Tuesday, 16 February 2010

New York Times (15.2.10) - 'Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right' by David Barstow


I came across this article from yesterdays New York Times and found it particularly interesting, hence my post. The piece itself offers a clear description of the Tea Party Movement, their ideas, the people and the future of the movement.

Framing his article around the experiences of Pam Stout, a retired woman who has become an active member of the Tea Party Movement in Idaho, works as an example of the way citizens of the United States have become involved on a grass-roots level. He writes that:

'Pam Stout wakes each morning, turns on Fox News, grabs coffee and an Atkins bar, and hits the computer. She is the hub of a rapidly expanding and highly viral political network, keeping a running correspondence with her 400 members in Sandpoint, state and national Tea Party leaders and other conservative activists. Mrs. Stout forwards along petitions to impeach Mr. Obama; petitions to audit the Federal Reserve; petitions to support Sarah Palin; appeals urging defiance of any federal law requiring health insurance; and on and on.'

An email from Pam Stout to her members which mentioned the possibility of an American Revolution is not only a scary thought, but one which is hard to process considering it was only a year ago that Obama was elected and morale in America seemed to be given such a boost.

The disturbing reality of some of the more extreme members of the Tea Party are pointed out by 'Rachel Dolezal, curator of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene'. Dolezal has 'watched the Tea Party movement with trepidation. Though raised in a conservative family, Ms. Dolezal, who is multiracial, said she could not imagine showing her face at a Tea Party event. To her, what stands out are the all-white crowds, the crude depictions of Mr. Obama as an African witch doctor and the signs labeling him a terrorist. “It would make me nervous to be there unless I went with a big group,” she said'.

I found this article really insightful and was especially useful when outlining the possible future of the Movement. It was refreshing to read an article about the Tea Party which focussed more on the lower/middle class citizens and their involvement, than yet another article about Sarah Palin!


  1. Nice pick Hannah. My view is a little different from yours though as I found most interesting the lack of a coherent and centralised political philosophy amongst the many and various Tea Party factions. This article suggests that the commonality is ideological and is best viewed by reference to the Patriot Movement. This site gives a summary of that ideology:

    The article also provides an explanation for the timing of this latest populist movement. Note how many of its proponents aren't just conservative (small 'c') but have suffered directly as a result of the current economic climate in the USA. I asked myself the question 'how much of this is linked to the failure of the American Dream?'.

    In the last 50 years Americans have been encouraged to buy-in wholsesale to the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. Especially so as the economic and political global events of those decades appeared to reinforce their 'specialness' (Vietnam being one notable exception but they managed to reconcile that one courtesy of Ronald Reagan). However, the figures speak for themselves. Americans have been living on 'borrowed time' economically for decades now.... a situation exacerbated by Republicans more than Democratic administrations in the last 20 years. The financial chickens are coming home to roost but, unlike we parsimonious Europeans, this is a very 'unAmerican' situation for the USA electorate to deal with. They've been over-spending for years and borrowing their way out of trouble both individually and collectively (see my forthcoming post). The situation isn't sustainable and there is no easy answer or 'quick fix'. They must learn to live with less.... and for some considerable time. Who do they blame? 'Big' government and 'big' business. The 'elite tyrants' who they see as betraying the Constitution's protection of the individual in order to take power politically and economically. What's really striking is that this is the kind of ground-roots attitude which is common amongst Marxist thinkers!

    Which leads me onto another question. Does the Constitution actually work in such a hugely expanded and culturally diverse society? My view is that the Constitution's emphasis on civil consensus to achieve anything politically relies too much on assumptions of shared views/goals/values of the mono-culture which prevailed when it was created. The sheer size and diversity of the modern USA makes a political system based on that Constitutional premise appear unworkable. Look what happens with the Budget process... and so many other initiatives such as Healthcare reform which are sacrificed on the alter of a political system which wasn't designed to accommodate such political/social/cultural difference.

  2. Thanks Hannah, this article was really useful to me because we have not yet talked so much about the views of Tea Party supporters other than Palin. Especially interesting is the fact that this woman is 66 and, as Barstow writes, she contemplates ...'the possibility of “another civil war.” It is her deepest fear, she said. Yet she believes the stakes are that high. Basic freedoms are threatened, she said. Economic collapse, food shortages and civil unrest all seem imminent.'

    What stood out in the article for me was the emphasis on The Patriot Movement, what Cherie mentioned in her post, and also a Stout's 'revolution' rhetoric and loyalty to the Constitution. To a young Britain, these concepts of living one's life devoted to an historic document seem archaic and unmodern; a contrast to the scientific and technology driven world we now live in. However, because American Freedom rhetoric is so frequently woven into political vernacular it could be at risk of becoming suppressed and even mistaken as an empty trend without deeper meaning.

    I agree with Cherie and notice the important link between the Tea Party and the ideological chracteristics of the Patriot Movement. The article also highlights 'Freedom Force', 'a group that says it wants to “reclaim America via the Patriot movement.” The group is trying to unite the Tea Parties and other groups to form a powerful “Patriot lobby.”'. Check out here for their offical website: http://www.freedomforce.us/index.html (not too well constructed in my opinion, seeing as they are getting some definate backing). If what Freedom Force wants to do is unite patriot movements and give them an interconnected base, then couldn't the movements become susceptable to losing their grass roots motivational substance? Being organised by one large group could take media attention off of individual groups, ultimately making them part of something 'BIG'; and I thought they weren't a fan of 'BIG' government for example...


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