Welcome Christopher S. Parker (University of Washington) (Scholars Strategy Network) (Twitter), Matt Barreto (University of Washington) (Latino Decisions) and Host Anthony DiMaggio (Truthout) (Author, Rise of the Tea Party, and Crashing The Tea Party)

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

In Change They Can’t Believe in: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto have authored what is sure to be one of the most authoritative studies of the Tea Party phenomenon. It is a book worth reading by anyone who wants to understand the values and philosophy driving right wing and Republican politics today. The heart of Parker and Barreto’s work could be summarized by this quote, describing the motives driving Tea Party true believers:

Support for the Tea Party captures the perceived existential threat to the mainly white, middle aged, middle class, largely male slice of America represented by the Obama presidency. Support for the Tea Party, in short, represents reactionary conservatism. Reactionary conservatism is a predisposition motivated by the anxiety associated with the perception that real Americans are losing their country (p. 126).

The book is sure to draw huge controversy for its thesis, but then again, any relevant book relevant to these polarizing times certainly should.

The 2008 election of President Barack Obama really was historic, not simply because of the emergence of our first African American president, but because of the tremendous backlash from reactionary elements of America and their opposition to the change that the President symbolized. We should not see the emergence of the Tea Party, almost immediately following Obama’s taking office, as coincidental. The group, the authors argue, is the most modern example in history of reactionary political and social politics, following in the footsteps of previous social movements such as the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. The association between the Tea Party and the KKK is sure to draw much ire from the American right, but Parker and Barreto present evidence that this comparison is apt at least in terms of the racial resentment of both groups.

Drawing on Richard Hofstadter’s classic study, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, the authors maintain that Tea Party supporters are motivated in significant part by conspiratorial views framing the Obama presidency as committed to destroying the American way of life as they know it. More specifically, they argue that group members suffer from a paranoia often seen in reactionary movements in which “perceived social change” is militantly opposed “as an attempt to subvert” the privilege of dominant socio-demographic groups in society (p. 4). These groups would include those in which the Tea Party draws its core support, including older, white, male, highly educated, higher income, conservative, Republican, and “born-again” Evangelical groups.

Parker and Barreto find through comprehensive examination of the content from Tea Party websites and from public opinion survey data that Tea Party true believers are significantly more extreme in their attitudes than mainstream conservatives. Tea Party online sites are more likely to invoke conspiratorial discourse than mainstream Americans or more mainstream conservative online media. Furthermore, Tea Party supporters are more likely to accept negative stereotypes, and support discriminatory policies against minority groups, including Hispanic individuals, African Americans, and gay and lesbian individuals, among others. They are motivated by a fixation on preserving their “social dominance” as members of relatively privileged socio-demographic groups, compared to less affluent individuals and groups in the United States.

Tea Party supporters are also distinct in their definition of patriotism. They are more likely to reject egalitarian definitions of patriotism that place “the interest of the community before self-interest,” in favor of a definition embracing the “unfettered pursuit of self-interested goals.” In other words, Tea Partiers appear to embrace a highly individualistic view of patriotism that is consistent with reactionary politics in the modern era.

In explaining why all of this matters, the authors conclude that the Tea Party has played a significant role in further polarizing American politics, as supporters pressure Republicans in Congress to take extreme stances against compromise in the legislative process and in pulling the Republican Party further to the right. They also conclude that the Tea Party’s “fear and anxiety tend to fuel policy preferences (racial profiling and refusal to compromise could potentially be seen as examples) that militate against social and economic progress. This is difficult to reconcile with the love for American that the Far Right often professes.” My interpretation of this statement is that modern democracy requires the embrace of diversity within society and the respecting differences of opinion across the political spectrum. By celebrating intolerance of compromise and conspiratorially painting political opponents as the enemies of freedom, the Tea Party is imposing a reactionary roadblock in a time period when most Americans are increasingly embracing concepts such as equal rights and displaying considerable openness to the rethinking of racist stereotypes and discriminatory policies.

Interested general readers and academics will find much to appreciate in Parker and Barreto’s social science based analysis of the Tea Party phenomenon. The study is a careful empirical effort to describe the driving forces behind the Tea Party. I find the central thesis of the book – that the Tea Party is driven by a reactionary rejection of the ongoing changes in America – to be quite convincing and born out by the evidence presented here and elsewhere. All readers will not agree with every point made in the work, but I strongly recommend that all those interested in the Tea Party and its social significance pick up this book. At a time when passion sometimes clouds sound scientific assessments of political issues, this book offers a valuable analysis of the changes going on in modern America.

Christopher Parker is a professor of Social Justice and Political Science at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is also the author of the book, Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Matt Barreto is also a professor of political science at the University of Washington, director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality, and author of the book Ethnic Clues: The Role of Shared Ethnicity in Latino Political Participation (University of Michigan Press, 2012).

