Dean: Tea Party Fueled By Fear Of Diversity
Fear of diversity is the driving force behind the conservative Tea Party movement, former Democratic party chief Howard Dean said Wednesday, as a slew of Tea Party-favored Republican members of Congress took the oath of office.
Dean, the former Vermont governor known for his no-holds-barred demeanor, was careful at The Christian Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters to add that he didn't view tea party activists as "racist.'' But he suggested that discomfort with the election of the first African-American president and an increasingly diverse electorate largely fueled the movement.
"I think it's the last gasp of the 55-year-old generation...a group of older folks who've seen their lives change dramatically,'' he said. "The country is not the same...and all of a sudden it's here for them and they don't know what to do...Every morning when they see the president they are reminded that things are totally different than they were when they were born and I think that has a lot to do with it."
"Economic uncertainty fuels this but this is the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity,'' Dean added. "The tea party is almost entirely over 55 and white, and the country has changed dramatically as a result of what happened in 2008 and it's not going back. Every day that goes on, the demographic change continues, and that's what a lot of this is about."
Dean called the mostly Republican members of Congress "pathetic'' who voted against a plan to legalize children of illegal immigrants in college or the military. "The only reason not to vote for that is fear of your constituents,'' he said.
But it's not just Republicans who need to get with the program, Dean suggested, when he said that the White House staff should be more diverse.
Asked which potential Republican challenger could pose the biggest challenge for Obama, the former Democratic presidential candidate didn't hesitate to pick former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. However, he said he wasn't sure Romney could win the nomination, since as governor he implemented a health care program with similarities to Obama's controversial plan. He also said prejudice against his Mormon background would also be a hurdle for Romney.
"He's really going to get the daylights kicked out of him because of the health care bill,'' Dean said.