A new study by professors David Campbell and Robert Putnam tracking the origins of the so-called Tea Party movement in America made a bit of a splash recently, after highlights of their findings were published in the New York Times. Yes, imagine our complete and utter shock to discover that, contrary to their disingenuous mythology of being a spontaneous grassroots uprising, it was discovered that most Teabaggers were (and are) in fact predominantly long-time Republican activists and extreme right-wing social conservatives; or, as Jon Stewart neatly put it: “The moral majority in a tri-cornered hat.”
That characterization is perhaps a vast oversimplification of the movement, but one that may not be entirely unjustified according to the research looking into the subject. To more fully understand the dynamic involved, the following panel discussions from UC Berkeley conducted just prior to the 2010 elections cast a more in-depth range of insight concerning the origins and motivations of the Tea Party movement.
Obviously, the Tea Party movement cannot be labelled in a wholly straightforward manner owing to its disparate organizational structure (i.e., many different factions driven by various motivations) and the inchoate nature of its grievances, but what seems clear from these discussions is the recurring notion that whatever vaguely libertarian and fiscally conservative elements (e.g., people legitimately outraged at the bank bailouts and corrupt Wall Street shenanigans) that existed within the movement at its inception and powered much of its furious populist outrage at the outset, have since been overwhelmed by forces of the religious right to the point where the Tea Party has now been transformed into another vehicle for the advancement of a fundamentalist Christian cultural agenda.