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

156 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Christopher S. Parker, Matt Barreto, Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America”

BevW July 14th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Chris, Matt, Welcome to the Lake.

Tony, Welcome back to the Lake, and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hi Bev, happy to be here!

BevW July 14th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Tony, Hi, it is great to have you back at the Lake. I’m looking forward to the salon today.

dakine01 July 14th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon Chris and Matt and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Tony, welcome back.

Chris and/or Matt, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but why do you think the Traditional Media has so much difficulty explaining the history of the groups such as the Tea Party and their roots in the racism (since many folks here at FDL are aware that the Koch brothers’ father was one of the founders of the John Birch Society, the apples obviously did not fall far from that tree)?

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hey everyone.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi FDL – we’re glad to join you today to talk about Change They Can’t Believe In

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Traditional media? More specificity, please.

eCAHNomics July 14th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

What % of TP support is owing to sociological factors & what % is bought by huge financial support of candidtates by Kochs et al?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:04 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

That’s a good point Dakine01 – in fact the NYT ran a feature early on claiming that the TP movement was quite mainstream in their ideology and beliefs. I think after the ’08 Obama victory many people were reluctant to discuss the issue of race, and what Obama represented

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Darkine, do you mean network news, etc.?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I want to thank Dr. Parker and Dr. Barreto for being here and for their book. I found it to be a quite insightful analysis of the major forces driving the Tea Party.

dakine01 July 14th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Traditional Media (aka TradMed) = NY Times, WaPo0, Broadcast/cable news channels and programs

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

The WSJ did the same–with two pieces: one by Noonan; another by Williams.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 8

eCAHN — good observation, the Kochs et. al. clearly provide the financial backing to let this movement flourish – but what Parker and I document in the book is that millions of individual sympathizers were out there just waiting to jump on this TP bandwagaon.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 8

It’s hard to say. SES explains, maybe, 10% of the variation.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Related to the original poster’s question, I prepared the following question for Dr. Parker and Dr. Barreto: you talk about the Tea Party and its stances on race-related and minority issues in America, particularly as related to African Americans, immigrants, and gay/lesbian individuals. Could you talk a bit about the Tea Party true believers’ beliefs as related to minority/race-related issues and why they’re significant? Are those criticizing the Tea Party as bigoted correct?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Some folks may not be aware of this, but it was Parker’s early 2010 survey of TP supporters which was the first to identify with empirical evidence that they hold these reactionary positions – this was what started the entire “maybe the TP is racist” bit. We never call it racism, because we believe there are other forces at play, that’s why we settle on reactionary conservativism. Anyway, for those interested, Tom Schaller did an entire series of blog posts on the website 538 back in early 2010 highlighting Parker’s survey, and that ultimately started the national conversation

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 8

We can’t get directly at the influence of big biz., DiMaggio’s work does a great job with that. What we can say, though, id Fox news is a proxy, it increases the likelihood of supporting the TP by 16%.

eCAHNomics July 14th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 14

Went to a TP rally once. Couple hundred people (Manhattan) versus hundreds of thousands attending anti-war, pro-immigration rallies. Millions of individuals seem like a small number in a population over 300 million.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks, Tony. It received, like, 700 comments.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Here is a fun link from back in the day, April 12, 2010 on the OLD 538 website: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/04/new-data-on-tea-party-sympathizers.html

and a follow up: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/04/you-asked-for-it-you-got-it.html

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

That would relate to “The Rise of the Tea Party,” which documented the finding that campaign contributions to successful Tea Party candidates in 2010 came from much the same corporate and business interests that were donating to non-Tea Party Republicans.

eCAHNomics July 14th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for your attention to my question and comment. Have to hop to an appointment.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Yes. This is something else Tony mentions in his book: the paltry number that turn out for TP events. However, Matt and I try to get at identification wit the TP, something that doesn’t require membership, or showing up at events,

nonpartisanliberal July 14th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I find the central thesis of the book – that the Tea Party is driven by a reactionary rejection of the ongoing changes in America – to be quite convincing and born out by the evidence presented here and elsewhere.

I agree with that assessment, but the Tea Party is directing its rage at the wrong target. Obama is a lackey of the political and economic establishment and hasn’t much real interest in any cultural changes. The Obamabots are just as blind as the Tea Party to this. Obama very reluctantly got on the side of same-sex marriage and the end of DADT because his political calculus told him it would help his re-election.

