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IREHR is pleased to release the special report,
The Tea Party Movement in 2015The report was prepared for the NAACP’s 106th national convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

The Tea Party Movement in 2015

By Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind
With a preface by Hilary Shelton




By Hilary Shelton             

Director, NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy

During the 2008 Presidential election cycle, a new political movement calling itself the Tea Party began in February 2009.  Initially built on high profiled public meetings in 2008 hosted by then Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and others across the country, in 2009 it held rallies on the steps of the Capital Building during the Congressional debate on the Affordable Care Act.  It also showed up at town hall meetings and other local gatherings. The question being asked is who are these people and how is it that even though they all carried the name  Tea Party, many had no direct connection to the others, yet all recognized some shared values and noted that there was no single leader or leadership structure. The questions raised about this new “movement” were bewildering at best.

In the fall of 2010 the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights released the seminal report on the Tea Party entitled Tea Party Nationalism. This insightful new report looked at the issues,
development, structure, and personalities, as well as the deeply concerning links between the sometimes racist agendas and strategies utilized by certain founders and activist within the various Tea Party factions throughout our Country.

Well, five years have passed and we’ve watched Tea Party affiliated candidates elected and appointed to posts in state and local governments from city and town councils, to state offices in legislatures and even Governors mansions. As a matter of fact there is even a Tea Party Caucus on Capitol Hill in the U.S. Congress. But as time has passed many questions remain and even those once answered have evolved and even changed. The update to that crucial Tea Party Nationalism expose on the Tea Party is information in great demand.

The question that this follow-up report answers are greatly needed by political wonks as well as anyone studying the impact of social and political movements on the body politic, as well as those concerned about the impact Tea Party national and local entities are having today on their communities.

Given the fact that Tea Party supporters continue to have an active voice within national debates, an updated report is sorely needed. As such, I strongly urge that everyone read this follow-up to the special report written by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind. I’m sure you will as I did, commend the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights for their continued diligence in exploring and exposing the troubling ties between the Tea Party movement and racist elements in our society.  As the principle authors of Tea Party Nationalism, it is very important that they also crafted this follow-up report.



cruz-oath-keepersSenator Ted Cruz, a leader of the Tea Party Caucus, speaking at a Tea Party and Oath Keepers rally during the last government shutdown.

Introduction and Executive Summary

Five years ago, at its 101st national convention, the NAACP passed a resolution calling “upon all people of good will to repudiate the racism within the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to the drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.”  Several months later, in October 2010, the NAACP released a report on the Tea Party movement by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) entitled, Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size, Scope, and Focus of its National Factions.

That report detailed the hardcore white nationalists and racists within Tea Party ranks, described the anti-immigrant nativism within the movement and noted that 39 of 51, or 76% of the members of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress at that time were co-sponsors of legislation intended to end birthright citizenship.  It should be remembered that birthright citizenship is promised by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed after the Civil War to ensure equality before the law.  And that initial report noted the opposition within the Tea Party ranks to both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Seventeenth Amendment, the direct election of United States Senators.

The NAACP called on Tea Partiers to clean their own house, to rid itself of the racists and white nationalists in its ranks, and it noted that a couple of the worse racists had, indeed, been thrown out of leadership positions after the resolution had been passed at the convention.

After five years, much has changed in Tea Party circles.  In 2012, a Texas local chapter of Tea Party Patriots birthed a voter suppression organization, True the Vote, and IREHR detailed its activities in North Carolina in a report, Abridging the Vote: True the Vote in North Carolina.  That same year, IREHR reported that Tea Party nativism was now the major grass roots expression of the anti-immigrant movement, as other, more traditional, forms of anti-immigrant activism had declined.

The Tea Party’s war on the Constitution had sharpened, according to a 2014 report by IREHR, and now included a call for an Article V Constitutional Convention.  During the past year, the Tea Party movement has been a damaging voice on incidents of police racism. The number of the movement’s core membership and active supporters, as measured by IREHR, has continued to grow. The number of sympathizers, as measured by opinion polls, has stayed stable. And academics have added a scholarly and scientific voice to questions of Tea Party racism.

In this report, IREHR provides an update on the numbers of Tea Party members, supporters and sympathizers. We believe that knowing these numbers is an essential first step to building an opposition to the Tea Party.  We know that lambasting the Tea Parties in Washington, D.C., for example, will do nothing to deter the movement in the rest of the country. Building an opposition to the Tea Party movement is a local and regional and national task.

IREHR also looks at the findings of several studies of Tea Party racism that have been conducted over the last five years.  Tea Partiers have denied that they are racist whenever they have been challenged. The oft-repeated accusation that President Obama is not a natural born American has always been raised in a racist fashion, especially when the charge was very rarely raised against Sen. John McCain, who was born to American parents in Panama.

Nor did any Tea Parties comment on IREHR’s 2010 finding that the white nationalist organization, Council of Conservative Citizens was involved in several Tea Party organizations and that the Council was sometimes in the leadership.  That issue has new salience in that the Council of Conservative Citizens is now infamous for its role in the development of the alleged Charleston murderer.

The Tea Party movement has more than a sporadic and incidental problem with racism.  Now the studies cited in this report indicate that that the problem of racism is deeper and wider in the Tea Party movement, and that it is endemic within movement ranks.

For the first time anywhere, this report looks at the responses of Tea Partiers to the recent incidents of police violence directed at black people.  This section of the report should be required reading for anyone interested in the lack of equal justice under law, and should be read and discussed by those activists within the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  This section of the report speaks for itself, and it should be read by all those people of good will.

The conclusion looks at several elements that have hindered the development of a broad-based movement in opposition to the Tea Parties.  And IREHR calls for the development of such an opposition as the best defender of democracy and equality before the law.





Tea Party Members, Supporters, and Sympathizers



The Tea Party movement has been populated by large numbers of self-motivated persons. They have been both obviously angry and dismayed by the presidency of Barack Obama, his policies, and the cultural and demographic change he signifies—particularly the fact that he has broken the white monopoly on the presidency. The oft-made claim that Tea Party activists are “AstroTurf” or fake grassroots ignores the substantial evidence to the contrary. And understanding that membership is a critical first step when developing effective countervailing strategies.

At the core of Tea Party movement are members of the various Tea Party organizations. Membership matters. The act of membership expresses a deeper level of participation than supporters or sympathizers. Membership is a weighty declaration of allegiance and identity. Becoming a member is a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Tea Party members put the “move” in movement. Members add their voices, their concerns, their sweat, and their financial support to the organizations that gird the movement. Members do “the work”– they make calls, knock on doors, organize meetings, recruit new members, become leaders, and more.

