Origin Factors Of The Tea Party Patriots

1591 words - 6 pages

The Tea Party Patriots was one of the first SMOs to organize within the Tea Party movement, launching their website only weeks after the approximate beginning of the movement (Burchart 80). Due to this close timing, I will treat the causes of the Tea Party Patriots to be the same as those which galvanized the greater Tea Party movement. I will argue that grievance theory, identity theory, and resource mobilization theory best explain the origins of the collective action under the Tea Party Patriots, with the first two (which in this case are related) being the most effective.

A theory of mobilizing grievances is the most effective in explaining the origin of the Tea Party. Snow and Soule define mobilizing grievances to be those “shared among some number of actors” and which are “felt to be sufficiently serious to warrant not only collective complaint but also some kind of corrective, collective action” (24). The main public grievances of these first Tea Partiers were economic and political. (The case could be made for the influence of social and racial grievances as well, but they won’t be discussed here.) The “Great Recession” of 2008 set off a “panic,” and blame was placed on the government and the banks, institutions which were traditionally relatively trustworthy (Zernike 6), as well as those Americans who were unable to fulfill their obligations to the banks (Santelli). Interestingly, Cho et al. found that “the spatial distribution of … Tea Party activism … corresponds quite closely to the incidence of home foreclosures” (105) despite the perception of those foreclosed upon as “losers” (Santelli). The participation of Santelli’s “losers” is easily explained, however: they were unaware of that image, and they participated to express their frustration (Zernike 27). In the political arena, conservatives were losing faith in the Republican Party because of its focus on socially conservative issues rather than attempts to pare down government spending and programs to address the “fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government” (About); President Bush’s expansion of government presence and spending at the end of his presidential term was reviled (Zernike 15). As President Obama introduced his economic stimulus package and what would become the Affordable Care Act, criticism of the scope of government became even more vocal (16).

Simple discontent doesn’t spark social movements, though; people need a push: some level of discontent and frustration must be achieved before there is action (Snow and Soule). The Tea Party movement likes to point at Rick Santelli’s February 19, 2009 “rant” broadcast on CNBC as the push that started discontented Americans organizing (Formisano 26). In the 5-minute speech, Santelli voices concerns shared by many Americans, criticizing policies that reward the “bad behavior [of] … the losers,” and he is met with applause from bystanders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (Santelli). Less than three...

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