Tea party movement's new politics: dangerous shape-shifting


Usually parties run on platforms. They advocate a set of values and ideas and mobilize a constituency around those values, ideas, beliefs and practices. As a result, they generally attempt to legislate based on a commonly defined set of shared interests, the interests of their supporters.

It doesn't take a political scientist to understand this typical party-constituency dynamic.

The usual norms of political discourse would emphasize a party's ability to ask pertinent questions and provide salient answers; to probe facts, poll members and seek solutions based largely on consensus or majority sentiment. However, today's politics seem different.

Today's politics seem based on contradiction, on a party-constituency dynamic that turns the norms of political discourse on its head.

If the November mid-term election teaches us anything, it should be that the normal party-constituency dynamic is in great danger, as the tea partiers and their right-wing Republican supporters demonstrated.

For the first time in my lifetime a party did NOT run on a platform. It did NOT advocate any coherent set of values and beliefs. It did NOT mobilize a constituency around values, ideas, beliefs and practices. And, most importantly, it will NOT legislate based on a commonly defined set of shared interests.

For the first time in my lifetime we have a party - the tea party - that disdains its constituency and will likely govern with a set of values, ideas, beliefs and practices that contradict the majority interests of its supporters. The norms of the party-constituency dynamic have shifted to such a degree that it may be decades before we can recover, before we can actual govern again from a point of reciprocity.

The tea party movement's claim to answers - to solutions based on one simple ideological premise - is vain and paranoid, and illustrates what we can expect when the worst kind of pseudo-populist, anti-intellectual currents are given a platform that reaches millions of people.

The one simple ideological premise - the only tea party platform as far as I can tell - is a desire to shrink government to such a degree that it can no-longer function, can no-longer provide services, can no-longer act as a limited counter-balance to corporate control and domination.

"Let the free market reign supreme! Stop government regulations! Save BP from the government shake-down! Keep your government hands off my Medicaid! Get rid of the minimum wage! Abandon affirmative action! Privatize Social Security!" - All supported by the tea party movement, all answers so vain and paranoid, so individualistic and isolated, so confused and disconcerting that they are nearly incomprehensible.

Additionally, the tea party movement seems unwilling or unable to learn from others' experiences. In fact, it discounts experiences not in-line with its prescriptive, often contradictory answers.

While prescriptive analysis based on hard facts, objectively verified and proven by experience, can act as a guide in troubling times, in times of hardship and economic duress, prescriptive analysis based on conjecture, rumor, fear, subjectivity, unverified by real-life experience, will pull us ever closer to a dangerous abyss, the tea party abyss.

Not because it has a platform or an intelligible worldview - because it doesn't! Not because it advocates a core set of beliefs and mobilizes a constituency around those beliefs - because it has neither core beliefs nor a real constituency! Not because it will legislate for the common interest - because it won't!

The tea party movement is dangerous because it is an irrational beast without a head; because it is an amorphous shape-shifter guided by flight and fancy, by self-serving expediency; because it is a fad based on anger, misdirection and lies; because it lacks decency and tolerance!

The tea party movement is dangerous because it has shifted the norms of the party-constituency dynamic; because it has convinced ordinary Americans to support policies that will cripple America!

Photo: Members of the Tea Party Patriots hold an election night party in Washington on Nov. 2. Ann Heisenfelt/AP


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  • The distorted, unmentioned beneficiaries of the ideas of small gov, free trade, militarism, are ideas implanted in the less-intellectual of the boomers during the Cold War. With a new generation, these shames will be undermined as tools of the right-wing elite.

    Posted by nampa, 01/04/2011 12:58am (5 years ago)

  • All these verities about the Tea Party emphasize one fact: It is a movement that is crafted trimly for a specific function. Setting a platform will make it stand on its own, exceed its reason and jeopardize the future of its initiators.

    Posted by Najat Talha, 12/03/2010 6:25pm (5 years ago)

  • The constituency of the infamous Tea Party movement is high finance,big banks,big monopoly,big oil and high military.
    The constiuency of the working class is the working class: workers,women,youth,children,men,differently abled,differently sexually oriented,unionists,political activists,multi-racial,multi-national and international.

    This former constituency,it did not put president Obama in the White House,and he knows it.
    The latter constituency put him there,and on the issue of which he will support,there is no sheltered rear,no place to hide,no middle road,and he knows it.
    The Obama campaign platform of fair taxation,expanded trade unionism,anti-racism,universal,free health care as a human right and environmental sanity,have been embattled,along with his presidency and administration.
    Organized and unorganized labor,civil,bill of rights and social rights organizations of every stripe must mobilize,turning to each other,as its constiuency in St. Louis,MO has done with MOKAN,the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists,the NAACP,CWA,SEIU,Instead of War,and more,but we must increase our unity and outreach 10 and 100 fold,because our unity,action and politics do prevail and the president of the United States is our evidence. We must organize,organize and organize,to save what is left of the Obama administration's platform,and expand it. Our journalist,Tony Pecinovsky,not only raising concern about what he calls "..policies that will cripple America" but has helped organize unity in the St. Louis metropolitan area to heal and restore people and organizations in struggle for fair taxation,expanded trade unionism,anti-racism,universal,free health care as a human right,universal employment as a human right and environmental sanity.
    We believe that if our U.S. Constitution,our Bill of Rights,is followed,we can democratically and peacefully resolve our conflict with high finance,big banks,big monopoly,big oil,and high military,now represented by the dastard,fear-mongering,falsifying,racist,fascist,destructive,obstructive Tea Party movement.
    The solution to the crippling movement of the Tea Party is the unity,unity,unity and unionized jobs,jobs,jobs in a massive federal employment program to save the Main Streets in the Midwest,North,South,East,and West.
    The money to do this can come from slashing an insanely wasteful military budget,taxing the high finance monopolies and big monopolies,and increasing cap and trade policies.
    The homeless,the hungry,the unemployed,the unionists,environmentalists,women,underemployed and unemployed youth,voters and retirees;in a word-constituencies: will support this change in policy for their survival.
    Let's not cripple but empower our country,its constitution,its Bill of Rights,and its".. party-constituency dynamic". Let's support one another as One Nation Together.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 12/03/2010 1:14pm (5 years ago)

  • I agree the Tea Party Movement is without a defined program. I know some Tea Party members and they say the same monotonous Rhetoric. Small Government, No Taxes, No Regulation, Leave my Medicaid alone, Anti-Immigration, and No Unions. Well these Uninformed People have no idea what's going to happen if they actually get what they want. A political party without a clearly defined agenda, but gaining popularity based on Fear, and Anger. Reminds me of the National Socialist Movement in Germany after World War 1. They didn't have a clear Platform and if you questioned the Nazi's on their Political Agenda and How they would solve the problems Germany faced. They would get Violent and Shout Mindless Rhetoric at you. Add some Racist Slogans, and Underlining Hatred and you have a Nazi movement in United States. Hiding behind the Illusion of upholding Democracy and Freedom. The Majority of Tea Party members are White Americans. With a sprinkling of Minority membership. The last big hoorah of the White Majority which in a few years will no longer be a Majority. Like I said Fear and Anger is the Strength of this New "Nazi" movement. I know it for what it is and I think we will all know what they really are after a time.

    Posted by J.Washa, 11/30/2010 2:04pm (5 years ago)

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