The core members of this movement have created and recreated, a diverse set of organizations. They have both competed with each other and collaborated to form a movement that is both self-conscious and capable of re-invention. Membership numbers also give power and cache’ to movement organizations.

While it is true that informal social networks have played a part in shaping the movement, and activists like to claim that the movement is “leaderless,” membership organizations making up the core national factions played a vital role in getting the movement off the ground and shaping movement direction. Half of the national factions existed well before the movement emerged in early 2009. Those membership organizations help vastly accelerated initial growth.

The actual membership of Tea Party organizations allows them to make decisions and carry out their programmatic initiatives. The number of members of the Tea Party movement has been measurable. Its impact, made stronger by concerted action, has been undeniable. Tea Partiers have rallied, met regularly to discuss what they believe are constitutional issues, socialized with each other, and organized themselves into a relatively cohesive voting bloc.

Unfortunately, membership in the Tea Party movement has been the least examined of the levels of movement participation. In part, this is because accurate data is hard to come by. Like other far-right movements, national Tea Party organizations have been less-than-transparent when it comes to membership figures. Groups have also notoriously exaggerated their numbers, inflating the size so as to enhance their status with politicians and the public.

To get a better sense of what these individuals actually do and to gauge the movement’s trajectory, it is necessary to examine the many different layers of involvement in the Tea Party. As IREHR noted in 2010 in Tea Party Nationalism, support for this movement ranges across three broad categories: 1) core memberships of national factions 2) active supporters, and 3) sympathizers.

Each of these levels overlaps the others in concentric circles. These tiers serve as a measure of the intensity to which individuals identify with and participate in the movement. In 2015, there were decidedly different trends in each of these different levels of involvement, with membership growth slowing, while supporters continued to expand, and sympathy undulating with events but remaining notably consistent over time.

IREHR has been tracking membership in the national Tea Party factions since 2010. This includes membership data for five national Tea Party factions, 1776 Tea Party (also known as, FreedomWorks, Patriot Action Network (originally known as ResistNet), Tea Party Nation, and Tea Party Patriots, along with donor data for the Tea Party Express (Our Country Deserves Better PAC).[1] There are also multiple unaffiliated local and state Tea Parties. But the overwhelming bulk of Tea Party membership is associated with one or another of these national groupings.

Since Tea Party Nationalism was published, each of the national Tea Party factions has undergone significant upheaval. FreedomWorks, the largest of the factions, experienced an armed leadership coup at the end of 2012, which ousted founder Dick Armey. Tea Party Patriots continued to experience the defection of grassroots leaders as a schism between the national office and local groups grew deep.[2] ResistNet changed its name to the Patriot Action Network, then itself outflanked on gun rights by a new upstart money-raising juggernaut known as, then had its national director split. Tea Party Nation found itself in financial trouble when it was ordered to pay a Las Vegas resort more than $748,000 after it abruptly canceled a conference.[3] The Tea Party Express political action committee came under scrutiny over the amount of money the PAC raised that was funneled back into the consulting group of founder Sal Russo. The 1776 Tea Party saw its core concern, nativism, usurped by the bigger Tea Party factions.[4]

Tea Party Membership State Rankings
New York
North Carolina
New Jersey
South Carolina
New Mexico
New Hampshire
West Virginia
District of Columbia
Rhode Island
South Dakota
North Dakota





Tea Party Membership

Though no longer experiencing the meteoric rise it did during the mass protest phase (2009-2011) when activists took to the streets, the Tea Parties still maintains a sizable base of support among the American public. With very little notice, the national organizations at the center of the Tea Party movement maintained stable memberships through mid-2015.

In June 2015, membership in the six national Tea Party factions was 574,150, just a 3% increase from the same period in 2014.

All of these national Tea Party factions continue to expand their membership base through mid-2015. The pace of growth, however, had slowed considerably from the rapid pace of 2010-2011. In June 2015, membership in the six national Tea Party factions was 574,150, just a 3% increase from the same period in 2014. However, this number was an increase of nearly 200% since Tea Party Nationalism was published in 2010.[5]

As the following table illuminates, core membership has grown each year since the Tea Parties founding, with the largest increases occurring during periods of heightened electoral agitation.

National Tea Party Faction Membership Data


Tea Party Faction 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
FreedomWorks 13,615 94,541 144,265 195,179 247,957 249,539
Tea Party Patriots 64,267 85,753 152,572 97,815 97,928 98,051
Patriot Action Network 72,437 87,029 88,406 90,735 93,329 95,213
Tea Party Nation 29,298 40,022 46,532 52,315 53,298 53,519
1776 Tea Party 4,657 12,563 13,419 29,171 43,465 45,101
Tea Party Express* 1,508 2,321 3,051 2,390 4,313 15,128
Totals 185,782 322,229 448,245 467,605 540,290 556,551


*Tea Party Express is a political action committee, not a membership organization. The number for it in the chart represents donors.


Interactive maps of Tea Party membership and state rankings are available at The maps trace the geographic location of the members, and provides a stunningly graphic overview of the size and scope of the Tea Party organizations. This provides an accurate assessment of where movement strength lies.


Tea Party Membership Map – 2015

View full-size map here.

Regionally, the Tea Party movement remains a primarily (though by no means exclusively) Southern phenomenon, with 41% of Tea Party members located in the South. Moreover, all but one of the national factions are headquartered in Southern cities.

Digging into the data also tells us a bit about the sex of Tea Party members. The Tea Party War on Women appears to be impacting membership. Among those members of the national Tea Party factions who chose to identify their sex, the Tea Party is growing more male dominated. The number of individuals who declared their sex as male increased to 67% in 2015, up from 63% in 2010.

While national membership ticked upwards in, members were less visible than in previous years. The number of active local Tea Party groups was also much lower than claimed by national organizations.



Tea Party Supporters


Beyond the membership core, a second, less deep level of engagement is the active supporter level.

More than anonymously tell a pollster that they are sympathetic to the Tea Party, this layer includes those willing to publicly declare their allegiance to the Tea Party to their family, friends and colleagues, at some minimal level. Supporters have a higher level of movement involvement and identity than sympathizers, but less than those who have fully committed to membership.

In sociological literature, active supporters of social movements have been described as those who “wear the badge” or “bought the T-shirt.” In a Tea Party context, that could include going to a meeting, slapping on a Tea Party bumper-sticker, flying yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, buying some Tea Party literature, etc.

