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Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America

by Christopher S Parker and Matt A Barreto Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 400 pages
AU$49.99 NZ$53.04
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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 that is fuelled by a fear that America has changed for the worse. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathisers as well as activists, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto show that the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act. In a new afterword, Parker and Barreto reflect on the Tea Party's recent initiatives, including the 2013 government shutdown, and evaluate their prospects for the 2016 election.

List of Figures and Tables vii

Preface and Acknowledgments xiii

INTRODUCTION Who Is the Tea Party and What Do They Want? 1

1 Toward a Theory of the Tea Party 20

2 Who Likes Tea? Sources of Support for the Tea Party 66

3 Exploring the Tea Party's Commitment to Freedom and Patriotism 102

4 Does the Tea Party Really Want Their Country Back? 153

5 The Tea Party and Obamaphobia - Is the Hostility Real or Imagined? 190

6 Can You Hear Us Now? Why Republicans Are Listening to the Tea Party 218


Afterword to the Paperback Edition 261

Appendix 273

Notes 319

Index 365

'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 ' 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. . . . upported by reasoned facts in place of political passions.'--Kirkus Reviews ' statistically informed analysis helps us understand the Tea Party's priorities, its fervor, and its contempt for compromise.'--Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post 'In Change They Can't Believe In, Parker and Barreto examine the emergence of the Tea Party in the wake of the Obama presidency. . . . In addition to marshaling a great deal of original data, the authors capably place the Tea Party movement in a historical context.'--Choice
Christopher S. Parker is associate professor of 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''.