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‘People don’t fully appreciate how committed the tea party is to not compromising’

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Ezra Klein interviews Christopher Parker in Wonkblog:

The story of the shutdown is, in large part, the story of mainstream Republicans realizing they can’t control tea party Republicans — and deciding that it’s better to go along than to try and fight. Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington, is co-author of the book “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America“, which employs large surveys and content analyses to better understand how the politics of the tea party differ from the politics of the Republican Party. We spoke on Wednesday, and a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Ezra Klein: Tell me a bit about the scope of your research on the tea party.Christopher Parker: So I run a survey research lab at the University of Washington. In 2010, I began to see these opposing views on the tea party. You had Peggy Noonan and Juan Williams basically saying, the tea partiers are just angry Republicans, no big deal. Then I read Frank Rich, and he says no, these people are completely different. He says they’re more in line with Richard Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style of American Politics.” And I thought, I can get real data on this! And when I looked at it empirically, I found that people who supported the tea party tended to be more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Obama.

EK: So I’m not exactly a tea partier myself. But when I hear you say that I bristle. The description members of the tea party would give of themselves is that they’re really concerned about the growth of government and the rise in taxes and the management of the economy. Labeling them things like racist, sexist and homophobic sounds like an attempt to just write them out of civilized discourse. So persuade me that this isn’t just an attack.

CP: What I do in these surveys and models is I account for desire for limited government. I account for ideology. I account for all these other things where people could say they’re just more conservative. There’s just this empirical connection between support for the tea party and antagonistic views toward quote-unquote marginalized groups, or, if you prefer, toward quote-unquote not real Americans. If you look at the historical and social scientific literature on American national identity, the portrait that emerges is mainly white, male, middle class, straight, at least a bit educated, and a bit older.

Look at who rose during this period. It’s not all about Obama. Nancy Pelosi was the first female speaker of the House. Barney Frank wielded real power. Two women, one of whom was a Latina, went to the Supreme Court. Undocumented workers have gotten a ton of attention. There’s been the rise of same-sex rights.

That’s the crux of the book. The title is ‘Change They Can’t Believe In’. This isn’t new. Whenever there’s rapid social change it triggers this kind reactionary conservatism. People see their social prestige threatened, their way of life threatened. And they react.

EK: Tell me about the surveys. Who are you talking to? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2013 at 1:53 pm

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