Tea Party Precursors: Before the emergence of the grassroots movement
Conspiracy Theories Spread
In both the Town Hall and Tea Party movements, conspiracy theories from the 1990s Patriot and militia and movements were rearticulated, along with claims about an alleged plan to dissolve U.S. sovereignty and establish a North American Union (NAU). These claims were spread by right-wing ideologues including Jerome Corsi, Phyllis Schlafly, and Pat Buchanan, and were amplified by CNN reporter and commentator Lou Dobbs, before he was terminated. The Patriot Movement and the Christian Right helped spread this conspiracy theory.
· Chip Berlet. «Fears of Fédéralisme in the United States: The Case of the ‘North American Union’ Conspiracy Theory», Fédéralisme Régionalisme, Volume 9: 2009 Numéro 1 - Le fédéralisme américain http://popups.ulg.ac.be/federalisme/document.php?id=786
Ron Paul backers stage Boston Tea Party, raise millions
December 17, 2007
Before the Tea Party movement emerged, libertarian gadfly Ron Paul ran a Presidential campaign based on tax protest themes, including an event held in Boston December 16, 2007 “timed to coincide with the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.” That event raised over $5 million in one 24-hour period, and “smashed the one-day fund-raising record for a Republican presidential candidate. This “surpassed “the record $4.2 million they raised on Nov. 5.,” an event “timed to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates a British mercenary who tried unsuccessfully to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605.”
· Michael Levenson, 2007, “Ron Paul backers stage Boston Tea Party, raise millions,” boston.com (BostonGlobe, December 17, http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/12/17.
Glenn Beck Spreads Conspiracy Theories
Glenn Beck spreads conspiracy theories about Obama and liberal elites. The John Birch Society, a right-wing populist Patriot Movement SMO formed in 1959, is the apparent original source of much of the conspiracy mongering of Glenn Beck and other demagogues. These conspiracy theories are then adopted by some Tea Party and Town Hall activists.
Self-Aware Movement starts to Form
A "tea party" to protest Paterson's taxes
01/24/2009, By: Neil St. Clair
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Just call it the Binghamton Tea Party without the tea. A group of locals took to the South Washington Street Bridge Saturday and poured a few gallons of soda into the Susquehanna River to protest Governor Paterson's new proposed taxes.
· YNN.Com News http://centralny.ynn.com/content/all_news/132356/a--tea-party--to-protest-paterson-s-taxes/
“Woman's year-ago protest launched tea party movement in Florida”
February 9, 2009. By George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Updated: 9:13 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010
“Outside the Harborside Event Center that day was a woman named Mary Rakovich who was fresh off a few hours of activist training from the Washington-based conservative group FreedomWorks. She had recruited six to 10 people to carry signs ridiculing the stimulus bill that Obama and Crist were promoting inside.”
· Palm Beach Post http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/womans-year-ago-protest-launched-tea-party-movement-224494.html
February 14, 2009, [Trigger event, not founding event], The transformative power of Rick Santelli's rant By: Michael Barone | Senior Political Analyst | 06/09/10
“How to explain something contrary to the New Deal historians' teaching that economic distress increases support for big government? Clues can be obtained, I think, by examining what amounts to the founding document of the Tea Party movement, Rick Santelli's "rant" on the CME trading floor in Chicago, telecast live by CNBC on Feb. 19, 2009.”
· Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/transformative-power-rick-santelli039s-rant#ixzz1Vi7TwIww
Taxpayer revolt: Porkulus protest in Seattle, Obama to sign theft act in Denver
February 15, 2009, By Michelle Malkin
“There should be one of these in every town in America. What are you doing? Liberty Belle announces a taxpayer protest against the porkulus tomorrow in Seattle”
[Below in a blue box:]
“The protest against the porkulus is on for President’s Day! Date: Monday, February 16th
Time: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Where: Westlake Park in downtown Seattle, 401 Pine St., in the open area by the big arch.
The idea is to use what we’ve learned about dissent over the last eight years. We need loud protests with lots noise and visuals. So, what should you bring? Bring AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN! Bring your families, your friends, neighbors, bring everyone!
February 16, 2009, KIRO-TV
VIDEO: Dozens Gather At 'Porkulus' Protest Dozens gathered at Seattle's Westlake Park Monday to protest programs and spending they say don't belong in the President's economic stimulus plan.
Good overview of first few weeks
History of the Tea Party Movement New Political Movement Quickly Finds Loyal Following by Beth Rowen
“Santelli, however, can't claim credit as the sole mastermind of the movement. Prior to his appearance in Chicago, Keli Carender, a Seattle at-home mother also known as Liberty Belle, had been using her blog to get the word out about the populist "Porkulus Protest" she was organizing against President Barack Obama's proposed $750 billion stimulus package. About 100 people showed up for her event in mid-February. Similar events inspired by both Santelli and Carender, followed in quick succession in Denver; Mesa, Ariz.; Tampa, Fla.; and other cities. Tea Party organizers claim that the first nationwide Tea Party protest took place on February 27, 2009, with coordinated events occurring in more than 40 cities.”
