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

Christopher S. Parker and Matt A. Barreto. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (376p) ISBN 978-0-691-15183-0
University of Washington political scientists Parker (Fighting for Democracy) and Barreto (Ethnic Cues) offer a scathing analysis of the Tea Party movement, linking it in spirit to the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society. Taking today’s conservative populists to be dangerous and their ideas self-incriminating, the authors speculate that Tea Party supporters may perceive of social change as subversion. Based on research and interviews, they suggest racism, desire for social dominance, and economic anxiety drives the Tea Party. Right-wing nationalism and “pseudo patriotism” complete the picture. Are Tea Party populists unhappy with high taxes and intrusive government? Is their gripe about illegal immigrants or LGBT rights? Is it displacement from power? We can only be sure there’s panoramic and unjust anger, they argue. Parker and Barreto contend that the Tea Party is a “reaction to Obama’s presidency” and suspected efforts to wrest power and policy from “real Americans.” They minimize the fiscal complaints and rapid government growth, especially Obamacare, which inflamed the movement. Although the Tea Party falls short of the radical and sinister political force this academic hit job would have its readers think it is, this study will appeal to campus progressives eager to cast this movement in the most chilling, unflattering light. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
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