The Two Faces of the “Tea Party”

Our guest speaker in January was Amanda Hollis-Bursky, Ph.D., from Pomona College. She led a discussion on Tea Party, sharing her academic research and an analysis of how tensions within the movement are revealed in the current GOP Primary contest.

Hollis-Bursky began with her talk by explaining “the Tea Party is not a monolithic movement” but rather, two distinct factions. One is the Tea Party voters, and the other are Tea Party power brokers; which she describes as elite organizations well known in political circles. Those organizations provide the major funding for national rallies and conservative candidates. Two of the most influential are Dick Armey’s Freedom Works and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, which has donated more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes, according to her research.

According to Hollis-Bursky, these organizations have co-opted the Tea Party label, “to promote an agenda that does not necessarily line-up with what the grassroots Tea Party voters believe.” An example she gave was that Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity have lobbied to privatize Social Security and Medicare for years. In contrast, recent research shows that Tea Partiers are not uniformly opposed to government social programs. Older tea partiers, in particular, are anxious about the future of Social Security and Medicare.

After the presentation, the club honored long time supporter Assemblymember Anthony Portantino with cake and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

submitted by Nalini Lasiewicz, CCDC

Guest speaker, Amanda Hollis-Bursky with Nalini Lasiewicz, Vicki Hays, Chris Hayes, Janet Petersen and Louisa Caucia.

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