Thursday, August 18, 2011

Joan Walsh on Tea Party: Republican Base Dressed Up in Silly Costumes

Joan Walsh's summary at Salon of Robert Putnam and David Campbell's findings about the social and religious milieu from which the tea party springs is an instructive companion piece to the Adele Stan article to which I link in a previous posting.  As Walsh notes, Putnam and Campbell find that tea partiers are "social conservatives who believe religion should play a strong role in politics: 76 percent said our 'laws and policies would be better if more elected officials were deeply religious.'"

The tea party is, in other words, "the Republican base dressed up in silly costumes."  And Walsh wonders why it took the media so long to get that point, and why we have been fed one myth after another about this movement by the media--e.g., that it's a spontaneous grass-roots response to government dysfunction; that it is entirely interested in economic issues and has nothing to do with the religious right and the hot-button culture-war issues that concern the religious right, etc.

Walsh, Putnam, and Campbell think that the more people understand who the tea partiers are and what they represent, the less inclined people will be to give the tea party the kind of pass the media have been giving it ever since it appeared on the American political scene.  Sarah Posner suggests the same at Religion Dispatches today. 

And I hope they're right.  But it's also important to note that the people who have astroturfed this faux populist movement--the people whose billions have positioned the movement to appear something other than what it is (read: the Koch brothers)--have the ability to continue buying distorted media coverage that disguises the real religious-right ideas and motives of the tea party movement.  And as long as the mainline religious communities of the U.S. remain intent on avoiding confrontative, truth-telling responses to these attempts of the super-wealthy to use faux religion to grab more control of the democratic structures of our society, we remain in serious peril.

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