In the run-up to the 2012 US elections, the influence of the Tea Party movement will no doubt be under further scrutiny.
In this in-depth investigation Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio create a vivid and often horrific exposé.
From late 2009 to March 2010 the authors followed the activities of Tea Party enthusiasts. They attended local meetings in Chicago and conducted detailed research into the Tea Party’s roots, demographics and ideology. They treat the movement with deadly seriousness and encourage readers not to “cower under the umbrella of the Democratic party”.
Crucially they reject the myth that the Tea Party is a grassroots, bottom-up, “populist” movement. They describe the Tea Partiers as “Astroturf to the core”, funded by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, favoured by the right wing media empire Fox News, and with hardly any visible membership on the ground.
The authors confirm the Tea Partiers to be deeply racist, Islamophobic and admirers of the English Defence League. When polled in 2010, 59 percent thought that Obama was born in another country. The book is packed with shocking statistics and anecdotes about Tea Party racism juxtaposed with an analysis of their true social make-up – predominantly white, middle-aged and male. While 55 percent of Americans say they are “sympathetic to the Tea Party”, only 4 percent would describe themselves as active members.
The authors argue that although their ideas have the backing of right wing and super-rich Republicans, theirs is by no means the dominant ideology of ordinary American people.
The alternative vision they present comes from an eye-witness account of February 2011 when Scott Walker, the Republican and Tea Party-backed governor of Wisconsin, introduced the union-bashing “budget repair bill” which stripped workers of their collective bargaining rights. In response thousands of workers, pensioners and students occupied the Capitol building and the protests spread to Ohio, Indiana and Oklahoma. The authors visited Madison during the protest and witnessed the meek attempt by the Tea Party to mobilise a demonstration of 500 that was swamped by the labour demonstration 60 times their size! The account of the resistance in Wisconsin proves that the US working class, contrary to popular rhetoric, does indeed possess the strength to fight the establishment.
This book is vital for anyone who wants to understand both the US right and the fight for a genuine workers’ organisation. They echo the words of the late Howard Zinn when he said, “The really critical thing isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting-in – in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating – those are the things that determine what happens.”
Crashing the Tea Party is published by Pluto, £15.99
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