On Political Books

March/April 2012 Stay for Tea

The real Tea Partiers are worth getting to know. Because they’re going to be here a while. And they might prove useful.

By Steven M. Teles

If the Tea Party turned its watchful eye to the local level, where the really impressive incompetence and corruption exists, it would do three things. First, it would give the movement real staying power and independence from the institutional interest of the Republican Party. Second, it would direct the democratic arts that many Tea Party activists practice at a genuine participatory vacuum. And third, it would help the activists see that some of the liberals they currently caricature could become some of their strongest allies. Myself included.


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Steven M. Teles is associate professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University and the author most recently of The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement.

Comments

  • janinsanfran on March 27, 2012 12:07 PM:

    It seems to me that the real question is whether these folks wallowing in their bitter nostalgia for an unrecoverable past die off before they sink the ship of state.

    National commentators would be smart to pay attention to the California experience. We got over the hump; Republicans are a 30 percent rump. But the machinery of government is damaged and it will take a generation at least to repair.

  • tcinaz on March 27, 2012 7:37 PM:

    So it turns out the the Tea Party is what we always thought, a rebranding of the people who voted for George W. Bush twice. They could not believe they made a huge mistake the first time, repeated the mistake a second, and now pretend they really are something new and different. But, they are the same people who voted for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Their inability to recognize their own cognitive dissonance is what creates their anger at the system. They want strongly principled leaders but elected Nixon when they were younger, only to grow more bitter at the disconnect between their expectations and the actual outcomes of their repeated election of leaders who lacked a serious commitment to their core belief: that they should be protected from any assault by a cruel world full of people who do not think like or agree with them.

  • Sean Scallon on March 27, 2012 7:43 PM:

    At some point you have to say what you are for as much what you are against, otherwise you'll burn out when the rage dies down. Unfortunately if the Tea Partiers did that, they would splinter into a million factions. That's their Catch-22.

  • bluestatedon on March 28, 2012 7:38 AM:

    "Rather than assume [their] ignorance,..."

    And then the authors go on to document in great detail the manifest and many ways the Tea Partiers are profoundly ignorant. This is a great example of liberals quivering in fear at describing a right-wing phenomenon exactly as it is: the result of ignorant Christianist bigotry.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on April 18, 2012 12:56 PM:

    The Tea Party is a re-branded Christian right for the most part. As for politics they are simply team players, uber fans of Team Republican. They are the die-hards; no matter how bad the team is doing, they do not switch allegiances. They would vote for Satan if he ran on the Republican ticket. (Satan is, by the way, a Republican.)