What can we learn from the success of the Tea Party?
By Koldo Casla
- INTRODUCTION: A FASCINATED LOOK AT THE TEA PARTY
- TEA PARTY: MOBILISING STRUCTURES, POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES AND FRAMING PROCESSES
- CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY
III. CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY
This article shows that the emergence and relative success of the Tea Party is the result of the conjunction of powerful mobilising structures, that are not entirely new (Jacksonian populism), a set of political opportunities, some of which may last a bit longer (restricted welfare programs), and others that will probably expire soon (presidential election in November 2012), and framing processes that resonate widely in American political culture (private property, liberalism, free markets, phobia of socialism, anti-statism, etc.).
The influence of this movement in American politics since 2009 reveals as much about the United States as about the Tea Party itself. If we can learn one single lesson, it is that we ought to take this movement seriously. So far, the Tea Party has been a successful movement. It has mobilised thousands of Americans, it has shaped both Republicans’ and Democrats’ policies and it has entered into Congress through the main door only a year and a half after its first gatherings. The American progressive movement will get it completely wrong if it spends its time undermining its influence, criticising its methods or its shallow messages. The story of the success of the Tea Party is the story of the failure of the American left to provide an answer to all those who are left out of the system. Millions of Americans know by now that at this pace the future will be much worse than the past. They are the face of the American precariat, the ones for which the message of hope of 2008 is turning into an empty promise. All those who want to constitute a feasible and credible alternative must first know the story of the Tea Party and look for their own mobilising structures, political opportunities and strategic frames. If the Tea Party managed to shake American politics in less than three years, why would not another movement be able to transform radically the country (and the rest of the world), let´s say, by 2020?