The Tea Party is not the significant force that Tea Partiers think it is, Democratic politician Howard Dean told a class of Vanderbilt students Tuesday.
The former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman called into “Political Campaigns and the Electoral Process” to discuss the effects of the Tea Party on the 2012 presidential election.
“I think in addition to a bad economy, the Tea Party arose out of a discomfort with the demographic shift going on in this country,” Dean said.
According the Dean, the country is shifting to a group of ethnic and social minorities and this bothers members of the Tea Party, which he said consists mostly of white people 55 years and older.
“Obama was elected overwhelmingly by voters under 35 years of age,” Dean said. “Obama has not lost any voters to the Tea Party.”
The advantage that President Obama and Democrats have in general, according to Dean, is a younger generation with views more in-line with the Democratic Party.
“The problem with Republicans in general is that they offend the younger generation with their attacks on gays and immigrants,” Dean said. “I don’t have much advice for Republican (presidential contenders) other than to abandon their right-wing social agenda.”
Dean also offered his opinions of Sarah Palin and her potential candidacy in 2012.
“Sarah Palin stands for the middle class of the 1950s, when things were much more black and white,” Dean said. “It is interesting that she is a turn off to most women, but attractive to older Republican men.”
Despite this, Dean said he cautions most Democrats who write Palin off as a weak contender.
“If she can win a major party’s nomination, she could win the race.” Dean said.
Sophomore Matthew Meinel disagreed with Dean’s outlook on Palin’s potential campaign.
“I don’t think she could win the party’s nomination or the general election, but it will be interesting to see how everything plays out,” Meinel said.
As for how the President should proceed in the light of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Dean said that Obama should not compromise with Republican leadership.
“How do you compromise with Mitch McConnell, who has said that his sole goal is to get rid of Obama after one term?” Dean asked.
Junior Matthew Taylor said he agreed with Dean’s advice for the President.
“I don’t think the President should compromise with Republicans, because I don’t think it will benefit him in 2012,” Taylor said.
Professor John Greer, a co-teacher of the course, said it was useful to hear the candid opinions of someone with no active stake in the race.
“Students got to hear a different take on the Tea Party and whether they agree with it or not is up to them,” Greer said. “But for them to be exposed to a different viewpoint is what this course is all about.”
Kyle Blaine is the news editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is a member of the Student Free Press Association.