In 2017, former President Barack Obama resorted to profanity to let his former staffers know what he really thought about the TEA party movement. The movement rose up to challenge Obama’s increase in the size and scope of the federal government, especially his health care overhaul known as “Obamacare.” Democrats have long demonized the TEA party as racist, and Obama echoed this baseless charge.
According to Edward-Isaac Dovere, a staff writer at The Atlantic and author of the forthcoming book Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump, Obama called the TEA party “racist motherf**kers.” Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth obtained an advance copy and reported the remarks.
After the Obama Foundation’s holiday party in Chicago in 2017, the former president and his staff chatted about the latest hurdles the Democratic Party faced. Staffers “got him going by asking what it was like, after coming in working with Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein and other big bankers, to be made out as an anticapitalist by the Republicans,” Dovere writes in the book, referring to the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase and former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, respectively.
“Obama gave a long, reasoned answer,” Dovere writes. “As for the Tea Party, Obama said, well, they were ‘racist motherf—ers.'”
The former president also showed immense disdain for then-President Donald Trump, Dovere writes.
“He’s a madman,” Obama told “big donors looking to squeeze a reaction out of him in exchange for the big checks they were writing to his foundation,” Dovere writes.
“More often: ‘I didn’t think it would be this bad.’ Sometimes: ‘I didn’t think we’d have a racist, sexist pig.’ Depending on the outrage of the day … a passing ‘that f**king lunatic’ with a shake of his head,” Dovere adds.
Obama condemned Trump as “that corrupt motherf**ker” after news broke that Trump was speaking to foreign leaders without any aides on the calls.
Yet Obama’s claim that the TEA party was racist echoed a longstanding — and baseless — critique from the Left. In 2019, The New York Times published a thoughtful retrospective about the movement, and leftists faulted the Times for leaving out any accusations of racism. The Times duly relented. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) claimed that “the grounding of the tea party was xenophobia, the underpinnings of white supremacy.”
I witnessed the TEA party in action, and I helped conservative TEA party Republicans challenge establishment Republicans, so I can tell you the movement was not about racism.
The TEA party movement was about holding Washington, D.C., accountable to the people. It was about holding establishment Republicans accountable for decreasing the size and scope of government. It was about fiscal responsibility and reining in the monstrous federal deficit and federal debt. Some of us still believe in these principles, and were sad to see President Trump fail to shrink the deficit, even as he cut regulations and fulfilled other conservative promises.
As the Federalist’s David Harsanyi rightly pointed out, Texas is TEA party activists were just as angry with the wealthy white leader of Congress — Nancy Pelosi — as they were at the black president, Barack Obama. They were also angry at the white former president, George W. Bush, for selling out on fiscal conservatism. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) accused a TEA party crowd of calling him ugly names and spitting on him while he walked with Pelosi. There were cameras that day, and no one was able to find evidence to back up his claim.
I raised money for tea party candidates in 2014, hoping those small government candidates would beat the Republican establishment sell-outs who kept the deficit high and refused to stand up for the Originalist plain meaning of the Constitution. Every single one of the Republicans we hoped to unseat was white.
The TEA party movement helped energize Republicans, leading to victories in the House and Senate, and ultimately the White House. Many of the promises of that movement remained unfulfilled under Trump — even Obamacare stands today, and the national debt has ballooned. True change in Washington is hard, and while Trump did fulfilled many important promises — originalist Supreme Court justices, cutting regulations, defending the sanctity of life, reversing the Obama administration’s rejection of science on transgender issues — he failed to curb the growth of the federal debt.
President Joe Biden’s radicalism will only energize the Republican Party and the conservative movement, giving something like the tea party a resurgence. Whether or not the TEA party returns, however, one thing is certain: the TEA party was never racist, even if the Left is anxious to paint it that way.
Obama’s profane attack on the TEA party reveals more about him than it does about his critics.