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The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism 1st Edition

58 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199832637
ISBN-10: 0199832633
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: Author Q & A with Vanessa Williamson

Vanessa Williamson

Q. How would you assess the importance of the web in helping to spread and sustain the Tea Party's messaging?

A. The web has played a crucial role in helping organize what would otherwise be a relatively dispersed group of older, extremely conservative people. In fact, we suspect that those in the Tea Party, particularly the older members, became more Internet-savvy as a result of their Tea Party activity! But the Internet has also allowed for the spread of ideas that are sometimes far outside the mainstream of political discourse. Some of the more conspiratorial concerns we heard (for instance, about the need to revive the gold standard, about the imminent threat of martial law, about the dangers of modernizing the electric grid) occasionally appeared on Fox News or conservative talk radio, but largely survive online.

Q. Who the "leaders" are of the Tea Party continues to be a subject of debate. Do you expect the Tea Party to ever have a centralized organizational structure?

A. No. In our book, we discuss the Tea Party as the confluence of three long-standing strands of conservativism, which worked together in new ways in the first years of the Obama Administration. First, older, white, middle-class conservatives, many of whom had been previously involved in politics or local affairs, were demoralized after the electoral defeats of 2008, and looking for new leadership. Second, conservative media outlets, particularly Fox News and talk radio, helped mobilize and direct these grassroots conservatives. Third, long-standing extreme free-market advocacy groups, like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, took advantage of the new activism to build connections with grassroots conservatives and to push their agenda in Washington. These groups had similar goals in 2009 and 2010--revitalizing conservatism, derailing the Obama Administration's progressive agenda, and pushing the Republican Party to the right. But, as we discuss in the book, these groups do not always have the same policy goals, and in 2012, the Republican Party will have to appeal to moderates to win back the presidency. So it is unclear that the Tea Party label will continue to be a banner that these various conservative forces can rally behind.

Q. Does the possibility exist for a split within the Republican Party?

A. Not because of the Tea Party. There are always factions within a party, and the Tea Party supporters make up a major component of the Republican base. To the extent they are frustrated with the Republican Party, it is because they see the party as inadequately conservative, not because the Tea Party voters are political independents.

Q. What differences do you foresee in the role of the Tea Party in the 2012 elections versus the role they played in 2010?

A. First of all, Tea Party sympathizers will make up a far smaller portion of the electorate in 2012. Far fewer people vote in midterm elections, and those who do tend to be older, wealthier, and more conservative. In general elections, like 2012, we tend to see higher rates of turnout among the young and among minorities. So the influence of the Tea Party at the grassroots will be diluted. The elite aspects of the Tea Party, of course, will still be influence campaign contributors. And we are seeing the Tea Party play a role in the Republican primaries--a point we discuss in detail in our New York Times post ("Whose Tea Party Is It?," December 26, 2011).

