Tea Party Analysis Analysis Fail

by Henry Farrell on December 30, 2011 · 21 comments

in Political Science and Journalism,Protest

at Esquire magazine

I respect any reporters who go out and do the work of actually talking to ordinary people, and I especially respect any political reporters who do so, because too much of our elite political reporting takes place within the self-contained Beltway terrarium of politicians, consultants, think-tankers, and other relatively useless fauna. And I have no doubt that the people to whom Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson spoke said the things they are reported to have said, and that they think the things they are reported to think.

When you’re complaining that someone on the Internets is wrong, wrong, wrong, it’s usually a good idea to try for accuracy yourself. And Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson are not, by any stretch of the imagination, reporters, let alone political reporters. A hint for Mr. Pierce – you can find out a lot by actually reading someone’s book. For example, valuable information about a book’s authors is very often to be found on the back cover (usually paperbacks) or the inside flap (usually hardbacks). Take a look. Of course, this would require you to actually buy the book (or at least pick it up in the bookstore) before opining on its contents. If you’re not prepared to actually buy the book, then at the very least, you might try scrolling down to the bottom of the blogpost that you’re basing your lazy rebuttal on. This, depending on your computer, may require you to drag with your mouse/touchpad, while holding down a button or using two fingers (the direction of drag has been reversed on the new Mac OS - perhaps this is what is confusing Mr. Pierce).

Another hint – when you are criticizing people’s conclusions.

But I do believe that a lot of the conclusions these two draw are pretty much the wrong ones. The Tea Party is nothing more than the hard right wing of the Republican party, rebranded by the more conservative end of its corporate wing. It’s approximately as “new” as the 1964 Republican national platform and, that being the case, will disappear again as soon as another Republican wins the White House.

It is a good idea, by and large, to know something about those actual conclusions. This might stop you, for example, from embarrassing yourself by making the ‘these fools do not know that this is like 1964 again’ argument against a book which repeatedly and persistently discusses the continuity between the Tea Party and the Republican right wing, and specifically talks to the linkages between the Tea Party today, and the people who volunteered for Goldwater (as Skocpol and Williamson note, the demographics of the Tea Party are heavily skewed towards the elderly – some Tea Party members were Goldwater volunteers). Also – the ‘outraged movement folks tend to disappear when their party is in power’ thing. They’ve got that covered. Really. Again, discovering this would actually require you to read the book. Which, I grant you, sounds like hard work.

I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t, since I respect any reporters who go out and do the work of actually reading words on the screen, and I especially respect any political reporters who do so, because too much of our elite political reporting takes place within the self-contained Beltway terrarium of politicians, consultants, think-tankers, and other relatively useless fauna. Perhaps, I’d respect them even more if they read books before jumping to conclusions about what they say – but this is very likely just academic prissiness.

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