Diary

Social scientists at UC Berkeley study the Tea Party

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you? Do you ever feel like someone is studying you and those you associate with from afar? Well guess what, you’re not paranoid it’s real. We’ve been under the microscope for two years now by Berkeley’s Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. And here you thought those cars driving around your neighborhood with the funny looking cameras on top were from Google.

Okay, I don’t have any proof that they are studying us cloak and dagger style but we are being studied nonetheless. Slate has the story, the subtitle of the article reads: “Lefty academics convene in Berkeley to try to make sense of the Tea Party movement.” To the academic elites at Berkeley we are like an alien species that just landed on Earth and they are naturally curious.

Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Obama and the progressives in Congress gave us all these wonderful things like the Stimulus and Obamacare and Finance reform. They are also trying to save the planet with Cap and Tax. And how do we show our appreciation? We go to town halls and shout at them. No wonder they are confused and perplexed. This calls for some serious research, here are a couple of papers they are working on:

Prospects for an American Neofascism. Initially the project would consist of a review of recent research on American right wing groups (including the Tea Party movement, the Minutemen, and the Christian right); and of trends in national and transnational political economy that bear on our subject (such as cyclical and structural economic crises, corporate/government interpenetration, and the explosive growth of the military/industrial/security complex).

A Macro-Micro Model of Participation in Political Action: The Tea Party and Cognitive Biases in Information Consumption and Processing. Hypotheses were tested using qualitative data obtained from interviews with two groups: protest participants from various Tea Party protests (protesting group, N-15) and non-protesting Tea Party “supporters” (supporting group, N=3). Results show that strongly held pre-existing beliefs (particularly economic and political individualist ideology) heavily impacted levels of dissatisfaction with government policy and choices of information consumed.

Gee, I didn’t know I was a neofascist. I just thought I wanted a smaller less intrusive government based on our founding documents. On the second paper, I’ll admit I’m not as smart as these researchers but I think I know what “Cognitive Biases in Information Consumption and Processing” means. It’s just a fancy way of saying that I listen to Rush Limbaugh too much. I’ll have to plead guilty on that one.

The results of two years of study are in and the participants in this conference have found that the tea party is racist:

“There is that U.S. DNA that goes all the way back and does provide the conceptual source for this lynch mob mentality,” says Steve Martinot, who teaches at San Francisco State University. “And that is white supremacy. Shouldn’t we be looking at the Tea Party through that?”

Perlstein moves around the question. “The thing that makes America different, and this is a very dialectical, paradoxical concept, is that we have a lot of democracy,” he says. “The idea that everyone has an opinion of about what they’re hearing is both the glory and the tragedy of American democracy.”

But the social scientists are more ready than the historians to crunch numbers and prove that racial animosity is key to the Tea Party. It’s cold comfort for people like Hardy Frye, but it does suggest that Obama’s ability to form some grand populist coalition was always limited.

So, there you have it. According to the academics at this conference, “racial animosity is key to the Tea Party. And we have a ” lynch mob mentality.” And apparently it’s a “tragedy” that we have so much opinion in this country.

There is only one small flaw in their logic. If America is a boiling cauldron of racial animosity as they seem to imagine how did Obama become president when only 12.4% of the population is African-American? Is it possible that the sinking popularity of the President has something to do with his failing policies?

And by the way, do these academic types realize that Obama is not on the ticket in this upcoming election? Race has nothing to do with what is going to happen on November 2nd. And all those White Democratic Congressmen and Senators about to be unemployed know it.