From Booklist

Shortly after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, grassroots activism by conservatives spawned the Tea Party, which two years later quashed any hopes that the Democrats were about to take firm hold of government. Political-science scholars Skocpol and Williamson examine how the Tea Party has been able to take command of the political landscape and influence decisions by Republicans and Democrats. They start by studying the election of Scott Brown, with Tea Party support, to replace liberal icon Ted Kennedy and then move on to closely examine the demographics, aspirations, and strategies of Tea Party groups in Virginia and Arizona. Beyond the typical demographics (white male, middle age, middle class, churchgoer), the authors profile the individuals attracted to the movement, including a sizable number of women. The range is from libertarians to social conservatives, from benign believers in less government to extremists who don’t eschew violence in getting their point across. They also examine the opposing views and internal conflicts within the party on issues from abortion to drug laws to gay marriage. An interesting look at an influential political movement. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199832633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199832637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 56 people found the following review helpful By JOHN A. BROUSSARD on January 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The combination of considerable research of published materials, plus personal visits to Tea Party members and their meetings, provides an intriguing portrait of what that organization amounts to: A combination of grassroots populism, conservative, wealthy elitists and a cheering gallery consisting of the right-wing media. That the authors are confessed liberals has not prevented them from presenting a broad and compelling portrait of the Tea Party movement. What's lacking is the answer to the question, "Why has the Tea Party been so influential, unlike simmilar movements in like times in America's past?" I can remember the Roosevelt Era, when conservative figures regarded the then President much as individulas with similar political leanings look upon President Obama, and yet there was no effective attack on his political programs. Yes, he was called a socialist. With antisemitism then the fad rather than the current anti-Islamist movement, it's interesting to recall that Roosevelt's enemies referred to "that man" as Rosenfeld, just as Obama is rumored in conservative circles as being a Muslim. And, of course, the then right-wing was constantly fuming over "pump priming" and an "enormous" national debt that would be a crushing burden on future generations. Oh, yes, there were also contemporary Becks and Limbaughs, with Father Coughlin heading the charge. So, why has the Tea Party done so well with essentially the same materials and politcal atmosphere that the right-wing experienced back in the Thirties and yet accomplished so little? This otherwise excellent book barely ventures into these waters to answer that question, and that is a disappointment.
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97 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Males on December 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though couched in cordial and scholarly tones, the authors present a carefully researched study of the Tea Party that is more alarming than the random fulminations of liberals and progressives. These authors don't hate Tea Partiers and go out of their way to present their views fully, fairly, and in the same friendly tone they feel Tea Partiers accorded them over their months-long observations. However, the picture their research paints is scary indeed. Again and again, the authors return to their startling findings that the Tea Party is a fairly large (20% of Americans, 40% of 2010 voters), influential (controlling, in fact, in GOP politics), and primarily a generational movement.

That is, Tea Partiers are heavily dominated by Americans averaging around 60 years old, overwhelmingly white, who feel--by reason of their age and generation--that they are superior citizens (perhaps the last "real Americans") who deserve huge, big-government, tax-funded benefits through Social Security and Medicare... but that younger Americans as a whole are leeches undeserving of ANY public benefits such as college grants and health care. By their own views in polls and statements, Tea Partiers express appalling racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-youth prejudices characteristic of the pre-civil-rights era they moslty grew up in. Unfortunately, polls and surveys (which YouthFacts details, [...]) show the Tea Party represents the views of a majority of senior citizens who are angry, hostile, and unwilling or unable to adapt to modern America's racial diversification.

Every older generation since Hesiod (700 BC), and probably long before, has bitterly criticized its young.
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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful By L Harrison on February 19, 2012
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Skocpol and Williamson offer a direct insight into the viewpoints and perspectives of the new Tea Party movement, offering direct interviews with members and activists across the country in Tea Party groups. Instead of depending on media biases and how they try to mediate the Tea Party, Skocpol and Williamson meet one on one with individuals and allow them to speak for themselves. This almost ethnographic approach isn't always pretty and some conservatives may feel angry that the book presents the Tea Party members in full, rough edges and all, but it is a far more honest and fleshed out approach.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By R. Golen on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fascinating study of the 2009 through 2011 Republican Tea Party movement. I have been shaking my head for a couple of years now wondering how this group could so readily support policies to their detriment (like privatizing medicare and social security, and extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy). What were they thinking? The authors make a convincing argument the the tea party grass roots groups have been co-opted by professional lobbyists for the wealthiest among us. I feel it is obvious that the Tea Party phenomena is an emotional reaction to the 2008 presidential election of a dark complected Democrat whose father was an African Muslim (OMG!!!). Smart political operatives have been able to use this emotional upheaval to promote policies for rich folks.

I am very pleased that the authors were kind in their book to the nice elderly tea party types who are merely trying to recreate the good old days. I'm old myself and I loved the 1950's. But voting against my interests so rich people can get richer will not bring the 1950's back.

Finally, the book is written in a scholarly, yet folksy manner. Much more cogent, logical, informative and enjoyable to read than books I have read by Tea Party friendly radio and TV personalities.
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