So who is responsible for those cultural changes (the only area where there is positive change)? The common folk who are most affected by those issues. Meanwhile, the assault on the poor and middle class goes on in every other way and the politicians of both parties are to blame.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Thanks, for participating, eCAHNomics.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

We don’t think racism is the driving factor. We think there is something deeper here that is reactionary politics. Yes, many TP supporter do hold conservative racial views, however, it took the election of Barack Obama to really drive home the “Change They Can’t Believe In” — that is, what Obama’s election as President stood for – a changing America, that had a whole lot to do with changing demographics of black, brown, gay, immigrant, young, etc.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Yes, that’s where I got so much value from this book, in terms of looking at those in the public who support the Tea Party, even if they didn’t attend rallies/meetings. The Tea Party phenomenon was about so much more than the paltry turnout at local meetings. When between 25 to 40% of Americans claim the Tea Party speaks to them, something important is going on there.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

The cultural change has less to do with politics, than it has do do with perceived changes on the part of “real Americans.” To them, Obama represents the “browning” of America.

It’s surely not really about policy: Obama has, more or less, governed as a centrist.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:15 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 27

Thanks Matt.

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Is that not racism or a phase of “reactionary” politics….not clear about the distinctions, I guess.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to RevBev @ 31

Reactionary politics includes racism, but it’s also much larger than that: sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. Any group that’s not WASP.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

One important question we pose is, if the TP was really all about exploding deficits and bailouts and concern about freedom – why did they not rally against W? This was the era of exploding deficits, the start of bailouts, and the start of invasion of privacy with the Patriot Act, etc. The changing demographics had been building up for the past 20 years, and the election of Obama (and throw in the SCOTUS appt of Sotomayor) and you have the TP emerge

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Or, WASP-ish…

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

At some point if Chris or Matt are interested in this issue, I think the recent anger over the IRS and targeting of political groups seems relevant. The conservative-Tea Party narrative was that the IRS hates right-wing groups, although it came out that the IRS was also targeting liberal/left-wing groups too. That seems to raise the question of conspiratorial framing, which relates back to your book. So the question would be: Can you talk about how your findings speak to the Tea Party and its relationship to conspiratorial thinking?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Forgot to add, a TEa Party spokesperson Jenna Martin for Tea Party patriots recently came out and called for the repeal of the 16th amendment and the abolition of the IRS in light of the IRS fiasco. That would speak to the other point about whether the Tea Party is really a mainstream conservative phenomenon.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 33

Matt’s right: some conservatives called Bush the biggest spender since LBJ. (We’re not talking about Lebron James…)

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Conspiratorial thinking is very much a part of this Tony. In the book we outline some content analysis of what the TP is saying on their official websites and the data make clear that conspiratorial thinking is a driving force

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 33

Yes to Matt’s point, being conservative or republican was not a significant statistical predictor of caring about growing national debt pre-Obama, from what I’ve seen in survey data from the 2000s. So the question of why not protest under W the skyrocketing debt is a great one, and suggests something more is at play than just “living within our means” and “fiscal responsibility.”

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Yes. In the absence of revenues, how do we provide for the common defense? How do we finance our infrastructure?

Add to that, the IRS agent responsible for identifying Tea Party groups was a registered Republican!

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

For example, you see lots and lots of chatter about how Obama is a Muslim with a secret socialist agenda to ruin America, that he is lying about his birth certificate, and this is part of a left-wing government agenda. There are lots of references to secret agendas and so on. This is clearly what separates the TP chatter from what we were observing at the WSJ or National Review, etc.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Hi. The New Yorker piece about the Koch brothers by Mayer a couple of years ago said that the Koch brothers hatched the idea of the Tea Party in the 1980′s.

At about that same time, the brothers were donating to, and involved in, the emerging Democratic Leadership Council, which gave us President Bill Clinton (or did Clinton give us the DLC?) and Rahm Emanuel and New Democrats in general.

And for $25,000, 28 giant companies found their way onto the DLC’s executive council, including Aetna, AT&T, American Airlines, AIG, BellSouth, Chevron, DuPont, Enron, IBM, Merck and Company, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Texaco, and Verizon Communications. Few, if any, of these corporations would be seen as leaning Democratic, of course, but here and there are some real surprises. One member of the DLC’s executive council is none other than Koch Industries, the privately held, Kansas-based oil company whose namesake family members are avatars of the far right, having helped to found archconservative institutions like the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Not only that, but two Koch executives, Richard Fink and Robert P. Hall III, are listed as members of the board of trustees and the event committee, respectively–meaning that they gave significantly more than $25,000.

The DLC board of trustees is an elite body whose membership is reserved for major donors, and many of the trustees are financial wheeler-dealers who run investment companies and capital management firms–though senior executives from a handful of corporations, such as Koch, Aetna, and Coca-Cola, are included. Some donate enormous amounts of money, such as Bernard Schwartz, the chairman and CEO of Loral Space and Communications, who single-handedly finances the entire publication of Blueprint, the DLC’s retooled monthly that replaced The New Democrat. “I sought them out, after talking to Michael Steinhardt,” says Schwartz. “I like them because the DLC gives resonance to positions on issues that perhaps candidates cannot commit to.”

http://prospect.org/article/how-dlc-does-it

What do you make of that?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Chris has a really, really great finding from an experiment that goes beyond a shadow of a doubt in tying TP to conspiracy thinking

