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

Christopher S. Parker , Matt A. Barreto
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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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 In offers 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 In rigorously examines the motivations and political implications associated with today's Tea Party.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4547 KB
  • Print Length: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Afterword by the authors edition (May 21, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,229 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I suspect those who gave 1-star reviews did not read the book. If they had and if they were honest, even if they don't agree with Parker's opinions and/or don't like the book, they would have to give him credit for writing a carefully researched, methodological, empirical and fact-based look at Tea Party supporters. If they read the book, they'd understand that the Ku Klux Klan comparison is specifically based on the relatively political Klan of the 1920s, not the more violent Klan of the Post-Civil-War South or the 1950s and later. If they read the book, they'd understand the comparison with the '20s Klan and the John Birch Society is based on strong demographic and political similarities of supporters of these groups, again from fact-based research. And the authors certainly do not say that all Tea Party member or supporters are racist.

Particularly interesting to me is the research on how Tea Party supporters differ from other conservatives, in some ways they are very similar and in some ways very different.

Contrary to a reviewer of 12/7/13 who says that they are "embarrassed for the University of Washington" because of this book, as a graduate of both the University of Washington undergrad and U of Chicago grad, I take pride in Parker having his Phd from Chicago and being currently a tenured faculty at UW.

A little bit academic for my tastes, repetitive at times. Not an "Amazon-verified purchase" as I bought on BN for my Nook.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "festering boil" has been lanced July 4, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a peer reviewer for three major scientific journals in my field, I know good solid research with credible results when I see them. That's exactly what you get in Parker and Barreto's book. They use the Tea Party members' own words to expose them for what they really are; i.e. a group driven more by raw emotion and less by well conceived ideology and rational thought. People who cotton to the Tea Party movement won't like this book at all. But, it's a good approximation of the truth about these political activists that have now become such a force within the conservative movement that they are the "tail that wags the dog". They will not be leaving the scene any time soon, thought the blind hatred that animates them may abate once Obama leaves office. They will remain a "boil". Fortunately, the authors of "Change" have lanced it.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but lacks fire January 13, 2014
This is a well-researched overview of the Tea Party, documenting the fact that it represents a long-established strain within US political movements spanning multiple decades. It accurately catalogs the actions and statements of the various factions of this movement, and the resulting picture is not complimentary - it is, in fact, a chilling view of people who understand democracy so little that they can reconcile the cognitive dissonance of subverting democracy to 'get their freedoms back' - which, more accurately stated, means subverting democracy to retain their position atop the social order.

The book is, as noted, thoughtful, thorough, and well-presented, but it would have been a more effective document had the authors taken a more trenchant stance vis-a-vis the toxic effect of the tea party on both US democracy as a whole, and (more importantly) the effect they have had on the GOP.
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28 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book June 26, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's about time somebody looked at the Tea Party from an objective academic perspective, and we finally have it with this book.

No, the Tea Party isn't composed entirely of racist hicks. No, the movement itself isn't even racist. YES, the people who form the movement are pretty much the usual suspects in American right-wing reactionary groups throughout history. There's no question that their membership is heavily white, middle-class, middle-aged, and religious. Fifty years ago, they would've been prime recruits for the John Birch Society. Forty years before that, they would have been in the Klan (not the Reconstruction era Southern KKK, but the nationwide KKK from the interwar era). All three groups have the same goals: preserving the socioeconomic status for "real" Americans, resistance to what they perceive as unwelcome change, and a return to "traditional" roots.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An In-Depth Examination of Reactionary Politics March 26, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had heard of the Tea Party previously, and I never gave them much thought; however, the 2013 government shutdown brought them front and center. Who are these people, I thought. That question led me to read this very interesting book.

Basically, the Tea Party folk are a group who believe that the real America is "a heterosexual, Christian, middle-class, (mostly) male, white country." What they see, however, is a black president (whom 90% think is Muslim), a female house speaker, gay and lesbian rights movements, among other things. To them social change is a subversion, and they fear it. When they chant "Take our country back!," these are the people they want to take it back from. They are reactionary conservatives in the sense that they fear change of any kind. Nothing must undermine their way of life notes the authors.

The authors begin by trying to ascertain the conservative nature of this group. An examination of their websites (compared with the National Review Online, a conservative site) show that 33 percent of the content is conspiratorial in nature, a 400 percent greater rate of attacks on the president, and a 600 percent greater rate of attacks on the government, thus showing a significant leaning toward reactionary conservatism. Through a Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics, the authors display many charts (these charts are difficult to read on the Kindle version) and results of many interviews with not only Tea Party folk, but also sympathizers and critics of the Tea Party as well.

According to the authors, the sympathizers of the Tea Party tend to be older, financially well off, well educated, evangelical, and mostly male.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Book
Published 26 days ago by Willie Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars A *MUST READ* for aspiring Political Scientists.
As an amateur academic and political scientist, I found this book to be an excellent work for three key reasons

1) It's presented in an accessible manner. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Sean Prather
4.0 out of 5 stars A hard look at reactionary groups
This well-researched and well-executed book takes a good look at who supports the tea party and at what the movement's motivation and purposes are. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Beth
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done and documented
I wanted to understand why people belong or support the Tea Party from a Political Science viewpoint. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Joan E. Miller
1.0 out of 5 stars Academic, confused
I was inclined to like this book and find it useful but I found very little that was even coherent in it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by doug k
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This book didn't really explain either the "Tea Party" or the mindset of those who want "to take their country back. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Susan Kinkade
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift
This book was a gift for a friend of my wife. From what I gather, she has enjoyed reading the book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Hubbard Jr.
1.0 out of 5 stars Racist bloviator...
I too saw Christopher Parker's talk given at Colby College about his book, which was recently shown on C-SPAN. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bruce W.
1.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy Propoganda
I watched Parker give his presentation at Colby College on C-SPAN. What I saw and heard was racially biased diatribe masquerading as academic research. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Bloviating bigot
Watched the author on C-Span; he was giving a lecture Q&A at some college in Maine. Pure agendist drivel spewed out in rapid-fire, poll-based, statisticlious fashion. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robert Flynn
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