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

Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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 the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act.

In a new afterword, Parker and Barreto reflect on the Tea Party's recent initiatives, including the 2013 government shutdown, and evaluate their prospects for the 2016 election.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"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 . . . drives the Tea Party."--Publishers Weekly

"Change They Can't Believe In offers valuable empirical data on the Tea Party, and its focus on supporters' antagonism toward Obama is critical to understanding the movement."--Michael O'Donnell, New Republic

"[A] rigorous scholarly investigation of the tea party. . . . Parker and Barreto make the case that tea party supporters are driven above all by 'anxiety incited by Obama as President.' Intuitively, this may already make sense to many readers, but the authors muster the evidence in support, dividing and subdividing different categories of political activity and belief to arrive at a firm basis for their conclusion. . . . [S]upported by reasoned facts in place of political passions."--Kirkus Reviews

"[Parker and Barreto's] statistically informed analysis helps us understand the Tea Party's priorities, its fervor, and its contempt for compromise."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post

"In Change They Can't Believe In, Parker and Barreto examine the emergence of the Tea Party in the wake of the Obama presidency. . . . In addition to marshaling a great deal of original data, the authors capably place the Tea Party movement in a historical context."--Choice

Publishers Weekly
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)
Huffington Post - Glenn C. Altschuler
[Parker and Barreto's] statistically informed analysis helps us understand the Tea Party's priorities, its fervor, and its contempt for compromise.
New Republic - Michael O'Donnell
Change They Can't Believe In offers valuable empirical data on the Tea Party, and its focus on supporters' antagonism toward Obama is critical to understanding the movement.
Library Journal
Parker (social justice and political science, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Fighting for Democracy) and Barreto (political science, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Ethnic Cues) posit that Tea Party supporters are more prone to racism, less supportive of civil liberties, and well to the right of mainstream conservatives, feeling their country is "slipping away" and finding a focus for their discontent in the Obama presidency. The authors draw these not entirely surprising conclusions mainly from research encompassing over 2,500 telephone interviews based on scientific sampling. The authors further believe that Tea Party supporters are "reactionary conservatives" who aim to resist change in a way similar to right-wing movements of the past such as the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society, an argument, they believe, more vulnerable than those made based on polling results. VERDICT Parker and Barreto are political scientists who have rigorously documented their Tea Party polling to the point that while specialist readers will value their research, most others will tire of the argument and are more likely to engage with a book such as Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson's The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.—Robert Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Two University of Washington political science professors offer a rigorous scholarly investigation of the tea party. Parker (Fighting For Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South, 2009) and Barreto (Ethnic Cues: The Role of Shared Ethnicity in Latino Political Participation, 2010) make the case that tea party supporters are driven above all by "anxiety incited by Obama as President." Intuitively, this may already make sense to many readers, but the authors muster the evidence in support, dividing and subdividing different categories of political activity and belief to arrive at a firm basis for their conclusion. They support the steps of the argument with bar charts, regression analysis and a methodological appendix. They identify the tea party's racism and commitment to the policies of a bygone age with reactionary, revolutionary conservatism, as opposed to the evolutionary type. For them, the tea party is the latest in a series of organizations and movements that include the Know-Nothing movement, the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society. Parker and Barreto established frames of analysis by studying 42 tea party websites over two years and comparing them with the more orthodox conservative publication the National Review Online. The authors then employed a multistate survey of race and politics to "tease out" differences between the supporters and sympathizers of the six different tea party formations. The belief that Obama is destroying the country, held by more than 70 percent of tea partiers, shows they are out of step with the mainstream of conservatism, where only 6 percent hold that belief. A dispassionate, academic account supported by reasoned facts in place of political passions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691163611
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2014
  • Edition description: New Afterword by the authors
  • Pages: 400

Meet the Author


Christopher S. Parker is associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of "Fighting for Democracy" (Princeton). Matt A. Barreto is associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle, and director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality. He is the author of "Ethnic Cues".
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Table of Contents


List of Figures and Tables vii
Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
INTRODUCTION Who Is the Tea Party and What Do They Want? 1
1 Toward a Theory of the Tea Party 20
2 Who Likes Tea? Sources of Support for the Tea Party 66
3 Exploring the Tea Party's Commitment to Freedom and Patriotism 102
4 Does the Tea Party Really Want Their Country Back? 153
5 The Tea Party and Obamaphobia - Is the Hostility Real or Imagined? 190
6 Can You Hear Us Now? Why Republicans Are Listening to the Tea Party 218
CONCLUSION 241
Appendix 261
Notes 307
Index 351
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