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

In reference to the big spending comment I made: On W’s watch, discretionary spending increased by 49% on his watch; the federal deficit increased by 104%, compared to 14% on Clinton’s watch… just sayin…

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 41

I don’t get a lot of conspiracy-mongering when I go to National Review online or WSJ, but there does seem to be a lot of it at Fox News. For example the whole Birther thing, then the whole “ACORN destroyed our economy by giving loans to the poor” thing. Glenn Beck seemed to be at the forefront of this until his program was terminated.

dakine01 July 14th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 43

I’ve run into people in everyday life and online who were professed Tea Party members who absolutely swore we were all getting RFID chips implanted by I think it was March 13, 2013 – haven’t heard anything about that for a few weeks now

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Nixonclinbushbama – Bubba did not represent “change” – he represented something familiar, a white centrist southern(ish) politician. I think the DLC attracted a lot of business interests that wanted stability

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Great question. We all know that Glass-Steagall was repealed on Clinton’s watch. So, no big surprise there. But starting the TP in the 1980s…I don’t believe it…

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Repealing the 16th amendment certainly fits with “Taxed Enough Already.”

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Yes, Tony, I think we would have to put FOX News more in line with the TP than with “mainstream conservative” media. Though they straddle both, they are clearly (since ’09) much closer to the TP view point

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Were those same interests also donating to Democrats?

That is usually how it goes.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

It does, but once again: what do we do about maintaining sovereignty in the absence of national defense? We go retro to the American Revolutionary War and have the militia’s do the fighting?

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 41

Are you saying that it’s the power of the left wing agenda more than race that drives them crazy? Do not mean to belabor the point; much of the push back has seemed very racial to me.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 46

Absolutely – conspiracy is a big part of what keeps them going. Check out our tables on the content analysis of their websites, it shows very clearly what they are thinking: http://depts.washington.edu/uwiser/tp_content_analysis.htm

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

It does, but once again: what do we do about maintaining sovereignty in the absence of national defense? We go retro to the American Revolutionary War and have the militia’s do the fighting?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I would agree with Chris. If it was all a Koch brothers thing from the 80s, wouldn’t the tea party have emerged by the 1990s to protest Clinton, who we all heard so often from many on the right was a “socialist?” But the idea of manipulation by elites is nonetheless an important question I wanted to pose. There’s been a lot of talk among critics of the Tea Party about how its supporters are manipulated by business elites and activists of the Koch brothers/Freedom Works variety. Supporters frame the Tea Party phenomenon as a legitimate grassroots mass movement. At its core, is the Tea Party an elitist movement or even astroturf (as critics suggested), or a real grassroots, bottom up social movement? Or Both?

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to RevBev @ 53

It’s WAY beyond race…

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 33

I find both major politicial parties, both politicians and lay people, have one standard for the President of their own Party and another for the President of the other major party.

It’s both funny and sad.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to RevBev @ 53

Bev – They see those two things interlinked today, power of the left and browning of America. Look at the debate on immigration, the Tea Party folks in the House are calling path to citizenship a ploy to get more democratic votes from undocumented immigrants down the road

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Tony, it’s a little of both. Fox News, we believe, went a long way toward mediating the relationship between big business and the masses. Also, if you look at FreedomWorks, a lobbying group led by former Congressman Dick Armey, we can see the finger prints of big business on the masses.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Thinking about differences between Clinton era and Obama era. There is a great piece of research by Prof. Michael Tesler showing how opposition to health reform had no connection to racial attitudes in 1992-93, but in 2009 race was off the charts in relation to opposing health care reform, read here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00577.x/abstract

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:38 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 59

Even so, once we account for partisanship and ideology, the relationship between TP support as a proxy for reactionary conservatism, and various intolerant policy preferences, remains strong.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Upon much reflection, I could see the “little bit of both” point of view, if we include mass identification with a group (the Tea Party) and voting (for Tea Party candidates) as part of a grassroots social movement.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 47

I have some familiarity with both Bubba and the DLC. I think everyone does. Whether all know the name of the DLC or not, they have seen the fruits of its policies, e.g., repeal of Glass Steagall.

In my post 42 was asking specifically about the Koch brothers, though. Why become involved with the DLC? Why not focus only on their brainchild, the TP? Any thoughts on that?

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 2:41 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 61

And health care is a big part of the opposition to immigration…Do you have any cures for hate/prejudice (not to mention the Fla.trial)?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Koch’s are about maintaining their own business interests. Contributing lots of money to DLC, while Clinton is in power, helps get more favorable policy for your business interests

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

In a way, the TP is in their blood: their father was on the original “board of directors” for Robert Welch and the John Birch Society.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Mayer did not say they started the TP in the Eighties. Mayer said they conceived of it in the Eighties.

P.S. feel free to call me nix–so much shorter!