This level of movement participation has been extensively documented. Most notably New York Times reporter Kate Zernike’s 2011 book, Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America, and The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Harvard’s Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson explore Tea Party supporters.

Though this somewhat nebulous grouping it is notoriously difficult to quantify, IREHR estimates the supporter level at six-to-eight million individuals. While membership numbered plateaued, a number of metrics indicate that movement support continued to increase during the last year.

One gauge of Tea Party support is social media reach—individuals who engage with the Tea Party via one or more online social network. This includes how many people “like” a group on Facebook or follow the group on Twitter. While membership growth was slowing to a crawl, the social media influence of the Tea Party movement continued to grow in the last year. As the following table indicates, the number of individuals “liking” one or more of the national Tea Party factions on Facebook increased by more than 25% in 2014, and the number of followers on Twitter increased 50%.


Tea Party Faction Social Media Presence

Tea Party Faction Facebook 2014 Facebook 2015 Twitter 2014 Twitter 2015
1776 Tea Party 144,701 387,354 18,012 34,463
FreedomWorks 4,338,373 4,684,122 164,719 221,698
Patriot Action Network 5,156 6,411 1,414 1,402
Tea Party Express 1,916 194,226 53,480 76,772
Tea Party Nation 5,059 6,950 21,212 30,851
Tea Party Patriots 1,243,419 1,433,890 63,521 133,596
TheTeaParty.Net 1,944,703 2,935,008 59,882 75,368
Total 7,683,327 9,647,961 382,240 574,150

Another indicator of movement support, financial contributors, also remained high in 2014. According to the most recent data from the Federal Elections Commission, the four Political Action Committees tied to national Tea Party groups raked in $35,867,052 from tens of thousands of itemized donors and many more small donors in 2014.[6]





Tea Party Sympathizers


The outer layer consists of movement sympathizers, those individuals who, at minimum, are willing to anonymously tell a pollster that they are in agreement with or are generally supportive of the Tea Party movement. This tier is measured by public opinion polling data, and it is often confused in the public eye with that of the core membership. (For clarity, this report categorizes those who positively respond to these polls as Tea Party sympathizers, rather than supporters.)

There is a sizable body of data on Tea Party sympathizers and a mix of opinion polls since 2010 has kept an account of the movement’s sympathizers, either among the general population, or likely voters. These polls have been done by: ABC News/Washington Post, AP/GfK, CBS News, CNN/ORC, Fox News, Gallup, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, New York Times/CBS, Pew Research Center and others. These polls have fluctuated up and down, leading observers to sometimes falsely conclude that the Tea Party movement was dead or dying.

Despite the occasional vacillation, over time Tea Party sympathy has remained fairly constant. In fact, a spring 2015 New York Times/CBS poll puts Tea Party sympathy at 18% of the American public, exactly the same percentage as the first poll they conducted on the Tea Party back in 2010.

Three things are happening simultaneously: Tea Party membership plateaued in a non-election period, while the number of Tea Party supporters continued to expand, and sympathy for the Tea Party occasionally oscillated (depending on events) but generally stayed stable.



Studies of Tea Party Racism


The Confederate battle flag was a problem for the Tea Party, even before the Charleston Church Massacre.

At every opportunity, Tea Party leaders have denied they are “racist.” Yet, expressions of the Tea Party’s persistent problem with race abound, and have been exhaustively documented. They include the waving of the Confederate battle flag at rallies around the country. Tea Party groups have engaged in the rhetoric of Jim Crow with ceaseless chatter about secession and nullification. Tea Party leaders have minimized of horrors of slavery (like when Ben Carson declared that Obamacare was “the worst thing that has happened since slavery”). Pro-Confederate references to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression” and “the War to Enslave the States,” can be heard on Tea Party stages and read on Tea Party websites. A popular Tea Party curriculum on The Making of America even refers to African-American children as “pickaninnies,” claims that the treatment of slaves was “humane,” and that “the economic system of slavery chained the slave owners almost as much as the slaves.”

Beyond the many anecdotes of racism, several social scientists have quantified the racism of Tea Partiers. University of Washington political scientists Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto extensively explored Tea Party sympathizers in their 2013 book, Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America. They found that race and racism were significant factors. “The emergence of the Tea Party movement, at least if support for the Tea Party is any indication, cannot be reduced to perceptions of President Obama alone, even if his presidency helped catalyze the movement. Several other factors are also important in helping to explain Tea Party sympathy, including racism and the belief that subordinate groups should remain in their respective places.”[7]

IREHR noted an opinion poll survey by Parker in our 2010 report.  He found that “73%  told pollsters that government programs aimed at providing a social safety net for poor people actually encourages them to remain poor.”  He also found that Tea Party members were more likely to have negative feelings about the work ethic of black people.[8]

In addition to racial animus among Tea Party sympathizers, the results of Parker and Barreto’s surveys also found that “The data suggests that supporters of the Tea Party are statistically more likely to hold negative attitudes towards immigrants and sexual minorities across a range of different issues and topics, and are firmly opposed to the idea of group equality.”[9]

A 2012 study of the Tea Party and racism produced extremely noteworthy results. “Race, Ideology, and the Tea Party: A Longitudinal Study” by Eric D. Knowles, Brian Lowery, Elizabeth Shulman, and Rebecca L. Schaumberg, published in PLOS ONE in 2013, investigated Tea Party identification over time, and the “racializing” power of politics.

Their data “support the notion that political affiliations can lead to systematic changes in individuals’ racial thinking.”  And “Rather than causing affiliation with the Tea Party, White Identity appears to be a product of immersion in the movement.”  In other words, white people do not necessarily join the Tea Party movement because they are racist, but they become racist the longer they are in the Tea Party.

These findings helped IREHR figure out the current situation. With almost a half-million members and with millions of active supporters, the Tea Party movement—without ever touching questions of public policy—acts as a force for increasing racism in our society.  That fact alone should convince you, dear reader, to actively oppose the racism of this moment.

That racism appears four-square in the civic discussion of police violence and police racism.




From Brown to Gray:

Tea Party Reaction to Police Killing of African Americans

Some of the unarmed African-American men and boys who died at the hands of law enforcement in the last year.

Police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Walter Scott in North Charleston, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and other African Americans in recent months have become touchstones for how Americans view issues of racism and police misconduct.

