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Despite these limitations, there is merit in Disch's larger contention that activists are mobilizing to defend specific notions of belonging and citizenship. I noted throughout my fieldwork this struggle to restore a particular national vision (and to oppose a creeping globalization). While I witnessed many anti-racist moments—and many feminist, and even anti-homophobic, moments—there was indeed deep resistance to expanded concepts of citizenship and accompanying benefits. This was evident in birther theories, which ultimately worry over the citizenship of a man who has a Kenyan father. It was also evident in the support I witnessed in California for Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, which circumvented federal immigration laws to create state-level enforcement, including a "show me your papers" provision. Tea Party support for the law was grounded in abstract support for "states' rights," but also in protecting "the integrity," as an activist mentioned, of "our laws, our nation, and our rights." As Disch generally notes, there was a worry that certain forms of citizenship were slipping. This has ramifications for understanding the anti-government ideologies of the movement. It becomes clear that many activists are not purely anti-government but working to restore a particular contract between themselves and the government—one that foregrounds their interests.
Joseph Lowndes, a political scientist at the University of Oregon, also interrogates the role of race in the movement, arguing that there are "complex changes afoot" in the right's racial politics. While he contends that the specter of "Obama's socialism" is highly racialized, "meant to evoke fears of a black president unleashing a criminal state on a vulnerable nation," Lowndes also notes that there is a significant lack of antagonistic politics directed at people of color on the whole. Rather, activists have aimed their fire at such targets as the state, public-sector unions, and (here Lowndes differs from Disch’s analysis) universal entitlement programs. At the same time, they have backed candidates of color for political office—Allen West, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and so forth. Even in the racially charged mobilizations in support of Arizona SB 1070 and against what came to be called the "Ground Zero Mosque," Tea Party opinion was far from uniform. There is a larger transformation on the right, Lowndes contends, in which "certain forms of multiculturalism and even anti-racism" are taking root among conservatives, evidenced by President George W. Bush's commitment to racial equality within his administration. This, he concludes, signals a shift away from the infamous Southern Strategy, in which conservative candidates exploited racial resentment for political gains.
If only the chapters discussing social conservatives were as adventurous in their analyses. Peter Montgomery, a longtime watchdog of the Christian right, probes the influence and participation of evangelicals in the movement, while the Washington College political scientist Melissa Deckman, in a bid to understand Tea Party women, analyzes the traits and interests the that evangelicals and Tea Partiers may share. Both writers find a considerable overlap between the movements' cultural and political beliefs, and Montgomery argues that there is a large evangelical presence in Tea Party groups. While his insight that the libertarian-leaning movement has developed a more deeply religious moral underpinning is appreciated, I wish he had written more about the defining struggles and points of divergence between the two groups, many of which I have witnessed. The Tea Party organizations with which I conducted fieldwork in California actively and openly resisted taking on "social issues," with members repeatedly exclaiming, "That's not what we're about."
There is a profound conflict between the two movements in their conceptions of government. The Tea Parties emphasize a Goldwateresque "leave me alone" attitude, while social conservatives have long struggled to advance legislation favorable to their values. Montgomery notes that many on the Christian Right have embraced the Tea Parties' limited-government rhetoric. But does this mean there has been a fundamental shift in thinking, or is this just pragmatic politics? Meanwhile, Deckman notes that Tea Party women are more likely than evangelical women to be pro-choice. Those kinds of data capture conflicting ideas over the role of government in regulating our lives, yet Montgomery and Deckman and give us no sense of this struggle, or of what is unique about the younger movement. Instead we get a generalizing, monolithic view of the right that underappreciates the coalitions and conflicts at play.
The editors argue that Tea Partiers have built an exclusionary
politics that rely on the construction of an Other, that this is
the hallmark feature of the right, and that the left's processes of
identity formation, by contrast, is "more inward looking." There
are indeed exclusionary aspects to the Tea Party movement, but most
of this volume seems intent on Othering that movement's members,
striving as it does to argue that the activists are extremists
outside the mainstream. Once again, we are left wanting for a view
of the movement that steps beyond the usual partisan
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