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June 09, 2010



It was (so far as I could tell) always ideologically incoherent. It was against spending and even more strongly against taxes, but most of its leading lights seemed unwilling to identify any locales for cuts that would actually make a difference. There's always a sense in which protests are unlikely to offer any single alternative to the status quo because they tend to be made up of disparate elements with differing justifications, but that is the precise problem with translating from "party" in the sense of a body of people at an event to "party" in the sense of a minimally-cohesive political group. I'm sure there were plenty of tea partiers who were appalled by the Arizona laws, but once we get to the point of there being a sort of "official" body those voices clearly got drowned out by the predominance of older whites who happened to be worried about the loss of cultural hegemony in addition to worried about taxes and spending. Liberal commentators, of course, frequently claim that tax-related complaints are merely fronts for racist anxiety that glues the movement together, but I think this is probably a case of reading loud figures of the fringe to be the center.

Nevertheless, the cultural base of the 'tea party' was always going to be anti-immigrant. It's a demographic certainty.


Movements should not overextend themselves beyond their cause celebre. I am very sympathetic to the anti-tax, anti-government position, so I can see the appeal of the tea party on that one issue, but on any other issue, the tea party is at best incoherent and at worst completely crackers.

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