Public opinion polls after the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson last summer found a country deeply divided along racial lines. Asked whether to charge Wilson for killing Brown, eighty percent of blacks wanted charges, but just twenty-three percent of whites agreed, according to Pew Research Center.[10]

With the growing number of police killings (many captured on video), and the sustained efforts of “Black Lives Matter” campaigners who demanded justice, public opinion began to shift. By the time Eric Garner gasped “I can’t breathe” on Staten Island, ninety percent of blacks and forty-seven percent of whites wanted charges brought against the implicated police officers. When six police officers were charged in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, seventy-eight percent of blacks supported charges being brought, as did sixty percent of whites.[11]

At the same time, a new CBS News/New York Times poll found that just thirty-seven percent of whites believed the police are more likely to use deadly force against a black person. Among blacks, seventy-nine percent agreed.

The poll also found marked differences in how blacks and whites view the unrest that gripped Ferguson since Brown’s killing. Most whites say they think the actions of the protesters have gone too far, while blacks are more evenly divided. Thirty-eight percent of blacks think the protesters’ actions have been about right, compared with fifteen percent of whites.[12]



The Tea Party and Police Killings of African-Americans


Public opinion pollsters have not yet surveyed Tea Party sympathizer attitudes on recent police killings. However, there is considerable evidence as to where the Tea Party stands.

Over the last year, IREHR conducted an intensive examination of Tea Party reactions, cataloging content from national and local Tea Party websites, email, social media, speeches and public events, media appearances, and other content.

This report does not delve into the mountains of racist invective spewed by anonymous commentators on news sites and social media, instead, it examines the comments of national and local Tea Party leaders, along with Tea Party members.

There is no single Tea Party reaction on the police killings. Instead, there is a range of responses.

Tea Party reaction to recent police killings of unarmed African Americans has been remarkably callous, often overtly racist. Reactions include defending the police perpetrators, disparaging the victims, attacking civil rights groups, and blaming all African Americans for the incidents. Some national Tea Party leaders see a nefarious conspiracy in the community reactions to these killings. Other Tea Partiers have even gone so far as to fully embrace rhetorical territory once exclusively the domain of white nationalists.

Response is cross-organizational. Nearly all of the national Tea Party factions have jumped into the fray at one or more points along this response spectrum. Inside the movement, these ideas flow omnidirectionally, down from the top levels of Tea Party leadership and up from grassroots membership. The Tea Party amplified and popularized these ideas to the larger public.

Though national Tea Party groups often relied on African-American Tea Partiers to relay the most incendiary messages, the findings of this study point further to the Tea Party’s role in reinforcing racism.



Black Lives Don’t Matter to the Tea Party – Thug-ification of Victims and the N-Word


“I wish I could say I have sympathy for Freddie Gray and his family, but I don’t,” confessed Tea Partier Alan Caruba in an article entitled “A Pox on Baltimore.”[13]  The piece, written for Tea Party Nation was shared by founder Judson Phillips with the more than fifty-four thousand members of the group. Such sentiments were pervasive in Tea Party responses, with astonishingly few expressions of empathy or sadness at the deaths of these black men.

Caruba is the same Tea Partier who unleashed homophobic rants about the “queering of America” being “one more factor in the destruction of America” and even advocated secession from the United States.[14] While Phillips has fretted about “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” “extinction,” regurgitated birther racism, and advocated voting rights be limited to property owners.[15]

As after the killing of Trayvon Martin, after each recent police killing, Tea Partiers circulated vast amounts of false information, particularly on social media. The effort was made to muddy the waters and place blame on dead victims. Phony Twitter accounts were created.  Photos were doctored to make the victims look menacing.  Fabricated stories of injuries to involved police officers went viral.

In one of many examples of this type of activity, Tea Party Patriots member David Fontaine tried to absolve the police by perpetuating the lie that Freddie Gray’s death was ultimately the result of “spinal and neck surgery a week prior to arrest in Baltimore.”[16]

It gets worse. Much worse.

“Michael Brown was a thug and a criminal and despite the evidence showing that Brown attacked a police officer, he is hailed as some sort of civil rights hero by those looking to riot and loot in his memory,” wrote Greg Campbell, then a staffer for the Tea Party News Network—a website owned by founder Todd Cefaratti.[17]

Some of the many Tea Party leaders who engaged in the thugification of recent victims.

Casting black victims of police killings as “thugs” became a principal theme for Tea Partiers after each incident. Following a pattern established in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, many Tea Partiers rushed to engage in a practice that Zerlina Maxwell dubbed the “thug-ification” of the victims.

Thug-ification is the “strategic manipulation of public perception with the purpose of turning the victims into stereotypical black males predisposed to criminal behavior.”[18]

For Tea Partiers, thug-ification served multiple purposes. It shifted the narrative away from the police killings of unarmed black men to alleged (sometimes fabricated) transgressions of the victims (who are not alive to defend themselves). It dampened public outcry over instances of police violence. It also provided comfort to some whites, reinforcing the stereotypes they already held about black men and allowed them to feel justified in holding those beliefs. It dehumanized the victims, and ultimately all black people, by casting them as terrifying less-than-human figures ready to kill at any time.

To put it another way, to those who adopt the thug-ifyed view of victims, the appropriate punishment for being a black male, and less-than-perfect, is death.

Among the loudest thug-ifying voices were two African-American Tea Party activists, Lloyd Marcus and Jesse Lee Peterson. Their words gave white Tea Partiers carte blanche to repeat the slurs.

Lloyd Marcus is a Deltona, Florida Tea Partier who describes himself, parentheses included, as a “(black) Unhyphenated American.” He has been a paid spokesperson for the Tea Party Express and presently serves as Chairman of the Conservative Campaign Committee PAC. His musings were shared by the majority of the national Tea Party factions. Repeatedly Marcus has written that, “Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were thugs.”[19]

After the killing of Freddie Gray, Marcus posted a photo of himself holding a sign reading “#WhiteLivesMatter” while claiming that white people have been the victims of a “shock and awe attack” for decades, being made to “feel guilty for being white.”[20]

Victims are villains to Marcus, while racists are heroes.

Marcus championed the actions of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who engaged in an armed standoff with law enforcement and wondered aloud if “the negro” were “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things.”[21] Despite Bundy’s bigoted remarks, Marcus stood by Bundy, including stating that he “does not think Cliven Bundy is racist.”[22] (It should be noted that despite weapons being drawn on law enforcement, Bundy was unharmed during the confrontation—he was not even arrested).

On the other side of the country, Jesse Lee Peterson joined in the thug-ification ritual, from his base in Los Angeles. Peterson, who founded the South Central L.A. Tea Party, has been active in anti-immigrant circles for nearly two decades. He described both Brown and Martin as “thugs,” and said that criminals in America, “especially black criminals,” are let off too easily.[23]

Of course, many white Tea Partiers weren’t content to have black spokespeople be the only ones doing the thug-ifying. Take, for instance, Craig Andresen, a writer for The Tea Party Tribune website, who’s repeatedly characterized the victims as “thugs” who are “uncivilized” and therefore unworthy of justice or due process under the law.

