Change They Can't Believe In

Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America

Christopher S. Parker
Matt A. Barreto
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Change They Can't Believe In
    Book Description:

    Are Tea Party supporters merely a group of conservative citizens concerned about government spending? Or are they racists who refuse to accept Barack Obama as their president because he's not white?Change They Can't Believe Inoffers an alternative argument--that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto show that what actually pushes Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is being stolen from "real Americans"--a belief triggered by Obama's election. From civil liberties and policy issues, to participation in the political process, the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act.

    The authors argue that this isn't the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege. In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that "American" values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past, including the Know Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences.

    Linking past and present reactionary movements,Change They Can't Believe Inrigorously examines the motivations and political implications associated with today's Tea Party.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4602-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction Who Is the Tea Party and What Do They Want?
    (pp. 1-19)

    From the beginning, the Tea Party movement, as a loose confederation of leaders, activists, and sympathizers, has said it’s about conservative principles: small government, the free market, and governmental fiscal responsibility. On February 26, 2011, at a Tea Party gathering in Portland, Oregon, a thoughtful Tea Party spokesman was heard quoting the famous French social observer Alexis de Tocqueville on liberty, and recommending the audience read Frederick von Hayek’s well-known paean to small government,The Road to Serfdom. In his address to the audience in the Shiloh Inn’s ballroom, Rob Kuzmanich averred, “Conservatives are trying to conserve the liberating ideas...

  6. 1 Toward a Theory of the Tea Party
    (pp. 20-65)

    We opened the book with a comparison of two Tea Party meetings. There were vast differences between the meeting held in Oregon and the one convened in Idaho. The gathering in Oregon was, at its core, about some basic conservative principles: small government and fiscal responsibility. The one in Idaho appeared to be little more than an expression of intolerance and bigotry in which President Obama was painted as an alien of some kind. As we mentioned, these currents have been part of the American social and political milieu from the beginning. Indeed, we freely acknowledge that a commitment to...

  7. 2 Who Likes Tea? Sources of Support for the Tea Party
    (pp. 66-101)

    In chapter one we offered a theoretical account of the Tea Party and its supporters. We argued the possibility that if the Tea Party is anything like the Far Right of yesteryear, it’s not likely conservative in the more traditional sense. More to the point, we argued that Tea Party activists and supporters are reactionaries, something our findings confirm. Beyond this, however, we still don’t know what, if anything else, is associated with support for the Tea Party. The literature on right-wing movements, some of which we discussed in the introduction and chapter 1, furnishes a few clues. Several factors...

  8. 3 Exploring the Tea Party’s Commitment to Freedom and Patriotism
    (pp. 102-152)

    In chapter two, we witnessed an array of factors that were associated with support for the Tea Party. We confirmed what many historians have suggested in their accounts of the Far Right, including that conservative principles, as well as partisanship, affects the extent to which Americans support the Tea Party. This is consistent with earlier work on right-wing movements. Skeptics of the Tea Party have long suspected that it is at least in part motivated by antiblack racism, as well as more general group-based antipathy. This, too, was confirmed in chapter 2. More important, our claim about the fear associated...

  9. 4 Does the Tea Party Really Want Their Country Back?
    (pp. 153-189)

    In chapter three we examined Tea Party supporters’ commitment to freedom and patriotism. Among the other themes that emerged in our analysis is that true believers appeared reluctant to protect the freedom of racial minorities insofar as they seem willing to permit racial profiling. Likewise, as we examined patriotism, we found Tea Party sympathizers don’t appear interested in ensuring that everyone is treated equally, something for which minorities of all types have always striven. Indeed, freedom and equality, as we pointed out, are hallmarks of American identity. How can Tea Party sympathizers consider themselves real Americans but fail to adhere...

  10. 5 The Tea Party and Obamaphobia: Is the Hostility Real or Imagined?
    (pp. 190-217)

    Chapter four demonstrated that Tea Party sympathizers harbor strong, negative views toward minority groups of all types. Believers, as we have come to identify them, seem reluctant to acknowledge claims to equality made by other groups that deviate in some way from the perceived American norm represented by the Tea Party, or what we have referred to as out-groups. Moreover, it’s worth noting that believers’ rejection of these groups isn’t completely tied to politics, ideology, desire for conformity, or even their preference for antiegalitarian practices. Instead, we argue, and the evidence suggests, that the rejection of these minorities rests on...

  11. 6 Can You Hear Us Now? Why Republicans Are Listening to the Tea Party
    (pp. 218-240)

    In the past few chapters, we have focused on several issues of contemporary importance in America and to the Tea Party. We’ve investigated freedom and patriotism. We also explored the way people view policies geared to help marginalized groups get a fair shake in American society.¹ In chapter 5, we explored public perceptions of the president. In each case, the attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers represent a significant departure, both substantively and statistically, from the rest of the public. In this chapter we hope to illustrate why this matters. It’s important, in our opinion, because it appears as though the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-260)

    It’s hard to overestimate the Tea Party movement’s impact on contemporary American politics since their emergence following Barack Obama’s inauguration. With their assistance, Republicans have regained the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, continue to make inroads in the U.S. Senate, and have won a majority in many statehouses across the country. What’s more, in late 2011, CNN even hosted a “Tea Party Express” Republican Debate for the nine Republican presidential candidates, a nod to the growing influence of the movement. And throughout the lengthy Republican primary process in 2012, a key discussion point on almost every news show...

    (pp. 261-306)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 307-350)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 351-362)