Town Hall Protests began in early August of 2009
August 2, 2009, Patrick George, statesman.com (Austin Statesman),
“Lloyd Doggett faces angry crowd at Randalls,”
Town Hall Protests were built around confronting elected representatives who supported the Obama administration’s plans for healthcare reform. Conspiracy claims were common at the Town Hall confrontations. Two key themes emerged: Obama was a socialist whose policies would usher in fascistic totalitarian rule; and federal healthcare would lead to unplugging grandma and other forms of ruthless cost-effective euthanasia seen as paralleling the policies of Nazi Germany. Both claims emerged as hyperbolic conspiracy theories, but were originally rooted in longstanding arguments favored by the political right.
Two storylines that emerge in the anti-Obama, Tea Party and Town Hall mobilizations in 2008-2009
One narrative is that big government leads to totalitarianism. This traces back to an assertion made in 1944 by Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich von Hayek in his book The Road to Serfdom. The theories of von Hayek were favored by President Ronald Reagan and in 1991 President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Along with the work of Ayn Rand, von Hayek is must-reading for economic libertarians. These libertarian arguments have been part of the conservative coalition since it was rebuilt and transformed after World War II (Himmelstein, 1990).
Another narrative is that government-run healthcare could lead to “unplugging” grandma. This traces back to the work of a popular theologian of the 1960s and ‘70s, Francis A. Schaefer, who joined with C. Everett Koop to co-author Whatever Happened to the Human Race? This 1979 book was made into a series of 16mm films shown across America. The thesis of this book is that tolerance of abortion will eventually lead to euthanasia of the elderly and disabled. Schaeffer late wrote A Christian Manifesto (1982) about restoring godly government in the United States.
Obama as Hitler
Sometime in the Summer of 2009
Obama portrait with modified Hitler hairline and mustache is carried to Town Hall rallies by the LaRouchites. This then spreads across the Tea Party movement.
Lyndon LaRouche and the ‘Hitler’ Meme
August 12, 2009, by David Weigel
“A conservative Michigan blogger is accusing Democrats and ‘union thugs’ of “planting” a man holding a sign comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler at a town hall meeting held by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). The evidence: One FreeRepublic.com member claimed to see the man (who was African-American) passing out Dingell literature.”
“The truth is a little murkier than that. The man was a supporter of fringe Democratic activist Lyndon LaRouche, whose LaRouchePAC has been running with the ‘Obama Hitler’ theme for a few months now. That ‘I’ve Changed’ poster seen at the rally can be downloaded as a PDF from LaRouche’s Website.”
Barney Frank Confrontation with LaRouchite
August 18 2009, by Garance Franke-Ruta and Sarah Lovenheim
“Frank Blasts Nazi Comparisons From LaRouche Backers”
Includes video clip from CNN.
Obama as Antichrist
September 16, 2009, “Extremism in New Jersey”, Public Policy Polling
A September 2009 poll in New Jersey found that 14% of Republicans believed that President Obama was the Antichrist—Satan’s agent in the End Times according to one reading of the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Another 15% thought it might be possible. The results across political allegiances, however, were also troubling; with 8% of respondents statewide saying they thought Obama was the Antichrist and 13% stating they “aren’t sure”. The poll also found that “21% of respondents, including 33% of Republicans, express the belief that Obama was not born in the United States”. According to the pollster, these are “eye popping numbers”
During this period there was also the formation of over 120 “militia” units--autonomous armed cells of predominantly white right-wing activists who conduct filed exercises with guns because they fear the U.S. government plans some form of tyrannical political repression.
Mark Potok, 2010, “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring (#137),
Between 20-40 percent of the population of the United States believes in End Times Biblical prophecies in some form or another. Many foresee a cataclysmic battle between Godly Christians and the evil Satanic forces.
· Robert C. Fuller, 1995, Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession, New York: Oxford University Press.
· Chip Berlet, “Dances with Devils: How Apocalyptic and Millennialist Themes
Influence Right Wing Scapegoating and Conspiracism,” The Public Eye, Vol. 12, Nos. 2 & 3, Fall 1998. http://www.publiceye.org/apocalyptic/Dances_with_Devils_1.html
This can create a form of apocalyptic aggression stemming from what Anthony and Robbins have dubbed “exemplary dualism.”
· Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins, 1996 ‘Religious Totalism, Violence and Exemplary Dualism: Beyond the Extrinsic Model, In Millennialism and Violence, Michael Barkun, ed., pp. 10–50, Cass Series on Political Violence. London: Frank Cass.
CNN: February 17, 2010:
Who are the Tea Party activists? Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday also indicates that Tea Party activists would vote overwhelmingly Republican in a two-party race for Congress.
Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics Skew right politically, but have typical profile by age, education, and employment
New York Times: April 14, 2010
Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated By KATE ZERNIKE and MEGAN THEE-BRENAN
Washington Post - Gardner and Thompson: May 5, 2010
When asked if ‘racism [is] still a major problem in America,’ about 75 percent of those polled agreed, but that belief drops to 61 percent among conservative voters and shrinks to about 58 percent among Tea Party supporters (Gardner and Thompson, 2010).