Andresen seems to suggest that it is perfectly ok to kill the uncivilized. “The dirty little secret the suit and tie thugs don’t want you to know is that justice is for CIVILIZED members of society. Just desserts are the comeuppances for the uncivilized,” he wrote.[24]

Describing the situation after the death of Freddie Gray, Andresen unleashed a string of racial slurs, “Baltimore is the new Ferguson…where thugs and ni*gers demand respect via violence for a dead ni*ger thug.”[Ed.][25]


“Baltimore is the new Ferguson…where thugs and ni*gers demand respect via violence for a dead ni*ger thug.” – Craig Andresen


Andresen wasn’t alone in articulating this view of the “uncivilized.” Some even expanded it to people protesting the killings. Carla Virga, an organizer with the Sutter Buttes Tea Party from Yuba City, California described Ferguson demonstrators as “anti-American revolutionists” who are “dividing the American people,” and that “the division is being created between the races of blacks against whites, savages vs. civilization.”[26]

Others skipped the coded language altogether, choosing crude dehumanizing language to describe the victims instead. For instance, one member of Tea Party Patriots referred to Freddie Gray as “a piece of sh*t.”[Ed.}[27]

All the dehumanizing and thug-ifying of the victims led some Tea Partiers to go a step further, concluding that somehow the victims “deserved” being killed.

One of the original core group of individuals who helped launch the Tea Party movement back in 2009, Eric Odom, works for the national Tea Party faction, the Patriot Action Network. After the killing in Ferguson, Odom sent members of the group an email entitled “Why Michael Brown deserved to die.”[28]

Other Tea Partiers extended the thug-ification to all African Americans.

In an article entitled “Victim Mentality Afflicts Black Americans,” Tea Party Nation’s Alan Caruba declared that “the real problem of too many in the black community is rooted in a culture of violence and criminality. The statistics do not lie.”[29] Caruba attributed the problems to the “culture and lifestyle choices” of the entire black community. [30] He also tried to downplay racism, “With a black President, a black Attorney General, black members of Congress, black mayors and others demonstrating how different 2015 is from 1965, it is getting a lot harder to blame ‘white racism.’”[31]

Beyond blaming blacks and downplaying racism, some Tea Party leaders have tried to define those who would raise concerns about police killings as “un-American.” From the beginning of the movement, the Tea Party sought to define themselves as “real Americans” and those opposed as un-American. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips was quick to place the Black Lives Matter movement into the un-American camp when he described December demonstrations as a “way of screwing up the lives of real Americans who want to do their Christmas shopping.”[32] He even applauded a Bloomington, Minnesota City Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges against organizers of a protest at Mall of America.



Going After Civil Rights Organizations


There is a long, sordid history of groups placing blame on civil rights organizations for the murders of African Americans.

After the death of Emmett Till, the White Citizens Council called the death “regrettable” but then attacked the NAACP. As Neil R. McMillen noted in The Citizens Councils: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction 1954-1964, “The NAACP, [Mississippi Citizens Council executive secretary Robert Patterson] suggested, should be held accountable for the recent rash of racial violence in Mississippi, for it had encouraged Negros to challenge the state’s racial customs.” [33]

The Tea Party continues in this tradition.

Lloyd Marcus sketched out the conspirators, “How do you expect black youths to react to the Left’s orchestrated campaign to convince them that white Republicans and conservatives are racist and out to get them; white cops murder them at will, the rich got rich stealing from them and business owners are selfish and evil? These lies have been sold to black youths by the highest black voices in the country – Obama, Oprah, Democrats, Sharpton, Holder, Jackson, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and assorted other race exploiting scumbags. If I sound angry it is because I am.”[34]

On the Tea Party Express website Marcus added, “If black empowerment is truly their goal, why would the NAACP, the Democrats and MSM celebrate thugs while, not just hating, but seeking to destroy real black achievers? The answer is simple. The Democrats and their minions are great deceivers whose sole mission is to secure loyal black voters at any and all cost. Thugs Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown help to promote the Democrats’ narrative that white cops shoot blacks at will; vote for us to keep them from murdering you.”[35]

Some of the most divisive and incendiary Tea Party commentators on recent police killings.

Not to be outdone, another African-American Tea Party voice, FreedomWorks Senior Fellow, Rev. C.L. Bryant, added “The violence in St. Louis and other cities did not erupt just because of Michael Brown. These senseless reactions are nurtured by organizations like the NAACP and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge.”[36]

Deneen Borelli, the FreedomWorks staff member who led the failed “black conservative surge” at the 2014 NAACP convention, wrote “Ferguson Mob Rule: Mission Accomplished for Race-Baiters” in which she declared that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton were responsible for the upheaval in Ferguson after the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Wilson. She called Sharpton “the race-baiter-in-chief” who “polluted the minds of many blacks in Ferguson and beyond.”[37]

She went so far as to argue that the Administration’s response in Ferguson made whites the victims. “As this case shows, color-coded justice reigns when it suits the political agenda of liberal black politicians and activists. Ironically, under this system, whites are the real victims and black perpetuators are innocent,” wrote Borelli. [38]


“Race baiters like Al Sharpton and Marcia Fudge are using their influence to fan the flames of violence in Ferguson, and it needs to stop.” – Deneen Borelli, FreedomWorks


Borelli has made a career using well-worn attacks on civil rights leaders and organizations to establish her “challenging the black liberal establishment” bona fides. She even authored Blacklash: How Obama and the Left are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation.

In another official FreedomWorks statement following the Ferguson grand jury ruling, Borelli added, “Race baiters like Al Sharpton and Marcia Fudge are using their influence to fan the flames of violence in Ferguson, and it needs to stop. I find the responses from Sharpton and Fudge as despicable as the actions of the rioters and looters.”[39]

When unrest broke out in Baltimore, Borelli used the situation to push many Tea Party themes, including shifting the discussion to “black on black crime,” bashing Stimulus spending in the city as wasteful, promoting Climate Change denial, and blaming progressives—particularly Congressman Elijah Cummings.[40] “The riots ignited from Gray’s unexplained death while in police custody is the symptom of a larger disease; failed progressive policies,” she wrote on the FreedomWorks website.




Back the Police


Are you willing to stand up and be counted and stand behind your police officers? It is easy to talk the talk but we need people who will walk the walk to stand with us.”

