Bruce Bartlett's Intellectually Dishonest Smear of the Tea Party Movement

Last week, Bruce Bartlett, the fair-weather supply-sider who recently converted to Keynesianism, embarrassed himself by launching an intellectually dishonest smear of the Tea Party movement. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Mr. Bartlett has been trying to smear the movement since we began voicing our opposition to Obama's $787-billion "stimulus" legislation, which Bartlett himself so enthusiastically defended. A year and a half into that economically disastrous program, Mr. Bartlett is looking to change the subject, hoping, perhaps, that his own ill-advised support for that fiasco will be forgotten.

From its inception in February 2009, the Tea Party movement has focused on three core values: (1) constitutionally limited government, (2) free markets, and (3) fiscal responsibility. These core values emerged quickly during the dramatic two-month period in early 2009 when the movement first exploded on the scene. As if from nowhere, Rick Santelli's rant on February 19, 2009 started an unlikely chain of events that brought one million Americans -- many first-time activists -- to nine hundred "Tax Day Tea Parties" around the country on April 15, 2009.

The Tea Party movement has rejected the discussion of social issues as an unwanted distraction that will hurt the movement's ability to accomplish its constitutional and fiscal objectives. I know this because I helped start the movement, and I have participated in hundreds of conferences calls where this position has been deliberated and confirmed -- both publicly and privately -- innumerable times.

Tea party activists, whether they govern their private lives by faith in God or by a purely secular morality, are united in their concern about the loss of individual rights stemming from our corrupted Constitution and our corrupt system of representation. They are dedicated to restoring the purity of our original constitutional system in order to pass on the republic intact to the next generation of Americans.

The social issues that motivated the Moral Majority in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, are considered secondary to the preservation of the republic. The common attitude among tea party activists is that we should save the republic first, and then let traditionalists and non-traditionalists duke it out over the social issues as they see fit within the confines of the saved republic.

As Grover Norquist pointed out in his 2008 book Leave Us Alone, and as Scott Rasmussen has tracked in his polling, there are two competing ideologies of 21st-century America. The first ideology is held by the majority of mainstream Americans, who support the free-market individualism of the Tea Party movement. The second ideology is the collectivist-statist-redistributive approach supported by a minority of Americans and championed by the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and almost all of academia.

Intellectually dishonest academics and left-wing propagandists in the news media continually paint a false picture of our movement, solely for the purpose of advancing their own failed ideology. Mr. Bartlett's article last week is just the most recent instance of this strategy.

The University of Washington "study" upon which Mr. Bartlett based the smears in his article is a prime example of this pattern of propaganda. In his blog last week, Mr. Bartlett made the following false claims citing this faux research:

What I think this shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define [Tea Party movement] members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the [Tea Party movement] is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that [Tea Party movement] members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it's in support of their agenda.

So eager is Bartlett to smear the Tea Party movement that he hangs his entire argument on this transparently "rigged" study conducted by Christopher Parker, a researcher whose body of work is so suspect he's spent nine years languishing as an assistant professor. Parker is the type of academic who has built a career creating data that will support his biased conclusions. His most recent co-authored academic publication, A Black Man in the White House? The Role of Racism and Patriotism in the 2008 Presidential Election was so flawed that even Professor Henry Gates' left-wing DuBois Review (Spring 2009 edition) has removed it from its web archives due to "editorial errors."

Not all copies of this earlier work of propaganda have been hidden. A review of this article with "editorial errors" shows its predictably predetermined and biased conclusions:

The evidence clearly shows we have not moved on to a postracial era. In the 2008 campaign, the one in which Americans elected the first self-identified African American president, both race and racism played critical roles. We can further conclude ... that some nontrivial portion of the White population used racist logic in evaluating the African American candidate, sometimes using narrow notions of patriotism and national identity to do so. Blacks and perhaps other groups such as Latinos and Asians still bear the burden of being considered by many Whites as either inferior or aliens, regardless of their accomplishments or the rhetoric of U.S. exceptionalism, which promises that believing in the civic ideals of the United States qualifies one for membership in the political community.

This, then, is the mindset of the researcher upon whose work Mr. Bartlett based his conclusions. How would a serious academic or investigative journalist of integrity seeking to understand the core values and attitudes of committed tea party activists proceed? The obvious approach would be simply to interview us. We're easy to find. The dozen or so national groups have readily accessible websites, as do a thousand or so local tea parties. A full list of the 97 activists who launched the first national tea parties on February 27, 2009 can be found at Indeed, one of those 97 activists, Keli Carender, lives in Seattle, Washington, within walking distance of Professor Parker's office. No surprise he hasn't made any effort to interview her.

We're not shy about documenting our core values. Mission statements reflecting the three core values (with some local variations) abound on the internet -- from our websites to op-ed pieces, blogposts, and other social media communications.

Instead of taking that obvious approach, Parker's survey drew on a sample set of 1,695 voters in Washington State that has been cultivated by the University of Washington's Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality, a taxpayer-funded left-wing propaganda generator of manufactured studies designed to support biased conclusions.

In fact, an April 2010 survey conducted by this institution, purportedly designed to look at issues of "racial intolerance" among Tea Party supporters started from this false premise, according to its own analysis: "But as the incident with Henry Louis Gates last summer, and the more recent outbursts of Tea Party activists suggest, racial divisions remain."

The premise of this April study, then, was the acceptance of the false allegations of racism made by the Democratic Party and liberal media based on the events surrounding the March 20, 2010 tea party health care protest on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Any doubt that Parker's May 2010 study was a conclusion in search of manufactured data evaporates when the questions in the survey are examined. The design of the survey questions confirms that this effort was yet another example of left wing academics seeking data to support their foregone conclusions.

At the outset, Parker isolated what he contemptuously referred to as "the True Believers" with this single question: "Do you approve or disapprove of the Tea Party movement?"

Fully 331 of the 1,695 respondents answered that they strongly approved of the movement. It was the orchestrated responses of this small group of voters in Washington State, none of whom, we assume, played any leadership role in their local tea party organizations, which Professor Parker's study used to attribute viewpoints to the entire nation's Tea Party movement. We can't know for certain whether or not any of these 331 respondents participated actively in their local tea party groups because Professor Parker failed to ask that basic qualifying question of respondents. But it's reasonable to assume that few, if any, of these 331 respondents are active in their local tea party groups.

Having set up as a target of inquiry this group he falsely claims to be representative of the entire Tea Party movement, Parker then attempts to prove his conclusion by asking a series of leading questions unrelated to the movement's core values, such as the following: "Agree or Disagree: If blacks would only try harder they would be better off."

If Mr. Bartlett has an ounce of academic integrity, he will immediately extend an apology to the entire Tea Party movement for his part in this continuing campaign of smears. I'm not holding my breath. Anyone who is still defending President Obama's economic program in light of overwhelming evidence of its failure has demonstrated that he has long since abandoned even the pretense of intellectual honesty.

Michael Patrick Leahy is the co-founder of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition and the author of Rules for Conservative Radicals. He is currently working on a new book, The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement, and collaborating with Dr. John Drew on a biography of Barack Obama. His website is