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

with regard to corporate interests that nixonclinbushbama asked about, I don’t remember all the stats off the top of my head but most contributions going to dems are also from business interests, obviously. often times from different sectors, but not always. there’s so much playing both sides with campaign contributions, with industries giving large amounts to both sides.

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

In my opinion, Obama was a brilliant hire by the corporate oligarchs: he’s not progressive or liberal, but he drives those who value white skin privilege batshit insane. He splits the Democratic/liberal/leftish coalition between those who see through his hollow promises and tepid efforts on one hand and those who say, “But he’s a Democrat! He’s black (or bi-racial)! Cut him some slack!” on the other.

There is little meaningful progress on most issues and the oligarchs get to lock in and expand the advantages that started flowing to them so copiously under Bush 2. Matt Taibbi famously asked after the 2008 election, “What if the only change is that he’s black?” Do you think the powers that be pushed Obama as a way to create the illusion of progress without having to deliver on the substance?

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 66

To Matt’s point, the DLC was all about empowering business on Clinton’s watch.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I don’t think they seriously believe they will repeal the 16th amendment. That is kabuki.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 70

Now that’s a conspiracy theory of a different stripe!

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

It’s kabuki theater–of the absurd. Still, they continue with the rhetoric…

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to RevBev @ 65

I was thinking about Bev’s question too with regard to the florida trial and how this matters. I remember seeing a statement from one of the national tea party chapters claiming something along the lines of “we should all be ashamed about making this into a race issue” and arguing that Zimmerman was being persecuted by being put on trial. The entire “post-racial” approach that the Tea Party was adopting here seems to be a hall mark of much conservative-Tea party rhetoric today. at times we hear race is dead, then we hear incessant racial stereotyping and charges of reverse racism. a lot of this on Limbaugh lately covering the Zimmerman trial.

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 70

Is it this confluence that has caused so much vehemence and hardening of positions? I am not sure when the whole tone of the conversation changed so much….

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:46 pm

As Chris said, it was conceived of in 1958-59 when Koch Sr. helped start the JBS. It has always been their world view, but what we argue in the book, was that the entire TP movement needed to wait until the right time, something the social movement literature calls political opportunity structure. That was the election of Obama

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 70

This is hard to “prove” in any empirical way.

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Ack — but wholly devoid of substance in your opinion?

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Please see Reply 68.

And, as I posted, the Koch Brothers were involved with the DLC, which was backing Clinton. (Pls see Reply 42). Why would they have done that and opposed Clinton at the same time?

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to RevBev @ 76

To me, it started under Reagan and amped up under the manichaean Bush 2. Again, if your white skin privilege is the only thing you have going for you, you’re going to be unhappy having a black president.

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I know, but I’m free to engage in idle speculation :)

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Also made his fortune from Communists, according to Mayer, anyway.

How is that for irony?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 70

I don’t think we subscribe to the belief that anyone “pushed” Obama. He made his own way, in fact much sooner than most people (HRC) would have wanted. But I do believe his election has allowed a lot of white moderates and white liberals to relieve some of their racial guilt and to pivot and say “now we can move on” — there is a new and vibrant strand of academic literature looking at this topic, notably among some scholars at Michigan: Hutchings, Valentino, et. al.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to RevBev @ 65

Education seems to help. But there’s some literature that says that education permits whites who are so inclined, to respond to questions assessing racial attitudes, to do so in ways that suggest they have color-blindness–if not out right racial tolerance.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 66

No, Clinton was not in power yet. It was the mid to late 1980s that they made their contribution, when the DLC was new, maybe 1985 or 86.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Yes, but the DLC was also all about changing the Democratic Party.

Did it very efficiently too.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 82

Yes, you are. But that suggests that the Clinton’s were somehow complicit in this conspiracy, something I don’t buy. We know how ambitious they are…

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

You mention in the book that modern racism is not as outright as it was historically, when many Americans would claim that minority groups were inherently or genetically less intelligent. You discuss racial stereotyping as engaged in by Tea Party supporters throughout the book, suggesting that current racist thinking is different from historically racist beliefs. Do you think that more traditional forms of racism depicting African Americans and immigrants as naturally inferior is common among Tea Partiers? I ask because such racist thinking appears to be quite common from my experiences among those of the baby boomer generation that came of age during the racial conflict and white flight of the 1950s and 1960s.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

In response to Tony and Bev comments above on Zimmerman-Martin and “race is dead” — I think that we will be entering into a second phase of the Tea Party, here in 2013-2014. You will see more talk that appears “racist” but attempts to argue that the left is playing the race card. Look for comments in the Zimmerman trial, but also in the Immigration reform debate. As immigration reform pushes forward, this could be the Obamacare-like catalyst for the TP to reemerge in 2014

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Do you think Rush is becoming more of a liability or short-termer? We can only hope, but I have seen opinions of his decline.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 84

