The Tea Party movement proudly boasts an anti-establishment,
anti-incumbent, small-government worldview. But, as a movement, it
continues to struggle with its conspiracy-minded roots. Andrew Breitbart and other conservatives recently rejected
a high-profile birther speech at the first Tea Party convention
in Nashville. There, the tension between the
Tea Party's mainstream political ambitions and its
vocal, conspiracy-theorist fringe was on full display.
Clearly, the conspiracy theorists do not make up the whole of the Tea
Party, but they are just as clearly a force within the movement. Why is this strain so strong?
- Populism In Search of Its Villain Newsweek's Jonathan Kay is worried.
"I consider myself a conservative and arrived at this [Tea Party]
conference as a paid-up, rank-and-file attendee." However, "it has
become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose
vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached
from reality," he writes. "Like all populists, tea partiers are
suspicious of power and influence, and anyone who wields them. Their
villain list includes the big banks; bailed-out corporations," and many
more. Kay laments as false that "we all simply have come to expect that
radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when
they collect in the same room."
- Glenn Beck-ism Going Mainstream Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias writes,
"it’s been fascinating to me to watch the extent to which the
conservative mainstream has embraced a program that’s an only very
slightly prettied up version of this kind of conspiracy-mongering.
[...] it's odd and disturbing that conservative elites have actually
taken to pushing this stuff."
- Media Fears Antagonizing Tea Party Liberal blogger Steve M. thinks that reporters "wouldn't dare
write about bad things at the tea party convention -- that would be
effete latte-fueled heartland-bashing. Reporting on that crazy talk
would conflict with the current narrative, so far better not to hear
the talk at all." He argues that reporters and broadcasters don't want
to challenge the conservative cause by drawing attention to its
potentially embarrassing fringes.
- Pro-Business Interests Fund Anti-Gov Rhetoric Liberal blogger Larisa Alexandrovna notes
that the Tea Partiers are backed by conservative groups, themselves
backed by corporate lobbies. "[T]he current Tea Party is a movement
funded by corporations, which then use their members as protest weapons
against their own interests." She says these groups at the Tea Party
helm are pushing anti-establishment ideas because they threaten the
current political leadership, which just happens to be Democratic and
thus in favor of regulating businesses.
- Media Making Fringe Seem Like a Movement Liberal blogger Jesse Taylor suggests
that the media is making the everpresent conspiracy-theory fringe look like a viable political
movement. "When a gaggle of people show up to protest pimps and czars
... it’s hard to tease anything coherent or rational or mainstream out
that. But when the press is willing to show up and look at this group
of crazies with the inherent presumption that whatever person this
group of chaotic lemmings deigns to cheer for is a leader, it then
creates the presumption that the leader is also leading something
definable and real."
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