Tea Party and the Right  
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Tea Partiers V. Millennials: Why the Far Right Disdains Young People, Even Their Own Kids

Sociologist Theda Skocpol explains what drives the angry right, and what to expect next from them.

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“Pincers”? How so?

What makes this so powerful is not popularity. People don’t like them – that’s irrelevant. When you’ve got a bloc of legislators in the states and in the Congress, and they can be empowered by very attentive voters who vote in primaries, and then by big money funders who are the ones to challenge other Republicans who don’t go along with the extremists – then you’ve got really a double whammy. The only thing that could counter this would be if more traditional conservative forces started raising money that they used to protect people from challenges on their right. And there are some signs that that’s beginning to happen, but not very many.

Do you expect we’ll see more of that?

We may. But I think this is going on for a while. These folks are coming back at it again in a few months, and they will keep coming at it.

Some Democrats I talk to have this view that this will not happen again in the near future because the voters are going to punish the Republican Party – by  taking levers away from the Republican Party and by  weakening the leverage of the Tea Party within the GOP.

I think it’s way too soon to conclude that. There’s a huge difference in the electorate that turns out in the midterms. If they do it again next year – which I think they will, at least some of it – it could change the equation in November 2014 a little bit. But lets get real here.

I mean, you’re going to have to talk about taking the majority away from Republicans in the House of Representatives. You have to talk about getting rid of the filibuster check in the Senate. And I don’t think many liberal commentators are paying any attention to the very important developments that have occurred across so many American states where very extreme Republicans have super-majorities at the moment. So that’s all got to be chipped away at, because as long as a fired-up and morally dogmatic minority, backed by ideological money, can manipulate legislatures, it can choke things up. Their goal is to show that Obama and the Democrats can’t govern, and unfortunately they have some of the levers to do that.

To what extent do you think that the tactics Republicans have taken up show something about our political institutions’ ability to work in the face of what some would call more parliamentary tactics?

Well I don’t think this is parliamentary. I think this is truly extremist. The filibuster rules of course are rules, and they can change. And the ability of one or two senators to hold up everything may be something that even the minority will want to change, because you know, Senator Ted Cruz is really a cruise missile. He has unsettled Senate Republicans plenty.

American institutions do not in any way require that the same party or the same faction controls the presidency and both houses of Congress. And so that creates openings for obstructionists to really grind everything to a halt. We’ve seen Republicans, as they fear that they can’t make it in majority elections, turn to creating new uses for old institutional mechanisms and rules. That’s what’s going on right now.

A decade ago, you observed a long-term decline in American civic participation and the groups that used to foster it. What does the Tea Party mean for that?

At the grassroots, it’s a return to some traditional methods. The grassroots Tea Party actually formed, at their height, about 900 local groups – genuinely new groups. I wrote inDiminished Democracy that the Right has been more effective at either sustaining or recreating federated action, which is the key to American politics – to be able to organize across many districts, many states, and still be part of something national. The Tea Party is a different kind of manifestation of that.

 
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