If Daschle is to be believed, Obama said that he wanted to build more time in the Senate and Daschle convinced him to run in 2008, lest he “miss his moment,” as Daschle felt he had.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Tony – yes, we think overall that the explicit racism of the 50s and 60s is not as common. However, it does still exist, and we find evidence in our survey, and our qualitative one-on-one interviews with TP supporters, that they are more likely to still hold such extreme viewpoints. Look at the thesis and research by the Heritage foundation fellow who authored their anti-immigration reform “paper” – He wrote a dissertation saying that Latin American immigrants, and their children were proven to hold low IQs and would always be intellectually inferior. That was his PhD thesis.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to RevBev @ 91

I don’t see many new Limbaugh listeners among my students. his era will end soon enough as his demographic of listeners passes on. I hear some young students who listen to Limbaugh but they say that’s only because their parents force them in the car. they have no interest in it because a lot of his race baiting appears out of touch with modern times to them. I think that’s an accurate assessment. he’s speaking to the choir of people of his age cohort.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

First, I think in the context of answering survey questions, people are far less likely to state–even if they believe it true–that any group is NATURALLY inferior to another. “Modern racism” or “racial resentment,” by permitting the respondent to answer questions about racism in terms that resonate with cherished American values, e.g., individualism, is a more accepted way of capturing racism these days. Few people wish to appear racist.

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 84

Interesting.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

We also saw the same over racism in the letter Mark Williams of Tea Party Express wrote about “Colored People” and Abraham Lincoln. Old fashion racism still exists, it was just less out in the open until some of those TP signs and banners brought it back to light

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 93

Yes, the “latin American immigrants are less intelligent” paper. that caused quite a stir, although I didn’t bother to read it because the findings seemed to absurd on the face of it, suggesting some sort of inherent inferiority of immigrants. I raised the question about explicit racism because I agree it’s becoming far less common today. but then again the tea party demographic overwhelmingly hails from the 40-65 and over demographic, so their experiences do date back to the 50s to 60s quite often and the era of open racism.

bluewombat July 14th, 2013 at 3:01 pm

No, that wasn’t part of my theory. HRC ran a lousy presidential campaign in ’08, but I think that was due to smugness and a sense of entitlement, not because she was “in on it.” Still, maybe my theory isn’t ready for prime time.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Rubio seems to be the only TP pick who had any “legs.” And people like Scarborough and Rove seem to have the TP in their sights, blaming it for losses in a number of federal races.

What do you think will be the outcome of the infighting? Or is that just for show?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I think the infighting is real. We document that very clearly in our book – there are huge differences between respondents who call themselves conservative if they support the TP or don’t – huge differences. And we see this today in the Republican Party. So the infighting will continue in Congress, it will lead to more obstructionism and lack of progress on any dimension, and will likely lead to the downfall of Boehner.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

kabuki theater of the absurd. I like it!

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

nixonclinbushbama raises an area of interest that I was hoping to get to. infighting among conservatives on the Tea Party and its influence/role on republican politics. Public commentary in the mass media portrays Tea Partiers in Congress as pulling the Republican Party further to the right, although some scholarly research finds that the voting records of Tea Partiers in Congress is not very different, if at all, than non-Tea Party Republicans in Congress. To Chris and Matt, what is the impact (if any) of the Tea Party on polarization in Congress?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

For those interested, here is the actual quote from Richwine’s dissertation:

“No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Richwine is the Heritage Foundation TP supporter who claimed path to citizenship for immigrants would cost $6 trillion or something crazy

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 101

In your personal opinions/crystal ball, though, will the Rove/Scarborough side win or the TP/Koch side?

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

It’s VERY real. We saw something similar in the early 1960s with the Goldwater wing of the Republican party, and the Romney, Nixon, Rockefeller wing. Recall that Goldwater got smoked in ’64, but Republicans won the next two presidential contests. To so so, though, they needed a new constituency: white ethnic voters in “North” and southern Dems.

The only real constituency that’s left up for grabs are immigrant-based groups: Latinos and Asians. We see how well that’s going. So, I think the mainstream will win out.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 104

Jensenism lives en espanol.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I personally didn’t find much of a difference between tea party and non-tea party voters on major legislation in early 2011. I seem to recall poole and Rosenthal’s “Voteview” webpage finding a similar finding, as did a research paper from political scientist Andrew D. McNitt that was recently presented. on the other hand, the common narrative is that the tea party is obstructing possible republican moderation.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Tea Partiers in Congress have one unique attribute that makes them different from previous partisans – they are unwilling to compromise or deal with President Obama. There is no scenario in which they will work towards progress on a bill if they think Obama is part of it. Their entire world view is to defeat Obama-related policies, and that will lead to many more headaches in the Congress

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Rove and crew will ultimately prevail.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

