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Alan Abramowitz noted that Republican activism substantially increased since the ’50s, and that the principal spark for the Tea Party and a Republican Party, which are both getting more and more conservative (and the Democratic Party isn’t becoming more leftists?), was “the election of Barack Obama.” He concluded by saying the “Tea Partiers will not fade as long as Obama is in the White House,” and that the “danger” they pose for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012 will making it “more difficult for the eventual nominee to appeal to moderate swing voters.”
Once again, both Cohen and Abramowitz allow progressive ideology to taint their thinking. Neither man seems able to imagine that the Obama administration’s disastrous policies, coupled with its determination to carry them out absent congressional approval, gave rise to a political movement determined to rein the administration in.
Peter Montgomery sounded the alarm regarding the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement “overlap,” which viewed the election of Obama in “apocalyptic terms” (read: fundamentalism combined with racism). Tea Partiers believe in American exceptionalism “as defined by Glenn Beck and [historian] David Barton:” a divinely inspired Constitution made using the colonial preachers’ ideas of individual salvation, which were “cribbed” by the Founding Fathers. The beauty of this is that if you say Obama has this liberation theology inspired view of big government and collectivism, they will say big government is not only un-American, it is un-Christian.”
Leaving aside the reality of a Declaration of Independence in which our “unalienable rights” are “endowed by a Creator,” it is revealing that Mr. Montgomery can seemingly ignore the fact that the president spent twenty years attending the church of “liberation theologian” Jeremiah Wright, whose own un-American, un-Christian, as well as racist and anti-Semitic diatribes are well-documented.
Panel Three was entitled “Tapping into Fear, Anger and Resentment: The Tea Party and the Climate of Threat.”
Charles Postel who wrote a column claiming the “radical right has often had a soft spot for bigots,” noted that the “spectrum of political phenomena described as populist these days runs the gamut from social democratic to white nationalist,” and that the Tea Party “truly tests the limits of the term.” He further contended that Tea Partiers view the election of 2008 as “stolen” by ignorant and/or illegal black and immigrant voters and racialists, adding that they have launched a flurry of legislation “to constrain voting rights through the expansion of felony disqualification and the elimination of motor voter laws.”
Mr. Postel may wish to ignore instances of vote fraud convictions documented here and here, a Supreme Court ruling upholding photo ID voting requirements progressives consider a “disenfranchisement” of minorities voters, or a poll revealing that 75 percent of Americans support photo IDs. But they are realities nonetheless.
Lisa Disch reiterated the fear, anger, resentment and racist tropes that dominated the evening, adding that Tea Partiers are members of an American “precariat” which simultaneously disdains big government even as they “do not recognize” that they did not earn their own middle class status, but were lifted into the middle class, like my family, by [government] programs.” The Tea Party’s concerns must be viewed through the “analytic of whiteness” by which they identify with the “forgotten man scenario” of racist resentment.
One can only imagine what Disch thought of a Tea Party movement willing to go stake their political future on the refusal to go along with a “clean” debt ceiling increase, or their determination to get a Balanced Budget Amendment through Congress. Perhaps they are more concerned with the “forgotten children” of subsequent generations who may be denied middle class status due to the crushing fiscal burden of the very programs Disch champions.
Devin Burghart claimed the Tea Party ranks are increasingly permeated with people focused on race and nationalism,” and that “the notion that the first Black American president is not a real American is prominent throughout the movement…” He further contended that their relationship “with hard-core white nationalists has become a two way street.” He explained there are “three rings” and “six factions” of the Tea Party movement, which include “Glenn Beck listeners,” “birthers,” “Christian leaders,” “nativists” and those “who seek to repeal the 17th Amendment and the direct election of U.S. senators.” The movement also “disregards those it considers insufficiently American.” He went on to contend that “Islamophobia emerges as the new, cutting edge, wedge issue” for Tea Party supporters, and in conclusion contended that the “unstated racism in this movement is vocal and unmistakable.”
With all due respect to Mr. Burghart, a “phobia” is defined by an “exaggerated fear.” Nine days from now, America will be taking part in the 10th remembrance of a “phobia” that toppled the world Trade Center and killed nearly 3000 Americans.
The conference closed with a brief summary: “First, the research presented today suggests that the Tea Party supporters are part of a very active, very conservative wing of the Republican Party, and, to the extent that they are able to frame their message in ways that appeal to a larger and more moderate segment of the American public, they are likely to wield significant influence within the Republican Party and move it further to the right. Second, to the extent that they succeed in mobilizing a significant segment of the American public and start winning elections, those on the left will need to take seriously the challenge that Tea Party activists pose to progressive politics and figure out how best to respond.”
What’s been the progressive response to the Tea Party since then? More of the same old same old. Within the last month, the vice president referred to them as terrorists and three members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have referred to them as “the real enemy” (Frederica Wilson, D-FL), said they “can go straight to Hell” (Maxine Waters D-CA), and told an audience of CBC members “this tea party movement would love to see you and me…hanging on a tree” (Andre Carson, D-IN).
Such reactions are totally unsurprising. If there is one thing that was illuminated by the Berkeley conference, it is all-encompassing myopia animated by a progressive political ideology so self-stifling that its practitioners failed to grasp a breathtaking irony: a symposium dedicated to understanding the Tea Party movement failed to present even a single member of the Tea Party at their meeting. That myopia, which now borders on angry paranoia in Democratic Party circles, has carried through to the present.
Such emotionalism engenders an equally large measure of hypocrisy. It is a hypocrisy evidenced by a conference in which America’s self-purported champions of tolerance and diversity managed to make sweeping generalizations about an entire political movement, virtually every one of which came down on the negative side of the ledger. In the real world, that’s called “prejudice.”
At the Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements, it’s apparently considered “scholarship.”
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