Are you willing to stand up and be counted and stand behind your police officers? It is easy to talk the talk but we need people who will walk the walk to stand with us,” asked an Ohio Tea Party group.[41] Last June, members of that local Tea Party group, We the People – Ohio Valley, gathered under the Highway 7 overpass to show that despite evidence of potential misconduct, they were willing to stand by police officers who killed black men.

With little regard for circumstances, Tea Party-backed “Blue Lives Matter” and “Cops Lives Matter” demonstrations took place around the country.

In August 2014, after a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, a coalition of Tea Party and anti-immigrant groups held dozens of local protests dubbed “Operation American Shield” to support Wilson and other law enforcement.

In addition to promotion by the 1776 Tea Party, (the national faction run by the anti-immigrant vigilantes of the Minuteman Project), the lead organizer of “Operation American Shield” was William Gheen. As leader of the Raleigh, North Carolina-based nativist group ALIPAC, Gheen was one of the early advocates of bringing hardcore anti-immigrant politics into the center of the Tea Party movement.  Gheen has a long history of incendiary racist comments, including suggesting that “illegal and violent” “extra political activities” might be the only way to save “white America” from “Dictator Barack Obama.”[42]

Operation American Shield was just one of many efforts by Tea Party groups to back controversial law enforcement officials.

The Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots held a “Link in the Chain” rally in January as a “Support Rally to show all of our Law Enforcement in Maricopa County (including DPS, MCSO & Phoenix PD, Scottsdale) that we Support & Appreciate them all!”[43] The “MCSO” that the Tea Party group rallied to support is the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the department led by racist birther Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is facing a civil contempt-of-court hearing because his office repeatedly violated orders issued in a massive racial-profiling case.

The Sutter Buttes Tea Party Patriots held “Blue Light January.” According to organizer Carla Virga, “Replacing our porch lights with a blue light bulb for the entire month of January is a worthy, nearly cost-free way we can stand up in support of those who serve and protect us and show police officers we are on their side, not the side of anti-American racists, Communists, and Islamists.” [44] Virga also quoted an active Tea Party member and retired police officer supporting the event, “Let’s show the thugs, dividers, and race-baiters we have our priorities straight.”[45]

While it is true that some Tea Partiers expressed opposition to police militarization and the way law enforcement handled the demonstrations in Ferguson, reaction to police killings also revealed the intersection of the Tea Party’s law and order mentality and their views on race.

Even before these incidents, survey data by Chris Parker and Matt Barreto found that forty-seven percent of Tea Party “true believers” supported racial profiling.[46]

Other Tea Party leaders, like Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips, have gone so far as to argue that a “war against the police” is being waged. In the aftermath of the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, Phillips wrote, “This is a war against law enforcement and it is a war against civilization in America. Who benefits from chaos? The Obama Regime does.  They want to fundamentally transform America from a Constitutional Republic to a Marxist hellhole.”[47]



Conspiracies and White Nationalism


“Blacks, whites and national race relations are merely pawns in the Left’s chess game to nationalize (government control) America’s supposed evil racist police departments. Whites have been on the Left’s hit list for decades. Disguising their assault on whites, the Left portray themselves as champions of black empowerment. They claim blacks are victims of racist America, despite elephant-in-the-living-room evidence proving otherwise. Meanwhile, the Left is engaged in a shock and awe attack on whites; public schools teaching kids to feel guilty for being white (white privilege). Lord, help us” warned Lloyd Marcus to Tea Partiers.[48]

Belief that nefarious forces lurk behind the protests over recent police killings amalgamate many Tea Party conspiracy theories about race, President Obama, and impending martial law. executive director, Niger Innis, son of Congress of Racial Equality leader Roy Innis, email-blasted members with the conspiracy that the protests in Ferguson after the killing of Michael Brown were a “deliberate attempt to distract the country from our current border crisis and the fact that the Administration has no clue regarding how to deal with the growing international crisis of fundamental Islamist extremism is what is really going on.”[49]

In another email, Innis wrapped two other Tea Party main-stays into his Ferguson conspiracy, climate change denial, and deregulation.

In the tradition of “never let a good crisis go to waste”, if and when the rioting starts, expect the President to unleash a barrage of Executive Orders granting amnesty to illegal aliens, opening up the border more than it already is and hitting business with more regulation in the name of stopping global warming, a science that has been proven to be a fraud.

While the entire news media is busy reporting on riots, what better time to destroy as much of America’s founding principles as possible before the new Republican Senate is sworn in mid-January. This is the dream of the left and a good explanation of why a Presidential administration was so quick to jump into the controversy in Ferguson.[50]

Previously, regurgitated conspiracies about President Obama taking away people’s guns, organizing more than one hundred “Day of Resistance” armed gun rallies around the country.

Surpassing, the national Tea Party faction most mired in conspiracies, including racist birtherism, the 1776 Tea Party (aka email blasted Tea Partiers into thinking that Ferguson was an Obama conspiracy to implement martial law across the country.

Tea Party Intelligence has just learned that Obama has given carte blanche to the U.S. Army to engage in lethal response to deal with unruly demonstrators and full-scale riots. Two words: Ferguson, Missouri.

Two more words: Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Is it a coincidence Obama is fueling race riots and at the same time preparing the military? NO, it’s not. Patriots, this is yet another one of Obama’s vengeful, egregious attacks on America.[51]

Even beyond the martial law conspiracies that sound more at home at militia gatherings, Tea Party leaders even delved into the ugliest forms of white nationalism.

A national director of posited a nightmare usually confined to white nationalist fever-dreams in her article “Is there a Race War coming?”[52] The Patriot Action Network website featured a video popular in Tea Party circles by Bill Whittle entitled “Ferguson and the Real Race War.”[53] In it, Whittle argues that “there is, in fact, a racial war of violence and hatred in America. Open racism is simply not tolerated in white America, but black racism is the toxic glue that holds the progressive coalition together.”[54]




Five years ago, the NAACP’s resolution against racism and white nationalists within the Tea Party movement made a significant contribution to the civic conversation about this then relatively new political phenomenon.  In particular, it awakened the African American community and anti-racists of every skin color to the danger represented by this racism. In the years following, there have been a number of significant battles against the racism of the Tea Party movement itself, or against the policies promoted by Tea Party organizations.

Nevertheless, a sustained and broad-based national fight against racism in the Tea Party movement has not emerged.  Neither has a national movement developed to defend the Constitution against The Tea Parties’ anti-Fourteenth and anti-Seventeenth Amendment onslaught.  There have been campaigns directed at the policies and the campaign monies of the Koch brothers.  There have been streets protests directed at white nationalist gatherings and white power advocates.  There have been repeated exposes’ of the Tea Party organizations and characters by IREHR and by news organizations such as Mother Jones magazine.  But there has not been a broad-based sustained national campaign against the Tea Party movement itself.