The voting record is not the key thing to look at, because by the time it comes for a vote, we see party unity. The difference is that Boehner and Paul Ryan and John McCain etc. are are willing to compromise and do the traditional give and take to get a bill passed. Tea Party is not, they draw a line in the sand and say no to anything related to Obama. Boehner passed the middle class tax cut back in January without any TP votes, it was moderate Rs and Ds.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Tea Partiers are not going to vote with the Democrats, that’s for sure. So, they’ll vote with their Caucus.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 109

This goes back to Hofstadter’s work in which he says that “pseudo-conservatives” equate compromise with surrender…

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Lipset and Raab (1970) pretty much say the same thing.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Agree w/ CP. Mainstream Rs will have a comeback, but it may take 10 plus years, the TP die hards are not going to change, but they will “age out of the electorate” to use a phrase from my demographer friends

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Good. Maybe I’ll file that under “Thank heaven for small favors.” Much as I do not like Rove, I like the Kochs less.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 109

Interesting point about their opposition to any bill Obama endorses. Is it sustained in empirical studies though? from the studies I saw, it doesn’t seem like tea party republicans are different in this regard than non-tea party republicans most of the time. they all seem to be obstructing, with a record low congressional productivity today.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

In our book, we asked a question about “do you want to see the policies of Obama fail, or do you just disagree with his policies” (I don’t recall the exact wording) — but overwhelmingly, TP conservatives want to see Obama fail. And overwhelmingly, non-TP conservatives say they disagree with Obama, but don’t wish him to fail.

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 109

Wasn’t that Mitch McConnell’s strategy, too, though, announced to Republicans on the night of the 2008 Presidential election?

RevBev July 14th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Knowing there is no crystal ball, I wonder if you will take a view on how things may play out? Any good candidates? The old people will die and we get the younger generation? Just the outlook or implications of what you see and describe. Thanks.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Tony – yes, you are correct, record low productivity. I would argue that this is b/c of the TP forces in the House (and Senate) who are running the Republican caucus on a platform of “do not surrender an inch.” The opposition party will always oppose, that’s a health part of democracy, but I think we are at an unhealthy level today

nixonclinbushbama July 14th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I must leave. thank you so much. Very interesting.

And thanks to all the FDLers involved in bringing this.

Excellent all the way around.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I’m not 100% on this…

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Many thanks for your learned questions!

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 111

difference between voting record and motives certainly makes things more difficult, and it’s something congressional scholars have been dealing with for a long time. I’m not totally convinced final vote is irrelevant, but the point about obstruction earlier on is important. they have 49 tea party house caucus members, which is enough to obstruct a republican majority vote on legislation

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

There was a group in the House and Senate, I think DeMint led it? But there is documentation of that meeting, and they announced on inauguration day ’09 that they would oppose all his policies — but this was not the position of the entire Republican Caucus

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 126

I get the impression that the tea party in congress is pushing the republican party more to the right, but that the starting point was already quite far in terms of polarization. senate minority leader mitch McConnell was quite open throughout Obama’s entire first time that the primary goal of republicans was to make Obama a ‘one term president.’ McConnell isn’t a tea partier, last time I checked. this obstruction seems to be par for the course in the republican party today, with the tea partiers furthering it along.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 126

That was turtle man: McConnell.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Not a TPer, but as Minority Leader, he made the statement.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

then there are the studies on voting polarization from poole/McCarthy/Rosenthal that show that polarization in voting has been a long time in the making.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

This is true…

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Something else I wanted to get to from a review I was reading of your book. Michael O’Donnell in his New Republic says that “Although Parker and Barreto demonstrate that both the Tea Party and the Ku Klux Klan are reactionary movements driven by a fear of displacement by white, middle-class Protestants, they largely ignore the huge divide that separates the groups: the use of violence. At its worst, the Tea Party has flirted with violent rhetoric, using incendiary language and symbolism like Sarah Palin’s bulls-eye map targeting Democratic members of Congress. Ugly and disturbing this may be, but the Tea Party has never come close to the terrorism deployed by the Klan. To disregard this distinction is irresponsible. The better comparison by far is to the John Birch Society of the 1960s, which the authors also explore at length.” How would you respond to O’Donnell’s criticism?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I recall seeing a tea party polling question saying supporters thought the idea of using violence was good in principle, but that obviously never happened in mass. just seemed like a lot of hot air and posturing in a survey, along the lines of Sharron Angle’s “second amendment remedies” comment.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’ve been waiting for this one. We’re VERY clear in the book about the Klan version to which we refer: 1920s-early 1930s. This was a NATIONAL movement, as such, it differed in at at least two important ways from the regional, i.e., versions.

First, politics–electoral politics–was very important. The Klan has a hand in the ratification of the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 that set immigration quotas, and the Klan ran the legislatures in Indiana and Oregon. Second, violence wasn’t emphasized as much in the national movement as it was in the Southern iterations of the Klan.

