Why the Tea Party Is Doomed, and Why It Won’t Go Away

The baggers continue to demonstrate why they will always and forever be a movement of bigoted, white bitter-enders.

As the dust settles on the recent Cochran-McDaniel Mississippi Senate primary, those looking at the data say that it appears African-American voters gave Cochran the victory. This does not surprise me; you could see it coming as soon as the baggers announced they were sending “poll watchers” to keep an eye on those sneaky Mississippi (and mostly black) Democrats.

And it didn’t hurt Cochran that McDaniel’s self-promotion sales pitch is well-larded with racist dog whistles.

Take these clips from his radio show, circa 2006, where he mocked complaints of racism, railed against hip-hop as a “morally bankrupt” culture that “values prison more than college,” and promised to stop paying taxes if reparations were ever passed: “How you gonna make me pay for something that I had nothing to do with? How you gonna do that to me? I don’t get it.”

As a state senator, McDaniel has spoken to gatherings of the Sons of Confederate Veterans—a neo-Confederate group that promotes present-day secessionists—and delivered the keynote to a SCV event last fall. Indeed, his rhetoric decries the rise of a “new America” and pines for days of old. “There are millions of us who feel like strangers in this land, an older America passing away, a new America rising to take its place,” he said in a speech after the June 3 election. “We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s alien to us. … It’s time to stand and fight. It’s time to defend our way of life again.”

His voters get the message, lashing out against those people who siphon dollars from hard-working Americans. Here’s the Times with more:

Still apparently insensitive to what the phrase “poll watchers” stirs in the hearts of African Americans, and still apparently not realizing that black voters heard those dog whistles, too, the baggers and their spokesmouths are blaming the loss on the ignorance of African American voters.

I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past few days, ‘Uncle Toms for Thad’? Because I thought it was the worst thing you could do as an African American, vote for a Republican. The worst thing you could do,” Limbaugh said on Wednesday. “But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad’s done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that.”

It’s like Rush thinks “they” live in a separate media universe and aren’t seeing exactly the same news and advertising as “us.”

And many on the Right are blaming a flier proclaiming that “The Tea Party intends to stop blacks from voting on Tuesday.” I don’t know who printed and distributed said flier, but I suspect it was superfluous. The announcement from the baggers that they were sending “poll watchers” proclaimed the same message, loudly and clearly.

McDaniel still has not conceded, I don’t think, and plans to “investigate” the votes. He “knows” many of those “crossover” Democrats voted illegally? And how would he know this? Ed Kilgore explains:

How do we know these are “crossover” voters, since there’s no party registration? Because they are African-Americans! Can’t have African-Americans voting in our White Man’s Primary, can we?

That’s right; there is no party registration in Mississippi. People are just registered voters, not registered Republicans or Democrats. So, strictly speaking, there can be no “crossover” voting unless you assume one can tell what party a person “belongs” to some other way. Like, maybe, race.

Demographic projections tell us that a “white people’s party” is not politically sustainable in the U.S. except in the short term. So we can watch these guys and note how utterly insensitive and purely clueless they are about how they come across to anyone who isn’t them. And we can look at their string of mostly failed election campaigns and assume they can’t keep this up.

However, we’ve had these “populist” right-wing reactionary movements in the U.S. pretty much all along. Over the years they’ve given themselves different names and sometimes vary the specific issues they care about. But, like the phoenix, they keep rising from the ashes.

We use the term repressive populist movement to describe a populist movement that combines antielite scapegoating (discussed below) with efforts to maintain or intensify systems of social privilege and power. Repressive populist movements are fueled in large part by people’s grievances against their own oppression but they deflect popular discontent away from positive social change by targeting only small sections of the elite or groups falsely identified with the elite, and especially by channeling most anger against oppressed or marginalized groups that offer more vulnerable targets.

Right-wing populist movements are a subset of repressive populist movements. A right-wing populist movement, as we use the term, is a repressive populist movement motivated or defined centrally by a backlash against liberation movements, social reform, or revolution. This does not mean that right-wing populism’s goals are only defensive or reactive, but rather that its growth is fueled in a central way by fears of the Left and its political gains.

The first U.S. populist movement we would unequivocally describe as right wing was the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan, which was a counterrevolutionary backlash against the overthrow of slavery and Black people’s mass mobilization and empowerment in the post-Civil War South. Earlier repressive populist movements paved the way for right-wing populism, but did not have this same backlash quality as a central feature. [Adapted from Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press]

The Tea Party brand may fade from view eventually, but the movement is not going away.

11 thoughts on “Why the Tea Party Is Doomed, and Why It Won’t Go Away

  1. Yup, first the KKK.
    Then, anti-union movements – funded by the rich.
    Then, The John Birch Society.
    Then, to a lesser extent, “The Silent Majority,” and “The Moral Majority.”
    All of the above, btw, are extensions of Protestant Christianity.

    And the Tea Party is a collection of these same types of people.

  2. Life experience has taught me: if you flush enough times, you can make any movement go away.

  3. ..apparently insensitive to what the phrase “poll watchers” stirs in the hearts of African Americans, and still apparently not realizing that black voters heard those dog whistles…

    I grew up far from the South or black culture, so this was news to me also.

    Even though people don’t register their party affiliation in Mississippi, what matters is whether someone voted multiple times. That’s all that a recount can check, and how likely is that?

    @joanr – How I wish your experience was mine. I remember telling some young person a few weeks ago, that basically Stupid is a Constant, You Can Never Get Away From It.

  4. OT, The supreme say no more recess appointments, I guess this means John Bolton’s “official” career is over, too bad!

  5. “But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy.

    Made to believe?.. Seems ‘they” aren’t capable forming their own opinions or acting on their own powers of reason if it is contrary to what Limbaugh thinks. If they were “made” to believe than they obviously lack the sovereignty of their own minds. Limbaugh is a racist pig.

  6. “But the results also tell another story,” McDaniel continued. “They tell the story of some members of our party who are willing to engage in tactics unbecoming of the party of Ronald Reagan.


  7. “… somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad’s done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that.”

    Actually, Rush Limbaugh and his fellow racist America-haters tell all of us every day that Republicans are the ones who REALLY have black people’s best interests at heart.

    I mean, I know I’m being disingenuous here – I know he’s just lying as he always does about everything. But it’s just more evidence that he doesn’t even listen to himself.

  8. Black folks, American taxpayers, residents of the county in which they reside voted in a republican primary on June 24, 2014. This was the reaction from the conservative intelligentsia:

    Rush Limbaugh: “Uncle Tom voters for Cochran”

    Glenn BecK: “What has this 90 year old fart done for you?” then became so angry he just had to step outside and fire a few rounds from a rifle, on air?

    Laura Ingram: “When you win as a Republican playing the race-baiting game” Republicans, Race baiting???

    Sean Hannity: “between the flier that was distributed in black neighborhoods and the robocalls urging them to get out and vote”, this is despicable!!!!!! Yes Black and Them!!!!!

    Rank and file Tea-Baggers: “How dare them niggra’s vote in our election, it’s time to take our country back!!!!!!”

  9. “It’s even possible he wanted to atone for conduct unbecoming of the party of Ronald Reagan”

    Maybe he knows he did some shit and now that McRacist has lost and intends to sue he’ll be found out?

  10. There’s some beautiful irony here. IMO, blacks did not vote for the incumbent, Cochran. They voted against the racist Tea Party candidate, McDaniel. McD was handed his defeat by a group he holds in contempt – he never factored in their political power because they are a minority by themselves.

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