There could be a number of reasons for this situation.

In 2015, a number of false notions about the Tea Party movement continue to circulate. Many progressives and liberals continue to declare that the Tea Party is “dead.”[55] There are also noteworthy voices, particularly among progressive pundits, who continue to label the Tea Party movement as essentially “AstroTurf”—a fake grassroots phenomenon drummed up by large sums of money from a handful of wealthy donors such as the Koch Brothers.[56]  Others, including Beltway political reporters, continue to conflate the “movement” with various electoral campaigns.[57] In this view, tallying wins and losses, and counting contribution dollars become the only metrics that matter.

As such, the dynamics of this political movement are overlooked.  Its influence in civil society and its overall societal impact are ignored. According to these false views, if the movement isn’t registering strong support in national opinion polls or winning closely-watched elections, it must be no longer relevant.

The actual evidence, however, has suggested to IREHR that the Tea Party movement, its numbers, and ideological permutations, must be better understood if an effort to defend democracy and equality before the law can be successful.  Further, as this report shows, Tea Partiers are more than minions for millionaires or billionaires such as the Koch brothers.  They are more than the sum of ballots cast on any Election Day. They are not illusions created by public relations magicians. Over the last six years, real people have been involved in real activities aimed at having an impact on politics, culture, and civil society.

The Tea Party movement’s physical, cultural, and racial separation from other peoples in the United States has also made it more difficult to open a sustained campaign against its racism.

A study of the Tea Party movement by sociologists published in 2014, found that 79.1% of Tea Party members live in counties with high levels of educational segregation. “We find that individuals with a four-year college degree are more likely than those who have not attended college to express support for the Tea Party, with the relationship being strongest in counties with high levels of educational segregation.” [58]

They also found that Tea Party members were not motivated by economic hardship, were older than people who did not support the Tea Parties, and were “disproportionately white.” They cited authors who had found that “Tea Party supporters are more likely than non-supporters to express negative views about African Americans.” And they noted the fact that Tea Partiers “favor strict enforcement of immigration laws.”  These Tea Partiers are not “populists” of any persuasion, and efforts to reach them through populist messaging will inevitably fail.

Indeed, due to the high level of segregation they live in, they are not likely to be reached by people who are not like themselves. The authors concluded that: “Segregation imposes constraints on opportunities to engage in intergroup relations, thereby limiting the range of information available to individuals,” and “individual understandings of what is fair and just tend to be formed and reinforced within homophilous networks and structures.”  It is difficult under the best of conditions to build an anti-racist movement of the well-educated and well-segregated and thereby more prosperous individuals.

Tea Partiers do not remain untouched and unmoved by anti-racist efforts, however.  In fact, one study in 2011 by the Pew Research Center found that the more people learn about the Tea Party movement, the less they like it.[59]

Rev. William Barber II

Rev. William Barber II and the Moral Monday Movement are pushing back against the Tea Party.

In North Carolina, the NAACP state conference has carried on the most sustained effort against the Tea Party movement and its policies.  Using a fusion strategy, the NAACP has built a larger movement, incorporating a broad range of organizations and demands around its anti-racist heart.

There is now a broad-based coalition of 180 organizations known has historically been called the HKonJ, or Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition.  This movement has arisen to counter, in moral terms, the “extremism … racism … (and) … greed” of the state legislature and the governor.  They have created a “Moral Monday” movement of marches, protest rallies, and civil disobedience.  And the Moral Monday framework is in the process of being adapted in other states.

They have objectively opposed the Tea Party movement, and sometimes use the words “Tea Party” to describe their civic opponents.  The NAACP state conference has used IREHR research on Tea Party organizations, including those that act to suppress black votes.  And it has used IREHR research on Tea Party organizations in that state.  It has mobilized tens of tens of thousands to march for justice.  And it has allowed themselves to be arrested by the police in moral witness against the sins of the state government. Yet, this Moral Monday fusion movement has not yet reversed the policies of state government. We know that eventually, they will succeed.

In 2015, the Tea Party movement remains a powerful foe that poses a great danger to equality and democracy, but the last chapter on this movement has not yet been written.













[1] For full details on Tea Party faction data collection and analysis methodology visit our website,

[2] Devin Burghart, “Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement – Part One,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, January 9, 2014,

[3] Devin Burghart, “What Didn’t Happen in Vegas: Tea Party Nation Ordered to Pay Up,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, August 29, 2012,

[4] Devin Burghart, “Tea Party Nativists Seething over Obama’s Immigration Reform Action,” Institute for Research and Education for Human Rights website, November 21, 2014,

[5]  As noted in the Tea Party Faction Data Collection and Analysis Methodology Appendix, the dip in membership number for Tea Party Patriots is primarily due to a switch in membership data sources, necessitated by website changes by the group.

[6] Federal Elections Commission year end 2014 data for FreedomWorks for America, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, Our Country Deserves Better –, and Leadership Fund.


FreedomWorks for America $3,679,245
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund $14,325,339
Our Country Deserves Better – $11,814,164 Leadership Fund $6,048,304

[7] Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto, Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 157.

[8] Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Tea Party Movement and the Size, Scope, and Focus of Its National Factions, (IREHR Press, 2010), p. 66.

[9] Ibid, p. 165.

[10] Bruce Drake, “Ferguson highlights deep divisions between blacks and whites in America,” Pew Research Center, November 26, 2014,

[11] Ibid.