Christopher Parker: 2010
Parker: A study released by the University of Washington shows that prejudice toward Blacks and Latinos is significantly higher among Tea Party supporters than among those who oppose the Tea Party movement. Prejudice toward Blacks and Latinos is significantly higher among Tea Party supporters than among the general population (Parker, 2010).
Clement and Green:
Clement and Green found that Tea Party supporters ‘tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage’ (2011). Some 42% ‘said they agree with the conservative Christian movement,’ and they are ‘much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues’ Clement and Green also found that “most people who agree with the religious right also support the Tea Party….but that “support for the Tea Party is not synonymous with support for the religious right.” 46% of Tea Party supporters “had not heard of or did not have an opinion about” the Christian Right.
Yet 42% “said they agree with the conservative Christian movement.” As has been true for roughly 30 years, some 16% of registered voters say they support the Christian Right. 27% of registered voters “expressed agreement “with the Tea Party Movement. They also are “are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.” That same study found that Tea Party supporters “tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same–sex marriage.
Keil and Keil:
After reviewing the websites of 137 “tea party backed candidates” who in 2010 sought election to the House of Representatives, Keil and Keil found that “one of the most common themes … among the Tea Party candidates was that they were overwhelmingly ‘pro-life’” (Keil and Keil 2011). They opposed abortion and most “also supported the ‘traditional family’ and ‘traditional marriage’”(2011). In their study of the 2010 election races, Keil and Keil found that the candidates backed by the Tea Partiers “frequently used the code words long associated with negative evaluations and treatment of blacks—words such as school choice, states’ rights, personal responsibility, etc.” (2011). The researchers speculated that “in some sense, then, the 2010 election was a racial referendum—a reaction by whites who wanted ‘to take back’ ‘their country’ from the usurpers who had won the 2008 election” (Keil and Keil, 2011).
- Keil TJ and Keil JM (2011) “The Characteristics of the Congressional District and Tea Party Victories in 2010,” paper presented at the Annual Meetings, Midwest Sociological Society, St. Louis (March). Used with permission of the authors.
New York Times, Op-ed: August 16, 2011
DAVID E. CAMPBELL and ROBERT D. PUTNAM, "Crashing the Tea Party."
The Christian Right and Dominionism
Paranoia and the Progressive Press: A Response to WaPo’s Religion Columnist by Peter Mongomery at Religion Dispatches.
Quotes on Dominionism From the Apostles and Prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation by Rachel Tabachnick on Talk2Action
NPR Fresh Air Interview with Rachel Tabachnick: "The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare." http://www.npr.org/2011/08/24/139781021/the-evangelicals-engaged-in-spiritual-warfare.
See articles by Rachel Tabachnick, Fred Clarkson, Chip Berlet, and others on Talk to Action: http://www.talk2action.org/
"The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy" by Chip Berlet http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm
If Dominionism Doesn't Exist, Someone Forgot To Tell The Dominionists A page from People for the American Way with a focus on C. Peter Wagner.
"Theocracy and White Supremacy: Behind the Culture War to Restore Traditional Values" by Chip Berlet & Margaret Quigley (Article on Dominionism published in 1992). http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v06n1/culwar.html
"It Is Dominion We Are After. World Conquest ... And We Must Never Settle For Anything Less" A post by Kyle Mantyla of People for the American Way on August 26, 2011, with the headline from a quote by Christian Right ideologue George Grant.
Need to see through line back to de Tocqueville, and Bellah (1967) civil religion, which in the United States based in part on Rugged Individualism which overlaps with U.S. form of Calvinism (Weber).
Tea Parties are a form of Right-Wing Populism & Producerism that involve:
Canovan, Margaret. 1981. Populism. New York, N.Y.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Stock, Catherine McNicol. 1996. Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Kazin, Michael. 1995. The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books.
Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism. London: NLB/Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press.
Betz, Hans-Georg. 1994. Radical Right-wing Populism in Western Europe, New York: St. Martins Press.
Betz, Hans–Georg and Stefan Immerfall, eds. 1998. The New Politics of the Right: Neo–Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s Press.
Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons, 2000, Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.
Lowndes, Joseph, 2008, From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism, Yale University Press.
Phillips-Fein, Kim, 2009, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan, W. W. Norton & Company.
Similar to studies of the “Precariat” in Europe.
Disch, Lisa, 2010, Tea Party Movement: The American “Precariat”? paper presented at the conference of the Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements, UC Berkeley, 22 October.
Symposium on “Fractures, Alliances and Mobilizations in the Age of Obama: Emerging Analyses of the ‘Tea Party Movement’” was sponsored by the Center for the Comparative Study of Right-wing Movements at the University of California at Berkeley. http://ccsrwm.berkeley.edu/conferences
[Note: This is expanded and updated from the actual crib sheet I bring with me for speaking engagements and interviews, so please forgive the odd format.]