional District.

When the Tea Party became concerned with who they were putting on the ballot, that defeated the purpose, she said.

Now, she said, many of the groups have just become backers for the GOP, when the original intent was not to back any one party over another.

Dangers, disagreement
Bill Glasner, a business owner who lives in Victor, recalls growing up in Baltimore in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was disturbed by racial segregation, and so, became involved in the civil rights movement. It included picketing a downtown department store and experiencing “intolerance and anger” from those opposed to desegregation and racial equality. When, Glasner, a self-employed artist who makes handblown glass, attended a meet-the-candidate event not long ago for 29th congressional candidate, Tom Reed, a Republican, he recognized a familiar and chilling tone.

“It was like déjà vu,” he said.

Many of those who had come out to support the GOP candidate echoed the same emotion he had experienced decades ago. While the words and issues were different, “the accusing tone,” he said, the attitude that “you are forcing us to change our life, our traditional American way,” was the same.

Glasner said he worries the lessons of history are being ignored and sees the anti-government rhetoric as dangerous. He believes the anger and intolerance demonstrated by the Tea Party supporters will damage any gains made in the Civil Rights movement.

“I am driven by an interest in having a safe country to live in,” he said.

Professors weigh in
DeWayne Lucas, an associate professor of political science, and Iva Deutchman, professor of political science, both of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, offer thoughts:

Do you think the Obama supporters of 2008 will come back and give the Tea Party a run for its money?

Deutchman: I know that the president and vice president (and Bill Clinton, etc.) are out there rallying the troops. I don’t know that they are doing enough or maybe I should say can do enough to mobilize their base. The Democrats are really hurting. …We’re still fighting two amazingly expensive wars; and the economy is still a mess. In other words, what’s the difference between Bush and Obama? What’s changed? Given that, it’s hard to convince people to get up off the couch (assuming they still have one to sit on!)

Lucas: I think it is unlikely that many Obama’s 2008 supporters will come out in the 2010 election. First, they were not the typical regular voter and traditionally stayed out of the election. Unlike traditional voters, they aren’t necessarily invested in the electoral process. Second, they turned out in 2008 because of their excitement about the election, the Obama campaign and the promise for change. I think that excitement has waned on three accounts. Unfortunately for Democrats and Obama, they are not as excited about the election as the Tea Party.

How involved do you think youth/minority/women voters will be in the election?

Deutchman: I don’t think they are going to get anywhere near the numbers that came out in 2008. Part of that is the norm for midterm elections; part is specific to Obama. The prospect of electing an African American so excited some potential voters in 2008 that for the first time they came out and voted. That won’t repeat. And if women don’t show up to vote, that is going to hurt the Dems as well, as women are far more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.

Lucas: Women are likely to be more involved in this election than the other groups (and than they have traditionally been). There are a lot more female candidates in the 2010 race and economic issues seem to be having a bigger impact on women than men. Both factors are likely to encourage women voters to turn out at higher rates than normally. I think we may see pockets of surges of minority voters in the 2010 election, particularly in states where the issue of immigration has predominated. I’m far less confident in the turnout of young voters. This election hasn’t highlighted the issues of concern to this group, especially in comparison to the 2008 election.

What influence do you think the Tea Party movement will have on this election?

Deutchman: As for the Tea Party, I wish I knew. I simply don’t know enough about them and I don’t think anyone does. I have no idea, as of this point, whether they are a serious faction within the Republican Party, strong enough like evangelical Christians once were, to take over and move the party right. Or are they are a fly by night, flash in the pan movement that will be gone in 2012? I just don’t think we can say at this point because they are too new. I don’t know what they believe; I don’t know who funds them; and I don’t know how tied they are to the Republican Party. It will be interesting to find out.

Lucas: The Tea Party movement is poised to have a dramatic impact on this election and how we interpret the future direction of American elections. They have already shifted the electoral choices of a number of congressional races. The immediate question is whether they are going to be able to galvanize their energy to actually win a number of general elections. I am doubtful that they will be. The long-term question and impact nonetheless is how their energies will play out in the future directions of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. After the election, Republicans will have to decide whether to continue to pursue Tea Party interests or return to their party standards. The election will be very important in how the Republican Party decides to proceed in the future.