[12] Tanzina Vega and Megan Thee-Brenan, “Poll Shows Broad Divisions Amid Missouri Turmoil,” New York Times, August 21, 2014,

[13] Alan Caruba, “A Pox on Baltimore,” Tea Party Nation website, May 4, 2015,

[14] Alan Caruba, “The Queering of America,” Tea Party Nation website, June 23, 2011,

[15] Devin Burghart, “Tea Party Nation Warns of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant ‘Extinction’,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, March 29, 2011,

[16] David Fontaine, “B REAKING NEWS: Baltimore Riots–: Freddie Gray’s Life-Ending Injuries To Spine May Possibly Been Results Of Spinal And Neck Surgery Week Prior To Arrest In Baltimore,” Tea Party Patriots discussion site, May 2, 2015,

[17] Greg Campbell, “VIDEO: Good Samaritan Shoots Armed Robber- You Won’t Believe the Reaction by the Thug’s Family,” Tea Party News Network website, November 30, 2014,

[18] Zerlina Maxwell, “The thug-ification of Trayvon Martin: Smear campaign distracts from the case,” The Grio website, March 28, 2012,

[19] Lloyd Marcus, “The Great Deceivers: Obama, Mary Landrieu and the Democrats,” Tea Party Express website, November 17, 2014,

[20] Lloyd Marcus, “#WhiteLivesMatter,” Lloyd Marcus website, May 4, 2015,

[21] Devin Burghart, “Tea Party Stands by Bundy After Racist Remarks,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, May 12, 2014,

[22] Lloyd Marcus, “This Black Does Not Think Bundy is Racist,” Tea Party Express website, undated, circa May 2014,

[23] Kyle Mantyla, “Jesse Lee Peterson Laments That ‘Thugs’ Like Michael Brown ‘Are Given The Benefit Of The Doubt’,” Right Wing Watch website, August 15, 2014,

[24] Craig Andresen, “Weekend Edition: Justice is For CIVILIZED Members of Society,” Tea Party Tribune website, December 27, 2014, The Tea Party Tribune article continues to The National Patriot website, where the article is completed, The same story ran on the Tea Party Nation website,, the 1776 Tea Party website,, the Patriot Action Network,, One Nation Rising,, and multiple local Tea Party websites.

[25] Craig Andresen, “Freddie Gray is the EXCUSE, Not the REASON,” The National Patriot website, April 29, 2015, Like Andresen’s other columns, this article ran on multiple national and local Tea Party group websites.

[26] Carla Virga, “Blue Light January,” Sutter Buttes Tea Party Patriots website, December 29, 2014,

[27] Kevin Kiernan, “BALTIMORE IS LYNCH’S FURUSON[sp],” Tea Party Patriots discussion site, April 27, 2015,

[28] Eric Odom, “Allen West… ‘Why Michael Brown Deserved to Die’,” Liberty News email, August 28, 2014.

[29] Alan Caruba, “Victim Mentality Afflicts Black Americans,” Tea Party Nation website, August 14, 2014,

[30] Alan Caruba, “Ferguson is NOT America,” Tea Party Nation website, March 15, 2015,

[31] Ibid.

[32] Judson Phillips, “Finally, the sane approach to dealing with Ferguson protesters,” Tea Party Nation website, December 23, 2014,

[33] Neil R. McMillen, The Citizens Councils: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction,  1954-1964,(University of Illinois Press, Urbana / Chicago, 1994), p. 218.

[34]  Lloyd Marcus, “Another Thrilling Episode of Blacks Behaving Badly,” Tea Party Nation website, April 30, 2015,

[35] Lloyd Marcus, “The Great Deceivers: Obama, Mary Landrieu and the Democrats,” Tea Party Express website, November 17, 2014,

[36] Deneen Borelli, “ Members Speak Out on Ferguson Missouri Grand Jury Decision,” FreedomWorks website, November 25, 2014,

[37] Deneen Borelli, “Ferguson Mob Rule: Mission Accomplished for Race-Baiters,” Deneen Borelli website, November 26, 2014,

[38] Ibid.

[39] Deneen Borelli, “ Members Speak Out on Ferguson Missouri Grand Jury Decision,” FreedomWorks website, November 25, 2014,

[40] Deneen Borelli, “Guess What Issue Baltimore Rep. Cummings Says Is One Of The Most Important Issues Facing The Nation,” FreedomWorks website, April 30, 2015,

[41] “Blue Lives Matter,” We the People Ohio Valley email, May 28, 2015.

[42] Leah Nelson, “Nativist Leader Says Violence May be Needed to Save ‘White America’,” Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch website, August 23, 2011, .

[43] Chris Rossiter, “Support for Law Enforcement Rally,” Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots website, January 24, 2015,

[44] Carla Virga, “Blue Light January,” Sutter Buttes Tea Party Patriots website, December 29, 2014,

[45] Ibid.

[46]  Change They Can’t Believe In, p. 120.

[47] Judson Phillips, “More Cops Lives Matter,” Tea Party Nation website, December 22, 2014,

[48] Lloyd Marcus, “#WhiteLivesMatter,” Lloyd Marcus website, May 4, 2015,

[49] Niger Innis, “Do You Want to Fight?” email, August 22, 2014.

[50] Niger Innis, “Ferguson Riots and Obama,” email, November 17, 2014.

[51] Lloyd Marcus, “Another Thrilling Episode of Blacks Behaving Badly,” Tea Party Nation website, April 30, 2015,

[52] Dee, “Is there a Race War Coming?” 1776 Tea Party Command Center Blogger Spot, August 18, 2014,

[53] Bill Bissell, “Check out ‘BILL WHITTLE: FERGUSON AND THE REAL RACE WAR’ on Patriot Action Network,” Patriot Action Network email, August 20, 2014.

[54] Bill Whittle, “Bill Whittle: Ferguson and the Real Race War,” YouTube video, August 20, 2014,

[55] For more on the “Tea Party is Dead” meme, see Devin Burghart “Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement – Part One: The Tea Party in 2013” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights website, January 9, 2014,

[56] See, for instance, Eric Zuesse, “Final Proof The Tea Party Was Founded As A Bogus AstroTurf Movement,” Huffington Post website, October 22, 2013,; The Daily Take, “There Is No Such Thing as the Tea Party; There Is Only a Collection of Billionaires,” Truthout Website, October 2, 2013,; Ronald P. Formisano, The Tea Party: A Brief History, John Hopkins Press, April 4, 2012; Anthony DiMaggio, The Rise of the Tea Party: Political Discontent and Corporate Media in the Age of Obama, Monthly Review Press, November 2011; George Monbiot, “The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires,” The Guardian website, October 25, 2010,; Ryan Powers, “Pelosi: Tea parties are part of an ‘astroturf’ campaign by ‘some of the wealthiest people in America,” Think Progress website, April 15, 2009,; Paul Krugman, “Tea Parties Forever,” New York Times, April 12, 2009,

[57] Prime examples of this form of coverage include reporting on the Tea Party by Beltway institutions like Politico and The Hill.

[58] Rory McVeigh, Kraig Beyerlein, Burrel Vann Jr. and Priyamvadi Trivedi, “Educational Segregation, Tea Party Organizations, and Battles over Distributive Justice,” American Sociological Review 2014 79:630.  This study used IREHR’s data on Tea Party membership to plot the location of Tea Party membership concentrations.

[59] Pew Research Center on U.S. Politics & Policy, “Tea Party: Better Known, Less Popular,” April 8, 2011.

Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

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