Vindicating the right?: populism and the origins of the Tea Party Movement

Walter, Martin (2016) Vindicating the right?: populism and the origins of the Tea Party Movement. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Vindicating the Right? Populism and the Origins of the Tea Party Movement analyses the founding process of the Tea Party movement using the framework of populism theory. At the centre of populism theory stands the claim that populist movements frame politics as confrontation between the virtuous ‘people’ and powerful elites. The work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe further argues that populism is used to articulate hegemonic projects. As scholars have found, in contemporary liberal democracies populism articulates hegemonic projects that claim to represent ‘the people’ against unresponsive governments often in response to widespread dissatisfaction with democratic processes.

Tea Party populism is no exception. This thesis argues that the foundation of the Tea Party took place in the context of a multi-layered crisis related to the economic downturn, the crisis of contemporary conservatism, rising party polarisation, growing inequality and declining faith in government and democratic institutions. I contend that the initial appeal of the Tea Party was due to the movement’s capacity to respond to this crisis and channelled a deep seated distrust of government into populist anti-elite resentment.

With the help of a wide range of sources, including Tea Party literature, blogs, websites, videos and accounts from periodicals this thesis demonstrates how the movement constructed a collective identity of ‘the people’ as defenders of constitutional right, national values and free market capitalism. The Tea Party’s reliance on the themes of conservative Americanism also relates it to the hegemonic project of American conservatism and this thesis demonstrates that the Tea Party movement is as much an outcome as it is a part of the conservative movement’s attempt to use populism to rearticulate its hegemonic claims in the aftermaths of the defeat of the Republican Party in the elections of 2008.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hutchison, Anthony
Ling, Peter
Keywords: Tea Party movement, American conservatism, populism, social movements, American politics
Subjects: J Political science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
Item ID: 34177
Depositing User: Walter, Martin
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2016 07:48
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2017 20:15

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