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The Tea Party Is Dangerous: Dispelling 7 Myths That Help Us Avoid Reality About the New Right-Wing Politics

It may be fashionable to dismiss the Tea Party and its radical, right-wing pals, but we do so at our peril.

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But as Chip Berlet, an expert on right-wing populism, writes in the Progressive, "[T]here is no social science evidence that people who join right-wing movements are any more or less crazy or ignorant than their neighbors. While some have psychological predilections for authoritarianism and tend to see the world in overly simplified us vs. them terms, the same predilections can be found on the political left. This is also true with belief in conspiracy theories."

Time to Get Real

Minimizing the force and impact of the Tea Party movement does nothing to defeat it. No amount of ridicule will stop it. If progressives want to save the republic from the hands of the old New Right, they will have to sell their core principles to a public that is not much in a mood to buy anything. It can be done. But it will require a serious, sustained and strategically designed effort that is based around something more than launching progressive primary challengers to establishment Democratic candidates. That's the start of a long-term effort to make the Democratic Party more progressive, but it doesn't begin to meet the structural challenges posed by the Tea Party movement. Without a plan to meet regular Americans through their local media, or a way to articulate progressive goals as a plan of enlightened self-interest, progressives could see their moment slip away, carried on the winds of resentment.

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Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.