Having said that, they were two bases of comparison between the KKK and the TP. One is/was demographic similarities; the other represents the extent to which the KKK, like the TP, is a departure from modern American conservatism.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

The research on roll call voting does show a trend of consistently getting worse (ie more polarized), so I suspect some work is needed in looking at committee mark-up, etc. and perhaps a new line of work on obstructionism.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Where’d you see this question?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

thanks. this makes more sense now after you make the distinction.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I will have to look back. it was definitely in a 2010 survey question at the height of public attention. it may have been either from Pew or the major New York Times survey.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

We are not drawing exact apples-to-apples between any of the three historical movements we outline: Know-Nothings, Klan, Birchers. Rather these are similar in one key aspect, their rejection of changing demographics in the country, and their reactionary politics. All used different methods, and we don’t claim they were the same in actions, on that front O’Donnell is not reading close enough

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

cool.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I found a real quick reference to it. it’s only 1/4 of supporters supporting violence in principle, but still that’s a whole lot of people potentially! if the group was supported at the time by 25 to 30 percent of americans (or more by some measures).

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2010/04/15/91744/nytimes-tea-party-poll/

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Depends on how one measures support, but if we’re talking close identification with the TP, it’s 20-22%.

Christopher Parker July 14th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Or, approximately, 45 million Americans.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Another question I wanted to get to. Noam Chomsky argued that the Tea Party represented a manifestation of public anger over the economic anxiety of the last half decade, and more generally over increasing inequality over the last three decades. On the other hand, a significant amount of data suggests that Tea Party supporters are relatively affluent, hailing from middle-America or better. Can you talk about your findings as related to Tea Party activism and support and how much it is or is not driven by economic anxiety in the modern era?

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

This is in line with the news coverage of TP supporters bringing guns to rallies, veiled threats, the Palin cross-hairs map of House districts, but to date, they have not endorsed or acted in a violent manner. Some annecdotes were the bricks thrown through windows after the Obamacare vote, and report of spitting at John Lewis, but by and large they have acted in a fairly democratic manner: large rallies, lots of meetings, high levels of running for office and voting in 2010

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

so that would suggest 10 million Americans supporting violence in principle. Quite a number if 24% of tea party supporters agree with Angle on “second amendment remedies” against the government.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

There is definitely anxiety, though not necessarily economic anxiety. They are anxious about the new demographics that they have to share their government programs with. They (TP’ers) support social security and medicare more than any other group, but they don’t like the idea of the Health bill because they have to put in some tax money to help the have-nots. They are (generally) doing okay financially, but they are most anxious about what the changing America means to the future influence of their group. I think Chomsky is off base if he thinks economic anxiety is the key trigger.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I don’t read the TP supporters as too similar to the Montana Freemen, etc. Certainly both support 2nd Amd rights, but I don’t think there is much to suggest the TP’ers are ready to act against the government. But the Montana Freemen were definitely read to take up arms.

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to Matt Barreto @ 147

I would agree with you completely. It’s a common complaint on the left that inequality has been growing, as has cost of living. But I didn’t get the impression that this was the rallying cry of the Tea Party when I went to rallies and meetings in 2010. I remember seeing a report at the time saying that Tea Partiers were statistically no more likely to be unemployed than non-Tea Party supporters.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I believe on every dimension, TP’ers are more likely to be the “haves” and want to protect sharing the stuff the have with the new face of America. What we find in the data is their opposition to Obama, their opposition to Immigrants, Gays, etc. Their opposition to Aff Action, these are the things really driving their anxiety and what mobilizes them.

BevW July 14th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Chris, Matt, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the Tea Party.

Tony, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Chris’s website (Univ of Washington) and Twitter

Matt’s website (Univ of Washington) (Latino Decisions)

Tony’s website (TruthOut) and book(s)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Something Matt seemed to mention earlier, thinking the tea party would be relevant to 2013 onward, but I don’t know if Chris weighed in on yet. Has the tea party become stale or irrelevant? I don’t see a lot of talk about it on the public level in terms of rallies. but it still has MANY members in congress. do you see it as a relevant force in the future or as withering away slowly?

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

This question should be the last then. I want to thank both Matt and Chris for their excellent and very thoughtful book. It was a great work of social science scholarship.

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Also, let me give a shameless plug for anyone who wants to pick up a copy of the book, you can grab it here at Amazon.

Thanks Bev and Tony for the invite. Really enjoyed the Q&A

Anthony DiMaggio July 14th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Me too. thanks!

Matt Barreto July 14th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I think we both agree that the TP will rear it’s head once again in the 2014 election cycle. They will field candidates, challenge incumbents of both parties, and turn out their voters. I think the immigration debates will be a big part of that, though other issues will loom, especially as the Health Exchanges come online. So let’s all keep tabs, and keep an eye towards the data! Thanks

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