Are Tea Party supporters merely conservative citizens concerned about government spending? Or are they racists who refuse to accept Barack Obama as their president because he’s not white? Christopher Parker, professor of Social Justice and Political Science at the University of Washington, offers an alternative argument: The Tea Party is driven by the re-emergence of a reactionary political movement fueled by fear that America is being stolen from “real Americans.” Arguing that this isn’t the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege, Parker, co-author of Change They Can’t Believe In, draws connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past to examine the Tea Party’s motivations and political implications.
Presented by: Town Hall as part of the Civic series, with Elliott Bay Book Company. Series supported by The Boeing Company, the RealNetworks Foundation, and the True-Brown Foundation. Series media sponsorship provided by The Stranger and KUOW.
Date: September 5, 2013
Doors open: 6:30 pm.
Event begins: 7:30 pm.
Town Hall member benefits: Priority seating, discounted onsite book sales.
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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 which 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.
Christopher S. Parker is the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and 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.
“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
“Parker and Barreto have conducted exacting research to probe the contours of support for the Tea Party, and their innovative, scientific, and critical book highlights how Tea Party sympathizers differ from mainstream conservatives in crucial ways. The authors demonstrate that despite the public image of the Tea Party, its supporters cannot be characterized as either patriotic or freedom loving. This is a must-read for all students of American politics and anyone concerned about democracy in America.”–Michael C. Dawson, University of Chicago