Whence the Tea Party Movement?

In his latest monthly Frontline column, “Letter from America,” social critic and professor of South Asian History and International Studies at Trinity College (CT) Vijay Prashad weighs in on the origins and motivations of the Tea Party Movement.  Among others things, Prashad considers the Tea Party’s apparent aspirations and perceptions of the American political scene in light of McCarthyism and the conservative rhetoric of Barry Goldwater.  Of course, the Tea Party-ers also see themselves as heirs of the cause of the Boston Tea Party of 1773.  About this, Prashad remarks:

The main base for the “tea party” comes from another old strain in American populism, an antipathy to taxation. The movement’s leaders used the word “tea” to signal “Taxed Enough Already”. They draw inspiration from the Boston Tea Party of 1773. However, that movement was not a tax revolt. Its slogan “No Taxation Without Representation” was about political representation. The American Revolution was against the tyranny of George III, not taxation.

Prashad naturally spills some ink on Sarah Palin, too:

Sarah Palin is playing the role of Goldwater to this century’s version of the extreme Right. She hit all the right notes, pondering in her folksy way if Obama is really an American, if he is more a professor of law than a commander in chief, offering her sarcastic populism to loud applause. She took home $100,000 for the speech, which was broadcast remarkably on all the national television networks (the Tea Party followers had to pay $500 each to hear her in person). Conservatives remain enthralled by her and are buoyed by the “tea party”, which helped the Republican Party win a Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts.

By the bye, Prashad’s assessment of Obama and his administration doesn’t appear terribly hopeful, especially if you were one of the many folks who invested energy in, and got swept up by, the zeitgeist of radical change, reform, and uplifting that accompanied the run-up to Obama’s election.  Even still, while Prashad’s portrayal of Obama as a lackluster, Clinton-esque middling president might be a disappointment for many, it at least has some grounding in historical evidence and reason, unlike the seemingly surrealist, nearly incomprehensible, Manchurian Candidate-depiction of Obama that appears in Alex Jones’s documentary The Obama Deception.  I’ve not yet seen it.  Have you?

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